For far too many, dreams remain just that. However, for Seven’s sports presenter Mel McLaughlin, her wildest dreams came true when she fronted Seven’s coverage of the FIFA Women’s World Cup this year.
She told B&T that the tournament was “the biggest privilege” of her career, adding that she gets “goosebumps” just talking about it.
Whilst many in the industry were blown away by the success of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, as someone who has had a front-row seat to the evolution of women’s soccer, McLaughlin wasn’t surprised that it captured the hearts and minds of Australians everywhere.
“I’m on the record saying it from years ago and when the free-to-air rights came up I was very fiercely pushing for them”.
“I hosted France four years ago for Optus and the numbers were stupid – in a really good way,” she said.
Seeing the party and the amount of people who travel for the World Cup, she knew the numbers in Australia would be high.
Unlike the majority of us, McLaughlin is far from being a newbie to women’s soccer. She has been a fan “her whole life”, she says, whether that be “watching, playing, whatever”. In wild contrast to the estimated 11.15 million who watched the Matildas in the semi-final, Mclaughlin remembers watching the Matildas at a time when there were “just handfuls of people watching out in the cold”.
This was at a time where women’s soccer was not taken seriously at all. McLaughlin remembers instances when “you’d be playing first-grade women’s soccer, only for your referee to be taken away last minute to look after an under-16 men’s match.
“It’s not going to be like that ever again,” she said, adding that there is now finally “respect” for women’s soccer.
When asked what her favourite World Cup moment was, McLaughlin said the answer to that is “mixed with absolute trauma” in reference to THAT notorious penalty shootout with France.
Despite the trauma of the penalty shootout, McLaughlin said this World Cup had shifted the views of a generation.
“The fact that this will become one of all of these kids’ earliest memories, women playing at that level – that’s awesome!”