Ben Gilby brings a round-up of the media events this week from fice A-League Women clubs which includes full coverage of three MASSIVE signings as he hears from Emily van Egmond, Lynn Williams, and Alex Chidiac. There’s also coverage of Rebekah Stott‘s media conference where she spoke about her return to senior football after battling Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Elsewhere, there are media conferences from Canberra United and Wellington Phoenix ahead of their Round Two games as he heard from Keeley Richards and Gemma Lewis (9/12/21).
Above: Back at home training – Emily van Egmond at Newcastle Jets. Photo: @NewcastleJetsFC
NEWCASTLE JETS: Emily Van Egmond Returns Home on Short-Term Loan
Wednesday saw Newcastle Jets announce the signing of home town Matildas star Emily van Egmond on loan for a short period, which is likely to be three matches.
The 28-year-old midfielder made her debut with the Jets when she was 15 and has since enjoyed multiple stints with the Club while also featuring in the National Women’s Soccer League in USA, the FA Women’s Super League in England, and over 110 games for the Matildas.
Van Egmond last donned the Jets jersey in 2018 when she captained the team to a fantastic season, finishing just one game short of an A-League Women’s Grand Final.
Speaking to the media about her return, the midfielder with 112 Matildas caps said: “The season in the USA ended, and I was here for our games with the USA and the Asia Cup is coming up quickly (January), so it’s really important for the national team that I get games during this period. I missed a lot of games post-Olympics, so I need to play.
“Newcastle is home. I’m only here for a short stint. I’m excited to play with the girls and I’ve played with many of them before. I’ve played with some of them since we were all 12-years-old. Playing for your hometown team is special.
“It’s special here. Players I’ve played with for years – Hannah Brewer, Cass Davis, Tara Andrews. It’s great to see they are so dedicated to one club and being part of the leadership here.
Van Egmond also identified some of the local players that have caught her eye recently: “Young Kirsty Fenton has a lot of potential. She’s got athletic capability, she’s aggressive, and she’s got speed and the way the women’s game is going now, that’s important. Hopefully, she can keep developing, progressing, and get some game time.”
Finally, the midfielder looked ahead to what is likely to be her debut this weekend. “This week is a new week, we’re playing a team in Wellington that no-one is really familiar with. It’s great to have them in the league.
Head Coach Ash Wilson said she was ecstatic to have Van Egmond at the Club once more.
“Emily is a world-class player and Newcastle is her home so to be able to have her put on the Jets jersey again is exciting for the community and the Club,” Wilson said.
“She brings so much to the team in terms of experience, technical and tactical quality, and a winning mentality.”
Wilson made mention of not just what Van Egmond’s skill and experience adds to the team on the field, but the squad, Club, and community off of it as well.
“For us, this signing also demonstrates the commitment from the Club to keep improving and pushing to be more successful,” she said.
“Emily has already been training with us, preparing for her US matches and the lessons being learned from younger, less experienced players around training ethic and attitude have already been invaluable.
“I’m excited to see her back in gold playing a positive, attacking brand of football, and I know she is motivated to contribute to a successful campaign for this community.”
Van Egmond will line up this Friday night for her return game as the side takes on Wellington Phoenix as part of a Double Header at McDonald Jones Stadium.
MELBOURNE VICTORY: Double Delight At Signings Tempered By Morrison Woe
There was both exciting and heartbreaking news for the defending champions this week.
Sunday brought the announcement that they have added another star to their already strong squad as USWNT player Lynn Williams was introduced to the crowd at AAMI Park on their matchday with Adelaide United. This was followed on Thursday by the revelation that Matildas star Alex Chidiac has joined the club on a season-long loan from the Japanese side JEF United Chiba.
The 28-year-old Williams joins the Club from the North Carolina Courage in the NWSL until 7th January on a short-term loan. During her time at the Courage, the American-born winger made 79 appearances for the club, scoring 41 goals.
Williams has also represented her country 45 times, most notably representing the US team in their bronze medal finish at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, and returns to the A-League after a short stint with Western Sydney Wanderers in 2019/20.
Melbourne Victory Liberty A-League Head Coach Jeff Hopkins said Williams will add another level of experience and professionalism to his Championship-winning squad.
“We’re incredibly pleased to have someone of Lynn’s calibre joining the squad for the season,” Hopkins said.
“Her speed and agility in the final third are what sets Lynn apart from many players at her level and to have her join our attacking line is an exciting prospect.
“Lynn’s career in the NWSL speaks for itself, winning a range of team and individual accolades in the competition, and we believe that her winning mentality will help us in our quest for silverware this season.”
Williams said she’s looking forward to returning to the Liberty A-League and playing with Melbourne Victory.
“I’m thrilled to be back in Australia and joining Melbourne Victory in an exciting time for women’s football in this country,” Williams said.
“Jeff and the girls have been the team to beat and to be joining the squad for the upcoming season is an exciting opportunity.”
