A week that contained the news of first confirmed home game for the Matildas since March 2020, the announcement of a new status for the top level of women’s football in the country, sixteen A-League Women signing announcements plus the news that Melbourne Victory have appointed a specific female health specialist. Ben Gilby rounds up all the happenings who hears from all the individuals involved.
Above: The Australia team that played the Republic of Ireland in Dublin last week – at last they look able to play at home again.
Matildas Come Home – At Last:
It was confirmed last week that the Matildas will host Brazil in a two-match series on 23 and 26 October, to be held at the 30,000 seater CommBank Stadium, home of Western Sydney Sydney Wanderers in Parramatta, New South Wales.
The Matildas last played on home soil when they defeated Vietnam in a Women’s Olympic Football Tournament Play-Off match in March 2020, on the eve of COVID-19 impacting the world in a profound way.
Since that time, Football Australia has made it a key priority to bring the Socceroos and Commonwealth Bank Matildas home at the earliest opportunity.
This will also be the first time that the Commonwealth Bank Matildas will be playing in front of home crowds since their record-breaking Tokyo campaign.
These matches have been made possible to be hosted in Australia by the NSW Government’s approval of Football Australia’s comprehensive Quarantine Management Plan.
Football Australia Chief Executive Officer, James Johnson was delighted with this announcement which will see the Matildas play on home soil for the first time in over 18 months.
“We have made it our priority to bring our national teams home for international football so this is a phenomenal outcome for Australian football and one which we have been working tirelessly towards behind the scenes with both the Federal and New South Wales (NSW) Government for a considerable amount of time now and appreciate the efforts of the NSW Government in particular,” Johnson said.
“International football is unique in that players are only made available during an international window of nine days. With many of our Matildas based overseas, the 14-day compulsory quarantine period for international arrivals effectively rendered any international football in Australia impossible.”
With the confirmation of theses matches, Football Australia is now in the process of confirming the proposed fixtures between the Matildas and the current FIFA Women’s World Cup Champions, the United States in a two-match series earmarked for 27th November and 30th November, both of which are to be hosted in Australia subject to Government discussions and Public Health Orders.
New name for the W-League:
On Wednesday, Impetus heard from all those involved with the men’s, women’s and youth leagues being brought together under a unified “A-Leagues” banner. Click on the link below to read all the details from the press conference.
A-LEAGUE WOMEN SIGNING NEWS:
Melbourne City FC have announced the final four players in their squad for 2021/22 following the re-signing of Tyla-Jay Vlajnic, the arrival of Western Australian youngster Leticia McKenna. plus Merisa van der Meer and Meisha Westland for the upcoming A-League Women season.
Vlajnic re-signed on Tuesday and has made 40 appearances for City after having been part of the Club’s inaugural squad in what was then the W-League. She currently sits in eighth place on the Club’s all-time appearance list and could end the season in the top five.
A versatile player who has been deployed as a full-back and winger at different stages of her career, Vlajnic has been a part of two Premierships and four Championships in her time at the Club.
Her re-signing will provide further stability and leadership in head coach Rado Vidosic’s squad for the upcoming season.
Speaking about this latest addition to his squad, Vidosic said: “We’re delighted to have TJ returning to the Club. She’s been with us since the start and will again bring lots of experience to the squad as we look to improve on last season.”
Vlajnic was thrilled after being offered a new deal at the Sky Blues: “Coming back to City is always an easy decision. It’s been home since day one.
“I hope I can be the type of player that my teammates can rely on, week in, week out. I want to help the younger players develop and motivate my teammates to give their all in City blue.“
Melbourne City also announced the signing of attacking midfielder Leticia McKenna until the end of the 2022/23 A-League Women season.
The 19-year-old joins City from Brisbane Roar where she made 12 appearances in 2020/21.
McKenna has a total of 37 appearances in what was previously the W-League having started out with home state side Perth Glory and has also scored three goals since making her debut in 2018.
A part of the Young Matildas program, McKenna is highly technically skilled and looks set to fit well into Rado Vidosic’s squad.
Unsurprisingly, the Melbourne City had coach was delighted with his acquisition: “We’re excited to have Leticia join us for the next two years. She’s a very determined young player who already has lots of experience at the level.
“Leticia will provide creativity in the front third and is a hard-working player both in and out of possession. We see her suiting the City style of play perfectly and expect her to play a big role for us this season.”
Speaking about her move to Victoria, McKenna said: “I want to be challenged and continue to be pushed outside my comfort zone, and I feel City is going to give me that.
