The rise of Cortnee Vine: From 16-year-old debutant to Australia’s hero

As Matildas star Cortnee Vine re-signs with Sydney FC following her heroics at the FIFA Women’s World Cup, KEEPUP’s Sacha Pisani tracks the rise of the forward.

Cortnee Vine has often spoken about imposter syndrome.

“Do I belong here? I don’t actually know. I sometimes forget that I actually play for the Matildas, even for Sydney FC,” she said prior to the FIFA Women’s World Cup.

But after her exploits at the World Cup and a Premiership/Championship-winning season, there can be no doubting whether she belongs.

Vine scored the winning penalty in the dramatic penalty shoot-out win over France en route to the semi-finals, while she also netted seven goals and supplied eight assists as Sydney FC did the double in 2022-23.

News of her re-signing with Sydney is a major coup, not only for the defending champions, but the Liberty A-League and domestic Australian football.

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And even at the age of 25, it’s been quite the journey.

Football was not Vine’s only love as a child; there was also athletics growing up in Queensland. However, at 15 she decided to fully commit to the round ball.

Born in Shepparton, Victorian, she had been influenced by her brother, following Jayden into little athletics and football.

But her goals, growing up in Queensland, were always clear: Be a starting player in the A-League Women, be invited to a Matildas camp and play for the Matildas. She’s ticked those off.

In 2015, against Western Sydney Wanderers, Vine made her ALW debut for Brisbane Roar as a 16-year-old.

She would spend two years with the Roar before stints with Newcastle Jets and the Wanderers while battling injuries – there were torn quads, torn calves, shin splints and a stress fracture in her fibula.

“When you’re younger you just keep pushing through things, and I had a lot of setbacks., which I think stopped my progression,” she told Optus Sport in an interview. “But becoming a bit older, I’m looking after my body a bit better, and I’m not getting as many of those little injuries that keep you out.”

And it is with Sydney where she has taken her game to new heights.

Though, not before a rough patch.

Vine, at one stage, fell out of love with football. It was in the midst of the pressure to make the Matildas squad by the age of 20.

“I hated the game a bit,” Vine, who has previously been able to play full-back, told ABC Sport in a previous interview.

Since joining the Sky Blues in 2020, the smiling assassin is enjoying her football again. Her blistering pace and eye for goal has made her not only a bona fide star but the poster girl of the Liberty A-League.

“She came to us not as a regular starter at other clubs. She came to us and exploded in a lot of ways,” Sydney head coach Ante Juric told KEEPUP in February.

“Super satisfied and happy for her because she deserves it. She’s worked hard and it’s taken her a couple of years to get there. We probably saw she could’ve been there a couple of years ago in our view. But she’s worked hard and didn’t get down when she didn’t get picked. She kept working hard.

“To see that and the smile on her face, it was something special for me watching at home. But we’re really proud of all our girls who get to that level and do well.”

Her Sydney form has coincided with Vine’s rapid rise in a rollercoaster 12 months or so.

She made her Matildas debut at the 2022 AFC Women’s Asian Cup, where Australia lost in the quarter-finals, having caught the eye of Tony Gustavsson and some clubs abroad with her nine-goal campaign.

After a heart-breaking end to the 2021-22 season – Sydney lost to Melbourne Victory in the Grand Final, having sealed another Premier’s Plate, Vine and the Sky Blues were hellbent on one thing in 2022-23, making amends.

Driven by the pain of defeat and the excitement of a World Cup on home soil, Vine and Co. did go one better. They finally got their hands on that elusive piece of silverware.

For Vine, it not only showed she could sustain her level of performance with seven goals, it also showed another layer to her game with eight assists. She only managed two the season prior.

Since making her Matildas bow in January 2022, Vine has added another 21 caps to her name and three goals, firmly establishing herself in Gustavsson’s international setup.

The most memorable of the lot? Her 20th cap against France in the World Cup quarter-finals.

A star from the Liberty A-League put an entire nation on her back – more than 75,000 fans inside Stadium Australia and over 11 million watching across the country – and sent the Matildas into a World Cup semi-final.

“I don’t think it’s me that took the pen – I keep watching it and I’m like, that’s crazy,” Vine said.

“Vine steps up – a game changer, we know how important that is. A young player and World Cup debutant, to stay as composed as she does,” Gustavsson reflected.

Her maiden World Cup came after a domestic season that featured seven goals, eight assists, a Premiership and a Championship.

And now, she is back for more in the Harbour City after back-to-back selections as captain of the Professional Footballers Australia (PFA) Team of the Year.