Amy Duggan knows what it takes to make it in women’s football. The 20-cap Matilda has long been devoted to the game. From a 12-year-old in Canberra playing futsal right through to representing her country on a global stage at both the Women’s World Cup and Olympics. Amy’s passion for the sport, and women’s sport in general, is unwavering.
Now in the media, namely as an expert commentator for FOX SPORTS’ on-air football team and as a nightly sports presenter on WIN News, Amy recently turned her focus to talent scouting for the FFA (Football Federation Australia). The former Matilda was enlisted alongside of Australia’s greatest ever Socceroo Tim Cahill to identify the players set to turn heads this 2018/2019 season.
It was evident after speaking with Amy just how passionate she is about the #WhereHeroesAreMade movement. Not only is it about identifying talent but as Amy touched on in our interview, women who have quietly persevered and shown resilience day-in day-out and are heroes in their own right. Something that has long been a common theme throughout the growing popularity of women’s sport in Australia.
Read my full interview with Amy below.
Can you tell me about your career in football?
I started playing football at 12 years old in primary school. Loved sport and I did quite well at it and it sort of just blossomed from there! I ended up playing internationally the following year in indoor (futsal) and then went from there in every age group right through.
At 17 I got called into the Matilda’s training squad and made my debut some four-five months later against America in Melbourne. We lost that game but that was ok, they were number one in the world! Then I was in and out of the squad through a couple of reasons. I had to have two ankle reconstructions, trained in the inaugural AIS squad right through to the 2000 Olympics and then didn’t make the cut. I then took some time out to go overseas and play and then had some time away from the sport. But I think I’m one of those people that it’s in my blood and I’ll never be able to give the game up entirely.
My career path then took a turn into the media (entering the industry full-time in 2005) in presenting and reporting sport. I went back to university to tick the box there and continued to grow my family. I worked with the ABC for the first few seasons of the W-League and then took a little break when my family started to expand. Then I went across to Fox (FOXSPORTS) and have worked for Fox for the last three years.
I would say it’s the closest I’m ever going to get to playing football! Standing on the same field as modern day champions and modern day heroes and I’m very, very privileged to be able to do that.
I also like to keep a hand on the continued growth of our game and not just our game, all women’s sports and sport in general. I truly believe sport is an education that you can’t pay for. You can’t sign up for a university degree to get what you get out of sport. Those are life lessons that you will take everywhere and into everything you do in the future. They’re skills that are totally transferrable and they include goal setting, planning, dedication, discipline, resilience, team work, individual responsibilities, sacrifice, learning how to win, learning how to lose, all of those things that I like to think I take with me into everyday life and everyday business.
Tell me about your move from football to the media, was it an easy transition or did you feel you had to prove yourself more?
I think it was a time when entry into media was changing. I definitely received some feedback that wasn’t great because I hadn’t come through the normal channels. But I think I value added in different ways and that was one of the driving factors behind me going back to university, because I wanted to tick the box and have the same experience, credentials and training that my fellow peers had, regardless of the way I had entered the media.
My transition out of sport was probably a little bit easier because I knew where I was going. I had already set those new goals, so that was something that I had been personally mindful of for quite a while. It probably helped not being a starting 11 player all the time and that I knew football, and I guess the way football was in those days, wasn’t really a career. I knew that I was going to have to do something else in my life. So for me, the planning happened a long time before.
I had been working casually in TV for three or four years before I actually made the full move. I had been setting myself up to make sure I knew where I was going when I left football, so I wasn’t going to find myself in the stage of ‘oh my god my career’s over what am I going to do.’ So for me the transition was very different to a lot of athletes but I think that came from those same skill sets that I learnt in sport, that being prepared and planning ahead and setting goals are really important to everything that we do.
Do you think support for women’s sport and coverage in the media has come a long way since your playing days?
