How Gorry became Grant’s ‘second mum’ on road to World Cup: ‘She’s an incredible role model’

Charlotte Grant is the Matildas’ smiling assassin, whose rapid rise from a teenage A-Leagues debutant to the 2023 Women’s World Cup has been aided by the role models surrounding her, writes Matt Comito.

Charlotte Grant was overcome with emotion as she put down the phone.

She had just been told by Matildas head coach Tony Gustavsson that her place in Australia’s World Cup squad was assured; Grant took a moment to herself to cry, before picking her phone back up to share the news with her family. 

All of them were at work, and none of them could answer her calls. This is the all-too-common occurrence for a footballer chasing their dreams abroad, separated from family by thousands of kilometres and a number of time zones. 

Grant would eventually get through to her mum, dad and brother back home in South Australia to share the news – but in the meantime, it was her Vittsjö VIK teammate and Matildas veteran Katrina Gorry who she shared the joy of World Cup selection with. 

Grant and Gorry are two of three teammates at the Swedish club included in the Matildas World Cup squad, alongside legendary central defender Clare Polkinghorne. 

Grant says that ever since she arrived at the club on loan from FC Rosengård in mid-2022, Gorry has become her “second mum” – and a massive inspiration to make her Matildas story a successful one. 

“Words can’t describe how grateful I am for her,” Grant said. “She’s given me a lot of belief in myself, but she’s also been such a supportive friend as well off the pitch. 

“She’s become like a second mum to me, her and her partner Clara. And Harper (Gorry’s child) is like a little sister to me.”

Gorry is set to represent Australia at a World Cup for the third time when the tournament kicks off in Australia and New Zealand on July 20. But it’s her first as a mother, after giving birth to Harper in August of 2021. Gorry missed the Tokyo Olympic Games that year through her pregnancy but has returned to the professional game in arguably the form of her life.

Following either Grant or Gorry on social media offers a window into the special relationship they have formed throughout their time together in Sweden. 

“I think she’s an incredible role model,” added Grant.

“What she’s done to have Harper and then still be playing at probably the highest level she has, is incredible.

“I’m really looking forward to sharing this journey with her, and hopefully, we can make baby Harper proud and the rest of the country.”

Gorry’s advice to Grant ahead of the World Cup is simple: “Just to enjoy the moment. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, it doesn’t come around often,” Grant relayed.

“For someone like her of such a high calibre, (for it) to mean so much to her as well just makes it even more special, and even more real. I want to make the most of every moment and embrace the opportunity.”

Grant is one of the lucky ones when it comes to young footballers looking to those around them for inspiration. 

At club level it’s Gorry and Polkinghorne who have provided that feeling of home and set standards for Grant to match on the road to the World Cup. In the Matildas squad, Grant hones her defensive craft by learning from two of the best in the world: Steph Catley and Ellie Carpenter.

The latter has only recently made her return to the Matildas fold after an ACL tear that put her World Cup hopes in jeopardy. Carpenter is a full-back phenomenon whose absence from the international squad initially seemed a massive blow, until Grant emerged in her absence. 

Grant has displayed similar attributes to Carpenter as she’s grown into an indispensable member of the Matildas squad; she’s an explosive player with bags of pace and the energy to bomb up and down the flank as a two-way contributor from full-back. Catley experienced an injury-disrupted season of her own at Arsenal in 2022-23, and as a result Grant received ample opportunities on either side of Gustavsson’s defensive line. 

Grant scored the first goal of her international career in a landmark 2-0 win over England in London in April, almost as if to put an exclamation mark on her statement of intent to feature prominently for the Matildas when it came time for the World Cup.

An international debut in September of 2021 paved the way for her rapid rise to prominence on the international scene. This is a player who many hope to see play from the start in the Matildas’ first World Cup fixture against the Republic of Ireland on July 20 – but Grant knows the quality and class of both Catley and Carpenter will make that a tall order.

“I really feel the support from everyone… I knew it was big shoes to fill coming in for Ellie, and even when Steph had that little niggle as well. There is pressure there, and I just wanted to put my best foot forward,” she said.

“But to know the Australian public had my back just made it even more special, and makes it feel like I am doing the right thing and doing the best I can. I really appreciate everyone’s support, it helps me perform at my best.

“Ellie and Steph, ever since growing up, have been my role models. They’ve played full-back both in different sorts of roles, but I think they’re (two) of the best full-backs in the world. 

Grant (right) and Carpenter.

“I’m really grateful to train with them when I’m in camp, to see how they go about their game, I’m very lucky to be in that situation.

“I try and take things from their game and put (them) into mine, and really listen to them in their feedback. It’s really special to have them in my team and I can’t wait to see what they do at the World Cup.

“For me, I just want to give the best for my country,” Grant added, “Whether that’s starting, or whether that’s coming off the bench I just want to help the team do as well as possible and make this country proud.”

As Grant ventures to her very first World Cup, she takes the briefest of moments to reflect before looking forward to what’s to come. There’s so little time afforded to a player like Grant to look back; how can she be expected to whilst jumping from the cut and thrust of the Swedish top-flight season straight into the Matildas camp ahead of a World Cup debut in front of more than 80,000 fans at Allianz Stadium?

But just four years ago, when the last Women’s World Cup took place, Grant was only 17 years old and busy debuting for Adelaide United in the Liberty A-League. And that’s a fact she simply can’t look past when summarising the emotions of her World Cup call-up.

“It’s crazy to think how quickly things have changed over the past couple of years,” she said.

“I’m so grateful for Adelaide giving me trust when I was 17 to play in the A-Leagues. That’s helped with my development and helped me now get overseas and playing here. 

“I’ve really developed over the past few years and I’m just grateful for all the coaches that have supported me all the way, and grateful for the ups and downs because it’s all helped me build into the player I am today. I hope I can take that going into the World Cup.”