THE BALL is in our court now. Or on our pitch, I guess you could say.
So, Australia-New Zealand won the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup but it is up to Ballarat to make the next play.
We want to be a home base for an international contender and cannot assume our record for hosting some of the world's best athletes makes us a shoo-in.
Nor can we rely on the fact we have successfully hosted two international soccer team camps at Ballarat Regional Soccer Facility before: Bahrain ahead of the 2015 Asian Cup and the Matildas for the final stop on the road to the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Even having A-League club Western United call Mars Stadium one of its game-day homes works to our advantage but by no means is a guarantee.
We need to show we are hungry to play host to something real big.
Championing our city needs to start now and should not be left to our marquee football club Ballarat City and our region's teams at Ballarat and District Soccer Association.
We can all benefit from World Cup action. Undoubtedly if Ballarat is deemed to be worthy, this will have incredible flow-on effects across sporting codes, boosting the city economically and firming Ballarat's spot on the international map.
When you iso-lap the lake, there is pride in knowing Lake Wendouree will always be an Olympic venue for hosting rowing in the 1956 Melbourne Games.
When you visit Eastern Oval for football or cricket, imagine the 12,000 people who packed the place for a 1992 Cricket World Cup clash between England and Sri Lanka.
The 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup offers a chance to be part of an incredible changing landscape for women's sport.
So much has changed in the four years since the Matildas' visit, which drew the largest soccer crowd in Ballarat for any level of the game when they faced New Zealand for a friendly.
Look to the women's cricket world cup final at the MCG on the eve of COVID-19 lockdowns, which drew the second largest crowd worldwide - almost 90,000 fans - to a women's sporting event of any kind.
The FIFA Women's World Cup in France last year consistently drew strong crowds.
As Ballarat City football operations director Laura Brady told The Courier this week, male sports still demand higher attention in publicity and media at all levels of the game.
Now Australia has shared world cup hosting rights, expect attention on women's soccer to change. Imagine what this could mean in inspiring juniors or those who walked out as MiniRoos with Matildas and will be on the cusp of where to take their game as adults by 2023.
Our female athletes across all disciplines are determined to re-start a women's sporting evolution once out of lockdown. Imagine how World Cup exposure could inspire how we all view women's sport by 2023.
Ballarat is presented with an incredible opportunity to chase. We know Ballarat can host international teams - and do it well. This is a chance to, once again, think bigger Ballarat in how we can play our role in the changing world game.
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