Blog

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.

Goalkeeper

Purple- orange octopus camouflaged on the ocean floor.Woman on a plying fireld holding a round ball. Goalie for Australian Matildas team Mackenzie Arnold.

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

 

Defenders

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.

 

Pale pink sea cucumber with brown spots, camouflaged on the sea floor.

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

 

Tiny camouflaged orange and white crab

The pom-pom crab (Lybia tessellata). They carry sea anemones around in each claw, which they wave around and threaten to sting any predators.

Credit: Wikimedia/Prilfish

 

Spiky orange and green urchin.

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

 

Brown and white striped Lion fish with spiky fins in blue water.Steph Catley wearing number 7 Matilda uniform running to the ball.

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

Midfielders

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:

 

Grey blob shaped ray fish on the ocean floor.

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

 

Orangy-red sea slug with feathered end, crawling on sandy sea floor.

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:


Small striped fish with neon blue and orange stripes.Haley Raso in number 16 Matilda's uniform chasing the ball.

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

 

 

Flying fish

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

 

Forwards

Last but not least our attackers. They need to be fast and accurate to score goals, like Aussie Icon, Sam Kerr.

 

Colourful green and orange shrimp.Sam Kerr number 20 for the Matilda's kicking the ball.

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

 

Silver fish with black banded markings.

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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

By posting a comment you are agreeing to the Double Helix commenting guidelines.

Why choose the Double Helix magazine for your students?

Perfect for ages 8 – 14

Developed by experienced editors

Engaging and motivating

*84% of readers are more interested in science

Engaging students voice