“I have heard so many great things about the Club, the facilities, coaching staff and its approach to player wellbeing. I am really excited to work with Rado and the potential of what we can achieve for the fans and ourselves this season with a good mixture of youth and experience within the squad.”
The young duo of Merisa van der Meer and Meisha Westland were announced as City’s final signings ahead of the new season yesterday.
van der Meer recently received her first international call-up and was part of the White Ferns’ squad for the Tokyo Olympics, although she is yet to receive her first cap. The versatile defender can play across the backline and the 2021/22 season will be her first in Australia.
van der Meer most recently played her club football for Canterbury United Pride in New Zealand’s top tier and will be looking to make her presence felt in her first season at City.
Westland joins the Club from NPL Queensland’s Lions FC. The 20-year-old defensive midfielder has been performing at a consistently high level for the past few seasons and will now get her first taste of professional football.
Westland is a part of the Emerging Matildas Program and her playing style is set to fit in well with the City style of play.
Speaking about his final squad announcement, head coach Rado Vidosic said: “We’re very happy to be welcoming both Marisa and Meisha to the Club.
“Marisa gained some valuable experience as part of New Zealand’s squad in the Tokyo Olympics and we’re looking forward to working with her and watching her continue to develop as a player.
“She’s capable of playing multiple positions so will add further versatility and depth to our defence.
“Meisha has been a player we’ve had an eye on for a while and she’s very deserving of this opportunity. She suits our style of play and we’re excited to work with her and see her continue to improve.”
At her unveiling, Marisa van der Meer said: “I made this move to Australia and City because I see it as a really good opportunity to not only play in a great team, but to challenge and better myself as a player.
“Apart from the Club’s great reputation, I’ve heard very good things about the setup that City have, as well as the great environment that the players and staff have created.”
Meisha Westland was delighted to be signing for the club, saying: “I’m excited about being coached under Rado in a professional environment. I’m ready to be pushed, challenged, and learn a lot.
“My goals this season are to make my debut and have an impact on the field. I really want to showcase what I can do on the pitch, both in training and on game day.”
MELBOURNE CITY’S FULL A-LEAGUE WOMEN SQUAD FOR 2021/22: Melissa Barbieri (GK), Chelsea Blissett, Emma Checker (c), Naomi Chinnana, Leah Davidson, Sally JamesAMES (GK), Caitlin Karic, Darcey Malone, Leticia McKenna, Holly McNamara, Rhianna Pollicina, Rebekah Stott, Kaitlyn Torpey, Tori Tumeth, Marisa van der Meer, Tyla Jay Vlajnic, Meisha Westland, Hannah Wilkinson.
Defending Champions Add Three More To Squad:
Meanwhile, across town on Tuesday, Melbourne Victory announced the re-signing of midfielder Paige Zois for the next two A-League Women seasons and later in the week added Harriet Withers from their rivals City and Matildas defender Courtney Nevin from Western Sydney Wanderers.
Zois, 17-years-old, is a product of Victory’s W-League Elite Girls Program, making her senior debut for the Club as a 16-year-old in the AFC Women’s Club Championship against Jiangsu Suning and debut in what was then the W-League against Brisbane Roar in the Club’s Championship-winning season.
Zois has represented her country at youth level, featuring at the 2019 U16 AFC Championships in Thailand and is one of Victoria’s brightest young stars, being awarded the player of the tournament at the 2018 U15 National Youth Championships in Coffs Harbour.
The midfielder continued her momentum from the 2020/21 campaign at Victory with a strong season in NPLW Victoria with FC Bulleen Lions and has furthered her game on and off the park ahead of the upcoming season.
Melbourne Victory A-League Women Head Coach, Jeff Hopkins, said he’s excited to see Zois continue her development at the Club.
“We’re proud to see one of Victoria’s best up and coming talents continue their footballing journey at Melbourne Victory,” Hopkins said.
“Paige’s commitment to the Club is testament to our Elite Girls Program and how it continues to develop some of the state’s finest female footballers for today and the future.
Zois said that she was thrilled to be part of the squad again. “Last season was an amazing experience for me to be with the W-League full-time and I’m excited to be a part of it again this season,” Zois said.
“Melbourne Victory has been a part of my development for a number of years now and to continue my journey at Victory with Jeff and the squad is something I’m looking forward to.”
Harriet Withers joins Victory after spending the past season at cross town rivals Melbourne City, making six appearances throughout 2020/21 and finding the back of the net once in the campaign.
The northern New South Wales native was a product of the US college system, spending four years with the Murray State Racers in Kentucky.
