Australian and NZ Round-up

Ben Gilby brings you all the events from this week’s A-League Women press conferences. He hears from newly announced signings at Melbourne Victory, Adelaide United, Newcastle Jets, and Wellington Phoenix, plus Canberra United’s latest media day and Adelaide United’s joint training session. There’s also the details on the full season fixture announcement and the setting up of the National Indigenous Advisory Group.

Above: United in name and actions – Adelaide United’s women’s and men’s teams together in today’s joint training and fan’s day. See below for more on this event. Photo supplied to Impetus by: Adelaide United.

A-League Women’s Full Season Fixture List Revealed:

More games at some of the country’s leading football venues and expanded broadcast coverage are among the highlights of the full A-League Women’s season draw that was released on Tuesday.

Featuring 32 doubleheaders among 70 regular-season games, along with an expanded finals series, the new campaign will be contested by 10 teams for the first time after the admission of Wellington Phoenix to the competition.

Originally, border restrictions and quarantine requirements had meant only the first four rounds could be drawn up previously.

The 32 doubleheaders will be played at grounds with the highest level of broadcast capability, while at least a further six standalone games will also be played at Tier One venues.

With this season featuring the inaugural A-Leagues Club Championship, a trophy awarded to the club with the most success across both the men’s and women’s leagues, the doubleheaders will offer fans “six-pointers” in the battle to be crowned Australia’s most successful football club overall.

The season kicks off on 3rd December with the debut of Wellington Phoenix’ women’s team, who take on Western Sydney Wanderers FC at WIN Stadium.  Reigning champions, Melbourne Victory will launch their campaign for back-to-back championships on 4th December as they take on Adelaide United at AAMI Park.

The first four rounds of the season will be played under a conference system before the relaxation of state borders and quarantine rules allows for the draw to return to a national basis. Information on these previously announced games can be read here:

Above: Greg O’Rourke, A-Leagues Commissioner. Photo: The Australian.

Speaking about the final fixture release, A-Leagues Commissioner Greg O’Rourke said: ”An absolute priority for us has been to ensure the highest levels of broadcast quality for the A-Leagues Women games this season, and the draw as it has been laid out allows us to do precisely that.”

“The doubleheaders we have scheduled allow our clubs to stage both their men’s and women’s teams in top-quality stadiums for their fans.

“We’re also delighted to welcome Wellington Phoenix Women into the competition, giving us more games than ever before.”

Wellington Phoenix are now slated to play a minimum of two home games in Wellington the opening two and a half months of the campaign based in Wollongong, New South Wales.

Phoenix General Manager, David Dome, says that the inclusion of at least two A-League Women’s matches to be played in New Zealand – scheduled for February and March next year – will be exciting for fans on this side of the Tasman. “We know fans in New Zealand are very keen to see our inaugural A-League Women’s side in person during this coming season, so we’re delighted to be able to bring the squad home. We hope Phoenix fans and the wider sporting fanbase mark these dates in their calendars as matches to look out for.”

Perth Glory may be able to host some home games in Western Australia, with their home venue to be announced amidst speculation that they will be moving away from their long-time home of Dorrien Gardens.

The A-League Women finals series will be expanded to include a preliminary final,  before culminating in the grand final on 27 March 2022.  The additional round offers the season’s first and second-placed teams two options to make the grand final, with third and fourth places facing a sudden-death playoff. 

Tickets are available via club websites for opening rounds, with the following rounds to be released shortly. The full week-by-week fixture list can be seen here:!/fixtures/s2021/r1

Victory Re-Sign Duo:

Artwork: Melbourne Victory

Melbourne Victory announced the re-signing of Maja Markovski and Emma Robers on Wednesday ahead of the 2021/22 A-League Women’s season.

Markovski returns for her second campaign with the Club after making five appearances during the 2020/21 Championship-winning season. The 19-year-old forward will be joined by Robers who returns to the Club after her first stint at Victory in 2019/20.

After an ACL injury derailed her 2020/21 campaign, Robers returns to the Melbourne Victory where she took part in the AFC Women’s Club Championship in 2019.