Yes absolutely, and especially probably in the last two or three years. I’ve really noticed a massive shift to equality as far as, I’d still like to see more of it don’t get me wrong I think this is just the beginning of a really long journey, but the fact that women’s sport is now televised and we started off with a few games, then we got more last year and this year we have every single game accessible either on television or online or on one of the platforms.
Having it on free-to-air and Fox, that’s a really important relationship. Being able to get out to games and making them more accessible, and we’re not just talking in the football sphere here we’re talking across the board. AFL, basketball, netball, rugby league, rugby union, sevens – they’ve all received massive growth as far as media, sponsorship and exposure so in that respect I’ve loved watching the growth. I still think there’s a long way to go but I’m really happy with the progress.
Have you seen that come back around in the W-League in terms of the development of players and the game itself?
The game and the league are going from strength to strength. If you look at the calibre of player that we’re putting on the park and the fact that all of our Matildas are playing in this league and where they’re sitting on an International scale or an international ranking at the moment with their results and their performances, it has to feed back into this.
It’s part of the cycle, it’s not the only part of the cycle, but it certainly is part of the cycle and the fact that we’re attracting the calibre of international players that we are speaks volume of the league and of the competitiveness of it. We’re seeing a lot of American players come over and then find their way into the US national team. That in itself is an exposing platform and obviously the game is going into America this year on ESPN so that’s fantastic as well.
Can you tell me about your role as a Hero Scout for the FFA?
What a great campaign! Generally I’m a host, commentator and analyst for the sport but clearly follow it very closely. Having watched a lot of these girls careers, some of the girls have played in the league for 10 years now and with the introduction of other young stars coming through the league, I have been so lucky to watch the progress of all these players over a number of years. I feel like I’ve got a handle on who’s playing well or where they’re at in their careers, who’s seeing a form slump, who’s doing the right things but more importantly the next generation coming through. When you’re looking for the attributes of those players, it’s a huge step coming into the W-League especially as a teenager and playing against seasoned players.
Potential is a wonderful thing but whether it’s realised or not is a whole other scale. I’ve seen a lot of players come and go but I’ve also seen a lot of players come in and really hit their strap. Ellie (Carpenter) comes to mind. She was super and there was always room for improvement in her first few years, but she broke away into the Matilda’s quite young and is going to be one of the stalwarts of this League for seasons to come. She’s just one example of many.
The Hero Scout campaign was to get the fans out there to peak their interest and to show – you can name players that play in other leagues across the world and you can name players that are playing in other sports in Australia, but do you really know the names of these girls?
“The message at the end of the day is really clear that the heroes are there, come and meet them.”
These girls that have sacrificed, persevered, have been resilient and have been doing this day-in day-out quietly and are heroes in their own right. Sam’s (Kerr) become a global name and a household name but there are plenty of players on that path every weekend just like her and it’s about time that our nation got to know those players as well. The field is where heroes are made and scouting them out and working out who we need to promote more was so much fun with Tim (Cahill) and not just in the women’s game the men’s game as well.
What was it like working alongside of Tim Cahill?
Like everybody my kids love him and I’ve watched his career. We’re of a similar age but we hit it off and we have a lot of similarities but clearly a lot of differences in our lives too, but I admire what he’s done for the game. I admire how Tim views the sport as a business. He’s another person where the game is in his blood. When its running through your veins it’s really hard to get rid of it, it doesn’t switch off!
How do you see the development of the W-League this season?
The off-season player movement has been really exciting this year, watching a lot of players move around and it’s a bittersweet thing for me because loyalty to a club was so fierce historically but now it’s becoming a real business, a real life and a career. These girls have to make decisions and watching the off-season movement has been huge – but I think what it’s going to do is even out the league and make it really strong across the board.
It’ll be difficult to pick results and I’m excited for that and to see the different match ups across the park because of those player movements. Because of the international recruitment and the different cultures and different calibre of players that have been brought in from overseas and how that fits into our W-League here, which has historically had a lot of Americans come across, but if you look across the board this year and over the last couple of years we’ve spread our wings into different continents and that it is something that really excites me, seeing a different style of player from a different continent.