24. ALANNA KENNEDY
Playing for the Matildas has been Alanna Kennedy’s dream since she was ten years old. Alanna joins host Sam Squiers to discuss the changes she’s noticed in the women’s game since she joined the Matildas as a teenager, missing the game-deciding penalty at the Rio Olympics and playing for the Tottenham Hotspurs in the UK Super League.
TRANSCRIPT On Her Game with Sam Squiers – Matildas Player Alanna Kennedy
Transcribed by Nadine Maraldo www.gossipcom.com
- Sam Squiers (Squiers)
- Alanna Kennedy (Kennedy)
A Podcast One Production.
Hey, I’m Sports Journalist Sam Squiers, welcome to “On Her Game”.
For Matilda Alanna Kennedy her path to football was paved early. As a little girl growing up in Campbelltown in Sydney’s west, Alanna always knew that she wanted to play for Australia. She was at the AIS at fourteen, the W-League at fifteen, before making her Matildas debut at just seventeen years old. Alanna now leads the jet setting life of an international footballer, playing in the U.S., Australia and in the U.K. for Tottenham. Being a part of the Matildas setup since she was a teenager, she’s seen firsthand how the women’s game has grown, both professionally and in its popularity. She has an impressive highlight reel in the Green and Gold, but even the best moments prove the toughest and missing that crucial penalty, which saw Australia crash out of the Olympics in Rio still stings today.
Alanna is also an ambassador for the Cadbury “Women in Sport Initiative”, helping to inspire young girls to stay in the game and stop a large number of girls who drop out of sport in their teenage years.
Ever since she was a kid, Alanna has loved getting outside and playing sport.
KENNEDY: I was a little tomboy, I remember when we would go shopping, I’d tell mum, I was like. “I want to go to the boys’ section, let’s go to the boys’ section” (laughs). I just loved sort of roughing it with the boys and, um, always was very active, constantly doing stuff with, you know, with my friends, and my brothers and sisters out of the back. Um, different sports, we tried all different sports when we were younger, but football was obviously the one that, that stood out for me. But yeah, I have very good memories of my childhood.
SQUIERS: So, what sports then, you said you were a really sporty kid, what sports did you play as a kid?
KENNEDY: I was very, um, quite involved at, in athletics. Ah, at, ah, at one stage I, I was a, a National Champion for, for High Jump, ah, sorry State Champion for High Jump (laughs), um, I did the like, “I was National Champion” (Squiers: We would believe that you were National Champion, we would believe that). I came second at the Pacific School Games, (Squiers: there we go), ah, the one time that I went, but I was very, I was very, um, like high jump, high jump, high jump, in fact it’s probably, um, ah, been a part of a few injuries I’ve had as a footballer but (Squiers: right), so that was like one of my favourite sports. But I did cricket, I did, I played rugby league at one point, I played AFL, I was the only girl in the, in the AFL Regional Team at one point, I loved all different sports trying, trying all different, um, different ways I could be active and just rough it up with the boys.
SQUIERS: (laughs) So, did you have any, um, any sporting goals from a really young age? Like did you look to the Olympics and think “that’s where I want to be”, um, did you have any sporting idols as well for the back of that?
KENNEDY: Yeah, so my, I have like a little news, newspaper clipping that I did, um, in the, in the local, um, paper, at one point I think I was about ten and I said, ‘I wanted to be, um, a Matilda and to, to play in the Olympics (Squiers: wow). And I guess, you mentioned Heather earlier, Heather was someone who, um, was, was very visible for me and so I was, um, I grew up sort of idolising her as a Matilda and being able to sort of be close and, and see her in, I was like, you know, “she plays for the Matildas”, like it was really, it was really cool for me to have someone like her, um, especially from Campbelltown area as well (Squiers: mmm). And so, yeah, I, I was always wanted to be, um, a Matilda from a young age, and then obviously the Olympics was something that I, I was like, you know, “the, the Olympics is cool too” (laughs). But it was always the Matildas, like, “I want to be a Matilda when I grow up”.
SQUIERS: That’s cool, so that was when you were ten. And you said that Heather, Heather that is Heather Garriock, the former Matilda and now commentator and now CEO of Taekwondo Australia, an absolute legend, um, so she was the one that you saw that was visible to you, that made it possible for you to see that, that was a future that you could have as well.
KENNEDY: Yeah definitely, because I know a lot of girls, um, have different stories and, and they didn’t know who the Matildas were or whatever. But for me, I was fortunate enough to sort of, to have Heather and, and, you know, Sarah Walsh was from the area (Squiers: mmm) as well, there were a few Campbelltown girls, Catherine Cannuli. Um, so yeah, there was definitely people who I had around me, and maybe I didn’t know them until a little bit, until I was a little bit older, but it is nice knowing that people have come from, you know, the same place as me. And obviously, that was great, but regardless of that, I always had this passion and desire to play football anyway.