With the A-League Women’s season fast approaching, Head Coach Jeff Hopkins said the re-signings will help continue his side’s push towards defending their title.

“We’re confident our squad has what it takes to go back-to-back this season as we lay the foundations to create something special,” Hopkins said. “Maja will continue to add another element to our final third as she masters her craft as a young forward in the A-League.

“Emma has been an incredible professional during her ACL recovery and we’ve rewarded her with a contract this season. We’re hoping she can get back to the form that saw her impress in the WNPL in 2019.”

Melbourne Victory begin their 2021/22 A-League Women’s campaign on Sunday 5 December against Adelaide United at AAMI Park, kick-off 4.05pm.

Adelaide United Add A Further Two Players And Host Joint Training Day:

On Wednesday, Adelaide United announced the signing of midfielders Emma Stanbury and Nanako Sasaki for the A-League Women 2021/22 season.

Artwork: Adelaide United

Stanbury has previous A-League Women’s experience, playing two seasons in the competition with Newcastle Jets in 2016/17 and later Canberra United in the 2019/20 iteration.

The 30-year-old has also spent time in the NPL NSW Women’s league with the likes of Sydney University, North West Sydney Women’s Koalas, and Bankstown City.

Stanbury returned to the nation’s capital last year from Bankstown City where she had a brief stint with Tuggeranong United, before spending this campaign at West Canberra Wanderers, scoring two goals in nine games in the CF Women’s top flight.

Speaking on joining the Club, Stanbury said: “Signing with Adelaide is a really exciting opportunity for me.

“I’ve spoken to Adrian (Stenta) and I’m really impressed by the project they’re continuing to build and becoming a part of that plan.

“We have a relatively young, but talented, squad so I’m looking forward to bringing my experience and gelling with the group as soon as possible.”

Adelaide United’s A-League Women’s Head Coach, Adrian Stenta, said: “Emma is a smart footballer with lots of experience and I think she’ll be a big inclusion to our team.

“I believe we’ve built a really promising and competitive squad that will give us a great chance for success and Emma will definitely compliment us well. “We’re just a couple more signings away from completing the squad, so stay tuned for further announcements over the coming days.”

Artwork: Adeliade United

Nanako Sasaki has been one of the best players in the South Australian Women’s National Premier League since her arrival in 2017.

The impressive midfielder spent four seasons with Adelaide City winning several team and individual honours before switching to Adelaide Comets at the start of this year.

With Comets this campaign, Sasaki scored four goals in 24 games and was recently named in the WNPL SA Team of the Year for the third consecutive season.

Speaking after putting pen-to-paper with the Club, Sasaki said: “This is really exciting for me to progress as a footballer and I really appreciate this opportunity.

“Ever since arriving in Australia one of my goals has been to play in the A-League Women competition and I’m really happy that dream is closer to coming true.

“I can’t wait for the season to begin and I’m looking forward to working with Adrian (Stenta), his coaching staff, and a great group of girls.”

Adelaide United’s A-League Women Head Coach, Adrian Stenta, said: “Nanako is a player we have monitored for a while and is one of the best players currently in the WNPL SA.

“She is a technically gifted player who will provide a lot of composure and balance to our midfield.

“Although she has never played at the A-League Women level before, I’m confident she will make a seamless adjustment given her quality.”

Above: Emily Condon, speaking at today’s Adelaide United joint training and fans day. Photo supplied to Impetus by: Adelaide United.

Earlier today, Adelaide United ran a joint training event and fans day involving both their A-League Women and Men’s teams.

Speaking at the event, United star Emily Condon said: “It’s really good to join both of the teams together, and also to have the fans out here too. It really unites the club and that’s what we’re all about.”

Condon then highlighted how pre-season has been going so far. “It’s been great, we’ve been back for a few weeks now, we still have some of the players to come in, but it’s all about getting together for as much practice before the season starts.

“Last season was our best season yet, but it was so heartbreaking to miss out (on Finals) by just one goal. We’re looking to build on that and obviously, it’s a massive motivating factor.”