Looking ahead to the big derby this weekend against City, Williams said: “I hope to be playing. I have a bit of a calf strain, it’s not bothering me at all. It will depend on the medical team, on how they see it.”
In terms of the maximum four games that Williams could have in a Victory shirt, the USWNT star just wants to add to the team ethos at the club. “I’m going to bring what makes me Lynn to the field. I’m a fast, pacey forward, and if I can help to get the team into a place to help them on their way to a Grand Final, great. But I am here to do whatever I can for the team. If that’s being a cheerleader or coming off the bench that’s fine! But I’d love to do what I can on the pitch for the team.”
With previous experience in the competition with Western Sydney Wanderers, Williams knows the league well. Explaining why she specifically chose to sign for Melbourne Victory, she explained: “Melbourne feels like home for me, my partner is from here. Because of the pandemic, it was important for me to come here so we can spend time together. I feel so at peace when I am here. Every person in the club is so gracious, how could I not want to be here?
“I want to work on things here, sharpen up and take on players. Coming here is an exciting team and after the difficulties in the NWSL this year, with the sexual assault cases, it has been tough. So it’s a good thing.
“Victory has so many great front players. Like the USWNT, they are an attacking team and a good transitional team. The competition is very different since I was last here. The likes of Steph Catley and Ellie Carpenter are not here anymore, but it’s great how the young players are coming through. I can see that since 2018/19 their numbers have really grown.”
Williams’ move to Victory sees her team up with Courtney Nevin and Kyra Cooney-Cross once more – two players who she really rates. “It’s great to be with them again. They have so many great attributes, so much potential and they are national team players. They are super. Nevin was great in the backline in the friendlies with the US. Kyra is so dangerous and can dribble well and always find the right pass. Being young is their best attribute as they are willing to soak up all the information and they want to try everything. They make me laugh too!”
In terms of Williams’ view of the Matildas from the recent friendlies, she said: “They put out a young team, but so did we. They were two great games and both sides learned a lot about themselves. Australia came out and played well.”
Melbourne Victory can also confirm the signing of goalkeeper Sophia Varley and the elevation of Alana Murphy to a senior contract for the upcoming season.
Melbourne Victory’s squad got even stronger on Thursday with the announcement that Matildas midfielder Alex Chidiac has joined the club.
The 22-year-old comes to Victory on loan from the Japanese side JEF United Chiba where the Australian spent the 2021 season in the WE League.
The diminutive midfielder has 17 national team caps to her name, making her international debut at 16 years old for the Matildas against New Zealand in 2015.
Chidiac’s club career has seen her represent Melbourne City and Adelaide United – winning a Championship in 2016 – before heading to Spanish giants Atletico Madrid in 2018 where she made 22 appearances over two seasons for Atleti, netting twice.
Melbourne Victory Liberty A-League Head Coach Jeff Hopkins said Chidiac’s addition will add another element of experience and flair to his side.
“We’re incredibly excited to welcome Alex to the squad for the season as we make the final touches to our Championship defence. At 22, Alex has experience beyond her years, making her A-League Women’s debut at 15, representing her country at 16, and becoming an A-League Women’s Champion at 17.
“Alex has the ability to control the midfield but also move forward and find the back of the net in her attacking role and we can’t wait to see how she will complement our squad this season.”
Chidiac echoed Hopkins sentiment, saying she was excited to return to the A-League. “I’m thrilled to be heading back to Victoria with Melbourne Victory and joining a team that is committed to achieving success this season,” Chidiac said.
“Talking to Jeff, the team’s intentions are to take out the Championship for the second successive season and I want to be a part of that journey. The focus for me is to consistently perform, week in and week out for the team and help the Club achieve their goals.”
Chidiac will be available for selection ahead of Sunday’s Melbourne Derby at AAMI Park.
Less happy news came in the form that scans have confirmed that club captain Kayla Morrison has ruptured her anterior cruciate ligament and will miss the rest of the A-League Women season.
The defender sustained the injury in the first half of the side’s opening round clash against Adelaide United at AAMI Park.
Head Coach Jeff Hopkins said that he was devastated by the news but felt Kayla would return stronger
“Our worst fears were answered today with the news of Kayla’s injury and she’ll be a massive loss to the squad for the remainder of the season,” Hopkins said.”Everyone at the Club – from the Men’s and Women’s teams to the administration staff – has shown their support for Kayla and we will do everything we can to help Kayla return to the pitch.
“Lia Privitelli will take the captain’s armband on the pitch for the rest of the season but Kayla will still be instrumental to our title defence with her leadership off the pitch.”
Kayla will undergo surgery this week as she prepares for her rehabilitation. On behalf of everyone at the Club, we wish Kayla a speedy recovery.
MELBOURNE CITY: Rebekah Stott Speaks After Senior Return
After making her return to top-flight Australian women’s football in Round One after coming back from Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, Rebekah Stott admitted she felt “pretty terrible” after the game given how long it had been since she had played in such a match, however, she feels she is more than ready to play a full role in this weekend’s Melbourne derby against Victory.
