‘Safe haven’: Captain Sam Kerr and 14 other Matildas defend team culture after De Vanna’s sexual abuse allegations

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Captain Sam Kerr has described the Matildas as a “safe haven” as the team issued a statement defending their culture after claims of sexual abuse and harrassment from women’s soccer great Lisa De Vanna.

The players released a statement on Monday as Football Australia, the PFA and Sport Integrity Australia launched investigations into the allegations.

De Vanna, a former Matildas striker, alleges she suffered same-sex sexual harassment, abuse and bullying during her decorated 150-game international career between 2001 and 2019.

Her former teammate and W-League stalwart Rhali Dobson also alleges she was a target of sexual harassment in her career.

The Matildas issued a joint statement acknowledging the seriousness of De Vanna’s allegations.

“We empathise with her for not feeling like she could come forth earlier,” the statement read.

Lisa De Vanna. (Photo by Getty Images)

“We will work with Football Australia, the PFA and Sport Integrity Australia to ensure that all current and future players feel comfortable, safe and able to report instances of inappropriate behaviour, in a timely manner.”

Kerr was one of 15 players to include personal comments defending the culture of the national side.

“I have been a part of this team for 12 amazing years, from 15 years old to now,” the captain said.

“Throughout my career the Matildas have been a safe haven for me and allowed me to grow into the player and person I am today.”

Other players included in the statement include vice-captain Steph Catley, veteran Emily van Egmond and teenager Mary Fowler.

The women said they had spoken at length about the allegations and were “hurt” by what had occurred, and reassured fans they had a strong professional, inclusive and supportive culture.

They said they were disappointed the group had been accused of not accepting diversity within its ranks.

“As a group, we represent the values reflective of Australia and that includes acceptance and inclusivity, regardless of sexuality, ethnicity or culture,” the Matildas statement said.

“It was disappointing to observe conversations inferring the group is not accepting of differences, especially given the diversity that exists within our current leadership group on all those fronts, let alone across the broader team.”

“We would also like to re-iterate the professional standards that surround the current team today. Women’s football has dramatically grown in recent years and so has our professionalism and standards.”

The players said they welcomed an independent review into the matter.

There had been some criticism of current players for failing to speak out.

Here’s how the players reacted.

“I am in full support of this collective statement together with my teammates. The Matildas have been my second family and safe place for over a decade, and we, as a full inclusive team, will always stand for and with each other.” – Mackenzie Arnold.

“I support the collective team statement. The current Matildas environment is one that allows individual players to strive for their personal best within the team setting.” – Ellie Carpenter.

“The Matildas have always been a second family to me. I have spent more time with these players and these staff members than I have with my own family at times, and I have always felt at home and safe. I am proud to be part of this family and will always support and care for the people within it.” – Steph Catley, Matildas vice-captain.

“From the moment I stepped into the Matildas environment as a 16-year-old, this has been my safe place and the professional environment has helped me to grow into the player and person I am today. I stand with my teammates / second family in full support of this collective statement.” – Caitlin Foord.

“I play my best football when I’m in an environment that’s professional, fun and supportive. This team gives me all of that.” – Mary Fowler.

“Being a part of the Matildas family is something I take immense pride in. I fully support our collective statement and stand by the strong, inclusive, safe and professional environment that I have experienced for the best part of a decade.” – Alanna Kennedy.

“The Matildas are a large part of my identity. I have dedicated a lot of my time to help grow the culture and professionalism of this team and it’s been a fantastic journey that we are all proud of.” – Elise Kellond-Knight.

“I have been a part of this team for 12 amazing years, from 15 years old to now. Throughout my career the Matildas have been a safe haven for me and allowed me to grow into the player and person I am today. I count myself lucky to be a part of this amazing group of athletes and people.” – Sam Kerr, Matildas captain.

“Since joining this team at the beginning of 2019, I have felt welcomed, valued and only experienced the utmost professional environment both on and off the field.” – Teagan Micah.

“Being part of the Matildas has been the greatest honour and I couldn’t be prouder to be a part of this team.” – Clare Polkinghorne.

“Throughout my involvement with the Matildas, I have found great comfort in the professional and safe working environment within this group. The Matildas are like my family, they have played a big part in shaping who I am, and I am so proud to be a part of this special team” – Hayley Raso.

“For me, coming in at a young age during a major tournament, I have experienced nothing but acceptance and welcome and can honestly say the environment is one of the best I have been a part of.” – Kary Roestbakken.

“I am in full support the collective team statement. For 11 years I have been incredibly lucky to be part of such an amazing team, be surround by incredible athletes and even better people. The Matildas have always been more than just a team, they have been my safe space and my second family. In those 11 years, this group has helped me grow and find myself as a footballer and as a person. I am grateful to them for being a part of my journey and shaping who I am today.” – Emily van Egmond.

“As a current and long-standing Matilda, I am in full support of the collective statement from the team and the professionalism which we have built over the years. I am proud of every moment that I get to stand with and for my teammates in the green and gold.” – Lydia Williams.

“As an individual and as a current Matilda I am in full support of the collective statement made by the teammates I stand side-by-side with wearing the green and gold jersey.” – Tameka Yallop.

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