SQUIERS: Well, tell us, how did you first play football? How did you, well how is that did football come into your life and you gave it go?
KENNEDY: My brother played, ah, actually played with Heather’s brother at the time (Squiers: mmm) and so, um, he was, um, my biggest sort of role model growing up, um, and someone who I have a lot of respect for. And even now, he’s someone who I, I’ll vent to after the games (Squiers: mmm) or get advice from and so, um, we, yeah, we, we spent a lot of time in the backyard. And it’s funny, because my sister was always there too but I never really mention her (laughs) and, and she, she hates it, but so Kayla was there too (laughs). Um yeah, and she, she was kind of just like the, the sacrificial lamb half of the time, she copped a few to the face and whatever, but she loved it (laughs).
SQUIERS: You, so when did football start getting really serious for you, I understand that you went to the AIS, AIS when you were just fourteen. What was it like, um, and how was that process and how did you get identified at fourteen?
KENNEDY: I was in the New South Wales Institute of Sport (Squiers: mmm) from about fourteen, um, we would go, we would sort of, with our Young Matildas team, we would spend time at the AIS and, um, usually we’d be like a Thursday to a Sunday, we’d have like a four, a four-day camp kind of thing. Um, but I also went to a sports high school, Westfield Sports High School (Squiers: mmm), um, and so I think that gave me a lot of opportunity, um, I, I was playing against the, he was, Alan Stajcic coached the, the Hills, another (Squiers: mmm) sort of rival school, um, and we played a game against them and he said to me, “You know, I want you to come and, and train with us at the Institute”.
And, and obviously I was in the State Teams and, um, and I think even at one point I was in like an Under 13, um, or 14 Australian team (Squiers: mmm) that we sort of, that was put together for, ah, a short period of time.
But, um, so yeah, he invited me down there and then I kind of just ever since was, was playing there. And it’s, I think for me, we don’t, we don’t have that setup up anymore, but I think that really helped me (Squiers: mmm). You know, I, I’d rock up there and I’m like thirteen, fourteen and there’s, there’s thirty year old’s, who I’m training against (Squiers: mmm) and. Yeah, I, I think it’s quite daunting but it’s also, um, it’s, it’s kind of, you know, it helps you obviously and so I, I had a lot of respect for those girls and I, I feel as though that helped me as well and, and they sort of took me under their wing and, yeah I, I enjoyed that environment being able to better myself as a footballer and eventually obviously debuted for the Matildas a couple of years later.
SQUIERS: That’s one question that I did have for you, because I thought at fourteen, if you’re going to the AIS and you’re getting picked up in all these teams and so much is happening. Like as a fourteen-year-old does that then give you the confidence to be able to excel at your football game every time you step onto the pitch, or does it add somewhat pressure that maybe at fourteen you’re not yet mature enough to be able to handle.
KENNEDY: I think that that was never the case for me, um, I sort of embraced it, and I, I, I quite enjoyed the environment, I think that, um, and, and the sessions, the training was, was always fun as well and so that, that helps.
But, um, I enjoyed the, the routine I was in of, um, you know, I would go to school and then I, I’d catch the train with my friends after and I think that also helps, there wasn’t, I wasn’t on my own, I had a few other younger girls who, who were in the same boat. And (Squiers: mmm) and we were sort of on the journey together and so that, that always helps, and I think that’s a huge part of the reason why I play football (Squiers: mmm) and I, and I’m not still National High Jumper (laughs).
But, so, so, you know, it’s definitely, um, helps having your friends there, um, but yeah, I, I sort of embraced that challenge and I enjoyed learning from those older players.
SQUIERS: Ah, I want to touch on the Matildas in a second, but I just, before I do, I want to talk about your W-League debut because you made your W-League debut when you were fifteen, which seems really young, but I know it is, we do have a lot of young stars in the W-League, but can you take us back there to your W-League debut? What were you feeling at the time, what was going through your head, take us back to that moment before you ran out onto the pitch?
KENNEDY: So, yeah, so I think I actually debuted in, in Wollongong against Perth Glory for Sydney F.C., being from Campbelltown, Wollongong’s not far, it’s just a, a short trip, so, ah, all my family was there.
And it’s interesting, because you train with these girls all week and, and at some point’s, you know, you’re, you’re obviously there for a reason and there’s, that, you know, you might stand out in a few sessions and you’re like, you’re not so nervous when you’re around them in the training environment.
But when you’re stepping onto the pitch it’s like, “Oh gosh”, like it’s, and it’s, it’s so, it’s, I mean I’m sure you guys would know, it’s really hard to replicate an actual game situation in training. So, you get out there and it’s like really high tempo and whatever and I do just remember being like, “okay, I’m going to work, work my hardest and just run around, whatever”.
I don’t even know how, if I touched the ball much, (laugh) like it wasn’t much time on the field but, um, I just remember sort of being like, “okay, well I’m going to run as much as I can and work hard” (Squiers: mmm) but.
