It’s the greatest feeling.

There is simply nothing better than playing for your country.

Actually. That’s a lie. Let me take that back.

There is nothing better than playing for your country – in front of young female Australians equally passionate about soccer, filling football stadiums to cheer on their sport heroes.

I’ll never forget the roar of the crowd, stepping onto Pepper Stadium and staring back at the 15,000 fanatic sport fans, or the near 17,000 ticket holders who flooded through the gates of McDonald Jones Stadium in Newcastle to stand beside us against Brazil.

In more ways than one, the home crowds played a pivotal role in helping us secure dual victories over the South American football-mad nation.

The noise, intensity and heart shown at both arenas, will be something I will look back on for many years to come.

But it was the look and smiles on the faces of those young girls in the grandstands that will stay with me forever.

They were in awe of us, and that is something pretty heartwarming. Truly an indescribable feeling.

Which is why it is so important for us Matildas to take the time after training or games to say hello to our fans, sign their balls or simply take photos with them. We know how much it means to them.

You quickly realise you are an inspiration to them, and all of us players want to embrace that responsibility.

We want these young girls who look up to the Matildas, to truly believe they too could represent their country at the highest level one day. Because if they work hard, they can put themselves in the same position.

Female sport in Australia is on the rise, and it’s only going from strength to strength.

I know myself how popular it can become.

Hayley Raso looks for a cross during the 2-2 tie between Portland Thorns match and the Seattle Reign
PORTLAND, OR – MAY 06: Portland Thorns midfielder Hayley Raso looks for a cross during the 2-2 tie between Portland Thorns match and the Seattle Reign on May 6, 2017, at Providence Park, Portland, Oregon (Photo by Diego Diaz/Icon Sportswire).

Over here in America I play for the Portland Thorns and we get on average 18,000 fans at every game. The first time I played over here, I was in shock. The fanfare is overwhelming.

I hope female soccer in Australia will get to that level, because I know it can.

And I strongly believe the future success of the Matildas’ will only help the sport grow stronger.

To turn in such quality performances at the Tournament of Nations, and to come back and see the Australian media talking so highly of us, as well as people in the street, is something we’ve never experienced as Matilda players.

It really is an amazing feeling that the sport is picking up and the Matildas are becoming a pathway for female sport.

On field, we don’t want to put a ceiling on what we can achieve. We obviously have a lot of hard work to do, and a long way to go, but if we continue to progress and build the foundations of our team we know we can continue to climb up the FIFA world rankings.

You only need to glance around the Matilda locker room to know that each of us are committed to taking this team forward.

Because when we return in November to take on China PR at AAMI Park, we want to give all our supporters (especially our young female fans) more reason to celebrate team success.

It’s the greatest feeling.

Hayley Raso

Hayley Raso is an Australian professional soccer player, currently playing as a winger for Brisbane Roar in the Australian W-League.

Hayley is also contracted to the Portland Thorns in the NWSL.

Hailing from the Gold Coast, Queensland she has also regularly represented the Australia Matildas since 2012.