Ellie Carpenter wrote her name in the history books of Australian football last week.
The teenager – from Cowra, in rural New South Wales – became the first millennial to appear for the Matildas or Socceroos when she played the full 90 minutes of a 9-0 thrashing of Vietnam.
The win, a rout by anyone’s standards, helped the Matildas build momentum in their ultimately successful Olympic qualifying campaign.
And while Carpenter dropped to the bench for further wins against South Korea and North Korea, she played a half of Australia’s 1-1 draw against China that wrapped up their campaign.
The Matildas’ preparation for the Japan-based tournament mean Carpenter hasn’t attended school once this year. But she’s got a pretty good explanation.
“Your body is not going to last very long,” Carpenter told The New Daily.
“When you’re old, you can’t play soccer – but you can study when you’re older.
“I’d rather just take my shot now and give everything I have got to my football career.”
Carpenter, who left her hometown to attend elite sports school, Westfields Sports High, usually trains four times a week with the Wanderers.
In amongst all of that, she fits in additional training sessions, does strength and conditioning work – and has games on the weekend.
It’s a schedule she describes as “pretty heavy”, with her attitude towards it like “a bull at a gate”.
But it’s all been worth it for Carpenter, who had to choose between football and athletics at the age of 12.
“I chose football because I’d much rather share the moments with all the girls,” she said.
“It has always been a dream of mine, since I was young, to play for the Matildas.
“It was a massive step up from the youth national teams to the Matildas…playing alongside girls like Lisa (De Vanna) and Kyah (Simon) and KK (Elise Kellond-Knight) and learning from the experience that they have is just amazing.
“To share the field with some of them and see their amazing skill and professionalism just helps me with my confidence and calms my nerves.”
Nerves were something Carpenter – who played every minute of Western Sydney’s 14-W-League games this season – battled extensively in the build-up to her debut, so much so that she claimed she “forgot” how to play the game she loves so much.
“I was really nervous,” she said.
“I got on the field and I was like, ‘oh my God, damn, I forgot how to play soccer’.
“All the girls calmed me down and Staj (coach Alen Stajcic) had a quick word with me before the game and that settled me down a lot.
“It was just amazing. I was very nervous but when the whistle blew I was fine…just another normal match.”
Her efforts helped the Matildas reach their first Olympic tournament in 12 years.
Coming off the back of a quarter-finals finish at the 2015 Women’s World Cup, a high-profile pay dispute with the FFA (that painted them as warriors for better renumeration and conditions for women) and a stellar W-League season, women’s football in Australia is enjoying a golden period.
And it would be properly golden should the Matildas star at the Rio 2016 Olympics – something that’s a very real possibility given the swagger, exuberance and depth the team displayed in qualification.
Carpenter knows she still has work to do to make the squad – but says it would be a ‘dream come true’.
“It would be amazing to go to the Olympics,” she said.
“Words can’t even describe how I’d be feeling… (it would be) just a dream come true to go to the Olympics.
“I’d be speechless.”