It’s unlikely any of the Wallaroos squad had heard of Spanish Conquistador Hernan Cortes before this week, but his story has become a pivotal part of their World Cup campaign.
Cortes led a voyage of Spanish troops to Mexico in 1518 promising the spoils of war.
When his plans began to be questioned, he ordered his troops to burn their boots, making enemy ships their only option for a return to Spain.
It’s that ‘burn the boats’ mantra that Wallaroos assistant coach Dwayne Nestor latched onto ahead of their surprise 36-24 victory over Ireland this week.
The metaphor, and the reason behind the telling of the tale, was not lost on the players.
“The analogy is, you’re taking away any opportunity, and there’s no retreat, there’s no way out, the only way to get back is to conquer what you came to conquer, and use your enemies’ boats to get home,” Nestor said.
“The idea with the girls was that they’d been away from home for three weeks, they start to get homesick, times are getting tough, time was taking its toll, and so the idea was for the girls to hear a story and think, ‘That’s how I’m feeling now’.
“If we say we’re going to go into Ireland and burn the boats, we’re not coming back without achieving our goal, so hopefully they can take that a little bit on for the next match against Canada as well.”
Nestor said the team had taken the mentality on board more than even he had anticipated.
“At the end of the warm up, they’ll say “Aussie on three”, but they actually said, “burn on three.
“You can tell a story, and it can get lost in the moment, lost in translation, but I think that one stuck with them.
“I think you’ve just got to pick your time and the type of story you tell, if you pick them right, and you buy into it, you get some pay out of it.
“You can tell that they’re genuine when they say, “That was really good, that really got me going, that actually motivated me”, so those little comments, you can take some motivation out of that it actually sunk in for them.”
Australia takes on Canada in the fifth-place playoff on Sunday, kicking off at 2am AEST LIVE on FOX SPORTS.