Matildas midfielder Katrina Gorry lost a litre of blood during her 24-hour labour. A home World Cup should be a snap, writes ADAM PEACOCK.
It was the only time of the night Katrina Gorry was oblivious to her surroundings.
As the Matildas stood for the anthem for their opening game of a World Cup year, Gorry’s view was blocked. Some comedian decided her chaperone ball-girl would be around the same height.
Gorry is the Matildas’ eyes on the pitch.
Sights set on a World Cup win on home soil?
Only with Gorry at her best.
But as she lined up to start a huge 2023 with the Cup of Nations clash against Czechia, Gorry had to use all her awareness to get one last glimpse of her reason for being.
Eighteen month-old Harper was held aloft by Gorry’s mum, Linda.
Gorry finally spotted Harper, who in turn bounced with excitement in Linda’s arms.
Mum’s night wasn’t easy but, as always, she found a way, another performance hidden in plain sight as to why she is so crucial to the big plans the Matildas have.
The Matildas eventually broke down Czechia, winning 4-0 to start the three-game Cup of Nations in style and providing a guide as to where this team is actually headed.
Five wins in a row suggests they’re on the right path, particularly with Gorry in the middle of the park running the show.
Gorry’s game is built on awareness, something the Matildas struggled with throughout the opening games of Tony Gustavsson’s tenure in 2021.
Everything was a rush.
Get the ball to Sam Kerr.
Against better opposition, that doesn’t cut it.
Gorry’s return to the Matildas in April, 2022 after giving birth to Harper coincided with considered calm returning to the Matildas.
And aside from the 7-1 demolition by Spain in June, when many topliners were missing, results have improved, with the four wins to end 2022 rebuilding an optimistic outlook for the World Cup.
The Cup of Nations tournament was designed to provide more, though an organised Czechia side, here for a working holiday after missing the World Cup, proved a difficult assignment early on.
In the first half, with the Matildas dominating possession and building up from the back, the Czechs blocked the supply to Gorry. What resulted was a clunky 45 minutes. Very few opportunities for Kerr.
This was not what the crowd came to see. Pre-game, the avenues around Gosford’s picturesque palm-tree lined stadium, were filled with young girls in Matildas kits or their own weekend warrior colours, dusted off for another season to emulate Kerr.
They held signs professing love for Kerr, her No. 20 shirt clearly the most popular choice in the stands.
There is, though, no effective Sam Kerr in 2023 without an effective Katrina Gorry.
Gorry stuck to the task, and on the odd occasion Czechia threatened to go forward, the other side of Gorry’s game helped the Matildas avoid self-inflicted damage. Counter-attacks were handled, Gorry not losing sight of any danger.
Tweaks were needed in the second half to find fluency and Gustavsson introduced Western Sydney Wanderers defender Clare Hunt for her debut. Also apparent was a hint of direct play. Not reckless, but to stretch the Czechs, the ball had to move up the pitch quicker, and Gorry’s zipped 20-metre ball to Courtnee Vine, and the ensuing combination play, set Hayley Raso free to score the opener.
The Matildas then scored freely. Raso, a second. Kerr – who else? – scored a 62nd goal for the Matildas. And, fittingly, Clare Polkinghorne closed it out in a game in which she broke Cheryl Sailsbury’s all-time appearance record for the national team.
All nice moments, but amid the celebration, the effectiveness of Gorry was central to the type of play which will allow the Matildas to control games in 2023. She played the patient game in possession, bouncing three passes to Polkinghorne and Hunt, sprinting into position, each time, with the hope of moving the ball forward. If it was on.
Eventually, it was patience that prised open the Czechs. Gorry played an inch perfect 20 metre pass to Raso, whose cross just avoided Kerr.
It would have been the goal of the night.
On another night it will be.
The Matildas’ 4-0 was deserved in the end.
Gorry was not risked for the final 25 minutes as the Czechs waned and the Matildas kept the foot down.
For Gorry, it was just another performance where others will get talked about, despite her absolute quality.
Is she capable of handling the heat at a home World Cup?
One look at Harper, who calmly enjoyed a late night snack of hot chips as the game ended, says yes.
Gorry conceived Harper through IVF. She is a single mum. The labour lasted 24 hours, in which Gorry lost a litre of blood.
Clearly, she is capable of meeting whatever challenge comes her way.