Days before the opener, Women’s World Cup hosts Australia suffered a massive blow. Star forward Sam Kerr, widely regarded as one of the best players in the world, suffered a calf injury in training. Shortly after, it was revealed Kerr would miss the first two group-stage matches, leaving the Matildas in trouble. However, another forward stepped up in a big way: 20-year-old Manchester City talent Mary Fowler.
Fowler was 16 when she debuted for Australian side Adelaide United in a 2-1 loss to Western Sydney Wanderers. Despite the loss, Fowler looked threatening, and she scored her side’s only goal — converting a penalty kick after being taken down in the box. She made six more appearances for Adelaide, scoring twice, before joining French side Montpellier.
Fowler debuted for Montpellier in February 2020, but the French Division 1 Féminine was soon canceled because of COVID-19. Over the next two seasons, though, she was a key player for the club, scoring ten goals and assisting three in 21 starts. In 2022, English giants Manchester City signed the teenage star, joining an increasing amount of Australians in the Women’s Super League.
With Manchester City’s depth, minutes were slightly harder to come by, but Fowler still had a strong season. She scored once, a header against West Ham, and had one assist as the Blues finished fourth. Additionally, she scored four goals in the FA Women’s League Cup as Manchester City reached the semi-finals.
As impressive as her club career has been, Fowler has been even more impressive internationally. She was just 15 when she made her first appearance for Australia, and one year later was selected for the World Cup squad (although she didn’t feature). Shortly after, she helped Australia reach the third-place game of the 2020 Olympics, scoring a crucial goal versus Great Britain in the knockouts.
In the opener of the 2023 Women’s World Cup, Australia played Ireland — a country Fowler could have represented through her father. While Fowler didn’t score, she caused problems for Ireland’s defense and created some chances for the Matildas. Ultimately, they won 1-0 thanks to a penalty kick from Steph Catley.
Unfortunately, she suffered a mild concussion in training shortly after and missed the following game against Nigeria. Despite scoring twice, Australia struggled to break down the Nigerian defense and should have probably scored more, losing 3-2 to the Super Falcons.
Fowler returned for the team’s next match: a must-win game against defending Olympic champions Canada. Shortly after 30 minutes, she smashed the ball into the net to make it 2-0, but the goal was called back for a controversial offside call. Fowler did get her goal eventually, tucking the ball into the net. A few minutes later, she hit the post, and late into the match, her pressing led to the penalty call that resulted in Australia’s final goal in a dominant 4-0 win.
Sam Kerr’s return will be huge for the Matildas — they are adding one of the best players in the world after winning Group B at home. Australia has a good chance to win the entire tournament, and Kerr will be important — and Fowler will be too. She’s helped take Australia this far, and she can take them much further.