Withers lead the football program’s all-time goal scoring charts with 37 goals and was named the league’s offensive player of the year on two occasions.
Melbourne Victory A-League Women Head Coach, Jeff Hopkins said Withers will add more firepower to his Championship-winning squad.
“We’re pleased to have Harriet on board with the Club this season as we make the finishing touches to our title-defending squad. Harriet burst onto the scene in the league last season and her pace and finishing caught the eye of everyone at the Club so we look forward to see what she can bring in Victory colours.”
Withers said that she was looking forward to continuing the momentum she built last season.
“I’m excited to be joining this Championship-winning side and can’t wait to work with Jeff and his team to build on that success this season,” Withers said.
“Last season was really exciting for me – returning home to Australia and making my mark in the league – and I’m looking forward to building on that at Victory.”
This morning saw Victory announce the major signing of current Matilda Courtney Nevin. She joined the club after three seasons with Western Sydney Wanderers where she made 28 appearances after having made her debut in what was then the W-League at 16-years of age.
The full-back has represented her country at U17 and U20 level – making her full senior Matildas debut in June 2021 against Denmark alongside Victory’s own Kyra Cooney Cross. Nevin then went on to represent Australia at the 2020 Olympic Games as part of Tony Gustavson’s 22-player squad that finished fourth in Tokyo.
A-League Women’s Head Coach Jeff Hopkins spoke of his excitement in adding Nevin to his team for the 2021/22 season. “Courtney is one of the country’s best young talents and we are thrilled to have her join our squad for the team’s title defence,” Hopkins said.
“She is the complete full-back with her attributes in defence and lethal qualities in attack which will add another dimension to our back-line as we look to finalise our squad in 2021/22.
“We’ll continue to develop and nurture Courtney’s development as one of the brightest prospects in Australian football – especially with the 2023 Women’s World Cup on the horizon.”
Courtney Nevin said she was looking forward to playing for Melbourne Victory. “It’s really exciting to be heading to Melbourne Victory to join the Champions for the upcoming season. I can’t wait to get started.
“The last 12 months has been one of the most exciting years for me in my short career – making my Matildas debut and joining the team at the Olympics – and I’m looking forward to continuing that momentum with Melbourne Victory this season.”
Nevin will train alongside Cooney-Cross in Europe with the Matildas before returning to Melbourne in late October to join the squad for the remainder of the pre-season.
Canberra United Add Another Three:
The capital city club have added to their squad for the new campaign after unveiling the signings of Margot Robinne, Holly Caspers and Chloe Middleton.
Robinne is an experienced midfielder, who made her debut in the French National League at 15 years old. She played 210 games for Montigny le Bretonneux, FC Rouen and Toulouse FC, where she scored 138 goals.
In 2017, she moved to Australia to play in the Victorian NPLW, before signing a contract in what was then known as the W-League with Melbourne City in 2020/21.
“Last season, the team at Canberra United played some exciting football, they showed great courage and passion,” she said.
“Vicki Linton’s football vision and team management approach were at the centre of my decision to make the move to Canberra. I have no doubt it’ll be a great environment for me to develop as a player and I’m eager to earn the team, club and supporters respect through my hard work and determination.
“I’m very excited to discover a new environment and play with experienced players while being able to tap into my own experience to take on a leadership role with the younger ones.”
Holly Caspers joins Canberra United from Sydney University Football Club. The young winger has been playing in the NPLW1 since 2012.
“I’ve definitely heard great things about Canberra United, especially from the girls who also play at Sydney University,” Holly said.
“I’ve always enjoyed a team with great culture and a supportive environment whilst also competitively pushing the players, and I believe Canberra United is a club that will definitely offer this.”
Chloe Middleton was unveiled by the club on Thursday, joining from Western Sydney Wanderers, where she played and started in five matches during the 2020/21 season.
The midfielder said she’s excited to join Canberra United and be part of the positive culture of the club.
“Joining Canberra is a great opportunity for me to grow as a footballer and continue to be challenged every day,” Middleton said.
“Canberra has a team culture that anyone would want to be a part of and seeing Canberra thrive under Vicki last year has definitely drawn me to the club.
“I’m looking forward to working with the girls and continuing to build on what they achieved last year.
“This year I want to continue to learn and develop my football further and become a consistent player within Canberra United. Playing finals football this season something I believe we can achieve.”
Head Coach Vicki Linton highlighted what an exciting player Middleton will be for Canberra. “Chloe brings a skillset that should complement other members of our squad,” she said.
