The Lionesses were welcomed, blessed with luck, and had the bad spirits warded off by a traditional Gubi Gubi ceremony, writes Sky Sports News reporter Gail Davis.
It’s a ritual from a tribe that celebrates and protects the land safeguarding its future. Fitting perhaps for the arrival of this group of Lionesses.
There is no doubt this England team acknowledge and are thankful for the opportunity which awaits over the next few weeks in Australia.
But for this group, who made history at last summer’s Euros, success hasn’t been only about winning on and off the pitch for them it is about the future generations – using their platform to claim bigger victories. This time challenging their own employees, the Football Association, over World Cup win bonuses.
A FIFA rule change for this World Cup will see players earn a set bonus, irrespective of the nation that they play for, but the England team feel that the FA should also be rewarding them.
“I think a lot of these issues happen in women’s football not just for our team. There are many teams where players or associations or teams are having to fight to make changes in the game,” Barcelona and England defender Lucy Bronze told me.
“It’s a shame, women in sport and in general have to do that,” she added. “But I think it’s a role that many athletes and many women take on in society and in sport.”
The squad have shaken off the jet lag well mostly, says Bronze.
“I am fine, sleeping normally. The girls have done really well getting over jet lag. We trained yesterday and today. Some of the girls are trying to have sneaky naps but we keep waking them up – with a smile.”
It’s given Bronze the chance to get out and experience what Australia has to offer.
“We’ve had kangaroos on our balcony. I think it’s a mum and her baby. They are everywhere we go.
“It’s lovely interacting with nature. We’ve been on the beach and in the sun, all the things associated with Australia.
“It’s a unique experience that none of us have been through before. We are just really enjoying being in a country like this, let alone [getting the chance to] play football here.”
Along with the jet lag, crucially captain Millie Bright was able to get rid of her unwanted knee brace and train fully. The central defender has been out of action since injuring her knee playing for Chelsea against Lyon in the Champions League back in March.
Only Katie Robinson didn’t take part in the main session, which was held in front of 3000 fans. She trained alone as a precaution for an ankle problem.
Given what’s unfolding in the Ashes and the fierce rivalry between any England and Australia contest, is Bronze surprised by just how warm the welcome has been?
“It’s been nice. I feel a good connection with the Aussies although we have this rivalry in many sports.
“It helps we can connect and speak to them, and we’ve bumped in to a lot people not just today, but around and they have said England are their No 2 team, we’ll take that.”
Although that may well change if the two meet in the latter stages of the tournament.
“I can imagine it will be a game that goes toe-to-toe, lots of Australian girls playing in England and Europe and them having Sam Kerr. It could make for a very interesting game,” said Bronze.
There’s a lot of football to play before then starting with a behind-closed-doors game against Canada on July 15. Then it’s on to Brisbane for England’s opening game of the World Cup against Haiti a week later.
The Gubi Gubi elders handed over the players official shirt numbers and with it passed on their spiritual values of courage, friendship, empathy, resilience something that has been instilled into this squad by Wiegman who had the final word.
“We hope over the next few weeks you enjoy watching us,” Wiegman said.
“Maybe you will cheer for us, and we will do our best to go as far as possible because we came here with a dream and we really like to make our dreams come true.”
When and where is the 2023 Women’s World Cup?
This year’s tournament will be held in Australia and New Zealand making it the first-ever co-hosted Women’s World Cup.
The tournament starts on July 20 with the final taking place on August 20 in Sydney at the Accor Stadium.
The USA are the defending champions and are looking to become the first team in the competition’s history to win the tournament three times in a row.