While a Sam Kerr backflip is synonymous with a Matildas goal these days and is beamed on TV to millions of adoring fans across the world, 41 years ago - apart from her team-mates - hardly anyone flinched when 17-year-old Sandra Brentnall netted Australia’s first ever goal in international women’s football.
Barely two men and a dog were at Seymour Shaw Park that day on 6 October 1979 when Australia drew 2-2 with New Zealand in our official women’s international debut.
While Australia had fielded teams previously in women’s football - 1975 in Hong Kong and 1978 in Taiwan - the team that took the field against the ‘Football Ferns’ in Miranda on that spring afternoon in 1979 were the first recognised Australian women’s national team.
Among them was Brentnall - nicknamed Peewee - who learned to play football in bare feet and then later, second hand sneakers.
Born in Nottingham in 1962, Brentnall immigrated to Australia with her family at the tender age of 12, settling in Perth.
While her local men’s club from her motherland, Nottingham Forest, were embarking on a golden era which included back to back European championships, Brentnall was busy writing herself into Australian football folklore.
“My first goal is a memory that I will cherish forever...I know I scored with a shot not a header and that is all I remember,” said a proud Brentnall. “I wish I could remember exactly how but can’t.
“I do remember the girls running up to me and celebrating. Thing is my job was to score or make goals and that’s what I did all my career.”
While post game these days would include signing autographs, doing media interviews and sitting in ice baths, Brentnall celebrated her iconic moment the exact way you would expect from the humble daughter of a working class immigrant family.
“And me scoring a goal, the first thing I did after the game was ring my mum!,” she said with a smile.
The 2014 FFA Hall of Fame inductee added more history the following year in 1980, scoring the first ever hat-trick for Australia against the New Zealanders in Christchurch.
While she only played 11 times for Australia, scoring nine goals, Brentnall had a distinguished career at the domestic level, playing the world game for the best part of 40 years before retiring in 2014 to focus solely on coaching.
Brentnall collected no less than six League Best & Fairest awards in Western Australia through spells with Girrawheen, Olympic Kingsway, Kiev, Ashfield, Gosnells City, Beeliar and Leeming Strikers. She also won a remarkable 17 Club Best & Fairest awards and nine Golden Boots.
Brentnall admits her memories of her time playing for Australia always fills her with great pride.
“My biggest memories are being selected in the first 11 every time and being so proud to pull on the shirt. I have an unbelievable feeling of pride, honour and am ever so grateful for the opportunity to play at the highest level.”
As for writing herself into the history books and pub trivia forever?
“I did not know anything about history etc, I just played the game with all my heart every time.
“The goal, the hat trick etc has given me great honours, has made me realise the impact I did have on women’s soccer. I feel humbled.”
Brentnall also appreciates the impact her legacy will have on future generations, admitting she loves seeing young girls inspired by what she herself has achieved and who has gone before them.
“To be inducted into the Hall of Fame was beyond my wildest dreams, to be inducted into the Hall of Legends is incredible. I take it seriously, I try to do what I can at all times to help young girls live their dream.
“So my time as a Matilda, my 40 years of playing this great game has given me everything I could ever have hoped for and so much more.
“Too have young girls and boys come up to me is amazing, I always will have tremendous respect for this great game of ours.”
With 2021 marking 100 years of women’s football in Australia, it is vital we acknowledge pivotal moments in our footballing history, and Brentnall’s goal in 1979 set the tone for what was to come.
Brentnall firmly believes women now have the opportunity to succeed more than ever before. She encouraged Australian football to better itself, starting from the basics of the game.
“Women’s football has no boundaries these days, no excuses for not being able to make the top grade. There are some great players, teams and coaches. Australia for me should have won a World Cup by now.
“We could be more ruthless, as in never let a team back in the game, play until the final whistle.
“The biggest thing I see especially in Australia is we need to read the play better. For me it’s a simple game made to be too technical at times.”
And how does the now 58-year-old feel about the game that made her famous?
“My passion never falters for this truely wonderful world game.”
Co-incidentally William Maunder scored the Socceroos first ever goal on 17 June 1922, also against New Zealand, though the All Whites went on to win 3-1 in Dunedin.