And then, once you’ve played one game, it’s just becomes, it’s second nature again and it’s fine. But yeah, it was, it was a little bit of a case of, “okay I just want to ease myself into the game and I’m just going to do what I can” and I don’t even know if i touched the ball much to be honest (laughs).
SQUIERS: What was it like being the fifteen-year-old in your side, you talked before about being in the Matildas, um, or in the AIS, um, training program for, and having those older women and being able to take you under your wing, but what was it like then in the W-League and being that fifteen-year-old, being the young one, in your team?
KENNEDY: Probably the last couple of years it’s, it’s been the sort of the first time where I’m not the young one. (Squiers: mmm) Like I’ve, I’ve been playing for the Matildas for a long time but I’ve still, but I’ve always still been quite young (Squiers: mmm), um, as have a couple of us that, you know, there’s a few of us in there who were. So, sometimes I even, you know, obviously I know, I know how old I am and whatever, but it’s, it’s, um, I think you, you gain confidence with the, with the experience and so I didn’t necessarily feel that kind of fear or, or, you know, hesitation in those moments. Um, obviously in my debut and those more significant moments sometimes I, there, then you have those feelings, but for the most part I think gaining so, so much experience at, at a young age definitely helps with my confidence, like helped with my confidence (Squiers: mmm) and, and how I, um, prepared and, and felt mentally going into games and, so, yeah, yeah.
SQUIERS: So, um, fast-forward to when, two more years, you’re seventeen and you make your Matildas debut, it must have been a hell of a lot of nerves, going through you at that time? Or were you looking at that jersey going, ‘I’ve worked so hard for this and it’s happening now’?
KENNEDY: Yeah, my, my debut was an interesting one because, um, there were quite a few, I think there were five of us that debuted on that day, um, and a lot of, um, the Matildas, um, were overseas and so there were a lot of new people in that camp and obviously I, I am still so grateful for, for my debut (Squiers: mmm). And, I, I, I remember that day very clearly, um, but I think in the moment it was like, you know, ‘there’s a lot of people not here, they have to play so, it wasn’t one of those (Squiers: mmm) I, I felt like my next few games were my, were my debut and when I made the next camp where it was like, ‘okay, everyone’s back here and you’ve made this camp based on (Squiers: mmm), um, you know, people not being away (Squiers: mmm), those kind of games were more how I, um, saw myself becoming a Matilda.
Um, but obviously I remember my debut very clearly, I debuted with Steph Catley, and I think maybe even Hayley, um, Georgia Yeoman-Dale, um, a few of the girls who are still, you know, in and out of the squad, obviously Steph is, is very, you know, she’s there all the time. Um, so, I think those moments are really cool to, to share that with people who, who are now, you know, she just lives around the corner from me now and she’s a great friend of mine.
SQUIERS: Um, and so did it feel like you hadn’t quite earned your place yet when you made your debut, was that it?
KENNEDY: Yeah, I just think I, you know, it’s, it’s interesting because I feel as though, we were there because we earnt it and I, you know, I never, I never left the team since then (Squiers: mmm), I’ve been there ever since, but just, just mentally those things, I think maybe that’s kind of like the, the competitor in me (Squiers: mmm) or, I’m my own worst critic, I want everything to be like, ‘I want to know that I’ve worked my, like, my ass off for it’ and I’ve, so just little things like that (Squiers: mmm) I do think about sometimes. But obviously, um, you know, I’ve, I’ve stayed a part of the team ever since, and so, I, I get, I did earn it.
SQUIERS: I like it though because it, you almost wouldn’t be like, ‘alright, I’ve made it, I’ve done it’ kind of thing, you’re like ‘well, I’ve just got to work harder and harder and it’s probably a reason why I haven’t left the team since’, because you do have that mentality.
KENNEDY: Yeah definitely, so I think, yeah, I think that’s kind of engrained in a lot of elite athletes and like you said, you sort of, you don’t get to these, um, to get to where we are if, if you haven’t sort of got that mentality, so.
SQUIERS: Um, is there something now that you’re a senior member in the Matildas, a bit of advice or something that you wish you could go back and tell that debutant Alanna at the time that you know now, that you wish you’d known back then?
KENNEDY: I do, I think for me, it’s not so much, um, you know, around my football or whatever, it’s, it’s sort of, there were times where, um, you know, I remember one time I changed clubs to, to be a centre-back from and, or just to change positions and, um, because that’s where I was playing at, at the time, you know, (Squiers: mmm) it was aligning with me in, in the National team. And, you feel, it’s hard not knowing exactly what’s the best move for you as a, it’s like, you know, as a young player (Squiers: mmm). But looking back sometimes I just wish I’d, I’d trusted my, my intuition a little bit more and my gut and what I felt was right, rather than feeling like, ‘oh, you know, I need to do this for’, because like now wherever I go I want to go where I’m happy and where I feel good off the field and that allows me to be my best on the field.
