"I love serial killers," Lisa De Vanna nonchalantly tells Optus Sport, grinning through oversized sunglasses as she leans back against a wooden jetty near her Spearwood home.
Nearly a decade later, she never hides away from her past. Beneath the bravado lie elements of self-doubt - when she was made co-captain of the Matildas in 2015 she cried, saying “obviously I’m not the ideal captain given my past, but I did a lot of changing and a lot of soul-searching.”
Now completing her coaching badges, she still expresses insecurity over her outspoken nature. She also admits that she only recently began to feel content in her own body.
But therein lies the redemption of Lisa De Vanna. As the oldest member of the Matildas’ self-described ‘golden generation’, she embraces her role as a leader, both more and less in the spotlight than ever before.
For close to a decade she was the leading light of Australian women’s football, the brash and controversial, yet often-unseen poster-girl. Now, at 34-years-old, she knocks shoulders with players less than half her age in the current Matildas squad.
Her position as an ambassador has been eclipsed by the mercurial rise of Sam Kerr, who has partly led and partly been the beneficiary of a rapid increase in support and awareness of the Matildas.
As a key member of the World Cup’s dark horses, De Vanna is a transient link between the past and present of Australian football. She cemented the Matildas’ fighting spirit, while transitioning the side from “thugs” to one of the world’s most talented teams.
Throughout this time she’s often stood alone, surviving bust-ups, arguments, controversies and expulsions.
She was one of very few that overlooked unequal treatment from FFA, refusing to boycott the Matildas’ 2015 friendly against the United States. Instead, she cited that she “didn’t know whether I’d ever have the chance to play the world’s best team again.”
Rather than ever acquiesce to public-pleasing moral responsibility, De Vanna’s remained true to her roots. She’s the archetypal Aussie battler from a rowdy Portugese household, who swears like a trooper and will leave a legacy greater than any Australian footballer before her.
It’s a legacy that tells those who’d prefer the Matildas to be ladies, hand-picked from artificial training grounds to ‘Suck on that one’. The Matildas are born tackling boys on tough Spearwood streets and they’ve fought for everything they've got.
They’re Australia’s favourite sporting team for a reason, after all.