“I look forward to bringing her into our environment and seeing her develop this season and contribute to the team.”
Brisbane Roar Add Two More Young Queenslanders:
Brisbane Roar have this week added young Queenslanders Cannon Clough and Lani McDougall to their A-Leagues Women squad for 2021/22.
Versatile full-back Clough, who signed on Wednesday, becomes Garrath McPherson’s 12th confirmed squad member having forged a formidable reputation as one of the state’s standout players en route winning the NPL Queensland twice.
She has chalked up more than 60 NPL Women’s appearances across three campaigns and memorably scored the winning penalty in the Queensland State Team’s triumph over New South Wales in the Watson-O’Connor Cup in 2020.
“I am super excited,” Clough said upon signing her first A-League Women’s deal. “The girls before us at the Roar have made it a really cool place to be and given it a good name, so I think it’s going to be cool to try to add on to that.
“The goal has always been to try to play at the highest level possible over here and hopefully this opportunity means my family will be able to come over to Australia.”
Clough came through the college system in the United States before relocating to Australia and now joins some familiar faces from Lions FC in the Roar setup.
“I think that’ll be a bit of a plus for us going into this season since a few of us already know each other,” the 25-year-old said. “Even girls from other teams are already good friends. It’s all familiar faces which will be fun.
“With any team, the more time you get to spend together, the more chemistry you have, the better you know each other, the easier it is to play with each other. The NPL has done a good job to prepare us, especially Lions. The whole competition has done a good job of getting girls ready to play all over the country but in Queensland it’s really special.”
Head Coach McPherson described Clough as a “great defender” with speed and attacking, creative intent. “Cannon is an explosive, mobile defender who has had another wonderful NPL Women’s season here in Queensland after being selected in the All-Star side that beat New South Wales last year,” McPherson said.
“She is a versatile player who will provide the team with a number of options at different times throughout a match. “In all of the games I have watched Cannon play, she is competing in every moment. I really like her winning mentality. She joins a team full of that same intent to win.”
The club continued its homegrown recruitment drive with the signing of Queensland Future Matildas program member Lanni McDougall on Friday.
The teenage midfielder makes the step up to the A-League Women’s competition after impressing in development programs and as a leading light for Moreton Bay United.
McDougall has scored eight NPL Women’s goals this season and said she felt “super excited” when Head Coach Garrath McPherson offered the opportunity to join the Roar.
“It’s always what I’ve worked for, always what I dreamed, to get in that professional environment,” she said.
“The hard work is starting to pay off now. Personally I think I’ve developed a lot this year. I want to make the biggest impact I can and look to make the most of the environment. Just enjoy every second of it really.”
McDougall has benefitted from McPherson’s mentorship through the QAS and Future Matildas setups and will now be aiming to bring her creative talents to the next level.
“Garrath is a really good coach,” she said. “He’s helped me for quite a few years through the QAS and NTC. I’m really excited to have him as a coach. As a player, I think one of my strengths is bringing everyone into the game using my attacking flair. I’m really excited to use that.”
Speaking about his latest acquisition, McPherson said: “Lanni is another exciting product of the QAS football program. She spent two years in that high performance environment after being identified playing for Sunshine Coast Wanderers and has continued to grow within our Queensland Future Matildas program this year.
“She is playing consistently well in midfield for Moreton Bay in the NPL Women’s competition and is a focused, determined young person with huge potential. “Having continually risen to the level of challenge put in front of her, I am excited to see her have an impact in her debut A-League Women’s season.”
Wanderers Sign Kiwi Star:
Western Sydney Wanderers FC confirmed the signing of Malia Steinmetz for the upcoming A-League Women’s season on Wednesday.
The New Zealand International played in her very first season in the domestic competition last season with Perth Glory where she featured in every match.
The 22-year-old midfielder made her debut for the New Zealand Senior Team in 2017 and most recently was part of their U20s squad in 2018.
Head coach Catherine Cannuli welcomed Steinmetz to the club: “Malia showed the league her natural talent and ability last season in the A-Leagues and has been rising through the ranks of New Zealand’s national team,” said Cannuli.
“We are delighted to have her at the club and look forward to watching her growth and development over the season.”
Steinmetz said she was ready to be part of the success the Wanderers are planning for 2021/22: “The competition (A-Leagues) was a great step up for me personally after playing in New Zealand and the National Premier League Women’s division,” said Steinmetz.
“It’s for sure a great platform that I’m learning so much from which will hopefully help my football career even more in the future. Talking to Cath (head coach Catherine Cannuli), also gave me a lot of excitement for this A-League Women’s season and what the team will be able to achieve.
