Ben Gilby brings us all the news from this week’s media conferences in Australian women’s football. He starts with the announcement of a big international double header from the Matildas. He then hears from three overseas signings, a Newcastle Jets stalwart, Brisbane Roar’s latest signing and Wellington Phoenix head coach Gemma Lewis.
Above: The Matildas will be coming together again soon to face the USWNT. Photo: Joseph Mayers.
Australia have lined up a blockbuster two-match home series with two-time defending FIFA Women’s World Cup Champions and world number one, the United States Women’s National Team.
Australia will host the USA for the first time in 21 years at Stadium Australia in Sydney on Saturday, 27 November 2021, and McDonald Jones Stadium in Newcastle on Tuesday, 30 November 2021.
With venue capacities for both matches now lifted by the NSW Government, Football Australia can confirm that playing at Stadium Australia will present an opportunity for Australian and USA football fans to collectively break the previous record for a Matildas crowd in Australia, being 33,000 fans who watched Australia play Sweden during the Sydney 2000 Olympics.
With Australia last month successfully leading the return of international sports and major events to New South Wales, the matches against the U.S. Women’s National Team will be one of the first major events in regional NSW following the swift progress of the COVID-19 reopening roadmap.
Football Australia CEO, James Johnson, said: “The exhilarating football played by the Matildas against Brazil in October once more highlighted why this team is loved by Australians. With over 27,000 combined supporters at CommBank Stadium and over 465,000 watching on Channel 10, Australia’s ‘Home of Football’, the Commonwealth Bank Matildas have demonstrated their box office appeal. This was only the beginning, and I now encourage all football fans to celebrate with us again and help us break our previous attendance record at these upcoming games in Sydney and Newcastle and see some of the world game’s biggest superstars.”
“Hosting the U.S. Women’s National Team for the first time in over two decades is another great taste of what the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia and New Zealand 2023™ will look and feel like at Stadium Australia.”
Following Australia’s positioning in Group B of the AFC Women’s Asian Cup India 2022™, Commonwealth Bank Matildas Head Coach Tony Gustavsson spoke of the importance of the matches against the U.S. Women’s National Team and the November FIFA Window in relation to their preparation for Asia’s continental championships.
“This is a vital and final opportunity to see the players against an extremely high-quality nation before we select the final squad for the AFC Women’s Asian Cup,” Gustavsson said.
“Meeting the U.S. Women’s National Team on home soil will mark the sixth unique opponent in the top ten that this team would have faced in 2021. With each match, we are continuing to get one day better as a team, and at the same time providing invaluable experience to the younger players in the roster. The U.S. Women’s National Team are a team with quality across the park and will mark another great challenge for the playing group.”
“We can’t be more delighted with the support which has been provided in scheduling these tough, unique opponents to further the development of the playing squad ahead of major international tournaments.”
Australia and the U.S. Women’s National Team have enjoyed a healthy rivalry in recent years with the last meeting of the two sides in the Tokyo Olympics Bronze Medal match.
Norweigan International Signs:
Newcastle Jets have signed Norwegian international Marie Markussen.
The 24-year-old attacker has signed a deal for the upcoming A-League Women’s Season, arriving from Vålerenga where she recently helped her side win Norwegian Women’s Cup Final with a goal.
The young talented winger has managed 33 goals from her professional career so far, and also recently made three appearances for the national team.
She will be on her way to Australia in the coming week.
Head Coach Ash Wilson was ecstatic to be able to welcome Markussen to the Club and believes she’ll bring a formidable, attacking prowess to the team.
Wilson said; “She brings experience, quality, and versatility in the attack which will be important for consistent winning performances.
“I expect her addition will also increase the tempo, quality, and competition within the training environment.
“She is dynamic, likes to threaten defences with her pace, has an eye for goal, a great assist-ability and she is a fierce competitor.”
As one of only a handful of A-League Women’s signings coming from overseas in 2021/22, Wilson believes her top experiences will help develop the whole squad.
“I want to give our team every opportunity to be successful and part of that is to bring in players that have played at higher levels and who have qualities that are capable of adding value to not only the performances but also the environment we want to create,” she said.
“Marie has had success through the national Youth and Senior setups in Norway, has played in the top leagues of Germany and Norway, and is coming to us with UEFA Champions League experience and cup success with her current team at Vålerenga.
“She is also motivated to come here and do well so I’m sure she will bring much energy and drive.”
