FROM THE VAULTS…The West Australian newspaper published what has become an historic photo on January 7, 1997, featuring Perth Glory players Dale Wingell and Vladimir Beretovac and three youngsters who were attending a Glory training camp for schoolchildren at Sacred Heart College in Sorrento.
The boys were Damien Manning (9) and Ashley Otte (10) and the girl was 10-year-old Collette McCallum, who would go on represent Australia at international level in both youth and senior teams – and also become an assistant coach with the Glory’s W-League women’s team.
Wingell and Beretovac were passing on tips to the youngsters – and it obviously paid off big time with Collette, who was born in Rutherglen, Scotland, and emigrated to Australia with her family when she was four.
In the pic you can spot that wonderful poise shown by Collette the kid. She went on to play juniors with Joondalup (in boys teams) and Belmont before her family moved to NSW when she was a young teenager. She had her first taste of national league competition with New South Wales Sapphires when she was only 15.
Two knee reconstruction operations put what seemed to be a glittering career on hold, but she came back strongly in club football with Northern Redbacks and Adelaide Sensation before gaining what was to be the first of 19 caps for the Young Matildas in 2004.
Such was her legacy with the under-20 Aussie team that, in 2019, the Football Federation Australia and Professional Footballers Australia named the Young Player of the Year award the Collette McCallum Medal. It is presented to the best female player from the Under 17 (Westfield Junior Matildas) and Under 20 (Westfield Young Matildas) teams.
Collette made her senior Matildas debut as a 19-year-old against China in 2005.
She went on to represent the Matildas on 81 occasions. She played in three Asian Cups (including Australia’s historic final victory in 2010) and twice in the World Cup. She was also vice-captain at one stage.
She had a stint in America with Pali Blues, winning the US W-League title with them, and claimed another championship the following season with the New Jersey Sky Blue team.
Collette was considered to be one of the world’s best left-footed midfielders (she was on the long list as FIFA’s Women’s World Player of the Year in 2007) before persistent knee injuries forced her to quit the game at international level at the age of 29.
Fittingly, her final game in the green and gold was against the country of her birth, Scotland, in an international in 2015. It ended in a 1-1 draw and Collette was given a souvenier of a signed Scotland jersey.
Domestically, she captained Perth Glory for three seasons, including the 2014 campaign where they claimed the W-League Minor Premiership and made their first ever Grand Final appearance.
She was assistant to Perth Glory women’s team coach Bobby Despotovski for a spell, and has also coached the State women’s team. She married in 2020 and is now Collette Gardiner.
FOOTNOTE: Collette is fourth on the list of the most capped WA women players. On top is Lisa De Vanna with 150 caps (47 goals) ahead of Sam Kerr with 88 caps (42 goals), the same number as goalkeeper Lydia Williams. Another WA keeper, Tracey Wheeler, appeared 49 times for Australia. Collette scored 11 goals. Lisa De Vanna is the Matildas leading scorer. Sandra Brentnall has the best strike rate of the WA females, scoring 8 times in 11 international games.
PICTURED: Young Collette at the Glory training session; Collette in action for Australia; Collette is chaired off by team-mates after her last game; Collette shows off a signed Scotland jersey; Collette with then Glory coach Kenny Lowe and Glory women’s coach Bobby Despotovski.