The end of ‘Vine Time’ at Sydney FC: The four trophy-laden seasons that forged an Aussie icon

Cortnee Vine and Charlotte McLean reminisce about their favourite Sydney FC memories

With Cortnee Vine’s departure from Sydney FC confirmed, it’s the end of ‘Vine Time’ in the Liberty A-League as we know it.

Those two words have attached themselves to the winger across her seven seasons in the league; from Brisbane Roar to Newcastle Jets, then onto Western Sydney Wanderers and finally to the Sky Blues.

It’s a phrase reserved for any moment Vine would take a game that hung in the balance and wrestle momentum in her team’s favour, whether it be with one darting run, a classy assist, or an emphatic goal.

In August of 2023, the Sky Blues star took ‘Vine Time’ global. Her penalty shootout strike to defeat France in the World Cup quarterfinals is a core memory for so many Australians, and a defining moment in the Matildas’ transformation into Australia’s team.

With one touch of the ball, Vine had become a national icon. She returned to Sydney FC from the World Cup and used her national notoriety to draw more eyeballs to the Liberty A-League, embraced the off-field spotlight and took her on-field game to another level.

READ: Iconic Sydney FC duo Cortnee Vine and Charlotte McLean depart Sky Blues for NWSL: Full details

The 2023-24 Liberty A-League season ended with Cortnee Vine and the Sky Blues on the Grand Final podium, for the second season in a row as back-to-back Champions.

As Vine bids farewell to the Sky Blues, her Liberty A-League record reads: 108 games at four clubs, 36 goals, 24 assists, three Premierships, two Championships – and a two-word trademark coined in Sydney and certain to follow wherever her career may lead.

For Australian football fans, the hope is the Matildas star has simply hit the snooze button on ‘Vine Time’ and that one day, the phrase will ring out once again in the Liberty A-League.

Cortnee Vine’s defining Liberty A-League moments

A debut at 16

Like so many current Matildas stars, Vine was just a kid when she debuted in the Liberty A-League.

Vine was born in Victoria but grew up in Queensland and it should come as no surprise that the speedster juggled athletics and football through her younger years before committing to the latter. Vine debuted for Brisbane Roar in 2015 against Western Sydney Wanderers at the age of 16, and went on to make nine more appearances for the club across the following two seasons.

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Cortnee Vine on Liberty A-League debut for the Roar.

Jets Goal of the Season puts Vine on the map

In 2017, Vine moved from Brisbane to Newcastle and it was at the Jets where her career took flight.

It took 22 league appearances for Vine to bag her first goal and the game that followed her maiden strike, she scored another – and it was an absolute beauty.

The Jets were up against Canberra United in November of 2018, and with the last touch of the first half Vine bent a first-time effort from the edge of the box into the top-left corner to double her career goals tally. The sensational strike won Newcastle the game – and won Vine Goal of the Season honours at her club.

First finals goal comes for the Wanderers

Vine reached her very first final in 2020 and it came in the red and black of Western Sydney. The Wanderers were thumped 5-1 on the day by Melbourne City, but Vine did manage to hit the scoresheet with what was her first post-season goal.

It was Vine’s last game for the Wanderers before the transfer that shaped her career.

Cortnee Vine against Matildas and Melbourne City star Aivi Luik in the 2019-20 Finals Series.

The transfer that changed everything: ‘That’s why there’s Vine Time’

Vine crossed the Sydney divide in 2020, and her decision to join the Sky Blues from the Wanderers proved a masterstroke. She’s since won five domestic trophies, made her Matidas debut, played in an Asian Cup, that World Cup in 2023, and has become one of the most recognisable sporting icons in Australia.

Speaking to prior to the 2023 World Cup, Vine explained how the transfer had changed her career.

“I think I’ve had a really good journey through the A-League,” she said.

“I started with Brisbane Roar, then went to Newcastle Jets, Western Sydney and then ended up at Sydney for the last few years.

“I wouldn’t be here without the A-League. The main reason I’m here is I found a team I really enjoyed playing with, that backed me. I had a coach that just fully backed me and started me. I didn’t get that a lot at other clubs.

“He gave the the opportunity and let me do my thing. That’s why I’m here today. That’s why there’s ‘Vine Time’.

“Literally, I think Ante made ‘Vine Time’, or it might have been Nat (Tobin)… I’ve progressed because of that, and the 90-minute games I get to play each week against really competitive sides, getting double-teamed every week as a winger, I think has made me the player I am now.”

Historic Premiership treble sets up a dynasty

Vine hadn’t won a trophy in her career before joining the Sky Blues. In her first three seasons at the club, Sydney finished on top of the table to become the first team in Liberty A-League history to secure a Premiership three-peat.

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Vine (left of captain Tobin) celebrating Sydney’s third-consecutive Premiership in 2023.

Vine scored 20 goals and assisted 13 in 44 games across those three seasons as she rose from a player with potential to one of the standout stars of the competition.

Sydney backed up the 2022-23 Premiership triumph with their first Grand Final win in four seasons, as Vine collected her fourth trophy and first Championship.

Things were only about to get better for the Sky Blues star, as the World Cup beckoned in the off-season.

A post-World Cup reception like no other sets the tone for special season

August 12, 2023.

The date is etched in Matildas folklore; Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane was the stage for Australia’s World Cup quarter-final against France. After 120 goalless minutes a penalty shootout ensued, and after 19 spot kicks, scores were level at 6-6.

Vicki Becho had just missed for France and Vine, the shootout’s 20th penalty taker, had the chance to win it for Australia.

It was the longest shootout in World Cup history – men’s or women’s. It was never meant to get to Vine, but it did – and in that moment, the Sydney FC winger became a national hero.

Vine returned to Sydney FC for the 2023-24 season as a household name, and a record crowd of 11,471 showed out at Allianz Stadium to watch Vine and the Sky Blues take on the Wanderers in the Sydney Derby.

The pre-game scenes below showed just how much Vine’s life had changed since her contribution to a World Cup campaign that gripped the nation.

One last trophy for the road

Nobody knew it then, but the 2024 Liberty A-League Grand Final proved to be Vine’s last appearance in the Liberty A-League (for now, of course).

Sydney FC had coughed up the chance to seal a fourth-consecutive Premiership with a poor run of form at the end of the regular season; Melbourne City swooped to claim the Plate on a dramatic final day – and it was City that Sydney met in the title decider at AAMI Park.

As it turned out, the occasion didn’t call for ‘Vine Time’. Mackenzie Hawkesby was the Player of the Match in a 1-0 win, and American recruit Shea Connors bagged the match-winner. 16-year-old phenom Indiana Dos Santos provided the assist with a long ball that turned the game on its head.

Perhaps it was fitting that Vine’s final game for Sydney was decided without the need for her to break it apart. Hawkesby has re-signed for season 2024-25, and in Vine’s absence, the 24-year-old who is pounding down the door for a Matildas debut in the post-Olympics cycle will shoulder a far heavier burden moving into the future.

The Sky Blue torch will be carried forward by the likes of Hawkesby and Dos Santos, with captain Nat Tobin’s return from a devastating ACL injury set to occur in the new campaign.

After four seasons, five trophies and the forging of an international star, it’s the end of ‘Vine Time’ in the Liberty A-League. She’s left a template for the league’s next generation of stars to aim to replicate in the years to come.