SQUIERS: Yeah, did you ever have a backup plan, like if football didn’t work, did you have a backup plan, what you were going to do or did you put all your eggs in that football basket?
KENNEDY: Yeah, I, yeah, all my eggs were all in that football basket, I never sort of envisaged myself doing anything else and I think I’ve been lucky that I’ve had, that, that, that I’ve been on that journey that’s, that’s got me here. But, um, I’m not sure what I’d be doing otherwise, um, you know, I, there, I talk about what I will do next, but I don’t know what I’d be doing if I didn’t have, if I wasn’t, ah, playing football because that was where my, my head has been for, for the last, you know, twenty years.
SQUIERS: Can we talk about, um, because it’s a close-knit group the Matildas, and you mentioned before some of the girls who you debuted with then and they’re still in the squad, um, I want to talk about another like little squad within a squad and it’s your own squad with Caitlin Foord and (laughs) Mackenzie Arnold. It’s a really, what does that friendship mean to you with those girls?
KENNEDY: Oh, they’re going to love this (laughs), um, well yeah, they’re, the, the two of them are my best friends, um, and so we, we’ve, we’re all in London at the moment too (Squiers: mmm), so that’s been really cool, that we all sort of landed here. And yeah, I think going through obviously you spend so much time with these people and, and there’s a lot of, um, a lot of downtime when we’re on tour. And so to have people who you have such a tight bond with and you’re able to make, um, so many cool memories with, um, both on-the-field and off-the-field, um, is really special and I think our friendship is, is based a lot around, you know, taking the piss out of each other, (laughs) but also we have a lot of love for each other and, and they’re, um, yeah they’re the best mates (Squiers: yeah). So, it’s really cool that we get to share these kind of, um, these cool times together because they won’t last, it’s not going to last forever, so (Squiers: mmm) yeah.
SQUIERS: I want to pick up on that friendship with, with Caitlin because it’s something that, like you guys have known each other since you were really young, how did it all start, take me back there, when did you first, not so much have a friendship, but when did you first meet or know of Caitlin Foord?
KENNEDY: So, Cait and I used to verse each other at athletics and she, it’s so funny because our sisters were also the same age and they would verse each other (Squiers: ahh) and we were kind of like rivals because we, we would sort of be in amongst the top couple of the events (laughs) and so she would always beat me in the sprints (laughs) and then I would have a better go at the jumps. And then, in the long-distance we were kind of like both quite fit, but she would just always beat me (laughs).
And I just remember this one day because she would do this, because I beat her once (laughs), but she would, but what she would always do is, and we joke, because our sisters would be like at the discus cage while we’re like running around the field and it’s like 800 hundred metres. And it’s like, oh, her sister’s like, ‘go Caitlin’ and my sister’s like, ‘go Lanny’. And we would like pace ourselves and I would always like sort of pace, keep the pace (Squiers: mmm) and then she would sprint home because she just had me on the sprint always (laughs) and she’d always beat me. So, that kind of was like our little rivalry from the start but then, then after that, you know, we’d, we became teammates and we slowly became more friends (laughs) and we’d, we would travel together at times and I would, you know, I would catch the bus down to go see her at, at the beach (Squiers: mmm) and our friendship sort of grew from there.
SQUIERS: And Mackenzie how did that friendship form?
KENNEDY: She came to a camp just randomly and (laughs) she sort of just sort of hit it off with our, with our sort of group of friends and, yeah, she’s so funny, we’d always joke that she, like she could never miss a beat, she’d always hated, um, you know, the saying FOMO, like she’d always have the fear of missing out (laughs) so she was just always there. And she’s so funny, like she’s, she’s one of the, I think she’s and I would say and she’s gonna love this too, but I think that she’s one of the funniest people I know (laughs). Um, she’s just, she’s just like a really, obviously a good time and, and then a good friend. And, um, we, yeah, whenever we could we’d sort of would, if, you know, if we were on the Gold Coast or if she was ever in Sydney (Squiers: mmm), we’d always stay with each other and, and our friendship grew from there as well and then the three of us I think kind of have, just been really good friends for a long time.
SQUIERS: I want to talk about the change in women’s football, because you’ve been in the set up now for a while, um, and you’ve, you’ve, your time in that Green and Gold you’ve seen massive change for the Matildas in the way that the profile of, of your team and for you guys, um, personally, the crowds, um, I mean the way that where you’re broadcast and how often you’re broadcasted now as well. For you, what has been the biggest change that you have noticed in your time in, um, the Matildas?
