Book Review: Never Say Die – The Hundred-Year Overnight Success of Australian Women’s Football


Fiona Crawford and Lee McGowan, Never Say Die: The Hundred-Year Overnight Success of Australian Women’s Football, New South Publishing, Sydney, 2019. ISBN: 97817422667.


By Roy Hay


At last there is a history of women’s football, the round ball game, in Australia which will open many eyes to the struggle that generations have put in to bring the code to its present position. Fiona Crawford and Lee McGowan have trawled the archives and talked to generations of women players, their families and supporters, officials and administrators to bring the struggles to overcome bans, denigration, discrimination and worse to tell the story of football played by women. While a few parts of the long history are reasonably well known to historians of football, the majority of the content of this book will be a revelation to those who think the game began when Matildas forced their way into national consciousness, and Sam Kerr perfected her triple somersault.


The book is structured around a number of themes—history, finance, injuries, coaches, World Cups and international tournaments and a glance at the future. Inevitably that involves some repetition, but the upside is that we get a much clearer understanding of the way that the discrimination against women worked on so many different levels from the slight and inconsequential to the profound and ultimately destructive effects on careers and lives.


There were women’s teams playing football in Australia before the First World War, but when women took up factory employment during the war, that gave a boost to their participation. In the 1920s there was a flourishing football culture in Queensland and matches attracted spectators not just participants. In England the Football Association prevented clubs from allowing women to play in their stadia, after more than 50,000 people turned up to game at Everton’s ground. There was no outright ban in Australia but the prejudice against the women’s game snuffed out many attempts to construct regular competitions.


In the 1970s Australian women introduced numerous innovations including a national championship and began playing international matches. The Australian team participated in several of the tournaments which preceded the intervention by FIFA and the start of their World Cup. Australia took part for the first time in 1995 and has been a regular participant ever since.


This well-written book makes clear that women have always played a different game to their male counterparts on and off the field. They have shown that fierce competition on the field is not incompatible with lasting and deep friendships and co-operation off it, sometimes just to ensure that the opposition were enabled to play. Football women have demonstrated time and again, that they are not prepared to play the victim. They have seized hold of unpromising situations and made the game happen—at all levels from the local to the international. Mere males are likely to be gobsmacked by the way ‘they just got on with it’.


This will not be the last word on the story of women’s involvement in football since the seventeenth century. There is so much more to find out about the people involved at all levels but this book shows not just the story of the players and coaches. The backroom people, families and friends, get a guernsey in the book. It is probably only through their stories that we are able to get at so many games, incidents, and issues that were never reported in the national or local press.



Roy Hay has written a number of books himself. His latest is covered here.




Our writers are independent contributors. The opinions expressed in their articles are their own. They are not the views, nor do they reflect the views, of Malarkey Publications.


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  1. Kasey Symons says

    What a wonderful review – must get my hands on a copy of this asap! Was blessed to meet Lee at the Sport Literature Association conference in Limoges, France this year and am a big supporter of his work. I’m sure this book will not disappoint!

  2. Thanks Kasey. I’d love to get your assessment when you get hold of the book.


  3. Kasey Symons says

    Will be sure to give you my thoughts when I have a read Roy!

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