Going into the process of the transfer in more depth, Wilson revealed: “Marie’s arrival is an exciting time for us. We’ve been sitting on it for a little bit. She had to finish her Cup Final and commitments with Vålerenga.
“At the end of the day, after last year, we wanted to add a bit more depth and experience. I’m thankful that the club and the owners have heard the things that we’ve been talking about and we’ve had the opportunity to bring her in.
“She’s been scoring goals recently in her league, she scored in the Cup Final. She’s proven that she can do those things on a quality stage and the hope is that she’ll come here, enjoy her football here and add a little bit more of a threat upfront for us.
“An agent reached out to us and she was on our list for a while. We started watching her games, keeping an eye on her week in, week out. Every time she was scoring, I was getting sent things. The more we watched her, the more we liked what we saw. Knowing that she’s had some consistent performances and coming here off the back of them, I’m excited. She was looking for a good experience and to come and get more game time. Building access to agents is a big help in adding to our tools.”
Wilson discussed how she sees Markussen adding to her team’s offensive opportunities. “The attacking third is about executing the key moments, but also allowing players the freedom to know where to get into spaces to hurt teams.”
The Jets head coach revealed that the Norweigian will arrive in the country by 12th November and will not have to quarantine for any period, but this will not be the last addition to the squad that the club will announce.
“We’ve still got a few players to finalize, but in the coming weeks, everyone will see what we’ve got.”
Wilson was asked if the arrival of Markussen would help Jets star Tara Andrews. The Newcastle head coach felt that the Norwegian international would have a wider impact.
“Yes, but we’ve got a lot of players around Tara too. Bringing Marie in will add to that and to the training environment. At the moment (speaking on Tuesday) we’re four days and six sessions into training. We’ve got people now to play off each other. The more time the players get together, the better the relationships will form and that will transfer into being more clinical and effective upfront.”
In terms of how the early training sessions have gone, Wilson identified “Laura Allen and Sunny Franco have come back pretty fit, but to be fair, we did fitness testing on the first day and all the girls were pretty fit. A lot of them surprised me in how they had come back from lockdown and all of them are motivated.
“At this level, you want the players who have the drive and internal motivation. We can give them all the tactics in the world and you have to be able to technically execute what you want to do, but you have to have the drive to have those standards day in, day out, and to drive others. Everyone is behind that.”
Hannah Brewer Faces the Media:
Also talking to the media this week was Jets stalwart Hannah Brewer. The 28-year-old was part of the club’s inaugural squad as a 15-year-old in 2008. It’s clear that the right-back is raring to go for her fourteenth season in the competition.
Brewer first spoke about how happy she is to be back on the training field with her teammates after the difficulties she experienced training by herself down on the Central Coast during the five months of lockdown. Although Brewer revealed that she had one of her teammates in her ears during those solitary days.
“One week back, it’s exciting, the girls are fighting fit which is really good to see, especially during the Covid period. It was a very difficult time doing fitness in isolation. Some of the girls had running partners at the Oval here which was nice for them, but down on the Central Coast, I was isolated which made it hard. I gave Cass(idy Davis) a call whilst I did running which really helped and we got through it.
“I’m not going to lie, it was really tough, but Cass was amazing. She’d call me every other day and say ‘Come on! You gotta get out of bed and do this!’ Then I had to juggle it with working from home as well, so yeah, without Cass and my teammates around me, I would have struggled. I did know though that I had to come back fit. I’d have my air pods in my ears whilst out running around the field and she’d be yelling at me! She’ll be a great coach one day. I’ve still got her voice in my head!”
“There is huge excitement all around – as a squad coming back together and to see the new faces. From the first week back in training they’ve fitted in well and now the news of Marie Markussen joining. We’ve been waiting years to get an international signing and it’s finally happened which is super exciting for us as a club and it can only help us to have a successful season.”
Brewer has been playing in the competition since it started. She highlighted what still motivates her to play at a high level.
“I love playing a team sport and being motivated by those around me. Newcastle is a great city to play in. The fan base is huge and we really feel it. We have a great bunch here and even when results don’t go our way, we don’t drop our heads and that shows the sort of character we have in the team and we work for each other which is nice. That keeps me going.
“Last year we worked really hard but our results and where we finished on the table was disappointing. We know how hard we work and with the new additions and having a chance to gel more, we feel we know we can achieve more.”
