Sam Kerr, Matildas defend Australia’s national women’s soccer program

(Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images)

Sam Kerr and the rest of the Australian national women’s team have spoken out in defense of their program after Lisa De Vanna told the Daily Telegraph she was subjected to sexual harassment and bullying while playing for the national team.

“We acknowledge the seriousness of Lisa’s allegations about the past and we empathise with her for not feeling like she could come forth earlier,” the team said in a statement. “We all — from our most capped players to our most recently capped — would like to reassure to our fans, family and friends that today we have a strong professional, inclusive and supportive culture that does not condone any of the behaviour mentioned within the numerous media articles about historical incidents.”

Kerr, Australia’s all-time leading goal scorer, expressed her support for the program. Other national team players also released statements over the weekend.

“I have been a part of this team for 12 amazing years, from 15 years old to now,” Kerr 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. I count myself lucky to be a part of this amazing group of athletes and people.”

In the report, De Vanna said there were times during her career when she felt uncomfortable, including being pulled down from behind and dry-humped by teammates.

“They thought it was funny,” she said. “I was just a young kid from Perth, I didn’t know any different. I lost my shit and wanted to punch them.

“I was 17-years-old … I didn’t know what was happening.”

Former Australian teammate Matilda Elissia Carnavas also recalled the behavior De Vanna described.

“They targeted Lisa,” she said. “It was a big joke. They were trying to provoke her [by sexually harassing her] and making her feel uncomfortable.”

The current Matildas team said they will be working 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.”

“We stand supportive of athletes who are able to come forward and report instances of inappropriate behaviour in their respective environments, and therefore welcome an independent review into this matter,” the statement concluded.