Ben Gilby rounds up a busy week in the game Down Under. We hear from Matildas head coach Tony Gustavsson on the announcement of the Australia squad to take on Brazil. Elsewhere, the ramifications of Lisa De Vanna’s allegations roll on. The key people at Wellington Phoenix who announce their coaching team and first player and Brisbane Roar reveal another new signing.
Gustavsson Announces Squad For Brazil Friendlies:
Above: The Matildas squad line up prior to kick off against their friendly in Dublin against the Republic of Ireland last month. Photo supplied to Impetus by: Football Australia.
Matildas Head Coach Tony Gustavsson has announced Australia’s 23-player squad to take on world number seven Brazil next week in Sydney.
The two nations have met 19 times previously since their first meeting in 1988 with Australia leading the head-to-head with 10 wins to Brazil’s eight. There has been one draw.
The nations will meet twice, first on Saturday, 23 October and then Tuesday, 26 October at Parramatta’s CommBank Stadium as they return to action on Australian soil. The matches mark the first time an Australian senior national team has played at home in almost 600 days, with their last match against Vietnam in the Tokyo 2020 Women’s Football Tournament Qualifiers.
The last time the women’s national team played at the CommBank Stadium in November 2019, they set their attendance record when they beat Chile 2-1 in a friendly in front of 20,029 fans and it is possible that this record could be broken again next week.
With the AFC Women’s Asian Cup in India less than 100 days from kick off, the two-match series is invaluable preparation as Gustavsson and the team continue to build towards the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023
“Preparation is number one,” Gustavsson said. “I said that going into the September camp when we played against Ireland, we changed from ‘performance mode’ from the Olympics to ‘preparation mode’ [ahead of India 2022 and Australia/New Zealand 2023].”
“That doesn’t mean that we are going to step on the field not trying to win – we are always going to try and win when we play every game – but we are not going to try and win at the expense of our preparations
“We can’t shy away from tough challenges and tough games. We need to look at this as a long run towards the World Cup in ‘23.”
The October window will feature the return of fan favourites including full back Ellie Carpenter, midfielder Emily van Egmond, and forwards Kyah Simon and Caitlin Foord, to the Matildas’ squad.
Midfielder Chloe Logarzo has been sidelined due to a long-term knee injury, while injury has also ruled Elise Kellond-Knight (knee), Hayley Raso (shoulder) and Emily Gielnik (toe) out of selection contention.
Several new national team players have retained their place in the squad including September’s debutantes Angie Beard, Charli Grant, and Clare Wheeler. Meanwhile Western Sydney Wanderers product and Young Matildas forward Bryleeh Henry has received her first call up to the senior national team.
“We need to be patient,” Gustavsson added. “We can’t expect a debutant coming into the camp to be ready the first time they come in, but we need to expose them to the Matildas’ environment to get them ready for ‘23 and to scout them in our environment, to see who bounds and thrives under that high international tempo that we have in the Matildas.”
“We are going to keep looking for new players, and either invite them to the training environment to see them there, or for some players that make a good impression in the training environment, also make sure that they get some game time.”
“It is all about now who can reach their full potential come ‘23. It’s not just about who is the best, it is about who can become the best, so we are looking at ‘23 in all the decisions that we are making right now,” he said.
The forthcoming games with Brazil could see a number of milestones recorded. Centre back Alanna Kennedy is in line to become the 11th Australian woman to join the 100 Club. She would join current Commonwealth Bank Matildas’ Clare Polkinghorne (136), Elise Kellond-Knight (113), Emily van Egmond (108), Kyah Simon (101) and Sam Kerr (100). Kennedy would be the 4th player this year to reach the century milestone.
Captain Sam Kerr is two goals away from equalling the Australian goalscoring record. Currently the Matildas all-time leading goalscorer (48 goals), Kerr is chasing Socceroos legend Tim Cahill (50) for the Australian international goals record.