The midfielder, who is approaching her ninth season at the club spoke about the growth in the game over her career and how the next few years are the biggest yet. “I’ve been around the game for quite a few years now and to see it finally unite as one – not just our men’s and women’s, but the league too. Women’s football is just growing and growing. It’s a very exciting time to be in the game.”

Above: Action from today’s joint training session and fans day at Adelaide United with A-League men’s player Isaías Sánchez on the ball. Photo supplied to Impetus by: Adelaide United

Condon outlined her hopes to be part of a home World Cup in a Matildas shirt: “It’s always been a goal of mine. I’ve been on the extended squad list for quite some time, so any minute now I might get my first call up, but it’s all about me doing the best I can.

“Athletes want to represent their national team and it’s something I want to push for, but for now I want to be playing my best football here for Adelaide United week in week out.”

With Dylan Holmes and Charlotte Grant departing the club during the last W-League season, the Port Pirie-born player was asked about how she thinks they’ve been getting on “It’s been great to see what they’ve done overseas and they deserve to be winning things. They are two amazing players and there are plenty more to come out of Adelaide for the national team. I support them 100% and hope Dylan can make it back into the national squad, she really deserves it and it’s great to see Charlotte Grant out there.”

Finally, Condon touched on last season’s final home game which was played at Coopers Stadium against Western Sydney Wanderers in front of a record crowd for a stand-alone W-League game. “All of the girls loved it. It would be good to have more games here and make it one of our home grounds for the seasons to come.”

Adelaide United A-League men’s star Isaías Sánchez also spoke of his pride in being part of a club that integrates their women’s and men’s teams together so closely: “This is a family club, the club tries to do everything to bring people together, the fans, the players and those who work hard in the offices here. We are one community and I am very proud to be involved.”

Canberra United Media Conference:

Above: Canberra United’s Lauren Keir – shared with the media her thoughts of training so far. Photo: The Canberra Times.

Lauren Keir and Chloe Middleton were part of Canberra United’s media event this Tuesday.

Keir began by discussing the pre-season training routine so far. “It’s been great, I’m really enjoying it so far. It’s quite similar to last season as we have the core group back with some additional players who have come in and fitted in well. It’s going to be difficult for everyone to get into the team as we’ve got a strong squad this season. I’m really looking forward to it.

“The girls that Vicki (Linton, head coach) have brought in are great. We have a goal in place and we want to achieve it together. They are unique and we all just want to work for each other. We all have a work ethic in us, so I feel it will really go well for us this season. As someone who has been here for quite a while (since 2017). They are really stepping up and quite competitive at training – everyone’s really working hard.”

With the full A-League Women fixture list for all teams now revealed (see above), the 25-year-old defender is hugely positive about the way the games have fallen for the capital city side: “We’ve had a look and feel it’s a really good draw for us, but our main focus is Round one against Melbourne City.

“It will be really exciting being back at Viking Park. The whole team want to be back in front of our fans.”

Above: Chloe Middleton, settling in at Canberra United despite there being no beach! Photo: Western Sydney Wanderers.

New signing Chloe Middleton, who joined Canberra United from Western Sydney Wanderers spoke of her initial experiences at her new club.

“It’s been really good, the girls have been so welcoming. Training has been hard, but good. Canberra’s nice too. Originally I thought ‘Ah! No beach!’ but there’s lots of things to do and there’s good cafes too!

“Everyone is looking really fit in training and our new American signings Ally Haran and Chelsee Washington arrived yesterday and had their first training session with us and they fitted in really well.

“For me, although I’ve come in from outside, I feel like I’ve known the girls for a long time

Looking ahead to the new season with the full fixture list now out, Middleton felt happy with the schedule. “We’ve had a look and, yeah, it’s a good draw. Having been in the competition for two and a years now, I’d really like to see a full home and away season because it’s unfair for teams who can play a harder team twice or an easier team twice. It would just make more sense for a full home and away season.”

Jets Unveil Bethany Gordon:

Artwork: Newcastle Jets.

