Australians are gushing over sport's hottest romance after Matildas ace Mary Fowler and NRL star Nathan Cleary went public with their new relationship.
Daily Mail Australia exclusively published photos of the footy champion and soccer star spending time together - including cosying up in a Perth park - as the Matildas played Olympics qualifying matches in the WA capital.
The Penrith Panthers captain travelled to Perth to support Fowler and was in the stands as she made a starring run in the Matildas' win over the Philippines on Sunday.
The romance doesn't appear to be a distraction for Fowler's game, with the Women's World Cup hero following up that performance by scoring another spectacular opening goal in Wednesday night's match against Chinese Taipei, with Cleary again cheering her on from the stands.
Matildas captain and Chelsea star Sam Kerr then went on to score, as did Tamika Yallop, leaving the Matildas up 3-0 and able to play for a place at the Paris 2024 Olympics against a yet-to-be-decided Asian nation in February next year.
The Matildas are now set to return to their various clubs to play out the regular season, with some heading back to the A-League at home but most jetting off to their respective European teams.
Australians are gushing over sport's hottest romance after Matildas ace Mary Fowler and NRL star Nathan Cleary went public with their new relationship in Perth on Wednesday
Fowler doesn't appear to be distracted by the blossoming romance, once again putting in a starring turn in the Matildas' win over Chinese Taipei on Wednesday night
The couple was seen holding hands, laughing, chatting and hugging at a park overlooking the water near Perth's CBD on Wednesday
Fans flocked to social media to show their support for Australian sport's new power couple, with many calling the pairing a match made in footy heaven.
'Good on them! They look very happy,' one said.
'Cleary better take care of our national treasure,' another sports fan wrote.
'So nice to see sports stars that find one another. Both good looking and fit,' a third added.
'I hope he's prepared to live in rainy Manchester,' warned a fourth.
Reacting to a photo of Cleary gazing at Fowler as she lay on his chest in the park, one person wrote: 'Just want someone to look at me the way Nathan Cleary looks at Mary Fowler.'
Another joked that Fowler was 'about to put Nathan Cleary on the map'.
Fans flocked to social media to show their support for Australian sport's new power couple, with many calling the pairing a match made in footy heaven
Reacting to a photo of Cleary gazing at Fowler as she lay on his chest in the park, one sports fan wrote: 'Just want someone to look at me the way Nathan Cleary looks at Mary Fowler'
Many commenters questioned whether Cleary would be prepared to move to England, where Fowler has a contract with Manchester City
Fowler's devoted fanbase of teenage boys declared the relationship a big win because 'it confirms she's straight... we're back in business'
The Matildas were named the 'gayest team' at the 2023 Women's World Cup with 12 out and proud players. This X user joked the Matildas were also a 'safe space to come out as straight'
Soccer fans could not resist poking fun at Cleary for joining the ranks of England's glamorous WAGs.
The Betoota Advocate even wondered what he'd look like in a purple tuxedo like the one David Beckham famously wore at his wedding to wife Victoria.
One person invoked the famous tagline from the Barbie movie - 'She's everything, he's just Ken' - with the tweet: 'She's everything, he's just chin.'
Another speculated their romance was the result of their shared ambassadorship with Adidas, tweeting: 'Honestly, full respect to Nathan Cleary and Mary Fowler taking their Adidas sponsorships this seriously.'
Meanwhile, Fowler's devoted fanbase of teenage boys declared the relationship a big win because 'it confirms she's straight... we're back in business.'
The Matildas were famously named the 'gayest team' at the 2023 Women's World Cup with 12 out and proud players.
Cleary injured his knee in the NRL Grand Final and still appears to be suffering the effects
One commenter urged Sydney-born Cleary to be good to 'national treasure' Fowler, who was born in Cairns to an Irish father and Papua New Guinian mother
Most Aussies just congratulated the couple on the romance and said they looked 'very happy'
Soccer fans could not resist poking fun at Cleary for joining the ranks of England's glamorous WAGs. The Betoota Advocate even wondered what he'd look like in a purple tuxedo like the one David Beckham famously wore at his wedding to wife Victoria
Another speculated their romance was the result of their shared ambassadorship with Adidas
One person invoked the famous tagline from the Barbie movie - 'She's everything, he's just Ken' - with the tweet: 'She's everything, he's just chin'
Several tweets compared the Cleary-Fowler pairing to Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce
Fowler and Cleary had been rumoured to be romantically linked since being spotted together twice following the Matildas' World Cup campaign.
They first attracted attention as a potential couple when they were seen together on a leisurely walk along the Nepean River in Penrith in Sydney's west.
The pair were then seen sharing an ice cream following a promotional event hosted by Adidas, a brand both athletes endorse.
Last Sunday, Cleary was photographed with two Matildas fans outside Optus Stadium just before the Aussies' 8-0 victory over the Philippines, with Fowler scoring the opening goal.
Matildas supporter Annie Lewin even shared the shot of Cleary with the caption 'silly for the tillies', giving the clearest indication to that point that there was a romantic connection between the pair.
