SJA Sportswoman of the Year: The case for Mary Earps

VOTING HAS NOW CLOSED to decide the winners of three major categories at the Awards, to be held at The Kia Oval in London on Thursday 7 December; Jake Wightman, Beth Mead and the Lionesses claimed the equivalent 2022 honours; who will take the top prizes this year? 

By Nina Hristova

To say 2023 was a tremendous year for Mary Earps would be an understatement as she reached a historic World Cup Final with the Lionesses, carrying her nation to new heights and broken records.

The fearless Lioness kicked off the calendar year winning FIFA’s Best Goalkeeper 2022 and went on to win FIFA’s Golden Glove at the World Cup, and England Women’s Player of the Year 2023.

She played a vital role as England beat Brazil 4-2 on penalties in the inaugural Women’s Finalissima, saving a spot-kick in the shootout.

After being named in UEFA’s official Team of the Tournament for EURO 2022, Earps surpassed her own brilliance in the most prestigious tournament of all.

In the Lionesses’ World Cup campaign, Earps kept three clean sheets, conceding only four goals in seven games.

She made crucial, instinctive saves throughout the knockout stages, brilliantly denying both Nigeria and Colombia as England faced tense and close matches.

And Earps’ gloves were most certainly golden when she pulled off a sensational save of Jennifer Hermoso’s penalty in the final, sparking hope for her team to pursue an equaliser and go all the way.

Despite marginally losing 1-0 to Spain, a historical World Cup run for the Lionesses and Earps’ incredible efforts made England proud.

The Manchester United goalkeeper has undoubtedly flourished at club level too, helping The Red Devils secure a second-place finish in the Women’s Super League.

In January, she registered her 50th WSL clean sheet, becoming the first-ever player to earn that milestone and kept 14 clean sheets in the 22/23 season.

Her loyalty to the club was commemorated after 100 appearances for the club, and she became the women’s team’s fifth centurion.

Manager Mark Skinner told MUTV: “The growth she has had is one of the biggest, if not the biggest in any player I have seen.”

Earps continues to break records, ranking fifth for the Ballon d’Or, the highest-ever finish for a goalkeeper.

But The Best FIFA Women’s Goalkeeper’s success soars beyond her extensive achievements on the pitch.

Off the pitch, Earps has transformed women’s football, inspiring the younger generation to pursue their dreams and conquer challenges.

She campaigned for Nike to offer an England women’s goalkeeper kit ahead of the World Cup, and when the manufacturer eventually did, it sold out in hours.

Earps has won many awards but also won the hearts of the country after the role model delivered an inspiring speech at the Best FIFA Awards in February.

“Sometimes success looks like this, collecting trophies. Sometimes it’s just waking up and putting one step in front of the other,” she said.

We can expect to see Earps winning more trophies, both individual and collective, before her career is over.

Sports journalist Nina Hristova is a member of the SJA Academy – find out more about membership here.