With every goal scored, trophy lifted and piece of history recorded, Sam Kerr continues to raise herself into a pantheon reserved for a select few in Australian sport.
After the Matildas captain on Sunday helped lift Chelsea to a third consecutive Women’s Super League (WSL) title with a stunning brace, her status as one of her country’s most celebrated athletes has been rubber-stamped.
Kerr dragged her side back onto level terms against Manchester United with a fiercely struck volley moments into the second half, before she repeated the feat 20 minutes later with a floated effort, having controlled the ball on her chest and swiveled to face goal in one effortless movement.
Effectively killing the game off at 4-2, the second was a miraculous goal.
Kerr said she had visualized her second goal and told a team mate on Saturday how she would pull it off.
“Everyone thinks I was surprised at scoring that goal, but I told Erin Cuthbert: ‘I’m going to score an unbelievable goal tomorrow, I’m going to chest it down and volley the ball.’”
“I visualize, but I actually think today it both worked in my favor and not in my favor, because I visualized too much in the first half and it wasn’t going my way, and I felt tired, I felt nervous. And in the second half we just cleaned it straight,” she said.
Chelsea manager Emma Hayes labeled Kerr “the best for a reason,” and called her second goal world class and “audacious.”
“I’ve never, ever in my career been in a position where things are tight at 2-2 and a player [Kerr] has run over and said: ‘Today it’s our destiny, it was always our destiny today,’” Hayes said.
“I said: ‘We’re not winning yet, it’s 2-2 not 3-2,’” she said. “But that’s confidence then, and I think once that set in, these guys know better. It was a good response from the dressing room.”
By all rights, the combination of the occasion, the high stakes and the degree of difficulty should have consigned it to the realm of fiction. Yet for Kerr, this is her reality.
Lured by the promise of trophies, she has now lifted three WSL titles, two League Cups, a Community Shield and an FA Cup with Chelsea.
In just more than two years in west London, she has won back-to-back WSL golden boots and last week was named alongside Liverpool’s Mo Salah as one of the Football Writers Association’s soccer players of the year.
In January, FIFA recognized her as the second-best women’s player in the world behind only Spain’s Alexia Putellas.
At just 28 years old, she has won domestic titles or golden boots — or both — in England, the US and Australia.
Internationally, she captains and has played more than 100 games for the Matildas.
In January, she surpassed Tim Cahill as Australian soccer’s most prolific international goalscorer at the Asian Cup, even if the campaign ultimately ended in failure
Slowly but surely, Kerr has become the alpha and omega for her nation. It took just over seven years for her to reach double figures after scoring her first international goal at 16, but in the four-and-a-half years since, she has scored nearly 50.
Without question, Kerr is one of her nation’s biggest sporting stars.
Given the context of her achievements, arguments can be made that she might be the biggest and, even if not, an even stronger one can be made that in the wake of Ash Barty’s surprise retirement she is her homeland’s most notable active female athlete.
Every accomplishment and piece of recognition she receives only adds to this.
It is not just because she is the face of a national team or is one of the best in the world at what she does — Australian sport is blessed to have a number of athletes that fit that category — it is that she does all this while signed to one of global sport’s biggest brands in Chelsea, as one of the faces of another in Nike, and while playing the most-watched sport on the planet.
In a vacuum, Kerr is just one of 11 players on the park at any one time, but from a wider perspective, her profile has transcended soccer in the eyes of an Australian public increasingly apathetic toward the world game.
Australians who do not know soccer, know of Kerr.
Additional reporting by Reuters
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