One of football's elite performers, Sam Kerr has had a remarkable career to date. She is an international sensation, a Ballon d'Or nominee who spearheads the Australian National Team, The Matildas. Marking a monumental year, Nike have presented her with a special edition one of one Air Force 1 'SK20'. Getting a look into how huge the last few years have been for her, we sat down with Sam to chat it through.

It’s been an incredible few years for you, can we go back to the beginning though, when did you first come in contact with the game?

I was twelve years old and actually playing another sport. Being an Aussie, I was playing AFL and it became rougher as you got older so I made the switch. Football was the closest thing to Aussie rules at the time and I just kind of lucked out and fell into it by chance.

Can you set the scene for us as to what your journey has been like, did you ever dream of the level you have got to now?

I think when I first started I was just a naive kid who was just playing because I could. I was just playing to have fun and I never really thought about it back then but it all moved pretty quickly for me. I started playing when I was twelve and made my national team debut at the age of fifteen so I didn’t  really have time to think about it or dream of where I am now. I guess when you’re at major tournaments for the first time and you’re seeing great players do great things you kind of can’t help but hope that one day you’ll be there too. There’s many female athletes that I’ve looked up to and it’s kind of cool now to look back at the things they have done are the things that I’m doing now too.

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Who were those athletes you admired particularly?

People like Abby Wambach stand out for me among people who don’t play any more. There’s a lot who are still playing that I admire a great deal. It’d probably be weird if I said them [laughs]. From other sports though, I’m a huge Eagle, I used to love watching the West Coast Eagles (Australian Football League Team). People like Chris Judd, Ashley Sampi. People around the world might not who they are but he was my favourite player.  

You’ve set records and had your name right at the pinnacle of the game, what do you think has got you to where you have?

I think I’m super lucky to be part of such a great team. I think they have helped me through the good and the bad. They’ve all helped me through the journey. I honestly think a lot just comes down to who I am - I’m just very laid back and nothing really phases me. I take things as they are and try not to look too deep at what I’m doing. Just having that mindset has helped me stay very level headed and relaxed. I get to do what I love and every time I go out on the field, it’s just fun for me. It’s not stressful and there’s no real pressure.

You seem to find the net wherever you go, how have you managed to be so prolific?

I don’t know, it’s a weird one. I never really scored consistently for the national team or at club level two years ago, then all of a sudden I got it in my mind that I was going to be a goal scorer and something just changed. I guess it was just knowing  that I had to become something different to really stamp my name in women’s football. I had a chat with one of my national team coaches and he showed me my stats and I had played something like 40 games and scored eight goals and in the last two years I’ve scored 40 goals in as many matches so honestly, it was  just about changing my mindset to become that determined goal scorer.

You’re a huge inspiration to many players looking to break into the game, is being a role model something your conscious of?

Yeah I think everyone in the women’s game is pretty conscious of it. It’s something we dreamed of since we were really young and we feel really lucky that we can be role models for young girls looking at getting into the sport. When I was younger we didn’t have that opportunity like there is today so it’s something we’re all really proud of and take really seriously and I know a lot of girls love to be a role model and I’m really proud to have that honour. I enjoy it a lot and it’s definitely something I always have in the back of my mind, even if we’re not playing football and we’re just out in the street, it’s something we all think about all the time.

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Working with Nike, they’ve presented you with these special edition ‘Air Force 1 SK20’ - marking occasions like that - is it important for you to be aligned with a brand that reflects you as a person?

Yeah I think it’s really important. What people see of you in the media or in adverts or whatever it may be, that is how they shape their ideas around who you are so to be aligned with a brand that does really cool things and stands for a strong message reflects me. These are all things I’m passionate about so joining the brand was an easy choice for me and I love being part of the brand. I’m really lucky.

Can you talk us through 2018 as a year for you - are you in a strong place of reflection as we head towards the end of the year?

Yeah, I thought 2017 was crazy but I guess 2018 was even crazier. It was a really important year for me personally. I had a really good year in 2017 but this year was the year that I could really prove to myself that I could be one of the best players in the world and that 2017 wasn’t just a one-off. So for me, it was really important and it’s one that I have taken more seriously than any other year. I’ve really knuckled down and tried to stay at the top of my game and I think it has paid off. So it’s been a little crazy but a relief for myself to know that I can do this for many years rather than just one.

Being in the hat for the Ballon D’or - what was that like?

It was unreal to be honest. To be in the same pool as 15 girls who I really look up to and play against and finish ahead of some of the girls who I personally think are the greatest in the world was a huge moment for me. I guess it was a huge moment for women in sport too with the first award of its kind for female players.

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Was part of you itching to be at the awards ceremony?

Yeah I was naturally really disappointed I couldn’t go but at the end of the day football comes first and I had  a game two days later so in reality, it was an easy decision to stay and play with my club. Especially having knuckled down this year, I take my games incredibly seriously so yeah, another time hopefully an opportunity to go to it may come up but with this game I had on the weekend, I couldn’t miss that.

