Rumours of a romance between NRL star Nathan Cleary and Matildas hero Mary Fowler have intensified after a photo came to light of the pair spending time together. The Daily Telegraph published the photo on Thursday night, showing Cleary and Fowler walking together along the Nepean River on August 8 - one day after the Matildas' win over Denmark in the round of 16 at the Women's World Cup.
Cleary and Fowler were doing the Great River Walk at Tench Reserve in western Sydney. The photo was reportedly snapped two weeks before they were seen together enjoying an ice cream after taking part in a photo shoot for Adidas.
The 'Hello Sport Podcast' first fuelled the rumours of a new Aussie sporting power couple when the ice cream rendezvous captured their attention. Host Tom Birmingham said: "Now they’re both sponsored by Adidas and they were maybe doing a function. But you have an ice-cream with someone, that’s saying something. You may as well be holding hands. We haven’t got a power couple do we at the moment?”
Co-host Eddy Simpson said with tongue in cheek: “Unless they’re doing an ice cream commercial, they’re essentially dating." Birmingham joked: “That’s a smooch basically. It’s the culinary smooch, if you’re sharing an ice cream.”
The photo taken on August 8 also shows Cleary and Fowler both wearing Adidas gear. Last week, Cleary's camp moved to quash any romance speculation, telling News Corp there was nothing to the rumours.
They've been spotted together (finally)! 👀 This makes the rumours of NRL playmaker Nathan Cleary and Matildas star Mary Fowler's relationship real, right? 😱👉 https://t.co/m9OS74KBbm pic.twitter.com/0Jizv7SOPz
— The Daily Telegraph (@dailytelegraph) August 31, 2023
Mary Fowler a superstar in the making for the Matildas
The Penrith Panthers halfback is said to have split with pilates instructor Teah Foot recently. While Cleary is already considered a superstar of the NRL after winning back-to-back premierships with the Panthers, Fowler only recently came to the Australian public's attention.
The 20-year-old was one of the stars of the Matildas' World Cup campaign, helping them reach the semi-finals for the first time ever. Fowler's thunderous penalty in Australia's shootout win over France lit up social media, and the young gun showed the future is bright for the Matildas.
Despite the fourth-place finish (Australia's best at a men's or women's World Cup ever), there was a feeling of a golden opportunity going begging due to the Matildas' ageing roster. Captain Sam Kerr has flagged her intentions to play on until the next World Cup in 2027, but a number of veteran players will be gone in four years' time.
Lydia Williams (35), Clare Polkinghorne (34), Aivi Luik (38), Kyah Simon (32) and Tameka Yallop (32) are the squad's oldest players, while Kerr (29), Steph Catley (29), Katrina Gorry (31) Caitlin Foord (28), Alanna Kennedy (28), Hayley Raso (28) and Emily van Egmond (30) will all be at the tail end of their careers or retired by time the next World Cup rolls around. Gorry has already revealed the 2023 World Cup was her last.
But vice-captain Catley, who has now played three World Cups, pointed to emerging talents like Fowler and Kyra Cooney-Cross as reason why Australia should be optimistic for the future. "It does take a while and I think we've made enough quarter-finals, enough round of 16s," she said.
"You learn a lot from those moments and some of these young girls that have just stepped in and they've now played in a semi-final, they're going to learn so much and they're gonna be so much more prepared for the next time it comes around and that's something that a lot of us haven't had. So the fact that they've got that now so early in their careers is massive.
"Some of the players that we've seen come through: Mary, Kyra, the way they've performed, Clare Hunt, there's so many. They just stepped up - they look so ready, they've got long careers ahead of them and yeah, hopefully we're developing loads more girls that can come in and step in when they need to. Hopefully us old ducks can hold on a little bit longer and push for some more trophies."
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