KENNEDY: I think we’ve had a few sorts of different milestones; I think obviously our equal pay that we, that we achieved last, um, you know, (Squiers: mmm) I think it was last year or the year before. That’s obviously a huge step, um, in women’s sport, ah, and then obviously football alone in Australia. I think it was really cool to sort of be a catalyst with, um, in terms of around football, around the world, you know, I know that the US National Team were really excited when they had heard that we had managed to achieve, (Squiers: mmm) managed to achieve that, that, which is horrible (Squiers: yeah, yeah). But yeah and so, I think that was a really cool, um, moment to be a part of and then, um, more sort of football specific, it was really, really cool to, you know, I think there was one year we came back and we had to play, I was, I was in America at the time and we had some home games against Brazil and all of a sudden, you know, we’re selling out our game or, or, or breaking crowd records (Squiers: mmm) that we, and having so many people there supporting us. And I think obviously that comes off the back of the success that we’ve had as a team and what we’ve, um, done on the field.
But just the support of our, of the Federation and, um, I think just the, the conversation of women’s sport and how, you know, how it’s an opportunity to inspire the next generation and, and, and to watch people who were, who were really great at what they do. And so, I think that was really cool for us because we, you know, we’ve been at games where we haven’t had huge crowds and so (Squiers: mmm), um, and one of the things I love about our team is how much time we spend after the game with our, our fans (Squiers: mmm) because, um, because we have been at games where there’s not been as many so want to make sure that we, they know that it’s, it’s appreciated and, um, yeah I think those are two of the, the, the big things that I’ve noticed with my time with the Matildas.
SQUIERS: Do you think your football had changed in that time? Or do you think your quality of football was always there, but you just never had a platform to be able to be exposed to lots of people, so they could understand that’s what you were doing?
KENNEDY: Yeah, I think it’s a little bit of both, obviously as, as we sort of, we have quite a, a core group of the team that were sort of coming through as we sort of gained more experience overseas and and come into a little bit more of our prime, I guess. Um, our football was better, but also a, you know, the conversations and, and exposure definitely helped as well. And so, I think, um, we sort of pride ourselves on, on living up to the expectation that we’ve kind of now got (Squiers: mmm) on, on our shoulders with, with the way we’ve performed over the last couple of years.
And I think that’s a, a credit to the, some of the form that the girls have been in as well, you know, we’ve had, obviously Sam is, is an obvious one (Squiers: mmm), um, but if you look at someone like Caitlin at the moment, she’s in amazing form. Um, and we’ve had players, you know, Polks’ has been a great defender for years (Squiers: mmm) and, and these people have, yeah, like you said have been great footballers for a long time but, um, it’s really cool when obviously we’re, we’re able to live up to the potential that we have as well and I think we want to, just moving forward, we want to do that, um, even more so in the next, upcoming years.
SQUIERS: Is there something in particular that you look back on now in those early times, in those tough times, and now it’s so different that you go, ‘wow, like, remember when we had to do something’, is there anything that comes to mind in that sense?
KENNEDY: Oh, you’ve caught me off guard a little bit (laughs), because I can’t think of anything off the top of my head but I just know there is, like there have been so many things that, um, you know, even sometimes some of the, the facilities (Squiers: mmm) or the change rooms that we would have, or, or having to, to shower in these, you know, these portable showers or walking across. I remember one time after a, after a W League game we had to, we had our stuff moved out of the, the change room at half-time, because the men were coming, and we had to get out. And all of a sudden, we’re walking across the local RSL in our boots (Squiers: mmm), showering there and it’s just that, those kind of the (Squiers: mmm), there’s certain things and I know sure there’s so many stories out there but those kinds of things and, and they’re the things that we don’t, I would hope that people aren’t dealing with so much at the moment. But there are so many things that, um, have changed and it’s obviously a really positive thing.
SQUIERS: I want to fast forward to 2016 and the Rio Olympics, um, when you arrived at the Olympics, where you wanted to be as a little ten-year-old, wanted to be at the Olympics, what was it like when you finally arrived in Rio and you thought, ‘holy bejesus, this is happening’?
KENNEDY: So, our Olympic experience was quite, um, was, was different, we actually didn’t play in Rio. I think as a team, we sort of felt that it was more like just a, that we were there, it was like another World Cup because (Squiers: mmm) we, we weren’t in the Olympic environment, (Squiers: mmm) we weren’t in Rio. And unfortunately, the game we would have ended up in Rio, ah, we had lost and then we were out, so we’d gone to Rio to, to, to be spectators or we were going to play in the (Squiers: mmm), in the Semi-Final. So, yeah, I think we’re all really looking forward to the, I know, you know, if and when the next one happens it’s going to be, ah, much different, different experience but, um, we’re sort of looking forward to the next one to shape it differently.
SQUIERS: You played every minute of Australia’s matches in Brazil, in those games in the Olympics, let’s go straight to the knockout clash with the home side Brazil, finishes 0-0, goes to penalties. Before we get up to your penalty, how did you feel about penalties leading into this moment, and doing the penalty shoot-out?