Yesterday, Newcastle Jets announced the signing of former Young Matilda Bethany Gordon who made her professional debut with Canberra United at the age of 19. She has most recently spent time playing in Denmark.

Head Coach Ash Wilson said the youngster will bring versatility and competition to the squad.

“Bethany has a great work-rate and clear technical quality,” said the Jets head coach.

“She had consistent and impressive performances when playing for Macarthur in the NSW NPL Women’s, and she has also played in the W-League, in Denmark, and toured with the Young Matildas. She brings a level of experience and composure into the squad and a strong competitive drive that will add value to our environment.”

Gordon said she couldn’t wait to get underway in her new colours.

“The playing group and staff are fantastic and the facilities are really awesome. It is a tremendous opportunity to play at the top level in the country again. I hope to have a really positive experience and to contribute to the team and the overall goals for the season.”

Phoenix Announce Arrival of Martin:

Artwork: Wellington Phoenix.

Wellington Phoenix unveiled the signing of Australian defender Annabel Martin on Tuesday.

The 23-year-old defender joins the Phoenix squad as its most experienced A-League Women’s player, having played in 40 matches combined for Newcastle Jets and Melbourne Victory over the last five seasons – including 39 starts and only two substitutions off in her career.

Martin was tagged as a player to watch at just 17 years old when she first made her debut with Melbourne Victory in what was then the W-League. Despite being the youngest member of Victory’s back-four, Martin was a standout defender during this campaign – credited on a regular basis with making key defensive plays to prevent her side from conceding a goal.

She would go on to win the 2016 Victory Medal in her third season, playing one more season with Melbourne before moving to New South Wales for her University studies and joining the Jets.

Martin has also played with NPL NSW side Sydney University Soccer Football Club during the W-League offseason, as well as two seasons with Geelong Galaxy in NPL VIC.

Wellington Phoenix Head Coach, Gemma Lewis, says that Martin brings a measure of toughness and experience to an otherwise young squad.

“Every team needs a player like Annabel on and off the pitch; someone who’s been in the trenches and is an experienced player in the A-League competition,” says Lewis.

“We expect Annabel to not only contribute on the field for the Phoenix this season but to be someone who can help show our younger players what it takes to succeed in the professional space.”

Martin, who will wear the number 18 shirt for the Phoenix, will join up with the squad in Wollongong shortly. The Phoenix has now signed 19 players to its women’s squad.

National Indigenous Advisory Group Set-Up:

Above: (Left to Right): Kyah Simon, Tanya Oxtoby, Jade North, Narelda Jacobs, and Frank Farina. Photo: Football Australia

Football Australia this week announced the formation of its National Indigenous Advisory Group who will bring a breadth and depth of knowledge and insight into the current and emerging goals of the Indigenous community across Australia.

A key advisory body for Football Australia, the National Indigenous Advisory Group comprises of nine First Nations community members from diverse cultures, experiences, and intersectionality, who are driving change in a variety of areas; professional and grassroots football, media, academia, and government.

As part of the launch, Football Australia announced the members will include Kenny Bedford, Frank Farina OAM, Selina Holtze, Narelda Jacobs, Professor John Maynard, Doctor Karen Menzies, Jade North, Tanya Oxtoby, and Kyah Simon. 

A Biripi man and former Socceroos defender, Jade North believes the Advisory Group is an important continuation of football’s connection and strengthening relationships with Indigenous Australia.   

“Football is all about unity, diversity and equity and I believe it is important that First Nations people voices are part of the football conversation,” said North. 

“I have seen an increasing connection with First Nations people and football over the past few years.  In some of the tournaments I have been to I see a lot of passion, I see a lot of skill, I see a lot of desire, and everyone is proud of their mob and where they are from. 

“What I would love to see over the next couple of decades for our First Nations people is having a big representation of Indigenous people, in various roles, at all levels of the national teams and domestically.  I would also love to see Indigenous culture deeply intertwined with Australian football, driving the respect and celebration of one of the oldest and continuing culture in the world.”