“A lot of the younger girls who have come through are really showing it in training. The vibe here is better than last year because we’re so excited to be able to be out to train together and see each other again. Mind you, we’ve always had a great vibe here and not always had great results, so hopefully this year is our year!”
Two NWSL Players Sign:
Canberra United this week announced the signing of two international players, with Ally Haran and Chelsee Washington joining the squad for the upcoming A-League Women’s season.
Haran and Washington join United from Orlando Pride, after the side played their season finale in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) last Friday.
Haran spent one season with the Pride, the 25-year-old defender also making brief appearances with Houston Dash and North Carolina Courage.
Speaking to the media via Zoom this week, Haran explained her reasons behind joining Canberra United. “I have lots of teammates who have played in Australia and they have no bad words at all about playing out there. When the opportunity came up I was all for it.”
“I see Australian soccer as a chance to learn and grow plus a chance to play against players I haven’t played against before. Learning a different style and seeing new places is also good.
“Getting game minutes is such a big thing for me. Canberra did really well last season and I want to help them go all the way this year.
“Vicki (Linton) reached out to me and said that she had a spot in the team available. I had a teammate who played with Canberra in 2019, Kayleigh Kurtz, and she absolutely loved it. I talked about it to her a little bit. She said the city was awesome and it was a great group of girls. I liked the way that Vicki talked about the team and what their goals were for the year and it fitted well with what I want to do.
“Coming over with Chelsee is really exciting, we actually lived across the hall from each other this year and it’s great I’ll know someone already which will help with the transition.”
In terms of her favoured position, Haran said how she likes to “play with an organized backline so we don’t have too many ‘oh no’ moments. I’m pretty speedy so I’m good at shutting down things when we need to.”
Chelsee Washington was then introduced to the media on Zoom. The midfielder was selected by the Orlando Pride in 2020 out of Bowling Green State University. She made 10 appearances for Pride in 2021, and started two matches. She spoke of her excitement about making the move to Canberra.
“The women’s league in Australia has been known to be a catalyst for development and an overall incredible opportunity for younger players like myself to grow and learn,” Washington said.
“I’m especially excited to play for Canberra because from what I’ve seen, this team has an incredible fan base and prioritizes unity which are two exciting components to be a part of.”
She outlined her hopes for her time in Australia’s capital: “Basically I want to end the season as a better player to the one I start with. I haven’t played many games. I’ve done a lot of concentrating and growing off the field and get experience in another country.
“I hope my time at Canberra will do everything for me in making me a better player. It’s been very inconsistent for me at Orlando Pride for the last two years, first with Covid last year and this year with coaching changes.
“I am a natural midfielder, but this season with Pride I found myself in a wide forward position which is not, in my opinion where I’m best. When I spoke to Vicki she said that she sees me as a holding midfield and dictating the tempo of the attack. I’m excited to play a deeper role.”
Washington then spoke about some of the frustrations she has experienced at Orlando Pride over the past two years which have made her so excited to get game time in the A-League Women competition.
“I would say that the last two years have taught me a lot about mentality. There has been a lot of training with few games, so there’s been little payoff. Vicki asked me about bringing competitiveness to the club when I come and I was like, ‘Don’t worry about that!’ When you train for months and there’s no games for you the slightest thing makes you competitive!
“There’s been some questionable calls by our coaching staff (at Orlando Pride) and it’s been frustrating. This (coming to Canberra United) is going to be like a breath of fresh air. I’m excited to get games and not be so bottled up I guess.”
In terms of how contact was first made between Washington and Canberra United coach Vicki Linton, she revealed it was in the form of an early morning text. “I saw it and shot up on my bed and she asked if I could get on a call with her right away. The timing of it in Australian time I think would have been around two hours before midnight. I spoke to her for about an hour before I had my first morning coffee so I had to pitch myself the best I could! The club sounds a really good fit for me, so I can’t wait to just get going.
“Coming over with Ally is great. She said to me ‘I heard you were going to Canberra!’ and I was like ‘Who told you that?!’ We’ve been talking about it for a few weeks and we’re super excited. We hang out a lot already, so it is super cool to know someone already.
The pair will arrive in Australia at the end of the week and will join the squad on Monday.
Experienced Queenslander Tathem Returns Home:
Brisbane Roar has welcomed another experienced Queenslander back into its A-League Women’s squad with Natalie Tathem returning to her hometown team.