KENNEDY: You know what’s interesting, I actually have, not many people have asked me about this and, and no one’s asked me that question because I do have a, you know, some, before that, I guess for me I was actually carrying a, carrying an injury through the tournament and so I didn’t actually, um, practise a penalty because I didn’t train in between the games. I played the game and then I rested because I was carrying an injury.
And so, the night before the, the day before the girls all practised their penalties and I remember sitting there on the Esky, I actually sat with Steph Catley, she also didn’t train and I, we’d sort of being like, ‘I wonder what way we’d, what way would you go, where would you, cause’, as a defenders as well, (Squiers: mmm) or me personally as a defender, when I was younger I would always take the penalties (Squiers: mmm), but in the last couple of years, when you’re in a team full of sort of superstars and you’re a defender, you don’t take the penalty, so I hadn’t taken a penalty for years (Squiers: mmm). It doesn’t mean, you know, I can’t take one (Squiers: mmm), um, it’s, it really should have (laughs), it’s quite simple, isn’t it? But (Squiers: yeah, no) I managed to miss, um (laughs), from the moment I decided I was going to take one because, um, it was, it was sort of getting down to the, a few of us, I was like, ‘yep, I’m going to, I, I sort of, I was in the zone, I’m going to score this. You know, I’m confident, whatever’. I picked my side and then, you know, the, the rest is, not the best history. Um, but yeah in that moment, obviously I wished I could have it back but, (Squiers: mmm) you know, you, you sort of move on from it.
SQUIERS: Well, take us to that moment, take to that moment when you stepped up to the spot, what was going through your head, you were confident you were going to do this.
KENNEDY: Yeah, definitely, I think you sort of have to be otherwise, you know, there’s, it, it can be quite a, a mentally, it’s a mental battle sometimes, you know, are you going to kick it, have you picked your side before you go or are you gonna wait for the keeper to move or, you know, whatever, people have different sort of processes. But for me, I knew I was going to go down, I hadn’t practised one for a while so I had, had picked a side and I was like, ‘okay’, I had spoken to the girls because we, after the first five, you then sort of, it’s off to the cuff (Squiers: mmm) of who’s going next, you know, you have your top five and then. We had, you know, we had people who were lined up for the next and, but it kept going (Squiers: mmm), it just kept going so, we sort of had to, um, discuss it on the field and I, I, I did, yeah, I was so, ‘okay, I’ll take’ and yeah I was, I was very confident and then, um, because you have to be. And then, um, you know, she, the keeper made a great save, ah, or she saved it, I don’t know, it wasn’t the best penalty and, you know, there was a lot of people saying, ‘you know, she was off her line for certain penalties’ (Squiers: mmm) and potentially mine but, but she was going to save my penalty regardless I think (Squiers: sure). It was just one of those things.
SQUIERS: So, she saves it, Brazil wins, they go through, for you at that moment, it’s the home side, the crowd’s going mad, and you’re left standing there, what when you saw that she saved it, what did, what was that feeling like?
KENNEDY: Oh, it was just horrible, yeah, I remember, um, and I’ve seen lots of photos of, you know, my face was in my hands and, and then in the background you see, it’s sort of the, it’s a, it’s an interesting photo, you know, because I’ve got my, my face in my hands and then the keeper behind is, you know, cheering with the, with the crowd behind her and whatever. So, it kind of tells, um, the story in that photo, but, um, but I had, you know, the girls sprint over, Sam Kerr was like one of the first who had, had run over to me to hug me and support me in that moment, um, and I know, you know, one of the other girls had missed a penalty too and the night, and the night of, um, ah, even our coach had sent a really nice message to us both, um, you know, saying, it was just support straight away from the girls and, yeah.
And I think that’s, that’s kind of, I wouldn’t expect anything different from, from our team, um, but, I, I did, I felt horrible in that moment, um, and I, I thought about it for a long time (Squiers: mmm) and, yeah, it wasn’t nice I guess, um, but I think another thing that I had to remember was, um, you know, I did play every minute of every game and I (Squiers: mmm), there were things that I did, that I had done (Squiers: mmm), these are the kinds of conversations that you have with yourself, you know, I had done things in the games to, to prevent goals or, you know, whatever (Squiers: mmm), and, and that’s what happens and so, um, unfortunately for me, um, yeah that’s kind of the thing that people remember but, um, yeah, I, I was looking forward to the next opportunity though to take a penalty and to, to be fair it actually hadn’t come until, until the other night, I hadn’t taken one in a, in a match. But, um, I, I scored that, (Squiers: mmm) and I feel like once you do that, it’s the, the monkey’s off the back again and, and it’s, yeah.
SQUIERS: But that’s four years later though, that’s a long time.
KENNEDY: It is, I mean I had like in training (Squiers: mmm) and we practise it but like I said as a defender it doesn’t really come across that often for, for me (Squiers: mmm) to be taking a penalty. So, yeah, it, I actually two weeks, or two or three weeks after my US team had, we, we won the league and we had gone to penalties in the Final and, um, I was in line to take one but, um, we had won it before I needed to take one, so that was very soon. But (Squiers: mmm), I, I was prepared to do it but, um, that was soon, I would have liked to have done it then (Squiers: mmm) to get it out of the way but four years later it’s fine I can wait (laughs).