Above: Matildas and Tottenham Hotspur star Kyah Simon, part of the National Indigenous Advisory Group. Photo: Athletes Voice

Football Australia CEO, James Johnson, said that the establishment of the National Indigenous Advisory Group is another step in Football Australia’s journey to connect authentically with football’s Indigenous heritage and future. 

“This is a momentous day for football in Australia.  The National Indigenous Advisory Group will bring to the forefront the voices, lived experience, and rich knowledge that can only come from First Nations people,” said Johnson. 

“Our Indigenous heritage is a critical component of Australian football’s identity and story.  First Nations participation and elite representation within football dates to the 1930s with pioneering names such as Charlie Perkins, Harry Williams, Karen Menzies, and John Moriarty.  To provide the opportunity for the next generation to continue in this tradition and to strengthen Indigenous participation at all levels of the game, we need to create stronger pathways and ensure we foster an environment that welcomes and embraces.

“The collective leadership of the group will play an integral role in guiding Football Australian as we take important steps towards becoming a leader in our work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.”

Anaiwan and Biripi woman and Matildas forward, Kyah Simon said that the embrace of First Nations people in football will be beneficial for all.  

“I think it is important to have First Nations voices in football as Indigenous peoples have a lot to offer the game,” said Simon. 

“The future for football for our First Nations people is bright, exciting and I can’t wait to see down the track what investment, time, and opportunity in our people will give us. 

“I would love to see the opportunities I have had in football provided to others across the game.  I am proud to be part of a collective group that can assist in the elevation of their voices and helps build strategies and processes to engage more First Nations people in our game.”

Above: Tanya Oxtoby, former Perth Glory player and Bristol City Women head coach, now Emma Hayes’ assistant at Chelsea. She was named this week as a member of the National Indigenous Advisory Group. Photo: The Telegraph.

Football Australia’s National Indigenous Advisory Group will focus on:

·         Supporting the ongoing cultural safety for football’s Indigenous participants to assist in retaining First Nations players, coaches, support staff, administrators, and in governance.

·         Evaluation and advice on football pathways and programs designed to drive social outcomes.

·         Guidance on future strategic partnerships and employment strategies.

·         Promotion of reconciliation through the ongoing engagement and shared development of Football Australia’s Reconciliation Action Plan. 

Jade North will co-chair the Advisory Group alongside Football Australia’s Head of Women’s Football, Women’s World Cup Legacy & Inclusion, Sarah Walsh.

Australian Professional Leagues Launches KEEPUP App:

Artwork: A-League Women

Australian Professional Leagues (APL) unveiled KEEPUP, its unique football content platform on Wednesday.

The KEEPUP digital platform and data infrastructure is currently available as a website or app on both IOS and Android. 

The platform was delivered to broaden and enhance the fan experience, connecting A-Leagues fans and international competition fans in one place. In its current form, the platform will focus on creating and curating content to bring fans close to the game however they choose, with significant expansion planned into the future. 

KEEPUP will feature content from the best of the A-Leagues, European and world football, the Socceroos and Matildas, NPL, and FFA Cup. A-League clubs’ content hubs will also be integrated onto the platform to ensure fans are offered the most comprehensive football resource available in Australia. 

“KEEPUP is a football platform, built by football people for football fans and which delivers a unique experience and provides a central source of news and features to unite the currently fragmented football market. Our digital-first strategy creates the opportunity for our fans to experience what’s happening in the world of football, both on and off the pitch,” said Ant Hearne, Chief Commercial Officer, of the APL. 

KEEPUP will continue to evolve through the season as it adds layers of dedicated coverage, augmented by significant tie-ups with domestic and international content providers. 

KEEPUP will provide insights, in-depth features and analysis on games, transfer news, as well as stories on culture and football identities from a team of football journalists on staff led by Richard Bayliss, Director of Content.

APL will also feature commentary from some of Australia’s football elite including Premier League great Mark Bosnich, Matildas legend Melissa Barbieri and Socceroos captain Matt Leckie.  

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