THREE MINUTE BIOGRAPHY: Sam Kerr has been doing the seemingly impossible for years

Headshot of Malcolm Quekett
Malcolm Quekett
The Nightly
4 Min Read
Sam Kerr
Sam Kerr Credit: The Nightly

It was one of the great feelgood moments of Australian sport.

It was the semifinal of the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2023 and Australia, the hosts, trailed England 1-0 at a jam-packed Stadium Australia.

And then it happened. Sam Kerr picked up the ball on the halfway line.

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“And here’s Sam Kerr,” the commentator offered. “She’s going to need some support,” he went on. He should have known better. Kerr didn’t need help.

Instead, she charged forward, the ball at her feet as England defenders backpedaled.

And then the Matildas’ No. 20 looked up briefly and let fly. The ball soared into the England net.

The stadium exploded with noise. Lounge rooms and venues across the nation erupted in celebration. Beers were spilled. Bowls of crisps flew into the air. Dogs barked out of fear that the house had been invaded.

Kerr had done it. And although the Matildas went down 3-1 in the end, the team had cemented itself as the new darlings of Australian sport.

Sam Kerr celebrates after scoring during the Women's World Cup semifinal soccer match between Australia and England.
Sam Kerr celebrates after scoring during the Women's World Cup semifinal soccer match between Australia and England. Credit: Rick Rycroft/AP

But for newer fans of the round-ball game, there was much to catch up on.

For Kerr has been doing the seemingly impossible in Australian colours for 15 years. And she is still only in her 31st year.

And looking back, perhaps it was always meant to be. Kerr is part of a huge and talented sporting dynasty.

Her grandfather on her dad’s side was a featherweight boxer. Her mother’s father and uncles played Australian Rules at a high level and another of her uncles, J.J Miller, won the 1966 Melbourne Cup with Galilee.

Her father, Roger, was born in the Indian city Kolkata and has Anglo-Indian heritage. He played Australian Rules football for East Fremantle and Port Adelaide.

Her brother Daniel was a star midfielder for the West Coast Eagles.

Sam was a naturally gifted athlete who could have played pretty much any game and spent hours honing her sporting skills in her backyard, schoolyard and on Aussie Rules fields.

At the age of 12 the increasingly physical side of Aussie Rules — in the days before women’s teams became part of the AFL landscape — saw her switch to soccer.

Kerr has surpassed Socceroo legend Tim Cahill as Australian soccer’s all-time leading international scorer.

Kerr played in the male juniors with the Western Knights’ Coolbellup-based junior team Phoenix Knights.

An early coach, Mano Psanoudakis, told The West Australian Kerr’s adaptation was remarkably quick and she more than matched the boys with a channelled physicality, never shying away from contact.

And then there was the explosive pace, eye-catching athleticism, goal-scoring instincts, timing and ability to read the bounce of the ball — attributed by some to her time pursuing oval-shaped Australian Rules footballs.

Psanoudakis would move Kerr around the pitch to plug gaps and fix problems. On one occasion, when facing a team featuring a State-level sprinter playing up front, he moved her to the heart of defence.

Facing a barrage of long balls sent over the top for her speedy opponent to race on to, Kerr matched his pace and nullified his impact.

Sam Kerr as a young girl.
Sam Kerr as a young girl. Credit: Instagram

In 2006, 12-year-old Kerr was named in the WA under-15 squad for the National Youth Championships for Girls, where she helped WA finish second.

By late 2008, Kerr had made her W-League debut for Perth Glory against Sydney FC, and a few months later, just three years after she began playing local soccer, she made her national team debut against Italy, aged 15.

The achievements since then are so numerous it would fill the page to detail them all as she graced fields for clubs in Australia, the US and most recently with Chelsea in England.

But for starters, she has been named the Golden Boot winner— an award for the league’s top scorer — seven times on three different continents.

She has been voted the Most Valuable Player five times in three separate leagues.

She is the first woman to grace the global cover of the famous FIFA videogame.

She has been shortlisted in the women’s Ballon d’Or award and nominated for the Best FIFA Women’s Player consistently.

There have been appearances for her country at the 2010, 2014 and 2018 AFC Women’s Asian Cup tournaments, the Olympics in 2016 and 2020, and the 2011, 2015, 2019 and 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cups.

She was the first Australian (male or female) to score a hat-trick at a World Cup and was named captain of the Matildas in 2019.

Sam Kerr scoring for Chelsea and as a junior in Perth.
Sam Kerr scoring for Chelsea and as a junior in Perth. Credit: Steven Paston/PA Images via Getty Images

Kerr has surpassed Socceroo legend Tim Cahill as Australian soccer’s all-time leading international scorer.

Cahill scored 50 international goals. Kerr has 63.

And she has been awarded the Order of Australia.

And all the while her infectious attitude and carefree personality shone through — displayed for many years with a celebratory backflip after scoring.

Her career was recently slowed by a torn ACL, and she hit the headlines for the wrong reasons after it was revealed she had appeared in a London court on March 4, pleading not guilty to racially aggravated harassment of a police officer. That case remains unresolved.

But it is clear that this generational talent’s on-field story still has a long way to go.

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