Salisbury remembers the good times

Matildas captain Cheryl Salisbury remembers with some amusement the first time she met Dianne Alagich as a fresh-faced 16-year-old in 1996.

Exclusive: Matildas captain Cheryl Salisbury remembers with some amusement the first time she met Dianne Alagich as a fresh-faced 16-year-old in 1996.

It-s a story that Salisbury is happy to repeat, although she isn-t quite sure her good friend would like it re-told, but Salisbury does anyway when recalling the good times they shared since that time with the national team.

It will be with some sadness that the long association they have shared over the 12 years will come to an end, when Alagich plays her 86th and final full international match for the Matildas against New Zealand on Saturday at North Sydney Oval. The match kicks off at 12 noon and will be followed by the Australian Olympic Men-s Football team who also play their New Zealand counterparts.

Ironically her brother Richard, retired earlier this year, after many years of playing in the old National Soccer League and then with Adelaide United in the first three seasons of the Hyundai A-League.

Salisbury takes up the story with a big grin on her face.

“I don-t know if she would like me telling you of my first memory of her. Di was with another player back in 1996, when Tommy (Sermanni) first had the team, and I remember the two sitting at the dining room table and Di chewing food in her mouth like a typical 16-year-old and showing everybody at the table what it (the food she was eating) looked like all chewed up,” she says trying not to laugh.

“That was my first memory and it was a funny one; she-s full of life and she is a great girl. Unfortunately both of us came home from that trip (from the US); me with a broken leg and Di with her first knee reconstruction about to happen.

“There are a lot of other great memories as well though; too many to recount."

Salisbury admits there will be a fair bit of emotion on Saturday, not just between the pair, but with the whole squad and they are determined that she will go out a winner.

“There is going to be some emotion out there with this being Di-s last game,” she says with an obvious tinge of disappointment in her voice. “There has been some emotional times; after the Brazil match at the recent Peace Cup (June), Di and myself were quite emotional because we knew all of it was coming to end soon.

“Of course we want to win basically because we don-t want New Zealand too, but also because of Di. I have never lost a game to them since I have been involved and we want to keep that record and I-m sure Di will have a great send off.”

It-s a bittersweet match for the Matildas on two fronts, not just because it-s Di-s last game, but the fact that New Zealand is using this match as a key preparation game ahead of their appearance at the Olympics in China.

“I know, I know,” Salisbury says when reminded that New Zealand is going to the Olympics. “It-s very tough to look at that and see that New Zealand is going to an Olympic Games; Canada is going as well and we recently beat those guys in Sydney.

“So there are a lot of teams at the Olympics that we know we can beat and it-s very disappointing for all the girls, especially hearing all the talk on all the Olympic preparations and knowing we-re not going to be there.

“For myself it would have been my third Olympics and it-s tough not to be going.”

For many of the Matildas, who only just arrived back in the country from a short two-game series against China, the match also represents a chance to redeem themselves after they were thrashed 5-0 by the Olympic hosts.

“That-s young players for you,” Salisbury said, who along with five or six regular starters missed the matches in China. “A few days before they had had a great run playing for two hours in quarters (30 minutes each) and beat the Chinese.

“What happens when you-ve got a young team, it-s hard to back up game after game at that high international standard. You can come out and have that one blinder of a game, but it-s about being able to back up at the top level.

Salisbury also gave a big hint that her international career might be coming to an end soon as well, with Saturday-s match to be her 150th international cap, since making her debut in 1994.

“It-s getting very close to my last game, but I don-t know when that is; I haven-t named a date as yet.”

In the mean time, Salisbury hopes that Alagich gets the recognition she deserves with a good turn out at North Sydney Oval.

“It would be nice to see a good crowd on hand to wish her well in her final game and as a bonus you get to watch the Australian Under 23 team as well.”

Match Details

Matildas vs New Zealand (Women-s) Qantas Under 23-s vs New Zealand Under 23-s (Men-s)

Saturday 12 July 2008 North Sydney Oval Kick-Off: 12pm (Women-s) 2pm (Men-s) Gates Open 11.45am

Ticket Prices General Admission - Grandstand and Hill Area. - $15.00 Adult - $8.00 Concession/Child * - $30.00 Family (2 Adults + 2 Children)

Where do we purchase tickets? At North Sydney Oval on Match Day:

*Concession includes - Pensioner - Aged, TPI (valid ID cards) including seniors cards. Student - Full time secondary and tertiary students (valid ID required) Child - Children 4 - 16 years inclusive (children 3 years and under will be admitted free but no seat provided) - Transaction fees may apply