Matildas goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold has taken a cheeky swipe at Nathan Cleary amid his new relationship with Mary Fowler. In an interview on 2DAY FM’s 'Hughesy, Ed & Erin' breakfast show on Wednesday morning, the Matildas hero opened up on how life has changed since their historic run to the semi-finals of the Women's World Cup.
Tony Gustavsson's side captivated the country as they became the first Aussie team - male or female - to make the final four of a FIFA World Cup. While they had to settle for fourth place, the impact they had on the whole country was undeniable.
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In a funny revelation, Arnold revealed on Wednesday how seeing NRL star Cleary watching from the stands during a recent Olympic qualifier was the perfect example of how far they've come. The Penrith Panthers hero recently started dating Matildas striker Fowler, and was in attendance in Perth as she took on Chinese Taipei earlier this month.
"I think it was definitely seeing Nathan Cleary in the crowd that was crazy for us," she said. Although the diehard Broncos fan put her foot down at letting Cleary on the field after the game after he led the Panthers to a stunning comeback win over Brisbane in the NRL grand final last month. "I was still salty from the grand final," she laughed. "I wasn’t happy about it and let Mary know he couldn’t come on the field.”
Whether or not Cleary was actually banned from the field remains to be seen. But it perfectly sums up how Broncos fans are still feeling after he single-handedly destroyed their premiership dreams.
Cleary scored the winning try and laid on two others as the Panthers produced the biggest comeback in NRL grand final history to break the Broncos' hearts. Brisbane were leading 24-8 with 20 minutes remaining before Cleary unleashed his incredible burst to lead Penrith to a third-straight premiership.
Mackenzie Arnold shot to superstardom at World Cup
Arnold said she could probably walk down the street with her Matildas jersey on before the World Cup and not even be recognised. But all of that has changed now.
Such is the popularity of Arnold and the Matildas that Nike has bowed to pressure and decided to produce a women's goalkeeper jersey for sale. There was widespread backlash during the World Cup when fans came to the realisation that manufacturers don't produce the women's goalkeeper jerseys for retail due to a lack of demand.
Nike later bowed to demand and agreed to produce the women's jerseys of a handful of national teams, but the Matildas still missed out. That has now been rectified, with the retail giants announcing last week that fans will be able to purchase a Matildas goalkeeper jersey in the lead-up to next year's Olympics in Paris and for all "major tournaments" going forward.
Nike's Pacific general manager and vice president Ash Reade told Optus Sport: "Before this tournament, we planned accordingly for the Matildas to go deep and Aussies more than met our expectations, with record jersey sales surpassing 2019 numbers nineteen-fold. It’s a true testament to the power and pull of women’s sport and the women’s game. It reflects the unparalleled impact this team has had on the next generation of athletes and fans of all ages. Along with the nation, all of us at Nike continue to be inspired by the Matildas and are working hard to serve fans with the biggest and best team collections.”
Arnold also opened up on her own love life and new relationship with West Ham teammate Kirsty Smith, who is from Scotland. "She started at West Ham this year," she said. "We only met last June in pre-season. It hasn't been very long." The keeper even joked she might have to let Smith score a goal if the Matildas play Scotland in the near future.
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