“It was incredible, so nice to be back (against Canberra United last week). I was a bit disappointed with how we played in the first half, but I was thrilled to be back on the field, it was so much fun.
“By the time the game with Victory comes round, I’ll be right and ready to go. We were happy with the result in Canberra last week. Rado (Vidisic, head coach) felt our performance in the first half wasn’t good enough. We need to build on that and start strong this time.
“At Canberra, it was really nerves that got us in the first half. We needed to keep the ball and we did it a lot better in the second half. For myself, I had to work on being in a new position on the field. Me playing at six was something Rado and I discussed back in July. He wanted to be more attacking and hopefully set up some goals, so that was in the plan from the very start.
“It’s not totally new, I’ve always driven out from the back from centre-back and I’m quite comfortable driving up the field.”
With New Zealand having a number of potential options at centre-back, Stott emphasizes how her change of role at City will help her future with the Football Ferns too. “Being versatile is a good attribute. The more experience I can get playing at six the better.
“I was really gutted not to go to South Korea (to play with New Zealand in a recent international window), but it was a bit too soon. I’m hoping that by the time the next window comes round in February I’ll be ready.
CANBERRA UNITED: Keeley Richards Looks Ahead To Adelaide Clash
“Ah, it was so good to be back out there last week, pre-season was long!” Canberra United’s goalkeeper said smiling as she faced the media on Tuesday of this week.
“Obviously it was a disappointing result. We can definitely play better as a team, so now we will aim to go one better this week.
“Personally I was happy with my performance, although there are things I can get better with. I know where my bar is set now after that performance getting player of the match, so I need to keep making sure I get above that every week.”
With this being Richards’ second campaign with Canberra, she identified how differently she feels this time around. “I’m much more confident this time in my second season. I know what the crowd is like, what the venue is like, and knowing the girls well.
“Everyone gets along well at the club. Although Grace (Maher) is playing at the back now, she’s Grace Maher, so she’s great at it! It’s great knowing the quality I have in front of me. Having Karly Roestbakken back – she has that air of calm and confidence around her – having her in front of me is just another great thing for us.”
With Canberra’s opposition this weekend, Adelaide United also having lost their Round One game, Richards expects a tough challenge. “Look, I don’t think their result (a 5-1 loss at Melbourne Victory) really reflected how they played. Casey (Dumont) had a great game in goal for Victory. Adelaide created a lot of chances, so we need to be careful in what we do.
WELLINGTON PHOENIX: Lewis Focuses On Her Team’s Attributes
Wellington Phoenix are out to create more history in their second A-League women’s match tomorrow.
Gemma Lewis’ side travels up the New South Wales coast tomorrow night to face the Jets at McDonald Jones Stadium in Newcastle, seven days after they earned a first-ever point in their historic season opener in Wollongong against Western Sydney Wanderers.
That result has raised expectations.
“We always going to approach every game trying to win it…but I think the difference is it’s probably more realistic,” Lewis told media on the eve of the match.
“It’s not like we’re selling them a dream. I think the players are definitely believing they could get a result out of this game.
“Ideally as a team, we’d be really happy if we built on what we did last week. If we can use last week as the standard and then add and build then we’d be happy and we’d hope from that hopefully we’d get a result because of it.”
Lewis says the players are hungry too and she’s hoping “that’ll drive them on to hopefully have another good performance. From the players’ point of view, they’re wanting to prove themselves a little bit as well. I think some of them feel a little bit underestimated.
“That’s helping us push a little bit more and continue that drive and continue that momentum to see if we can prove people a little bit wrong.”
Opponents now know what to expect from the Phoenix, but Lewis believes her side are still going to be underdogs against Newcastle.
“They’ll definitely be targeting us to get three points. A home game, a double-header for them they’re definitely going to be pushing to get a result against us. But we saw moments of some of their defensive transition, of some of their play out that we thought we could exploit in our press and hopefully exploit in a counter-attack.”
Lewis knows that plans for the game will need to be altered after the Jets announcement about signing Matildas midfielder Emily van Egmond on a short-term contract.
“She’s a world-class player so I think it definitely gives them a lot more confidence. But it doesn’t change anything for us going in. Our players knew they were going to be the underdogs. They knew the players they were playing against were going to be more experienced than them and technically seen as better players than them, but it just gives them another challenge.
“They’ve not really got anything to lose. If you’re playing in the midfield against van Egmond and you end up doing really well that makes people stand up and look at you.
“She’s expected to do well, whereas an Izzy Gomez or a Grace Wisnewski against her probably are expected to maybe get run over by her, but if they don’t then they’re the ones that end up looking good.”
Forward Kelli Brown has defied the odds and recovered from the ankle injury which kept her out of the season opener, but on the eve of the match, a decision had yet to be made on whether she would feature against Newcastle.
“We’re still at the moment umming and ahing on whether or not we’re going to use her for this game. If we were to use her for this game, she’d be limited so she’d be used as a substitute. That’s all she would have been cleared for terms of minutes.”
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