SQUIERS: That’s such a long time, but how long do you think, um, even when you do have disappointments, it’s not like something you can, you can wash away and rub off. And as you said it, ‘it stung for a while’, and it’s okay if these things sting, but how long did it sting for, how long?
KENNEDY: I think more so, when I thought of it (Squiers: mmm), I didn’t, I didn’t think of it a lot because I, I had, I had things on straight, like within days I was back in America and we were in the playoffs and I had another game and another league to focus on so I think that’s, that’s, a good thing that you sort of move on and you have a new goal straight away. But whenever I would think about it, you know, it wasn’t something that constantly (Squiers: mmm) like haunted me (Squiers: mmm), but when I thought about it, definitely I was like, ‘ohh, damn, you know, (Squiers: mmm), I wished I scored, obviously I wished I scored’. Um, now I look back on it, it’s, it’s four years, it’s, it’s a long time ago now and so, yeah, I think it’s only made me stronger in some, you know, in some way.
SQUIERS: The good that you, four years later, you took one and you got it though, congratulations you got there. I want to talk about the Women’s Super League, because you’re now in the UK playing for Tottenham and this is the first year that for the UK, that this league has gone totally professional. How does it feel to be a part of, really like a historic moment for this competition?
KENNEDY: Yeah, I think it’s, um, it’s really exciting and I think since being here a, you know, I’ve been in the US for so long that I, I didn’t know so much about this league, but I’ve been really impressed and, um, I’m really enjoying the competition over here. Um, I obviously enjoy London itself as well, but I think, yeah, just the quality of football over here has been really impressive. And, um, for me, I’m playing in the midfield, which is where (Squiers: mmm) I enjoy my football a lot, um, I play a lot of my club football as a midfielder as opposed to being a defender for the National Team. And so, yeah, I’m, I’m enjoying it and, and I think the quality over here, um, has, has, you know, it’s, it’s top tier so I’m happy to be part of such a, a great league.
SQUIERS: What’s been the biggest difference to football as a culture over there in the UK as opposed to Australia that you’ve noticed?
KENNEDY: Um, I would say just here at the, the rivalries and the, um, you know, like the, the local derbies and everything, it’s, it’s just so much history and so much passion and I know that we have that in Australia as well, but I think here, in Australia we sort of embrace a lot of sports and here it’s football. It’s like (Squiers: mmm), you come to England and football is, is, is the sport (Squiers: mmm) and, um, it’s, yeah, there’s a lot of passion from, from I guess the fans, it’s, it’s different now because (Squiers: of COVID) we haven’t had any fans at the games (Squiers: mmm). But, um, yeah, but I still already, you know, without that, I can still sense that there’s, there’s huge, um, ah, expectations in those kinds of games and I think just the, yeah, I think that everyone’s so competitive over here and the, their, their passion for the games is, is, is really high.
SQUIERS: Let’s talk about your switch to the midfield from being a defender. Like that’s, that’s a huge switch but you’re, you’re playing your best football there, is it frustrating that when you come back to Australia and play for the Matildas that you won’t be in the midfield, is that, or is that something that you want to get to or?
KENNEDY: Um, not necessarily, I think for me, so I grew up playing as a midfielder (Squiers: yeah), I was never really a defender until, um, different paths, you know, I would always fill in at times, um, and I’ve actually played a few games as a midfielder for the Matildas when I was younger. I’ve, under, under Alan Stajcic at Sydney FC, I was always a midfielder when I was younger and, um, if anything I was more of an attacking midfielder as opposed to being a, a defensive midfielder (Squiers: mmm) now.
Um, and so, I’m familiar with the position and, um, yeah, it’s where I enjoy playing a lot, um, but I also love my role as a defender with the, with the National team and, and I love playing, I love playing there as well. It sort of just depends on, on where the, the team needs me and where I, I’m at my best for the team and so, yeah, I embrace, um, for the Matildas and so if, if that’s where I’m, I’ll continue to be, then that’s where I’ll continue to, that’s what I’ll do for the team.
SQUIERS: I want to talk to you about Cadbury because they’ve launched the Women in Sport Initiative and they’re partnering the four National Sports Bodies, um, ah, the Matildas, Cricket, AFLW and the NRLW. You’re one of the ambassadors, do you get the perks out of that? Do we get some choccies? (Laughs) Does that come along with it? Please tell me.
