Lizzy Claydon will forever hold a special place in Australian football history as a member of the Matilda’s first ever Women’s World Cup final squad. Lizzy and fellow West Australian Tracey Wheeler took on the world’s best when the Matilda’s lined up at the 1995 Women’s World Cup tournament in Sweden.
“Playing at the World Cup was a very proud moment,” reflected Lizzy. “We worked for four years to qualify and take our place at the tournament. Even though the results were disappointing, we performed well against professional players from some of the top nations in the world and did ourselves and Australia proud.”
“We drew the three of the top teams in the world … it really was a terrible draw for us. In our group where the United States of America, Denmark and China who were ranked something like one, two and four in the world, so we were really up against it before we even stepped onto the park.”
Australia opened their campaign on 6th June, 1995, with a 5-0 loss to Denmark after being reduced to ten players. “Denmark scored early and then Sonia Gugenhuber, our right back, got red carded after about 30 minutes,” Lizzy commented. “A goal down and 10 verses 11, from there it was all uphill.”
Angela Iannotta and Sunni Hughes scored Australia’s first goals at the World Cup finals but it wasn’t enough to overcome China, who ran out winners by 4-2. And in their final outing the Matildas went ahead through Lisa Casagrande only for trophy holders the United States to hit back with avengence to claim a 4-1 victory.
“It was a massive learning curve for us because about 70% of the other players were full-time footballers, that was their job. Whereas we were all working full-time in banks or whatever plus being full-time athletes on top of that so we really needed to be disciplined … it was pretty extreme.”
“But you did it because you loved playing football and being part of the team. There was such a good bond (in the team), we really worked hard for eachother and we knew the eleven on the pitch would be giving their all to get us the win. I’m very proud of the whole teams’ achievements, it was a great time.”
Playing on the world stage came just a few short years after Lizzy first pulled on her boots. “I was out riding my bike and saw some chicks running around and thought ‘that game looks alright’. I asked what they were playing and they said ‘womens’ soccer – do you want to sign up?’ so I gave it a go,” she explained of discovering football.
Lizzy was just 15 when she joined the “chicks” from Ascot/Ferndale in 1988. Within a few months of her first senior game she had represented Western Australia at the Under-19 national championship, where her impact was so great that she was named in the Australian Under-16 squad.
At the beginning of 1989 Lizzy switched to Morley Windmills (who five years later transformed into Stirling Vasto) where she remained for seven seasons. During that time the dynamic attacker was part of four league championship winning sides – in 1991, 1992, 1994 and 1995 – and gained senior State team representative honours.
Lizzy was rewarded with a Matilda’s debut in April 1994 against Russia in Brisbane. Over the next three years she played 21 games for Australia – 16 of which were ‘A’ internationals – and scored two goals, including the final finish in a 7-0 thrashing of Argentina at the 1995 Uberlandia International Trophy in Brazil.
“We toured Germany, Denmark and then went on to Russia, we were one of the first teams to play in Russia,” Lizzy said. “There were games against New Zealand, we won the tournament in Brazil before the World Cup and we also played in Canada and the United States … so many great memories.”
Her final outing in the green and gold was a July 1996 friendly against China, who were preparing for that year’s Olympic Games. And following a spell in the fledgling Women’s National Soccer League with Victoria’s ITC side, Lizzy hung up her playing boots for the last time, aged just 24.