|Mackenzie Arnold||Goalkeeper||West Ham United||27 (0)|
|Angela Beard||Back||Fortuna Hjørring||1 (0)|
|Ellie Carpenter||Back||Lyon||50 (1)|
|Steph Catley||Back||Arsenal WFC||92 (3)|
|Emma Checker||Back||Melbourne City||8 (0)|
|Kyra Cooney-Cross||Midfielder||Melbourne Victory||10 (0)|
|Caitlin Foord||Forward||Arsenal WFC||92 (21)|
|Mary Fowler||Forward||Montpellier||16 (4)|
|Charlotte Grant||Back||FC Rosengård||1 (0)|
|Bryleeh Henry||Forward||Western Sydney Wanderers||0 (0)|
|Alanna Kennedy||Back||Manchester City||99 (8)|
|Sam Kerr||Forward||Chelsea||100 (48)|
|Teagan Micah||Goalkeeper||FC Rosengård||7 (0)|
|Courtney Nevin||Back||Melbourne Victory||4 (0)|
|Clare Polkinghorne||Back||Vittsjö GIK||136 (11)|
|Jamilla Rankin||Back||Brisbane Roar||0 (0)|
|Karly Roestbakken||Back||LSK Kvinner||7 (0)|
|Remy Siemsen||Forward||Sydney FC||0 (0)|
|Kyah Simon||Forward||Tottenham Hotspur||101 (26)|
|Emily van Egmond||Midfielder||Orlando Pride||108 (23)|
|Clare Wheeler||Midfielder||Fortuna Hjørring||1 (0)|
|Lydia Williams||Goalkeeper||Arsenal WFC||92 (0)|
|Tameka Yallop||Midfielder||West Ham United||97 (11)|
Current Matildas Join To Make Statement:
Following the allegations made by Lisa de Vanna last week about her time with the team from 2001-2019 (see: https://impetus885775742.wordpress.com/2021/10/09/australian-football-round-up-2/), the current contracted Matildas joined together make a statement following about the current team culture and stance against this type of behaviour.
“We acknowledge the seriousness of Lisa’s allegations about the past and we empathise with her for not feeling like she could come forth earlier. We will work with Football Australia, the PFA and Sport Integrity Australia to ensure that all current and future players feel comfortable, safe and able to report instances of inappropriate behaviour, in a timely manner. There must also be a trusted process to deal with these complaints.
“We all – from our most capped players to our most recently capped – would like to reassure to our fans, family and friends that today we have a strong professional, inclusive and supportive culture that does not condone any of the behaviour mentioned within the numerous media articles about historical incidents. Our strong leadership ensures our cultural norms are appropriate for today’s professional sporting environment.
“As a group, we represent the values reflective of Australia and that includes acceptance and inclusivity, regardless of sexuality, ethnicity or culture. It was disappointing to observe conversations inferring the group is not accepting of differences, especially given the diversity that exists within our current leadership group on all those fronts, let alone across the broader team. We would also like to re-iterate the professional standards that surround the current team today. Women’s football has dramatically grown in recent years and so has our professionalism and standards.
“As a team, we have spoken at length about the allegations and are all hurt by what has occurred. We hold this team close to our hearts and for many, this team has been a safe haven. It has given us strength and purpose throughout our careers. We are together like a family in this, from our oldest to our youngest player, and the difficulties we’ve faced in the last week have only made us stronger as a group.
“We stand supportive of athletes who are able to come forward and report instances of inappropriate behaviour in their respective environments, and therefore welcome an independent review into this matter.”
The impact of this statement appears to have divided supporters with a number taking to social media to state their feeling that the statement actually serves to worsen the situation as they construe the quotes to be of an “everything’s OK” angle rather than coming out strongly in support of those who had such unsettling experiences in the past.
Football Australia & PFA Condemn Social Media Abuse of Matildas:
On Wednesday, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that Football Australia and Professional Footballers Australia (PFA) have reported social media trolls for posting “disturbing” and “abhorrent” abuse towards Matildas players – including the sharing of revealing images of two players without their consent.
Football Australia have referred the relevant posts to Twitter and the police with the PFA reporting an image posted to the eSafety Commissioners Office.
“We know the impact that social media abuse can have on people,” PFA co-chief executive Beau Busch said.
“We have been in constant contact with current and former players and the impact of targeted and coordinated abuse is taking an enormous toll on them.
“These bullies and trolls lack any semblance of humanity and have sought to deliberately target current and former players with abhorrent and vile abuse through a coordinated and relentless campaign.
“This garbage has no place in society and we will continue to refer matters that are criminal in nature to the police and work with the authorities to ensure the perpetrators are held accountable.”
Football Australia stated: “Many people from within our football community have approached us concerned about the disturbing activities of some social media accounts that are engaging in inappropriate social media posts.
“We are closely monitoring the activities of these accounts, including for potentially defamatory comments, and have reported and will continue to report activities of concern to the relevant authorities.”
Referees Strike Action Poses Question Marks Ahead of Season:
With little more than six weeks before the big kick-off, ABC Australia reported on Tuesday that A-League referees are still without contracts.
Professional Football Referees Australia (PFRA)’s statement on Tuesday said they had informed Football Australia that their referees would not officiate any games after “more than three months of discussions and efforts to resolve several topics”.
The PFRA said referees had been given “no direction, coaching/instruction and no fitness coaching” over the past three months.
