20 February, 2019 By: Kirsty Petrides
We talk to local girl Sam Kerr - winner of The West Australian RAC Sports Star of the Year - about what it's like to be one of the world's best soccer players and shaping the path for future female sporting stars.
Sam Kerr is like most Western Australians. She starts her day at the beach, appreciates a good coffee and likes to walk her dog. She also really loves her mum, Vegemite and the West Coast Eagles.
However, there is something not-so-typical about this East Fremantle local - she is considered one of the best soccer players in the world.
At the mere age of 26, the star forward of the Matildas has smashed world records and earned a slew of achievements most athletes can only dream of.
Australia has named Kerr as its best women’s player two years in a row. The USA National Women’s Soccer League has selected her as its most valuable player (MVP). The American ESPY Awards (touted as the Grammys of sport) have named her the best international women’s soccer player. And FIFA and BBC have nominated her as the best women’s player of the year.
And she has now taken out, for the second year in a row, the title of The West Australian RAC Sports Star of the Year. We sat down for a chat with Kerr to find out what makes her tick.
Congratulations, Sam. Are you keeping count of all your trophies?
“I think mum is, she has a cabinet. I don’t really count them though. Obviously to win the RAC Sports Star Award is a huge honour, but these are the types of things you only really look back on at the end of your career. While you’re playing team sport, you don’t count your trophies - unless they're premierships, of course.”
Spoken like a true team-player. What do team-players like you eat for breakfast?
“I eat the most Aussie breakfast ever - eggs on toast with avocado and Vegemite.”
You’ve been described as one of the best strikers in the world. How much of that is due to hard work and practice, and how much due to your natural sporting ability?
“I’d love to say it’s 50-50, but it’s a lot more to do with the hard work and dedication. I admit I’m very lucky to have grown up with a sporting family and have been gifted with sporting abilities, but you don’t get anywhere in professional sport without hard work. It’s taken a lot of time, commitment and sacrifice for me. But I’m lucky I play a team sport, so on days when it doesn’t feel easy, I’ve got 20 teammates to turn to for support.”
Has it been an easy road to get to where you are today?
“Every athlete has a different story, but it definitely hasn’t been the easiest for me, especially being a female athlete. There weren’t as many opportunities as I would have liked when I was growing up. I’ve had a lot of highs, but I’ve also had a lot of lows, like injuries and big setbacks. It has been a bumpy road, but it’s all been worth it.”
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On the topic of being a female athlete - International Women’s Day is coming up. How do you think the world is adapting with girls playing elite level sport?
“Countries like Australia have done it really well, but there is a still a long way to go. It’s great that there are now options for young girls, and pathways for them to choose whatever sport they want. But having role models in those sports is really important too. That’s something my teammates and I are passionate about improving. It’s not just about playing your sport, it’s about building new opportunities for the next generation of players.”
You’ve won a fair few Most Valuable Player awards in your career. If your life was a soccer season, who would be your MVP?
“My mum is definitely my MVP. I know everyone says their mum is the best, but my mum really goes above and beyond - not just for me, but for my whole family. She’s always supporting me, and when I have to leave Perth, I always struggle a bit saying goodbye to her. I speak to her a lot when I’m away, and everybody gives me a bit of stick for it, but I’m not ashamed to admit - I really love my mum.”
How has sport played a role in your life, both on and off the field?
“Sport is everything to me. People may think that sport is only shaping you while you’re physically out on the field playing. But when you’re at home, spending time with your friends and family, you’re still living and breathing being part of a team.
"Sport has challenged me and made me a stronger person, which are things that help me in other parts of my life. Without sport, I can’t imagine who I’d be.”
Let’s imagine your life without sport for just a second though - if you weren’t a soccer player, what would you be?
“It would still be sports! I would definitely be a footy player. When I was a kid, I wanted to play for the West Coast Eagles, but back then there was no such thing as the AFLW. So I had to make the switch to soccer, but I’m so glad I did. With all the opportunities soccer has given me, I can’t see myself leaving it any time soon.”
What would be your one piece of advice for young girls aspiring to play elite sport?
“It’s never going to be easy and there are always going to be challenges, but if you stay true to yourself and be who you are, you’ll succeed. Since I’ve been playing sport, I’ve realised there are a lot of people along the way who try to change you or make decisions for you. But I’ve always stayed true to who I am, and it’s made all the difference. Being authentic has made my teammates believe in me and made the public want to support me. So that’s my best piece of advice, be true to yourself.”
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Who do you think is the next worthy winner?
Nominations for the RAC WA Sports Star Awards open every October. The Awards recognise achievements both on and off the field of play.
As an RAC member, you can have your say on who is most deserving by nominating sporting groups for the RAC Insurance Beyond Sport Award and the RAC Insurance Community Club of the Year.