Ahead of Round Four of the competition, which started today, Ben Gilby heard from three head coaches plus Tiana Jaber on THAT goal, Tara Andrews on putting things right this week, Mie Leth Jans on going into a hub for a month, Kate Taylor on Christmas miles from home, and Alyssa Whinham reviews Phoenix’s last game (23/12/21).
Linton Sees Real Positives In Extra Week Off Ahead Of Big Brisbane Clash
Canberra United head coach Vicki Linton outlined the positives she has seen in the team as a result of having a week off due to their scheduled match in Perth being cancelled due to Western Australia’s Covid border restrictions.
“Sometimes it’s not a good thing (having an extra week off), but I think with where we were at it was nice to have some time to focus, build and spend more time together, so I do think it has been a good thing. This is also a short week for us as we play on Thursday night. It allowed us to get over the Adelaide game (which was played in hot conditions) and the travel as well as time to prepare for the Brisbane match.
“One of the benefits was being able to get a deeper look at our players. It took everyone a long time to get here during pre-season and get on the field, so it’s probably taken us an extra couple of weeks to start to gel and find combinations, so I’m looking to see the results of that on Thursday night.
“Karly Røstbakken got her first ninety minutes in Adelaide for a very long time, so another positive in having the extra time off is recovery for her. That’s massive for her and massive for us. The same goes for a few other players who haven’t played a lot of football. It’s been good for Allira Toby, she should be good from now on in terms of her match fitness.”
In terms of the condition of her squad in general, Linton spoke of how “real pleased” she was with the fitness levels of her players. “The Adelaide game in hot conditions – we haven’t been used to that sort of heat in Canberra this summer so far and we got through that game without anyone cramping.
“Now we need to play with a bit more sharpness and intensity. That’s what we’re building on and we might see that on Thursday.
The game with the Roar takes on added importance with both teams still searching for their first wins this season. “They are a very proud team, and like us, they will be fighting for that win. They’ve had some tough times so I’m expecting them to come down here and battle.”
Ash Wilson: An Honest and Positive Week of Preparation
Newcastle Jets head coach Ash Wilson began by outlining how preparations have gone this week for Monday’s game with Wellington Phoenix at Gosford.
“Training has been good…credit to the girls, we were pretty critical of the performance (against Western Sydney Wanderers last week). There were some great opportunities to get three points which we were not able to capitalize on. We have another game and have to move forward. It’s been a positive week though in training.
“I think honesty is very important – also being honest about the things we did well, and we created lots of chances. Sometimes I think we went long too many times. We need to look at the timings of the game around our management. Wanderers scored their goal right at the end. We had lots of chances between the 60th and 87th minute to put the game to bed. Little things like that we can get better.
“We need to have a good honest look at ourselves. The players are taking feedback on board to make them better. I couldn’t fault the character of the players. It was a challenging week (with Covid issues). People are now able to train now so that’s a positive.”
Jets record this season in their three games is a win, a draw, and a loss. The head coach is clear about what she is looking for from her team. “Consistency is the key word. The previous game against Wellington was dominant but the other games against Western Sydney and Sydney were very patchy. We were not as composed as we should have been at both ends of the field. The girls know what they are capable of, we just need to be doing that week in, week out regardless of who we are playing.”
With Jets recording a 5-1 win over the Phoenix a fortnight ago, Wilson knows “Complacency is potentially there in the background,” but it is not something she sees as a danger for her team. “The girls know that every game is different. Phoenix have nothing to lose, they have great attitudes and great energy. We will focus on us being the best version of ourselves on the park.
“If we play anything less than we did against them last time, then it will give them a sniff. They are a good team, they’ve been in their matches so far. We have to be at our best in order to beat them. Then we can move on to playing City, Victory, Roar, Glory, and Adelaide.”
With Covid outbreaks beginning to show their hand, particularly at A-League Men’s clubs, Wilson outlined what work the club and APL are doing to minimize disruption. “We’re all working hard to take precautions and being proactive. Rapid testing every day and PCR tests before every game. Players and coaching staff need to be aware that this is the climate we are in right now. There are things we can’t control, but we need to do the things we can control.
“Some of our girls work too, so that means they go into different environments, but we’re being careful where we can. Little extra things in training and match play can help to protect us a bit where we can.”
The Jets head coach then spoke about the influence that Emily van Egmond has had on the team since she arrived: “The intensity that she trains with and how she conducts herself on the pitch is such a positive impact on our players. She takes a lot of control and keeps people coming into games. She has quality. It’s great for us to have her back and for the league to have someone of her calibre – even for a short time as it helps build the fan base and giving the youngsters something visible to aspire to.”
Tiana Jaber on THAT Goal
Newcastle Jets 21-year-old defender Tiana Jaber began her media conference by reflecting on a big game for her personally against Western Sydney Wanderers last weekend.
“It was a memorable day for me. It’s really unfortunate that we only came out of the game with one point, not three and it feels like a bit of a loss as we definitely had chances to capitalize. It was a tough game.”