“We are now just weeks out from the start of the season, and the referees find themselves in a position without any form of coaching and/or preparation,” the statement said.
At the present time, it is still unclear what impact this will have on the start of the A-League Women season on 3rd December.
FA said the arrangements for elite referees “represent the final changes that need to be implemented” in response to the new governance model in relation to the professional leagues.
“Football Australia recently confirmed a new structure for referees and today advertised for several new positions, including a Head of Refereeing to lead the new department,” the statement read.
“Football Australia can confirm that it is also holding discussions around contractual terms with A-League referees.”
Phoenix Announce Experienced Coaching Staff And First Player:
Wellington Phoenix and New Zealand Football (NZF) are announced the inaugural coaching staff for the Club’s first ever A-League Women’s team and confirmed widely held beliefs that the squad will largely be made up of very young, development players.
In consultation with NZF, Gemma Lewis has been chosen as the Wellington Phoenix A-League Women’s Head Coach, with Natalie Lawrence serving as Assistant Coach for the 21/22 Season.
Lewis and Lawrence will join Canberra United as the only all-female coaching staff in the A-League Women’s competition, with Lewis being the fourth female Head Coach named in the 10-Club league – the first time in A-League Women’s history that the competition has boasted that number.
Wellington Phoenix General Manager, David Dome said that he believed that this selection will come as no surprise to many, with both coaches highly regarded as elite in New Zealand and amongst the best qualified to lead this country’s first professional women’s football team.
“We are extremely pleased to have Gemma and Natalie leading the charge with the country’s first ever professional women’s football team our Phoenix women’s squad this year,” said Dome. “No doubt it’s going to be a huge learning season for us and the squad given the players we are looking at, but it’s also a chance for coach and players to show the rest of Australasia what they can do.
“We expect to have a very young, development-focussed team with the majority of players new to the professional ranks – so it’s a great opportunity for women’s football in New Zealand as we prepare for FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023, and we hope that Kiwis unite behind Gemma, Natalie and this squad as they make history for New Zealand on the big stage.”
Lewis joins the Phoenix with an outstanding pedigree as both a player, coach and mentor. Her playing career saw her appear in the English women’s game with Cardiff City as well as international appearances for her native Wales, before transitioning into coaching via the elite NZF pathways.
She has served as assistant coach of the bronze medal winning New Zealand U-17s side at the 2018 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in Uruguay, and as Football Ferns assistant coach at the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France.
Lewis also has experience coaching in the National Women’s League – winning the title with Auckland Football in 2017 – and in 2018 was selected by FIFA to be part of an elite coach mentorship programme, which saw her mentored by Japan women’s team head coach Asako Takemoto.
For the past two years, Lewis has overseen the development of some of the most promising young female players in the country as manager of the Future Ferns Domestic Programme (FFDP) at NZF, alongside her role as head coach of the U-20 women’s national team. Lewis says that this is a massive moment for women’s football in Aotearoa New Zealand.
“It’s really exciting to be leading the inaugural Wellington Phoenix A-League Women’s side. This side is such an important part of the women’s pathway in New Zealand, especially in the lead up to the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup on home soil,” says Lewis.
“I’m especially looking forward to giving young players their first taste of professional football as we announce our first signings over the coming weeks and prepare for our first game on December 3.”
Lawrence moves into the Wellington Phoenix Assistant Coach position following a successful stint as FFDP and U20’s Assistant Coach and Coach Educator/Mentor at New Zealand Football, where she led the implementation of both the Talent Development Programme and the Girls Talent Acceleration Programme. She has earnt a solid reputation as a Women’s football development and youth coach, thanks in part to her experience in the USA, Canada – as the Vancouver Whitecaps REX U16s Head Coach and Academy Head Coach – and New Zealand; the latter including Head Coach of the Capital Football squad in the National Women’s League and Team Wellington Youth Head Coach.
“I’m delighted to be a part of this inaugural Wellington Phoenix side, and be part of this massive moment for women’s football in New Zealand,” says Lawrence. “The opportunities that having this team offers the game in New Zealand are huge, and I can’t wait for us to kick off the first campaign.”
New Zealand Football CEO, Andrew Pragnell believes that Lewis and Lawrence are the perfect tandem to help lead this new team in its inaugural year.
“This is an exciting moment for football in New Zealand, both confirming the first coaching team for the Wellington Phoenix A-League Women’s side and having coaches who have qualified through the New Zealand Football coaching system,” says Pragnell.
“Gemma and Natalie have done a brilliant job across the domestic and international game and will make a great team to take charge of the first professional women’s side in Aotearoa.”
Lewis and Lawrence are now working on finalising the squad for the Phoenix A-League Women’s side to compete next season, with the first player announcements expected to be made public in the coming weeks.
