RISING STAR: Ellie Carpenter of Australia controls the ball during a women’s international friendly match against New Zealand.
RISING STAR: Ellie Carpenter of Australia controls the ball during a women’s international friendly match against New Zealand. Jack Thomas

Matildas young gun wants to ‘stay in the moment’

FROM a young age, Ellie Carpenter seemed destined for a career in sport, but it looked more likely she would be representing her country in athletics, not football.

Carpenter took up sprinting when she was seven or eight, growing up in the small New South Wales town of Cowra, about 400km west of Sydney.

The daughter of two physical education teachers also played football and had to make the choice between the two before heading to Sydney’s Westfields Sports High School – the nursery for eventual Socceroos Harry Kewell, Aaron Mooy, David Carney, Jason Culina and Mat Ryan.

The move to the big smoke at age 12 and the switch to football have certainly paid off for Carpenter, who at 16 is the youngest member of the Australian Olympic team.

After achieving her dream of Olympic selection, Carpenter said she knew she had made the right choice and had the total support of her mum, dad and school friends as she set off on her Rio adventure.

“My close friends have been really emotional and so happy for me,” Carpenter said from the Matildas’ base in Brazil.

“My parents are very excited for me and want me to try to stay in the moment and absorb it all.

“They want me to grow as a person and step out of my comfort zone to see what I am capable of.

“I just love having a ball at my feet. I love all sport, but football is my passion.”

Carpenter, who made her debut for the Matildas against Vietnam in March, said she had no worries about being the youngest member of the squad, particularly as she received plenty of support from her teammates.

“Everyone has been really supportive,” she said.

“(Co-captains) Clare (Polkinghorne) and Lisa (de Vanna) offer great guidance and Chloe Logarzo, Caitlin Foord and Casey Dumont are like my big sisters.

“I look up to all members of the current team.

“They have so much combined experience and I learn something from each of them.”

Matildas teammate Logarzo has already been impressed by Carpenter.

“She’s hard-working and determined and she won’t let anything stop her, and I think that’s such a great thing to have at such a young age,” Logarzo said.

“I’m going to teach her how to drive.

“It’s great to see her grow up and mature as a person and as a player.”

The Matildas start their Olympic campaign on August 4 with a clash against Canada.

A tough clash against Germany follows on August 7, with a final group game with Zimbabwe on August 10.

The top two in the three groups will advance to the quarter-finals along with the two best third-placed teams.

The Matildas are ranked fifth in the world but have high hopes of becoming the first Australian side, male or female, to win an Olympic football medal.

Carpenter said the Matildas were certainly not playing just for experience and that a bronze, at least, was the goal for the team.

“Everyone in the team has come here with the intention to bring home a medal,” she said.

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