Mary Fowler, an ‘obvious choice’ & a World Cup match her family can’t lose

Instead of lining up for the Matildas in their FIFA Women’s World Cup opener against Ireland on July 20, Mary Fowler could have been on the opposing side but the decision to represent Australia was always an “obvious” one in her mind, writes David Davutovic.

Among the many Aussies competing for international teams at this FIFA Women’s World Cup, Mary Fowler could have been another.

Proud of her Papuan roots through mother Nido’s side, Fowler’s surname represents another strong part of her DNA and one which could’ve led her lining up against and being a thorn in the Matildas’ side at the upcoming World Cup.

Ireland was the birthplace of Kevin Fowler, the father of Mary who has played a huge role in shaping her football career, and a nation her brother Caoimhin and sister Ciara have trained with at youth level.

Five years ago, Football Australia and then Matildas coach Alen Stajcic thought that Ireland – the Matildas’ opponents in their FIFA World Cup opener on July 20 at Stadium Australia – may have won out, as the then 15-year-old prodigy was withdrawn from a Matildas camp on the eve of selection.

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But FA’s persistence paid off, as Cairns-born Fowler was locked away on the eve of the France 2019 World Cup. It’s a decision that’s been sensationally justified for player and country, and one that could propel both to national and international glory over the next six weeks.

“My mom’s from Papua New Guinea, my dad’s Irish. And when you have other options, you do think about it,” Fowler said.

“But for me, Australia was always the obvious choice. I was born here. I grew up here for the most part of my childhood. So it was the country that I felt was home for me. 

“But it is nice that I do feel connected to my background as well and Ireland, especially with having my granddad there and being able to live with him for a bit.

“I’m excited for (the Ireland opener). I think it’s a nice kind of link up to have that kind of game against them, and maybe what could have been in another world? But yeah, it’s a nice one for the family. They get to get a bit out of it, no matter who wins, which way it goes.”

The youngest player at the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, Fowler did not feature. This time she is once again the youngest of the Matildas’ 23-player squad, and the only doubt is around the exact role the versatile attacker will play.

Fowler, who turned 20 in February, has amassed 36 caps and nine goals, and her Tokyo 2020 goal and big-game experience holds the Manchester City player primed to rise to this grand occasion on home soil.

“I’m really excited. Getting to be part of it last time, I just saw how big it was. And not getting any minutes, it just made me want that even more,” she said.

“And I feel like going into it now, I feel so much more mature as a player and confident in what I bring to this team. I’m hopefully gonna get some minutes.

“For me, consistency is probably the biggest thing. As a young player, you have your moments and it’s like, ‘oh, that’s cool’, but it’s like, very flashy, and it happens here and there. 

“So being able to have consistency in back to back matches has been big for me. I don’t think a lot has changed in my game, I think I’ve just gotten better at what I was already doing.”

Fowler revealed that she has appreciated tough love from Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson.

“Tony has been really good. I’ve really enjoyed it from the get go with him. I really liked how much he appreciated the football thinking and that suited my game,” she said.

“But I’ve also quite enjoyed it with him, at times when I started, I knew that I wasn’t at the top of my game and he wasn’t afraid to put me on the bench. It may sound weird, but I’m happy that I had that time because then you can’t get stuck in thinking things will get given (to you) all the time.

“My growth as a footballer since he’s come in has gone in an upwards direction.”