The squad is expected to travel to New South Wales in the near future as they prepare for the start of the A-League Women’s 2021/22 Season in Australia; with Wellington Phoenix taking on Western Sydney Wanderers on opening night, Friday 3rd December 2021 as part of a double-header with the Phoenix A-League Men’s side.
Lily Alfeld, who had an outstanding season with Perth Glory last time round has become the historic first ever player for the A-League Women’s newest club.
Kiwi-born Alfeld, 26, started all 12 matches for the Glory in 2020/21 and make a league-leading 53 saves. As one of seven New Zealand players in the A-League Women’s competition last season, Alfeld joins with fellow Kiwi Claudia Bunge as one of only 14 players to play all 1080 minutes across the season.
Known as an acrobatic shot stopper, Alfeld’s achievements in her maiden campaign saw her named as a nominee for the PFA Player of the Month Award for December/January, while also winning the Save of the Week Award on two straight occasions.
Prior to this, Alfeld had spent four seasons at Louisiana State University in the United States, before returning home in 2018 to be part of NZ Football’s Future Ferns Domestic Programme (FFDP) – which helps young Kiwi women make the jump from domestic football and into their professional careers.
Alfeld says that she is ‘beyond stoked’ to be joining the Phoenix for its inaugural season.
“I’m thrilled to get this opportunity, I grew up watching the men’s Phoenix team and back then, I never really thought it’d be an option for me; obviously I’m just so excited it’s happening, to be able to get to play professionally at ‘home’ is pretty special,” says Alfeld.
Reflecting back on her first season in the A-League Women’s competition, she says it was a ‘rough season’ at times but she enjoyed the experience.
“It was an amazing opportunity and my first go playing professional football, so there was a lot to learn in that season and at times it was pretty tough – but overall such a positive experience. I think the season ahead (with the Phoenix) will be kind of a similar situation, in that a lot of the girls in the squad are quite young and are going into this as a development experience – but I’m excited to be going into this season knowing what I’m going to face and with some A-League Women experience under my belt.”
Alfeld says that she is excited to be part of history, as a member of New Zealand’s first professional women’s football club.
“To be part of the first, inaugural season (with the Phoenix), it’s a chance to create a bit of history so I would love to go out and have a positive start for what will hopefully be many seasons to come; it’s a role I’m very honoured to get a chance to do and I can’t wait to get started.”
Wellington Phoenix Women’s Head Coach, Gemma Lewis says that Alfeld will be counted on to bring her A-League experience into a squad primarily made up of young players new to the professional football space.
“She will bring a lot of stability and leadership to this team and we know the younger players will look up to her, as she has that professional experience and knows the A-League Women’s competition. We’re very excited that Lily is our first signing for the Phoenix Women’s side and we’re keen to announce the rest of the squad over the coming week.”
Alfeld and the rest of the NZ-based Wellington Phoenix squad will soon make their way to New South Wales, Australia as they prepare for the start of the 2021/22 A-League Women’s season. The club’s first ever match in this competition is scheduled for 5pm AEDT, 3 December – opening night – against Western Sydney Wanderers.
Roar Add Another Young Starlet To Squad:
Brisbane Roar has secured another determined young talent for its A-League Women’s squad with the signing of defender Annabel Haffenden.
The 19-year-old, who has family ties to Queensland, joins from Victorian side Alamein FC, having previously spent time training with Melbourne City.
The move brings her closer to family members based on the north side of Brisbane and gives the former National Training Centre (NTC) player a chance to establish herself at the top level.
“I’m super excited to have signed my first professional contract with Brisbane Roar,” Haffenden said.
“I’m really grateful for the opportunity Garrath (McPherson, head coach) has given me and I can’t wait to get started and meet my new team-mates.”
Haffenden featured in every game for Alamein and chipped in with three goals before the NPL Victoria season shutdown due to the pandemic.
“I played for Alamein under Kat Smith this season and that’s been a really great experience for me,” she said. “I feel like I’ve developed a lot under her this year. I’m quite competitive. One of my strengths is my physical capacity. I just want to work really hard for the team and give as much as I can.”
Head Coach McPherson said he was looking forward to seeing Haffenden show her ability on the A-League Women’s stage.
“Annie has been through the elite youth pathways in Australia and is ready to take the next step in her football,” McPherson said.
“She has been around national league environments in recent years down south and we are thrilled that we have been able to bring her to Queensland. She is a powerful, explosive defender who has shown an incredible commitment to relocate so she can represent Brisbane Roar this season.
“Annie has had wonderful mentorship in Victoria this past two years and I am excited to be able to continue to support her football development in the upcoming A-League Women’s season.”