• Andrew Howe

Cheryl Salisbury named as first female footballer in Sport Australia Hall of Fame

Cheryl Salisbury adds to her career of firsts as befitting her genuine 'legend' status in women's football.

One of the biggest names to bestride the Australian women’s football scene, Cheryl Salisbury dominated women's football from the mid-1990s through to 2009.


A tall, strong and fast defender, Cheryl Salisbury made the first of her epic tally of 171 appearances for the Matildas at the 1994 Gold Coast Invitational tournament, and she captained the side from 2003.


A veteran of four World Cups and two Olympic Games, she formed solid partnerships in the centre of the Australian defence particularly with Dianne Alagich, whose pairing lasted the best part of a decade. Salisbury was equally comfortable holding the Matildas backline together or going forward as her 38 goals attest.


Growing up in inner Newcastle, she played with Lambton Lions (later Jaffas) juniors. Her name first came to light in 1988 when she was named in the Australian schoolgirl and Under-16 teams, aged 14. It was her first of 22 years in the national team colours. She made four consecutive Australian schoolgirl sides, but due to the strength of football in the region she did not make her first senior Northern NSW team until 1992.


For the Matildas Salisbury scored in her first match against a national side in 1994 (L1-2 v Russia). Later that year she played in Australia's first successful Women's World Cup qualifying campaign, and following a busy lead-up to the finals tournament (27 appearances in just 12 months) she played twice at the 1995 World Cup in Sweden.



She scored nine goals in four games during the following qualifying campaign in 1998, including a five-goal haul against American Samoa (W21-0), and in the 1999 World Cup in the United States she played in all three of Australia’s matches. The following year she was named vice-captain of the Matildas for the 2000 Sydney Olympics, where she scored with a diving header against Sweden (D1-1) to earn Australia its only point of the games.

Salisbury skippered the side at World Cups in 2003 (in the United States) and 2007 (China), the 2004 Athens Olympic Games, and in the run to the 2006 Asian Cup final in Adelaide (D2-2, lost on penalties v China).

In the final group match of the 2007 World Cup she scored her most dramatic and important goal for the Matildas, netting in injury time to secure a point against Canada (D2-2) and progression to the World Cup knock-out stage (at the expense of the Canadians) for the first time in the team's history.

In 1998 she was part of the first intake in the full-time AIS women's football program in the lead-up to the 2000 Olympics, and she has played with a host of clubs domestically and abroad.


In Australia she turned out for WNSL sides Victoria (1996–1997), Northern NSW (1998–2000, 2004) and South Australia (2001–2003), with Newcastle Jets (2008–2009) in the W-League, and for state league sides Raymond Terrace, Adamstown and Stirling Lions in Perth. Her overseas club stints were with Panasonic Bambina and Takarazuka Bunnys in Japan (1995–1997), and Memphis Mercury and New York Power in the United States (2002–2003).


Salisbury's individual honours are immense. During her playing days FIFA honoured her with selection in the world governing body's Women's World XI squad twice.She was inducted into the FFA Hall of Fame soon after her playing retirement, and is part of the FFA 2000s Team of the Decade. In 2017 the PFA awarded her its highest honour, the Alex Tobin Medal.

In 2019, Sport Australia named her as one of seven Australian sporting identities to be inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame. She is the first woman footballer to be inducted joining Peter Wilson and Ray Baartz (1985) and Harry Kewell (2018), as well as the late John Warren (1986), Joe Marston (1988) and Alf Quill (1996).

FACTS AT A GLANCE

  • Position: Defender Cap number: 75

  • A internationals 1994–2009: 151 games (38 goals)

  • Non-A internationals 1994–2009: 20 games (4 goals)

  • All internationals 1994–2009: 171 games (42 goals)

This is an extract from the 'Encyclopedia of Matildas' by Andrew Howe and Greg Werner, first published by Fair Play Publishing in 2019 and updated in 2020.