• Jayden J Bartlett

Matilda Zander - the Girl from Gladstone

Updated: Jun 25, 2020

'Most importantly to have fun but get the basic skills right and the rest will follow!'


Matilda Zander fittingly wears the number one for Norwood as she increasingly makes her presence felt with each passing season.

Currently, the girl from Gladstone is sitting second in the league for total disposals and second for total marks – and in both cases she is just one behind the league leaders.

But this is far from where her younger self would have thought she would be. This is because when she was growing up she ‘used to hate football’.

… ‘I grew up with a lot of boys and they were pretty rough, they gave me a few black eyes but then when I moved to Adelaide I literally had no idea there was a women’s comp, didn’t even know what AFLW was until like their third game.

‘I was pretty sick of playing netball and with the increased popularity of women’s football I thought I would give it a crack. I was pretty hesitant and scared to try it but with a little bit of convincing from dad and pop I went out to an Adelaide Uni training and the rest is history.

‘Now I thank the boys for being so rough ... it has definitely made me tougher.’

'Smiles all Round' - image kindly provided by Matilda.

2017 marked Matilda’s first year of football and it would also see her claim her first achievement, as Adelaide Uni would go onto claim that year’s SAWFL Div. One Premiership.

While winning a premiership in your first year seems like a dream start to football – it was only a sign of even greater things to come for her.

This is because 2018 would see her not only make the SAWFL Team of the Year and win the 2018 Adelaide Uni Best and Fairest – but it would also see her get picked up by Norwood for their SANFLW squad.

She would then go onto make her SANFLW debut during Round Six of that same season, which to this day is still one of her favourite footballing moments.

‘Being able to run out with ya best mates and then having a Gatorade shower singing the club song at the end ... that was pretty awesome. But just having the opportunity to train and play on Norwood oval is pretty cool and something I will never take for granted and will cherish forever.’

The following year would once again see Matilda take her football to the next level, as 2019 saw her make the SAWFL Team of the Year and win Adelaide Uni’s Best and Fairest for the second time in as many years.

2019 also saw her claim Norwood’s Best U21 Player award and win Adelaide Uni’s Best Finals Player award as well as finish runner-up to the SAWFL Div. One League Best and Fairest.

Just in case that was not enough for 2019 – she topped it all off with another Div. One Premiership with Adelaide Uni.

‘My favourite moment so far is definitely winning the flag for Uni last year, we had such an awesome group of girls, we all got on and we worked so hard for it.’

Overall, the time spent so far with her beloved Adelaide Uni team ‘has been so much fun’.

… ‘I have played with so many players that have gone on to play AFLW which is cool. Last season especially was the most fun I have ever had playing any sport, our team morale was high, we had a great coaching crew and I learnt so much.’

'Winners are Grinners' - Matilda (left), Michele Reid (middle), Jo Hill (right) - picture kindly supplied by Matilda.

As for how she has been managing to improve with each passing season, we put that down to her dedication and passion mixed with some great support.

‘There is so many people I could thank but I am very grateful for my coaches Steve and Moods, Joey Hill and my kicking/gym partner Michele Reid. They have all contributed to my growth on and off the field and of course my dad because I have dragged him outside for a kick too many times.’

Before we tell you what it is about football that this humble product loves so much, it is best to mention that footy is by no means the only sport that she has played.

In fact, her sporting past has included swimming, table tennis, netball, soccer, tennis, basketball, and recently she has also taken up Gaelic footy as well.

There are ‘a lot of things’ that Matilda enjoys about football – ‘I have played a lot of sport growing up, but I always just wanted to run around, and a netball and tennis court were not big enough.

‘I love running up and down the oval and trying to beat my opponent down the ground. I really enjoy meeting new people who are just as competitive as me, I love how teammates turn into some of your best friends.

‘I enjoy the hard work it takes to get a win and pushing myself to see what I’m capable of. My favourite thing about playing though is how the support staff, coaches and fans are just as dedicated as the players and how caring they are towards us, it is like having a very big second family.’

So, what is next for this talented young gun from Gladstone?

Well looking back on her past two SANFLW seasons – Matilda has improved almost out of sight.

Her first year in 2018 saw her collect a total of 42 disposals and boot four goals from just six matches, while 2019 saw her collect a total of 122 disposals and average three tackles a match.

Already it looks as if she has taken it to the next level again, because so far this 2020 SANFLW season she has collected a total of 75 disposals and averaged five marks and four tackles a match from just four games.

If she can continue this then she will be in for a big 2020 – and we are certain that she will continue this trend for years to come.

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Article #128

None of these photographs are owned by MWM, all images supplied by the player.

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