But it wasn't until Wednesday when Daily Mail Australia pictured the pair cuddling up in a park in Perth that the relationship was confirmed.
They could be seen laying together in the middle of the park by the water - laughing, hugging, chatting, and drinking from the same water bottle.
At one point, Cleary took his shirt off and Fowler lay on his chest.
The stars appeared enamoured with each other as they lay on the grass - tossing empty water bottles in the air and catching them as Cleary threw his arm around Fowler and laughed.
They then held hands briefly as they went back to Cleary's black SUV, where the couple had a brief chat in the car before he drove away and Fowler walked back to her accommodation.
Fowler declined to comment when Daily Mail Australia asked about the romantic display, saying: 'Sorry, I just want to get back to my hotel.'
The couple appeared playful as they lay on the grass - tossing empty water bottles in the air and catching them as Cleary threw his arm around Fowler and laughed
Fowler refused to comment when approached by Daily Mail Australia shortly after the photos were taken, but the images speak volumes
A day earlier, photos showed the couple enjoying each other's company and laughing after grabbing a takeaway coffee near Perth's HBF Park Stadium.
An onlooker describing their interaction as 'low-key but cute'.
'There was a guy that recognised him and they shook hands and Mary laughed, then they were just laughing and walking very close together,' the passer-by said.
Cleary added fuel to rumours of a romance with Fowler last Sunday when he was snapped in a selfie with two Matildas fans outside Perth's Optus Stadium after flying in to support her ahead of the team's big win over the Philippines
An onlooker described their interaction as 'low-key but cute' as they were seen 'laughing and walking very close together' in Daily Mail Australia's exclusive pics on Tuesday
A relaxed Fowler was wearing a white singlet, shorts and sneakers with her hair tied back and a cap on, while Cleary sported a large black knee brace after being injured in the Penrith Panthers' NRL grand final win last month.
The NRL star also liked a post Fowler put up on Instagram on Monday - the first time he's taken that step on social media.
Fowler posted a series of images from the Matildas' Olympics qualification matches, which were liked by a host of teammates and fellow athletes, including Cleary.
Cleary and Fowler's fans are no doubt wondering how they'll keep their romance going once she returns to England to play for Manchester City this week - but the NRL star might have already answered their questions in a very revealing statement.
Back in August, Cleary referenced the Matildas when he was asked about making a huge career switch that would pave the way for him to join her in the UK as her career goes from strength to strength.
Rugby Australia were pushing to get some of the NRL's biggest stars to defect at the time, having snared the signature of Roosters sensation Joseph-Aukuso Suaalii - and Cleary gave a very telling answer when he was asked about making the switch himself.
One of the biggest lures rugby union has for NRL players is the chance to compete in the code's World Cup and play for a truly global audience - a fact that's not lost on the Penrith halfback.
'The Matildas, what they've been able to do - you can't do that in rugby league,' Cleary said.
'I think that's the exciting part of union, it is on that global stage.
Fowler plays for English giants Manchester City, and coming back to Australia to play for a local team would be a huge backwards step for her. On the other hand, Cleary could earn more money and further his career by switching to rugby union and joining her in the UK
'If you were to do it for Australia, it would be such a big thing because Australia has sort of neglected union for a while now and it hasn't been a massive thing.
'I think that part of it is an exciting prospect,' he told the Sporting News.
While the governing body would want Cleary to play for an Australian Super Rugby side if he defected, he would attract huge interest from teams in the UK if he became available.
While most of the NRL players who have switched codes play in the backs, Cleary is a generational talent at halfback who could make it in the UK's top union competition, the Gallagher Premiership.
Getting a start with an English club wouldn't just bring him closer to Fowler, either - it would also be financially lucrative.
The competition's best-paid player, Charles Piutau of the Bristol Bears, earns $1.9million a season.
Even a relative novice to the game, former NRL star Semi Radradra, takes home just over $1million a year with the Bristol Bears.
Former South Sydney star Sam Burgess made headlines in both countries when he switched codes and played for Bath in England's top-flight competition in an attempt to play for his home country in the 2015 World Cup.
Cleary and Fowler's high-profile long-distance situation is bringing back memories of rugby league star Solomon Haumono's whirlwind relationship with UK model Gabrielle Richens in the 1990s, which saw the league player take drastic action to keep the romance going.
The situation is bringing back memories of the headline-grabbing romance between Solomon Haumono and UK model Gabrielle Richens (pictured together) in the 1990s
Richens rose to fame in Australia after playing a stripper in a controversial Virgin commercial that saw her given the nickname 'The Pleasure Machine'.
Haumono made headlines around the world when he walked out on rugby league to be with her on the other side of the world.
In 1998, Haumono - who was then a contracted player with the Canterbury Bulldogs - jetted from Australia to the UK to be with her without telling his family or club, only to end up back in Sydney playing for Balmain the next year.
Cleary wouldn't pack up and leave in the same fashion - but he'd be far better placed to make a life for himself in England and stamp himself as a cross-code great at the same time.
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