2019 is obviously going to be massive - have you felt the swell of the World Cup building?

After the World Cup draw, it obviously heated up a little bit. It was nice to finally see our groups come out. Living in the US, there’s been talk about it for a year now given that the USWNT are reigning World Champions. I’m really excited. I like that it has come so quickly and there hasn’t been that much tension but as soon as the groups came out, it’s really started to heat up and everyone is talking about it and getting excited.

What will it feel like for you to represent Australia at such a stage after such a landmark year for you?

It’s always been a massive honour to play for Australia. I’m really proud to be an Australian and any time you get to pull on that jersey, it really is a massive honour and not something everyone gets to experience. I don’t take that for granted. You never know what is around the corner and any game could be your last so for us it’s always a huge honour and we always play with  a massive amount of pride when we’re playing for Australia. It’s a pretty awesome feeling to be honest.

The experience of going to a world cup, what are you most excited about?

Just the buzz of it all. I just love playing for Australia but a World Cup just has something different about it that you  can’t quite explain. It’s the pinnacle of our sport and I think this year, we’ve got the best chance we have ever had so the excitement around the Matildas is pretty cool. To finally go into a tournament with people behind you rather than thinking you’re the dark horse is new but really exciting.

Obviously playing out in Chicago, what’s the American adventure been like?

I love America. I’m really lucky that I got the opportunity to go there really young. I’ve been in the league since it started now. Obviously having been in West New York then New Jersey, I’ve experienced a lot but I love Chicago. It’s a great city. The people are great and the team is great so I couldn’t be happier in Chicago. I think I fit in really well there.

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Do you think the world cup this summer provides brands with a chance to go a little wild with new kits and boots?

I think it’s a great opportunity. You’ve seen it happen with the Men’s World Cup and I think the Women’s World Cup  will take it to the next level. Some of the stuff coming out is really exciting. I think the kit we have is going to take everyone by surprise. It’s something that Australians will have never seen on the female side of the game so I’m really excited about it. Having had a glimpse of it already, I know all the girls are really excited too.

You’re going to be a face around the tournament for Nike and you recently fronted the Nike Mercurial campaign, is that spotlight something you’re looking forward to embracing as we get closer to the tournament?

I love being part of things like that. Even more so because it’s sports related. I guess to be part of that hype towards the Women’s World Cup is a cool thing. I’ve been to two World Cup’s in the past and kind of slid under the radar so for the whole of the Matildas team to be a favourite and a well known team there this year will be special.

There’s so much talent in the states though the women’s game has grown rapidly in countries like France and England, where would you say is the current strongest league in the world?

I’m probably biased but I think the USA. I can’t really comment on the other leagues too much but one thing that really appealed to me about the US is that any team can beat any one. There’s no hierarchy in the NWSL and to have World Champion players in there everyday and playing against them every game is huge for us. One thing that drew me towards that league is the number of national team players that are in it. From US to Canada, Brazil, Australia and beyond, I think it’s the most competitive league for me. Like I said, I’m probably biased but I love the game in the States.

Do you think you’d like to take up the challenge of playing in the WSL in England for example?

I’d definitely always be open to trying something new and yeah obviously somewhere like England, the Premier League is something I grew up watching. Football can change really quickly so you never know when or where your next move is so hopefully one day but you never know.

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Going back to when you were growing up, what teams did you watch?

I’ve always been a United and Real Madrid fan. My support kind of followed Ronaldo and wherever he went. Now he’s at Juventus I don’t really watch the Serie A. I really like Tottenham. Players like Dele Alli are good players to watch. To be honest, when I’m in Australia, I kind of lose touch with the Premier League. I’ve always been a United fan. Maybe just not at the moment [laughs].

Are there any players who stood out as inspiration for you when it comes to their style of play?

Ronaldo has always been my favourite. I think anyone who knows me, knows that. I just love the way he’s always a player you can trust on the pitch. He always shows up in the big games and when it matters most. Even his worst games can be better than most people.I love that he’s so reliable and that’s something that I’ve always strived to be. I want my teammates to be able to depend on me and know I’m going to perform.

What do you think we can all do more of to help raise the profile of the women’s game?

I think it’s just about getting the word out there and ultimately giving it as much publicity as we can. Over the last two-three years it has really grown but it’s about continuing that to help it develop. I also think that the women’s game is so different to the men’s game and it has good qualities about it that are completely different so just trying to shed some light on womens sport from a new perspective and a unique way is what’s most important. Obviously the quality of play will bring in an audience and I think over the last few years the quality of play has really jumped.

Sam Kerr was presented with special edition Nike Air Force 1 'SK20' to celebrate her career to date. Watch this space as her Matilda's head to France for the 2019 Women's World Cup.

Photography by Aleksandar Jason.