In terms of the incredible goal that Jaber scored to put the Jets ahead, the youngster said: “I didn’t see any other of our players around me, I didn’t have any options and in that moment, I thought, ‘Well, I’ve cut in on my right, I’ve got space, so, why not?’ So, I meant to shoot, but, yeah, it was a bit lucky.
“I didn’t actually realise how far out I was. I’ve done a few shots like that before, but they’ve never gone in, so I guess practice makes perfect! We’re playing in a style where our defenders get forward and attack quite a bit, so here and there I’ve had a few shots, but, yeah, that kinda came out of nowhere!
“I’ve always wondered what my reaction would be if I scored and I think everyone saw my reaction, I just lost it! It was a dream goal for me and now I have to keep performing.”
In case you missed it, Tiana Jaber’s rocket shot goal for the Jets at Western Sydney Wanderers:
Looking back more widely on Jets’ game at Western Sydney Wanderers, Jaber said: “It was a quite gritty game and I think we need to focus on having more control and playing our football. We have better things we want to achieve. We’re doing well, we’ve had a good start, but there’s more things we want to achieve.”
The defender spoke finally about the influence that American signing Liz Eddy is having on her: “She’s very experienced and she talks a lot. You feel very comfortable with her by your side. She gives us guidance and calms us down when we need to chill.”
Looking ahead to the Jets’ upcoming games, Jaber is hugely positive: “We know what we are capable of and we definitely have high hopes so we’re ready to go smash it!”
Tara Andrews – What We Need To Do To Put It Right
Andrews opened her media conference by reflecting on the prospect of facing Wellington Phoenix once more. “Last time we played pretty well against them. We’re pumped to play them again and hope we can get another good result. As a striker, you are always hoping to score goals, I got two against them last time. Any goal is good for me!”
“We’re confident about the game but we don’t write them off, they are a good team. Defensively they are quite solid, and they scored against us, so we take nothing for granted.
“They are young and have a lot of energy and will run, run, run and do what they can to stop you scoring. They are good at keeping you out from getting the first goal. “Our final pass and finishing will be critical in this game against them.”
With Jets having a mixed bag of results so far, Andrews reviewed how she sees the team’s start: “The Western Sydney game, we went long way too much and played the same game as they did. We’re looking at playing through the middle and keeping the ball for longer in the build-up through the midfield and into the strikers and create something through that. We’ve relaxed a bit more this week.
“Ash has been honest with us this week. She’s not a shouter, but she points out where things went wrong and we want to learn from that. It was frustrating for us and for her, but it’s all done in a constructive way.
“I think this season is more exciting for me at the club than the last couple of ones as we have some really good players from overseas on top of those who have been here for a while. Our midfield and forward line are dynamic and are starting to work together well, so it’s exciting for me and the rest of the team.”
Alex Epakis’ Thoughts On New Schedule
On Monday of this week, Australian Professional Leagues (APL) issued an update to the A-League Women fixtures as a result of the impact of Western Australia’s coronavirus border restrictions.
As a consequence, Alex Epakis’ side are poised to play at least six consecutive games outside Western Australia during the month of January, starting on New Year’s Day with a fixture against Adelaide United at Coopers Stadium.
After taking on the Reds, Glory will face Canberra United on January 5th (venue TBC, set to be in New South Wales – NSW – or Canberra), Sydney FC at Leichardt Oval on Saturday 8th, Newcastle Jets on the 16th at their No. 2 Sportsground home, Western Sydney Wanderers (date and venue TBC, also in NSW) and Wellington Phoenix on 29th (venue TBC, also in NSW). The Round Five home game against Adelaide United, originally due to be played over the New Year weekend, has been rescheduled for Wednesday 2nd March at Glory’s home ground of Macedonia Park.
The consequence of the announcement is that the club will lose three home games from their schedule.
However, speaking on Wednesday, head coach Alex Epakis said: “Look, it is what it is. It’s something we have to do to assist the competition. We get an opportunity to play a lot of games in quick succession as a group and we have to look at that as a positive. We’ll be going over to do a job and we’ll come back with the job done.”
Epakis asserted that he believes he’ll be able to take his full squad away during the hub period in January: “We’re just waiting to hear from the competition organisers on what that might look like. Playing so many games back to back is a tough ask if you don’t have everyone there from a load point of view. To have the whole group there as part of the experience is pretty critical.”
With Perth Glory having won both their matches this season so far, the club’s head coach emphasized the positive mood in the camp. “We’re really pleased to have the points in our pocket and we’re happy that we’ve had this break to get everyone better for our next game. The overall mood is positive and we’re excited for the next games to come.
Mie Leth Jans – Hub Life Will Be A Good Experience
Perth Glory’s Danish international outlined her thoughts on the unique challenge that the team face during January.
“It’s going to be like playing in one of the big tournaments. It’s going to be hard, but a good experience, especially for some of the younger girls to be in an environment like that and see how it impacts you mentally and physically to be around the same people for a month and longer.
