After the 2023 Women’s World Cup, everyone wants to be a Matilda, even our sea creatures. So, here’s who we think would make the 11-animal Australian Marine Soccer Team and why.
The goalkeeper is the only player on the field who can use their hands, so we’ve got to have the common Sydney octopus (Octopus tetricus). With 8 arms and an arm span of up to 2 metres, this keeper would be as good as Matilda’s star Mackenzie Arnold.
Credit: Wikimedia: Niki Hubbard / James Boyes
The defence’s main role is to stop the other team from scoring goals. For our backline we’ve got 4 animals that have nailed their defensive mechanisms.
The ashy pink sea cucumber (Holothuria fuscocinerea). They can discharge a cluster of fine sticky tubes (called Cuvierian tubules) when threatened. The tubules lengthen and trap potential predators.
Credit: Wikimedia/Philippe Bourjon
The pom-pom crab (Lybia tessellata). They carry sea anemones around in each claw, which they wave around and threaten to sting any predators.
The collector sea urchin (Tripneustes gratilla). Not only are these urchins covered in spines, they also have tiny, detachable jaws full of venom. Called pedicellariae, these tiny jaws grow between the urchins’ spines and when threatened they will shoot and release a cloud of them into the water creating an extra layer of protection.
Credit: Wikimedia/Diver Vincent
The common lionfish (Pterois volitans). They have extremely venomous fin spines and when threatened will point them at their attacker. This defender has no problem taking on any opponent, just like Matildas’ Vice-Captain, Steph Catley.
Credit: Wikimedia: Jens Petersen / Thewomensgame
The midfield is the link between the defence and the forward line. They need to be versatile, fast and great at both defending and attacking.
In the centre we have:
The coffin ray (Hypnos monopterygius). This electric ray is found only in Australia. They can produce powerful electric shocks (200 volts), which they use for both attacking prey and defending themselves from predators.
Credit: Wikimedia/Sylke Rohrlach
The Spanish dancer (Hexabranchus sanguineus). This sea slug can grow up to 60 centimetres and uses undulating movements to move through the water. Hopefully these movements would produce some smooth dribbling on the soccer pitch.
Credit: Wikimedia/Ana Garcia Redono y Pedro de Hoz Pastor
On the wings we want some speed:
The redspot wrasse (Stethojulis bandanensis). This fish might be small (15 centimetres), but they can swim pretty fast. They’re so quick that they can travel up to 10 times their body length per second – that’s some Hayley Raso-like speed!
Credit: Wikimedia/Rickard Zerpe / Doctorhawkes
The Australasian flying fish (Cheilopogon pinnatibarbatus melanocercus). Like other flying fish, they can leap out of the water and glide at around double their swimming speed.
Credit: iStock Photo/Gerald Corsi
Last but not least our attackers. They need to be fast and accurate to score goals, like Aussie Icon, Sam Kerr.
The peacock mantis shrimp (Odontodactylus scyllarus). They’re known for their fast and powerful punch, which we’ll just pretend is a kick. Its punch is so fast it boils the water around it.
Credit: Wikimedia: Cédric Péneau / LittleBlinky
The sevenspot archerfish (Toxotes chatareus). They can spit jets of water from their mouths and shoot down insects up to 1.5 metres away! Although technically not found in the ocean, they do live in estuaries (where a river meets the ocean), so that’s close enough for us to claim this key striker for our marine Matildas team.
Credit: Wikimedia/Przemysław Malkowski
There you have it, a marine Australian soccer team that highlights the striking biodiversity of our oceans!
A note on player recruitment: While these animals aren’t all endemic to Australia (i.e., only found here), they all can be found in our waters, so we’re claiming them for the team.