One of the best ever? Sam Kerr's Women's World Cup exploits will ensure she has a place among the greats

sam Kerr Australia 2019
The striker has finally got her first goals on the biggest stage of all, but she's shown much more than that as Australia charge for glory

Sam Kerr’s legacy as one of the greatest players of her generation was never in doubt.

All-time top-scorer in Australia’s W-League and in the USA’s NWSL, it’s a matter of when, rather than if, she will pass Lisa De Vanna’s record tally of 47 goals for the Matildas, sitting just 11 behind her at 25 years old.

But going into this summer’s Women’s World Cup, whether she would have place among the game’s all-time greats was unclear. 

When Kerr won her 50th cap in 2017, she had just eight goals for her country. Her scoring form at club level simply wasn’t transferring to the international level.

She went to her first World Cup as a fresh-faced 17-year-old, but failed to score in her three appearances.

She went to her second World Cup as an established talent and goal-scorer, but again failed to score, this time in five games.

“I didn't have a bad World Cup, but I just didn't have the World Cup that I would have liked scoring-wise,” Kerr told AAP before this summer’s tournament.

“Hopefully I can change that this World Cup.”

She wasn’t kidding, either. After scoring in the opening game against Italy, she hit a historic four in victory over Jamaica – becoming the first Aussie to hit a World Cup hat-trick, then going one further.

"It doesn’t get any better than that," said Hue Menzies, the Reggae Girlz coach.

Top 5 PS Kerr

"The kid is just resilient, she’s a goal scorer, she plays for her badge and her country. I love her attitude, particularly in the box, you can’t teach that.

“I would pay to come and watch her."

It’s not a great surprise that Kerr has taken so long to explode on the biggest stage of all, however, or that she finally has done at this World Cup.

After finding goals hard to come by in her first 50 games for the Matildas, the turnaround has been incredible.

In her last 30 appearances, she’s scored a staggering 28 goals. Those are the sort of numbers that we have come to associate with the striker at club level.

Moreover, her attitude means not once has she let that monkey on her back weigh her down – and rightly so.

When Australia came from 2-0 down to beat Brazil in the group stages, Kerr wasn’t on the scoresheet, but she was one of her team’s most outstanding performers.

Pressing tirelessly, chasing lost causes and dropping deep to get the ball and get into the game when things weren’t going her way, the Aussie captain set the tone that earned the team three points.

“She’s an inspirational leader,” coach Ante Milicic, who appointed Kerr his captain when he took the job in February, said.

"We as an Australian footballing community should be thankful that we’re witnessing one of the best players in the world, live.”

Kerr PS quote

Bobby Despotovski, the now-head coach of Kerr’s club Perth Glory, also raved about her character, telling CNN: “[She wants to] improve all the time,”

"She's a very bubbly person, nothing bothers her. 

“She comes to a training session and takes the young girls that we have in the squad under her wing and tries to introduce the work ethic she has.

"Even at 25, she's very mature and trying to pass all of that to the younger generation."

That renowned work rate is as crucial to her success as her goal-scoring, while her personality wins fans worldwide, such as Jamaica’s Menzies.

“Suck on that one!” she told those doubting Milicic and his side after beating Brazil, before telling reporters in the mixed zone: “I want to stop talking to you guys and get back in the changing room!”

With the incredible mixture of her talent, work rate, leadership and out-spoken nature, it’s easy to see why she is such a well-liked player in the game.

But this World Cup ensures she will win more than just popularity contests before she finishes playing.

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Many fantastic footballing talents finish their careers without delivering on the big stage, and leave tainted legacies as a result.

But Kerr has ensured that won’t apply to her when she finally hangs up her boots.

And if she can continue to inspire her nation in France, with their next task a last 16 clash against Norway, she will have a spot reserved alongside the very best the women’s game has ever seen.