Tathem, 25, returns to the Roar for her fifth season in orange following a stint with Grand Final winners Melbourne Victory. The versatile defender or midfielder enjoyed Premiership success in Brisbane in 2017/18 and now reunites with Head Coach Garrath McPherson, who was an assistant to Mel Andreatta at that time.
“I’m super pumped to be back. It’s home being here, which is nice,” Tathem said.
“I only left last year for a new experience, a new challenge. This year, coming back from injury, I think it’s going to be better to be around the people I know, and know that I’m supported and at home, and in a familiar environment. It’s home to be at the Roar.”
Though her time in Melbourne was impacted by a Round one injury, Tathem has now been part of two successful squads at the top level and looks forward to sharing her wisdom with younger team-mates.
“I think being involved with that Premiership-winning team four years ago, and even last year being around those girls through to the Championship, I’ve been around enough teams now to know what it takes to get to that end product,” she said. “That’s what everyone wants. I think I’m going to be able to help the younger girls and new girls bring that winning mentality, that intensity you need every session, the one-percenters to put in to get us, hopefully, to the Grand Final.”
McPherson said: “It’s awesome to have another Queenslander return home for the season. Nat brings experience, leadership, and positivity to our team. She is another player who was developed in Queensland and made her debut at the top level for Brisbane.
“I have admired her dedication and love for the game that has been on show as she returns from the injury she sustained last season.”
Further Three From NSW Added:
With the Wellington Phoenix A-League Women’s team now based in Wollongong NSW, the inaugural squad continues to take shape with Australian players Brianna Edwards, Jordan Jasnos, and Hannah Jones signing with the team on Wednesday.
Edwards is an 18-year-old goalkeeper who played in the Football New South Wales (FNSW) Institute programme last season. Edwards has been involved with both the Junior Matildas and Future Matildas programmes and in 2020 was selected into the NSW’s inaugural Women’s State team side for a ‘State of Origin’ clash against Queensland. As a dual citizen, Edwards will be eligible to play for New Zealand at the U20’s Women’s World Cup in Costa Rica in 2022.
Jasnos is an 18-year-old Australian attacker who has also progressed through the FNSW Institute setup – playing alongside Edwards last season – and in 2019 appeared in the AFC U-16 Women’s Championship where she scored three goals over in matches, including the winner against Vietnam which secured the Matildas’ qualification.
In June this year, Jasnos participated in the 2021 NSW All Schools Championships for Westfields Sports HS, earning a place on the All Schools Merit Girls Team, while also appearing with Edwards for NSW in the State of Origin match versus Queensland.
Jones, 19, has been involved with the Newcastle Jets development side since the age of 14 where she has trained alongside the Jets A-League Women’s team, before joining Sydney University FC for the 2021 WNPL Season. Jones also gained national attention in 2019, when she participated in the AFC U-16 Women’s Championship held in Thailand.
Wellington Phoenix head coach Gemma Lewis spoke of her delight of securing these three youngsters. “It’s great for the Club to have these three talented Australian players – all with Junior Matildas experience – onboard for the coming season,” says Lewis. “Given their ages, what these three girls have achieved in the NSW football space over the past several years is impressive; they’ll now be taking the next step in their careers with the Phoenix and we’ll help them to continue developing their skills as professional players.”
The Phoenix Women’s squad now stands at 18 players heading into the pre-season, with the team’s first match scheduled for Friday 3rd December versus Western Sydney Wanderers at WIN Stadium, Wollongong.
First A-League Women Kit Revealed:
For the first time in Club history, Wellington Phoenix have launched a range of Paladin-branded retail kits and team apparel for both its men’s and women’s teams for the upcoming A-League 21/22 Season.
The home jersey brings back the iconic black and yellow stripes design that has been popular with the club fanbase over the years. The women’s kit is currently blank, pending confirmation of a major sponsor. The away kit continues with the aqua look first launched by the Club last season, with a fresh new design introduced by Paladin in September which was well-received by fans across Australasia.
Phoenix’s David Dome said: “We absolutely love the look of this season’s playing kit – we think it’s the best kit in the league – and it’s exciting for us to be launching a women’s-specific kit for the first time; it’s an important step in the right direction for this Club.”
The Phoenix Women’s team will take to the field in their new home jersey on Friday 3 December at WIN Stadium, Wollongong when they take on the Western Sydney Wanderers for their first-ever A-League match.