KENNEDY: I got sent some chocolate, it, um (Squiers: mmm), just recently and I’m still sort of filtering like (Squiers: yeah, right) I love Cadbury chocolate (laughs). So, I was stoked and it’s actually funny, my manager called me, and said, ‘hey, what are you doing?’ and I was like, ‘I’m just eating’ and he was like, ‘I’ve got a’. And I was like, I’m not even going to tell him what I’m eating because it was like the middle of the day (laughs) and he’s like, ‘I’ve got an opportunity with Cadbury’ and I said, ‘stop it, I’m literally eating a block of Cadbury, ah, Black Forest right now’, and so it’s just really funny, that sort of happened (laughs). But yeah, I’m, I’m really excited to be part of their, their campaign and, and initiative.
SQUIERS: What do you love about this initiative and this campaign so much?
KENNEDY: I think for me, um, I was always, I was a young girl, um, who, who in, in their shoes at the moment, and obviously the next generation that we’re looking to inspire and so, to be able to have role models visible and people you can identify with is, is a huge, a huge thing for young, young girls and I think that it obviously promotes the, the idea of being active and, um, and I think that, that, not only does that, you know, is that for, you know, for your health and your, um, and everything, but I just think it’s shaped me so much as a person being an athlete and the, (Squiers: mmm) the discipline that comes with it, the determination, the, just all the, all those kind of values and, and things that, um, that make you sort of a better person, so I just think the initiative is, is, is a really great one and, and I’m proud to be a part of it.
SQUIERS: Almost half of all girls drop out of sport by the time that they’re fifteen, you weren’t on that side of the statistic, what prevented you from dropping out of sport at fifteen?
KENNEDY: I think for me, I just had so much pattern for, um, for football and, I, um, grew up in an environment where I was constantly active and I, and I found, um, that I made a lot of friendships through that (Squiers: mmm). Um, and I think that, that still today, you know, when I finish my football career, my friendships will still be there (Squiers: mmm), so I think that’s, that’s probably one of the biggest parts, ah, or, or the best sort of perks of it. And then, yeah, I guess as I said, the opportunities that have come with it and the being able to sort of travel the world and, and seeing so many different things is, is really cool as well. But, um, yeah, I’m, I’m grateful that I, that I stuck with my sport.
SQUIERS: What would be your message to younger girls, who are around fifteen, around that age where that statistic, um, occurs, who are involved in sport and may be considering dropping out, what would be your message to them?
KENNEDY: Well, I think it’s really cool for them to see that people are, are sort of able to, to live this life and, and have a job and a career, um, and for me I think my message would just be that I wouldn’t change this for the world, I feel so privileged to be in, in the position that I’m in and yeah, I just think that’s it’s if, if you’re enjoying it. I think that’s the most important thing to, like, you know, it might not be sport or, um, whatever it is, but the thing is it’s just important to have, you know, that passion for something and to enjoy, um, and obviously living a healthy, a healthy lifestyle and all those kinds of things are, are definitely benefits and, and are something that people should always, um, you know, want to have those healthy habits in their life.
SQUIERS: And what would it mean for your sport to, you’ve been a part of two World Cups already, and now the World Cup is coming to Australia and New Zealand, um, in 2023. For little girls out there, what would that event do for them on the world stage, to have that FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia, what, what impact will that have?
KENNEDY: I think the best way that I can sort of describe is, is imagining myself there when I was younger and that would have just been honestly one of the coolest things to see people who you identify with or people who you look up to and, and aspire to be like, um, and being able to watch and, and feel inspired by, by what they’re doing, I think it’s quite rewarding for us to be able to, to do that. But yeah, I think, you know, had I, had that been me watching those games, I know I would have left there just being so hungry to, to, to do what I could to be, you know, there if, if that was my passion, you know, football at, at that time. And so, I’m really excited for that opportunity and I think as I sort of touched on earlier, it’s, it’s, it’s really cool for us to know that we have that role for, for young girls, so I’m looking forward to be able to interact with people and, and, and have a home, home, um, crowd, yeah we’re all excited for it.
SQUIERS: And on that note, we finish on every podcast by asking, what advice you would give to your ten-year-old self, so can could tell us, that ten-year-old self who wanted to be, who wrote into the paper and quoted in the paper as going to the Olympics and wanting to be a Matilda, what would be your advice to that little Alanna?
KENNEDY: I think it would just be that it, it will pay off one, one day, I think that, and I can say that now that I know that it has (Squiers: mmm), but I think it’s sort of, um, yeah, just keep, sort of, keep working towards what it is that you’re, that you’re passionate about and that you, you know, that you have that desire for, um, because yeah I’m, I’m so, I wouldn’t change, um, any, I would change the position I’m in for, for anything.
SQUIERS: Alanna, thank you so much for sharing your story with on “On Her Game”.
KENNEDY: Thank you.
SQUIERS: On her game is presented by me, Sam Squiers and produced in collaboration with Podcast One Australia, Producer Lindsey Green, Audio Producer Darcy Thompson, Executive Producer, Jennifer Goggin. For more episodes, head to podcastoneaustralia.com.au download the free Podcast One Australia app or search on On Her Game podcasts.