The Matildas’ secret weapon against England? That’s their ‘Triple-SM’ team

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In an ideal world, Tony Gustavsson will cement a gargantuan legacy for the Matildas at Sunday’s World Cup final in Sydney. But until then, there is one legacy we can definitely credit him for: the introduction of the term ‘Triple-SM team’ into the Australian sporting lexicon.

‘Triple-SM’ stands for sports science and sports medicine. You may have heard it recently. Gustavsson can’t go through a press conference without saying it at least once. And you’ll probably be hearing it a lot more in the lead-up to Wednesday’s semi-final, because Australia’s hopes rest largely on the industry-leading expertise of the boffins within that unit.

Sam Kerr and the rest of the Matildas are pinning their recovery hopes on the guidance of Australia’s ‘Triple-SM’ team.Credit: Getty

After 120 minutes of relentless football against France, the Matildas appeared to almost completely out of petrol. If not, the little light on their collective dashboard was certainly blinking.

Since the end of that dramatic penalty shootout, the team has not laced up a boot. It’s been all about rest and recuperation, mental and physical. On Monday, the players who have logged the most game time thus far at the World Cup – including eight who have been on the pitch for practically every minute of every match – dropped into the Sydney Swans’ new headquarters at Moore Park to use their swimming pool and other recovery-assisting facilities.

Darren Burgess, right, working with Socceroos’ Harry Kewell during the 2010 World Cup. Credit: AP

Those players, and everyone else, are putting their trust in the Triple-SMers to refill their tanks in time for kick-off against England.

“We have the best medical staff,” said reserve goalkeeper Lydia Williams. “We’ve said it time and time again – if it hasn’t been for our medical team and the support staff, they make sure that everyone is fit, ready to go, do what they need to do.

“It’s no coincidence that these medical people have been around us for six, eight years, information passed down, so they know how each person ticks and what they need.

“We’re going to go into the next game as fit and ready as we can be.”

Australia is a world leader in the sports science field, underscored in the way experts such as Darren Burgess were sought out by Liverpool and Arsenal, how the Socceroos’ former high-performance coordinator Phil Coles has worked with the Reds and NBA side San Antonio Spurs, and in former head of high-performance Andrew Clark’s recruitment by Danish side FC Copenhagen.

Those Matildas players based abroad often find themselves turning to Australian sports science staff for treatment or advice.

At the start of this year, when Ellie Carpenter was close to returning from her ACL tear, she returned to Australia to spend a month under trusted sports science and medicine supervision to regain the confidence she needed.

Tameka Yallop, who has her own checkered injury history, has found she does the same.

“When I do go overseas, I don’t know if it’s a comfort thing, but I do always turn back to who I know here – whether it’s the national team physio, Dave Battersby, who used to be our national team physio,” Yallop said.

“I don’t know if it’s going back to comforts, but I know if I have a problem they’re going to fix it. There are a lot of other countries that follow in what we’re doing in sports medicine as well, so Aussies definitely have that edge.”

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