Few endeavours bring people from all walks of life together like a game of football.
Harmony Day, held each year on March 21, is Australia’s celebration of cultural diversity. It is a day which embraces inclusivity, and looks to recognise and celebrate the many nations and cultures that make Australia the rich and vibrant country it is.
With memories of last Friday’s Christchurch terror attacks still fresh in the mind, the search for harmony has rarely been more to the forefront for people across New Zealand and Australia.
Today, we celebrate the cultural diversity that earns football its title of 'the world game', played on dusty streets, local parks and state-of-the-art stadiums right across the planet.
This is echoed in the Westfield W-League, which was home to 180 players across 13 different nations in season 2018/19.
There were players from Iceland to Ghana competing in this year’s competition, as you can see from the Westfield W-League stories below.
To find out more about Harmony Day, click HERE.
Jane and Mulaudzi open door for South Africa
Westfield W-League history was made last October when Canberra United pair Refiloe Jane and Rhoda Mulaudzi became the first South Africans to play in the competition.
The duo’s signing was another landmark in the Westfield W-League’s progression as a diverse and rapidly expanding football competition.
“You look at where the Westfield W-League has been, where it’s come from, and then see where it is now,” Canberra boss Heather Garriock said after sealing Jane and Mulaudzi’s signatures in August 2018.
“Players are being recruited from everywhere, players are being given these opportunities in a strong league and it is a good sign of where the league is at.”
To underline the value of their arrival, Jane and Mulaudzi combined for the opening goal of Canberra’s campaign, a 2-0 win over Melbourne City in Round 1.
Despite impressive contributions from both, Canberra missed the finals series, but Mulaudzi believes they have opened doors for other South Africans with ambitions of playing overseas.
The pair weren’t the only players hailing from the African continent to appear on Australian shores this season, with Ghana international Elizabeth Addo of Western Sydney Wanderers impressing for the Red and Black.
Evans follows Whyman's footsteps to light the way for Indigenous Australians
Despite her teenage years, Western Sydney Wanderers goalkeeper Jada Whyman is a proud ambassador for Indigenous Australians.
A woman of the Wiradjuri and Yorta Yorta people, Whyman experienced first-hand the obstacles that face many Indigenous people on her road to professional football.
The Westfield Matilda is a now a passionate worker in the community, especially with the John Moriarty Foundation, an Indigenous football training centre which empowers Aboriginal kids in remote communities through football.
Never better were her efforts highlighted than in January, when Sydney FC starlet Shay Evans made her Westfield W-League debut in Round 11’s 3-0 Sydney Derby win against Whyman’s Wanderers.
In doing so, Evans became the first graduate of the training centre to appear on the Westfield W-League stage, winning praise from Westfield Matilda Caitlin Foord, who said: "She's here for a reason, she's got talent."
She hails from the Yanyula tribe in Borroloola, an isolated community on the McArthur River in Eastern Northern Territory.
Click HERE for more information about John Moriarty Football.
Japanese icon hits Westfield W-League stage
From budding stars plucked from the Northern Territory to seasoned FIFA Women's World Cup-winning professionals, it takes all sorts to succeed in the Westfield W-League.
Yuki Nagasato's signature with Brisbane Roar really did drive home the diversity of the competition.
The Japanese sensation added Australia to her list of conquests when arriving Down Under - the fifth country where the veteran attacker has plied her trade after stints in Japan, Germany, England and the United States.
Alongside Melbourne City defender Yukari Kinga she had helped Japan win the FIFA Women's World Cup in 2011, proving the quality of players attracted to playing in the Westfield W-League.
Countries represented in the 2018/19 season
Players: 243. Different nations: 13. Here's a snapshot of who was involved in the Westfield W-League's 2018/19 campaign.
United States of America
There were 25 players from the United States playing in the Westfield W-League this season, with the likes of Veronica Latsko, Lauren Barnes and Carson Pickett shining for Adelaide United, Melbourne City and Brisbane Roar respectively.
Adelaide United’s Icelandic duo of Fanndís Fridriksdóttir and Gunnhildur Jónsdóttir were big factors in setting the club’s highest-ever points tally.
Maria Jose Rojas, of Chile, scored one of the goals of the season for Canberra United in November’s incredible 4-4 draw with Perth Glory.
Republic of Ireland
Ireland international forward Denise O’Sullivan played seven games for Canberra United.
Scottish defender Rachel Corsie led by example for Canberra United this season, featuring in 11 games.
Free-scoring England striker Natasha Dowie wrote herself into Melbourne Victory legend after inspiring the side to their first ever Premiership win.
Meanwhile, her compatriot and Brisbane Roar forward Chioma Ubogagu was excellent, registering two goals and two assists.
Maruschka Waldus represented the Western Sydney Wanderers with the utmost professionalism in her 10 matches.
Theresa Nielsen was unable to help Melbourne City to a fourth straight Championship win, but showed off all her experience throughout her 12 matches for the Victorians.
Inaugural Melbourne City defender Rebekah Stott made nine appearances for the club this season as they finished in fifth place.