Vine Time at the FIFA Women’s World Cup

Cortnee Vine’s belief in the strength of the Liberty A-League and confidence to stick to her guns has paid off in spades as the Matildas winger prepares to represent Australia at the 2023 Women’s World Cup, writes Matt Comito.

Cortnee Vine has never been one for making comparisons.

The Sydney FC winger is one of 54 players who have featured in Tony Gustvasson’s Matildas setup since his takeover as head coach in 2021; together those players have fought to collectively improve the nation’s hopes of excelling at the 2023 Women’s World Cup, while simultaneously battling among themselves for ascendancy in the selection pecking order.

In that time, Vine has watched a mass exodus of some of Australia’s most talented players who have departed the Liberty A-League in search of opportunities abroad, and to better their chances of selection in the 23-player squad.

Vine on the ball

Vine sealed a position in the squad for herself, by going about it all her own way. “I think everyone has their own individual journey, that’s how I look at everyone’s footballing career,” Vine said.

“A lot of people want to go overseas, they want to experience what clubs are like over there, and that’s their experience. A lot of girls who have gone over, it has helped them – and I’ve heard of people who have gone and it hasn’t either.

“I think it’s whatever you want to do with your career. At the end of the day, it’s my choice.”

Vine’s decision was to stay put in Australia, and test herself to become one of the best players in the A-League Women.

Across two destructive seasons at Sydney FC, she did exactly that. A Matildas debut came in 2022, and was earned off the back of her scintillating form up and down the right wing in Sky Blue.

Now she’s a World Cup squad member, and a genuine chance of starting against the Republic of Ireland in the Matildas’ first group-stage fixture in front of an expected crowd of more than 80,000 fans at Stadium Australia.

Vine at the A-Leagues season launch

Vine admits offers came from overseas – but believes her decision to stay home has been vindicated by success at club level (two Premierships and one Championship) to go with her rise to prominence in the national setup.

“I was progressing really well in the A-League, and that was my decision to stick around, and I’m so glad that I did,” said Vine. “Who knows where I would have been if I did take some of those overseas opportunities?

“I do want to make a bit of a statement that you can be in the A-League and still be in the Matildas and play for your national team, and that it is good enough.

“I want the A-League to grow… I want big players to come and compete in it as well, because it’s not as easy as everyone thinks.”

But that’s not to say overseas interest has never been a temptation for Vine; she’s seen the likes of Ellie Carpenter, Sam Kerr and Caitlin Foord explode onto the international scene thanks to their form at some of the top clubs around the world, and how it’s benefited their Matildas form as a result.

“I think for them, they went to the right environment for them,” Vine said. “They took the challenge when they wanted to take that challenge. I think they’ve always wanted to go overseas as part of their career and I just don’t know if that’s for me yet.”

“I think I’ve had a really good journey through the A-League,” Vine added. “I started with Brisbane Roar, then went to Newcastle Jets, Western Sydney and then ended up at Sydney for the last few years.”

It wasn’t until Vine landed at Sydney FC that she felt her career take flight. The winger credits Sydney head coach Ante Juric for unlocking her potential, and for coining the now-iconic phrase “Vine Time” used to describe the moments when the star winger decides a sprinkling of her magic is needed to tear a game apart.

“I wouldn’t be here without the A-League,” Vine said. “The main reason I’m here is (because) I found a team I really enjoyed playing with and that backed me, and I had a coach that fully backed me and started me, and I didn’t get that at a lot of other clubs. He gave me the opportunity and let me do my thing, and that’s why I’m here today.

“That’s why there’s ‘Vine Time’. Literally, I think Ante made up ‘Vine Time’, or it might have been Nat (Tobin). One of the Sydney (people) started it!

“I’ve progressed because of that, and the 90-minute games I get to play each week against really competitive sides, and getting double-teamed each week as a winger, I think it has made the player I am now.”

Since the end of 2023, the Matildas have managed to shrug off a concerning run of form and tear toward the World Cup off the back of some of the more impressive performances of the Gustavsson era.

Vine in the Matildas away kit

Vine has played a key role in that turnaround. The Matildas have won eight of their last nine games, with Vine starting eight times and scoring three goals.

There’s one last friendly fixture to tick off between now and the World Cup: the “send-off” against France in Melbourne on July 14. Then attention turns to that opening game against Republic of Ireland, and that incredible crowd set to flock to Stadium Australia for the biggest moment in Matildas history to date.

Vine says she’s never been in a crowd of that size, let alone played in front of one. But the nerves are sitting well with the A-Leagues star who has always endeavoured to take every challenge in her electric stride.

Vine scoring in the Semi-Final against Melbourne City

“I feel like it’ll be intimidating initially because I’ve never been around 80,000 people, you know, you know, see them before,” Vine said.

“I think the most I’ve (played in front of) with the Matildas is 36,000 or something. It’s a bit mind blowing. I don’t really know how to feel. I don’t think you’re able to hear anything and think.

“But it doesn’t hit you once you’re on the field, you’re just focused on what you’re doing and hopefully I can hear the Matildas (fans) cheer and sing and yeah, I hope they’ll motivate me for sure.”