“There will be a lot of games and I think it will be a good experience for this team. Hopefully, we can come out the other end with a lot of points and be in a good position. I do think we can do it because we have prepared ourselves mentally.
“I do feel a little bit sorry for the girls who are having to go away from their families, that will be tough for them, but we are a family here as well and we’ll all take care of each other, so I expect us to have a really good trip.”
Kate Taylor On Sydney & Jets Games Plus Christmas In The Hub
Phoenix vice-captain Kate Taylor began by reviewing last week’s loss at Kogarah to Sydney FC: “It was a hard one and the heat didn’t help either as we weren’t really used to it – us Kiwis especially found it hard.”
“We were very tired by the end of the game and lots of people’s legs had been used to maximum capacity. There were some things that didn’t go to plan. The first goal was a bit too easy for Sydney and if we could have avoided that, hopefully, the game could have changed. We had some spells and can be happy with how we played, but not with the scoreline.”
In terms of specific improvements, Taylor said that they know they need to defend the back post better, and “the communication between the back four can be improved, but overall things are pretty good.”
The defender recognizes it is a fine balance between wanting to play out from the back and not conceding possession as a result under pressure: “We got caught a few times against Sydney trying to find someone in the midfield, so we need to decide what to do with the ball quicker. We have to be quicker because if we slow down, the opposition will pounce on us. We also need to mix things up every week so we don’t become predictable.”
Phoenix face Newcastle Jets this week in Gosford, just a fortnight after facing them at McDonald Jones Stadium. Despite losing that game 5-1, Taylor is positive ahead of the re-match in Wollongong. “I’m excited. We want to prove ourselves and they have all the expectations on them after what happened last time. We want to show them what we can actually do. We need to improve off the ball and get closer to them.”
Due to the pandemic, the Phoenix team will spend Christmas in their Wollongong hub. Their vice-captain outlined how they are planning on spending the Festive period: “Ah! We have plans! We have a Secret Santa and all the Kiwis and the coaches are going to have a Christmas lunch, so I hope that will be fun. We’ve got some games planned and it will be a chilled time.
“It will be hard though. Waking up on Christmas morning will be a shock. We’ll all have each other though which is cool. It will be a new type of Christmas, but we’ll be missing home.”
Alyssa Whinham On That Chance Against Sydney And Developing Her Game
Whinham started her chat with the media by addressing her great run against Sydney which presented the Phoenix with their best goalscoring opportunity. A spurned chance that she looked exceptionally frustrated at missing.
“Aww, I haven’t actually looked back at the footage of it and I don’t really want to! I knew as soon as I passed the ball that it was the wrong decision. I think I was so flustered that I even got myself into that situation, you don’t see it often, getting past those Sydney players.
“My game is about setting up goals rather than scoring them and I think my inexperience showed there. It was obvious that I needed to shoot then. I think that if I had shot and scored then it would probably have changed the whole game,” admitted the 18-year-old midfielder.
Whinham recognized that, with Phoenix still so early in their existence as a team and also with so many youngsters in a squad with an average age of 19, taking chances when they come is vital.
“Yeah, we know we might not get too many chances during a game, that’s quite obvious. I need to back myself and have more confidence. Next time! I’m very happy with how things have gone. I thought I wouldn’t get a go until late in the season, but I’ve come off the bench twice and started on Sunday.”
“Starting the game is harder because when I came on as a sub there was far much more space at that time of the game which benefits my style. Don’t get me wrong though, I love starting!”
Looking ahead to their Round Four clash with Newcastle Jets, the midfielder said: “Aw, it will be hard, but I think all the girls are ready for it. The result, hopefully, will be a lot different compared to the first game. We weren’t happy with the performance that we put out against them and we’ve definitely built on that from this week. We gave them too much respect and too much on the ball last time.”
Phoenix’s Positive Start Brings New Sponsor On Board
Buoyed by their positive start to their first-ever A-League Women season, Wellington Phoenix have been further boosted by another local business stepping up to support them with sponsorship.
SHOTT Beverages has signed on as a corporate partner of the team and will be their front of shorts sponsor. Eagle-eyed observers would have noticed the SHOTT logo on the players’ shorts in their third-round A-League match against Sydney FC on Sunday.
After a frustrating long search for a sponsor, it is hugely pleasing for the club that three local businesses have stepped forward over the past five weeks to back the A-League Women club.
SHOTT Beverages is a Wellington business, founded in Petone in 2006, that manufactures fruit and coffee syrups made from real ingredients with no artificial colours, flavours, or sweeteners.
“Being founded and headquartered in Wellington is something we are immensely proud of as a business, and for some time we have been looking at ways we can support the local community,” SHOTT Beverages CEO David Shearer said.
“Upon hearing that the Wellington Phoenix women’s team would be entering the A-League, we immediately knew that partnering with this team would be the perfect fit for our business. We can’t wait to see what they achieve this season and look forward to working with the wider team.”
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