THE proud history of women’s soccer in the Hunter was on show on Tuesday as Linda ‘‘Sunni’’ Hughes was inducted in the Football Federation Australia Hall of Fame and Cheryl Salisbury and Alison Forman were named captains of Matildas teams of the decade.
Newcastle-born Hughes, an agile forward, played 78 internationals for the Matildas from 1989-2000, scoring 24 goals.
She represented Australia at the 1995 FIFA World Cup and the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, finding the back of the net in both tournaments.
As well as stints with Fortuna Hjorring in Denmark and Matsushita Bambina in Japan, Hughes played locally for Toronto Awaba, Adamstown, the Hunter and Northern NSW Pride.
The 45-year-old was inducted along with former Socceroo goalkeeper James Fraser in a ceremony in Melbourne.
Eight ‘teams of the decade’ – three women’s and five men – were also named to celebrate 50 years of FFA membership with world body FIFA.
Hughes was also named in the Matildas’ team of the 90s, which was captained by Forman.
Salisbury, Australian football’s most-capped international with 151, was skipper of the 2000–2013 team which features Hunter-bred players Joey Peters and Kate Gill as well as former Jets Lisa De Vanna and Melissa Barbieri.
Hughes was thrilled to gain a place in the hall of fame alongside former teammates Peters (2010) and Forman (2012).
‘‘You could have knocked me over with a feather,’’ Hughes said about receiving the honour.
‘‘You just play the game because you love it. To get something like this, I’m stunned and honoured.’’
She said the pinnacle of her career came at the Sydney Olympic Games where she scored in a 2-1 loss to Brazil.
Hughes first represented Australia in the third Oceania Cup in 1989.
She played in the 1991 World Cup qualifiers, scoring six goals in two matches against Papua New Guinea.
She represented Australia in the 1992 FIFA Women’s World Cup qualifiers, scoring a further two goals against Papua New Guinea, and during the first game of Australia’s first participation in the World Cup in 1995 scored Australia’s second goal in the 4-2 loss to China.
Fellow inductee Fraser was Australia’s goalkeeper during qualification for the 1974 World Cup, playing in the cauldrons of Tehran and Seoul on the road to the finals in Germany.
He missed the World Cup campaign because of business interests in Australia, a decision he says he regrets every day.
‘‘I had to make a choice of going or probably 100 people losing their jobs which wasn’t easy,’’ he said.
‘‘But that was the way it was, you were part-time players ... we did it hard but we loved what we did and I wouldn’t swap the time I had for the players now.’’
In the men’s teams of the decades, the Hunter was represented by Col Curran, Ray Baartz (1971-1980) and Graham Jennings (1981-89).
Former Newcastle Jets captains Paul Okon and Ned Zelic were in the 1990-99 side.