Lydia Williams in farewell act with Evonne Goolagong as Matildas make Olympics statement

Williams waved a teary goodbye in the Matildas' final home game before the Olympics.

Retiring Matildas hero Lydia Williams said goodbye to Aussie football fans in tearful scenes in Sydney on Monday night, as the Aussies tuned up for the Olympic Games in Paris with an impressive 2-0 win over China. Aussie tennis great Evonne Goolagong Cawley was on hand to present her fellow Indigenous star a traditional animal skin cloak in moving scenes before kick-off at a packed Accor Stadium in Sydney.

More than 76,000 fans turned out for the Matildas' final hit-out on home soil before embarking on their Paris Games journey, with the 18-player squad officially unveiled on Tuesday morning. Unfortunately for Williams, the veteran keeper missed out on making the Olympics squad and had to settle for a spot as one of four alternate players that can only train with the team.

Seen here, Retiring Matildas hero Lydia Williams is presented a traditional animal skin coat by Aussie tennis great Evonne Goolagong Cawley.
Retiring Matildas hero Lydia Williams was presented a traditional animal skin coat by Aussie tennis great Evonne Goolagong Cawley. Pic: Getty

Coach Tony Gustavsson was confident after Monday night's 2-0 triumph that his Matildas side have what it takes to leave Paris with their first Olympic Games medal. The Aussie players formed a guard of honour for the 36-year-old Williams before kick-off, as legendary Aussie tennis great Goolagong Cawley presented the proud Noongar woman with a traditional red kangaroo skin cloak. Williams was bestowed the honour of wearing the captain's armband as she started the match, before being replaced by regular No.1 Mackenzie Arnold before halftime.

Williams was given a rousing ovation from the massive Sydney crowd as she made her way off in her 104th appearance in national colours. The veteran shot-stopper revealed she would retire from the sport after the Paris Games and she was given a hero's reception, embracing Matildas teammates as she made her way off the pitch.

The experienced campaigner has featured in five World Cups, six AFC women's Asian Cups - including the 2010 title triumph - and two Olympic Games. Williams was brought to tears by the wonderful reception she received and said the presentation from Indigenous tennis legend Goolagong Cawley was especially moving.

"To receive that gift from Evonne was just incredible and I think that was probably the moment that tipped me over emotionally," Williams said. "I don't know if it's like, game recognises game. It was a lovely moment.

"A lot of sporting women in Australia just want to leave the game better than when they first arrived in it and don't really realise the impact of how they have shaped the culture of not only women's sport, but just Australian sport. To receive that from such an icon, a legend of tennis, is just absolutely, really humbling. That was kind of a cap off to the kid that grew up in the desert that fell in love with football."

Seen here, Australia coach Tony Gustavsson embraces retiring Matildas goalkeeper Lydia Williams.
Australia coach Tony Gustavsson embraces retiring goalkeeper Lydia Williams in her home farewell with the Matildas. Pic: Getty

Williams and the Matildas signed off on their final game at home before they set off for Paris in style. After a scoreless and cagey first half, the Aussies broke the shackles in the second 45 minutes, with goals from Clare Wheeler and Hayley Raso earning Gustavsson's side a confidence-boosting victory.

Crucially for Gustavsson, who is already without sidelined captain Sam Kerr and has concerns over striker Caitilin Foord and midfield ace Katrina Gorry, there appeared to be no more injury issues. "We wanted to show who we really were tonight," the Matildas coach said. "I think we were very aggressive and very attacking-minded, and we should have been 2-0 up after 20 minutes. I think we played three or four different shapes tonight in terms of attack and rotations and it paid off.


Gustavsson notified players earlier on Monday if they were in his 18-strong squad for Paris and the team was officially unveiled to the Aussie public on Tuesday morning. Five stars from the 23-player squad that featured against China on Monday night missed out on making the final cut for the Paris Games, including Williams.

But the Matildas coach is confident the players picked for the Paris Games will be ready to deliver the Matildas a first Olympic Games medal. The Aussies came tantalisingly close at the Tokyo Games in 2021 after losing 4-3 in a battle for bronze against the powerhouse American side that was World No.1 at the time.

Australia are ranked 12th in the FIFA rankings, but three teams above them failed to qualify. "We're going into that (Olympic) tournament rank nine," Gustavsson said. "In terms of ranking, we shouldn't even make it to the quarter-final but we want more than that. You know this team, they will never make excuses. We're just going to go there and do what we want to do and that is to try for a medal."

GOALKEEPERS: Mackenzie Arnold, Teagan Micah.

DEFENDERS: Ellie Carpenter, Clare Hunt, Alanna Kennedy, Steph Catley (captain), Clare Polkinghorne, Kaitlyn Torpey.

MIDFIELDERS: Kyra Cooney-Cross, Katrina Gorry, Tameka Yallop, Emily van Egmond, Clare Wheeler.

FORWARDS: Caitlin Foord, Mary Fowler, Hayley Raso, Cortnee Vine, Michelle Heyman.

ALTERNATES: Lydia Williams, Courtney Nevin, Charlotte Grant, Sharn Freier.

with AAP