For almost three decades, the Queensland Academy of Sport has been at the forefront of every major development in Australian women’s football.
In 1992, the QAS became the first state institute to include a women’s football program, leading the way for the rest of the country.
In 1997, the QAS won the very first Women’s National Soccer League title after beating the South Australian Institute of Sport in the Grand Final.
Over the next nine seasons, the QAS would win a record four more titles, cementing Queensland’s reputation as the heartland of Australian women’s football.
And in 2008, when the W-League was launched to replace the old WNSL, a team of QAS women playing under the Queensland Roar brand took out the inaugural Premiership and Grand Final.
“Our foundation was the QAS but from 2008 we played for the Roar,” said QAS alumni Ellen Beaumont. “But they are interchangeable – you can’t separate them.”
The QAS program, which is now majority-funded and run by Football Queensland, has punched above its weight in producing players for the national team.
“Since 1992, 48 Matildas have passed through the ranks of the QAS, including the likes of Clare Polkinghorne, Tameka Yallop, Katrina Gorry and Elise Kellond-Knight,” said Junior Matildas Head Coach Rae Dower.
“It is incredible that one-third of the Matildas over the past 30 years have been developed right here in Queensland.”
One of those maroon Matildas was Bryony Duus, who played 47 times for the national team, including at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games and the 2003 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Duus, who was part of the first intake of the QAS, said the program was “instrumental” in her development.
“Without the QAS, I don’t think I would have been able to play at an Olympic Games or a World Cup,” she said.
Duus’s first coaches at the QAS were Jim and Connie Selby, an iconic husband and wife duo who were part of the first Australian touring side in 1978.
Jim established the QAS women’s program alongside the men’s program while working as the State Director of Coaching for the Queensland Soccer Federation.
“The aim of the QAS is to get as many players as possible in National Youth teams,” he told the Sunday Telegraph in 1992.
The program delivered the best young female players with an intensive training and competition program equal to that of the men’s program.
In 1993, the QAS women’s team entered the local Brisbane competition, where they won the Premiership, the Watson Shield and the Atlanta Cup in their first season.
A few years later, when the first women’s national league was established, the QAS won the inaugural title.
Tammie Thornton, who moved to Brisbane from Cairns to be part of the QAS, was a key member of that championship-winning team.
“Coming from a regional area, the QAS was my first taste of being a professional player,” said Thornton, who went on to play in the USA and England and make 19 appearances for the Matildas.
“We had a great team, a great coach, and we trained hard and worked well together. For me, it was the start of wanting more in football.”
The same was true for Ellen Beaumont, who joined the QAS in 2001 and spent nine years in the program.
From her home in Salisbury in Brisbane’s southside, Beaumont often pauses to gaze at the floodlights of QSAC Stadium in the distance.
“It was the field of dreams. I know they’ve changed the name of that stadium a few times, but I just call it the QAS,” she said.
“It’s nice to look up at the lights and have flashbacks of training nights and fun times with my teammates. Without the QAS, I wouldn’t have played for the Matildas.”
The program is now run by FQ out of its Meakin Park headquarters, and has since expanded to provide a full-time playing and training environment for five squads from U13s to U17s, but the tradition continues.
Next season, as the QAS women’s football program celebrates 30 years, a new intake of athletes will pull on the maroon jersey and inherit a proud Queensland legacy.
“There are exciting times ahead as Australia prepares to host the 2023 Women’s World Cup and, of course, the 2032 Olympic Games,” said Rae Dower.
“The number of Maroon Matildas may increase in the coming months as former QAS stars Angie Beard, Winnie Heatley and Jamilla Rankin join the Matildas squad.
“I have no doubt that QAS graduates will continue to play a big part in the Matildas for decades to come.”
CLICK HERE to find out more about the QAS Women’s Football Program.