“I am personally aiming for the 2023 World Cup seeing as it is across my two current homes and it would be an amazing experience. “Club-wise, I want to be part of the success I can see the team having this year, where I know a top three spot is on.”
Adelaide United Announce Triple Capture:
Adelaide United announced three further additions to their A-League Women squad for the forthcoming season. The club added 18 year-old striker Georgia Beaumont and 20 year-old attacking midfielder Natasha Brough on Thursday, with the arrival of Japan’s Reona Omiya on Friday.
Beaumont has represented the Junior Matildas and previously been a train-on player with Brisbane Roar Women.
Beaumont spent three years with the Brisbane Roar U-18 NTC program before establishing herself in the Queensland NPL Women’s competition, scoring 22 goals in 18 matches in all competitions.
After agreeing to join the Reds, Beaumont said: “I’m so excited to be signing with Adelaide United. This is an amazing opportunity to play. I’m eager to make a positive contribution to the Club and have the finals in sight for this year.”
Adelaide United’s A-League Women Head Coach, Adrian Stenta, said: “Georgia is a smart striker with a lot of potential. At the local level she’s a proven goal-scorer and I’m confident those promising displays can translate to the A-League Women season.
“Georgia also has experience of representing her country with the Junior Matildas and I’m sure she will fit right into our team.”
20-year-old Brough arrives at the Club having spent the last decade living and playing in Europe, particularly in Spain, before gaining her first professional experience in the Netherlands last year.
Born in the Hunter Valley region, Brough spent her junior years on the books of Valencia CF, RCD Espanyol, and La Roca.
Ahead of the 2020/21 campaign, she signed with Vrouwen Eredivisie outfit, VV Alkmaar, and scored one goal in four appearances.
Brough has also previously been a part of Young Matildas camps at the U-17 and U-19 levels.
Speaking on her decision to join the Reds, Brough said: “Moving to Adelaide is an exciting new challenge for me. I’m looking forward to returning to Australia and playing in the A-League Women competition after being in Europe for more than ten years.
“Adelaide experienced a strong season under Adrian (Stenta) last year and I’m looking to help build on that with my new teammates.”
Adelaide United’s A-League Women Head Coach, Adrian Stenta, said: “Having developed her football at some top clubs overseas, Natasha brings a lot of maturity and pedigree to our squad despite her age. She is a player with quality and we’re hoping she can flourish at our Club through hard work and application.”
29-year-old Reona Omiya joined Adelaide United yesterday after spending the 2021 NPL Victoria Women season briefly with FC Bulleen Lions before joining South Melbourne FC until the competition was suspended due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The holding midfielder, who possesses great technical and passing attributes, scored a combined three goals in 11 matches with both teams.
Speaking on signing with the Reds, Omiya said: “I am very happy to be given this opportunity to play for Adelaide United.
“It has been one of my dreams to play in the A-League Women competition, so I am really excited that it has come true. I can’t wait to meet my new teammates and the rest of the wonderful Reds family, and I hope we can all achieve great things together this season.”
Adelaide United’s A-League Women Head Coach, Adrian Stenta, said: “Reona is a player that boasts a lot of experience and technical prowess.
“She is a hard-working midfielder and we believe will provide a lot stability and composure to our squad.”
Melbourne Victory Announce Female Health Specialist Appontment
Melbourne Victory have appointed Dr. Suzana Kotevska as the Club’s Official A-League Women’s Female Health Specialist.
Dr. Suzana Kotevska’s team provides gynaecology, obstetric and female health services and will support the Club’s A-League Women’s team for the 2021/22 season by having a presence on the team’s playing shorts.
Melbourne Victory Managing Director, Caroline Carnegie said she was excited to partner with Dr. Suzana Kotevska.
“We’re pleased to have Dr. Kotevska on board with our A-League Women side for the upcoming season and can’t wait to foster an important partnership for our female players, staff, members and fans,” Carnegie said.
“The importance of female health and well-being has become more prevalent over recent times and we look forward to having Dr. Suzana as a partner at the Club.”
Dr. Suzana Kotevska was also thrilled to align with Melbourne Victory. “Our family has supported Melbourne Victory from day one and we believe that we share the same values with the Club, priding ourselves on respect, hard-work, courage and success,” Dr. Kotevska said.
“For us, it’s time to finally transform our passion into a partnership with the A-League Women’s Champions. We look forward to working in partnership with the Club and support all the players, staff and fans.”