Above: Canberra United’s Keeley Richards in action. Photo: Canberra Times.
Ahead of Saturday’s A-League Women match between Canberra United and Perth Glory, Impetus’ Ben Gilby heard from Canberra United goalkeeper Keeley Richards along with Perth Glory striker Cyera Hintzen, and head coach Alex Epakis (4/2/22).
Canberra United goalkeeper Keeley Richards spoke of her joy at being back at Viking Park to play for the first time since 8th January when Perth Glory visit on Saturday.
A combination of away matches and a period of COVID-related isolation has prevented the Greens from running out on their favoured patch.
Looking ahead to the game, Richards said: “I’m really excited at being back at Viking Park, we all are. Obviously, the start of the season has been disappointing. Now we’ve done the training and done the work. We’ve just got to go out now and play football.”
Canberra United go into the game still searching for their first win of the season and are 12 points outside of the Finals places. Yet the Canberra custodian hasn’t given up hope of making the top four. “It isn’t ruled out (for us), it’s still possible mathematically. We’ve just got to get on a run in these last seven games.
“We’ve got the side to do it, the quality to do it, we just need to turn it (our form) around. Hopefully, we can start that on Saturday night.
“Perth are a very quick team up top. From when we played them before there were a lot of breakaways. As a backline, we need to drop off and know where their runners are going. Hopefully, we can get them on the counter and use our midfield which is really skilled and play through them a bit.
Richards has also revealed a secret sideline as a Lego architect after constructing a model of the club’s Viking Park home during the team’s recent hiatus due to COVID.
“It’s got a lot of things in it, the barbeque area up the top, the changing room, and the media box. Plus the scoreboard, the DJs tent for the game day tunes…It took about 20 hours to build all in. I had to wait for some bricks to arrive which were ordered online!
“It took up most of my time in isolation. A lot of bricks arrived on the Monday when we were put in quarantine and then Emma Ilijoski went to the Lego store in Canberra for me to get some too. Now I’m finished I’m hoping to give it to Viking Park for them to enjoy.”
Perth Glory’s American striker Cyera Hintzen might only have played three games for the club either side of injury, but in that time she’s scored two goals and proved to be a real handful to opposition teams.
The striker began by giving her views on how hard it has been to face a longer than expected stay in New South Wales due to the extension in Western Australia’s border closures.
“I’ve had a great time considering everything we’ve gone through. When we first got the news, it was upsetting for some, but we’ve all come together to do a good job, and getting these last two wins have really helped.
“I’m really happy with my form. I was nervous coming back in my first game after injury, but it was great to get a goal which made me relaxed and settled.
“Now I’m getting to know everyone, I feel that we are coming together well and that is showing well on the field.
“I feel that we all understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses. We all play well off of each other. Whenever we go into a game, we just know each other and what we’re going to do.”
Despite Saturday’s opponents Canberra United still looking for their first win, Hintzen is wary of the threat that they pose.
“We can’t take any team lightly and we’ve been training well for the last few weeks. We know that we have to win now, no matter who we are facing.”
With Hintzen’s time in the A-League Women more than halfway through, she reflected on the competition so far. “My experiences here have been great and I would love to come again to play in this league.”
Perth Glory head coach Alex Epakis has seen his team take seven points from the last nine available. Now in the top four, they are transitioning into the role of being hunted by those below them. An additional factor is those below the Glory holding games in hand. Reflecting on that situation, Epakis said:
“We’re in the hunt and I don’t know if anyone expected that apart from ourselves. The schedule will impact on what happens as a lot of those teams (chasing pack) have to play each other. We just have to take every week as it comes.”
Looking back at Monday’s come-from-behind win against Wellington Phoenix, the Perth head coach was full of praise for the opposition.
“Wellington played really well. They will put a mark on the competition. We did enough to win, they played their best for 90 minutes. It wasn’t our best performance, we needed resilience and character to get over the line which we did well.”
“Tash (Rigby), Kim (Carroll), and Lisa (De Vanna) made sure at half-time that there was lot more focus and effort. It’s great to rely on characters like them to help develop the team rather than just myself.”
After their trip to Canberra on Saturday, Perth’s run home will see them face Adelaide United, Melbourne City, Melbourne Victory, and Sydney FC. All teams around them in the table. It will be a serious test of Glory’s credentials just to make Finals, but one Epakis is relishing.
“It’s a great opportunity for us as a group. We want to be able to compete with those teams, so to have them lined-up one by one over the next couple of weeks is something I am really looking forward to.
“However, we need to focus on Canberra first and then hopefully get three points. We want to test ourselves against the best and see where we are as a group.”
The two sides faced each other at the beginning of January in a 0-0 draw at Wanderers Football Park. Epakis has taken on board elements of that match in planning for this weekend’s rematch at Viking Park.
“We made chances in that game, but couldn’t capitalize on them. It was on the back end of the spell of three games in a week and we lacked a bit of punch at times. Going into playing them this time, we are more together as a group, more fresher. We need to take our chances against Canberra. They have real experienced players, especially up front with Michelle Hayman and Ash Sykes.
“We can’t give them chances and make sure we take ours. Every game we have played against Canberra recently has been a nail-biter and end-to-end. Hopefully this time we can control things and put the game to bed early.”
Perth’s head coach gave an update on player availability: “We know Gemma Craine’s (broken wrist) injury is serious and may be out for the season. She has had to have some stabilizing plates put in it. We will support her and get around her as she had the injury last year as well.
At the present time, Craine is aiming to remain with the team at their North Sydney hub, something Epakis sees as a positive. “Gemma is an extremely team orientated person and is great to have around. It’s good that she wants to stay with us.”
Elsewhere, there is a mix of news with recovery from COVID and injury at the present time.
“Leema Khamis has COVID at present and so do Bella Wallhead and Tijan McKenna. Alana Jancevski is working her way back from the impact of COVID. Susan Phonsongkham is getting close to returning, but I think this week may be too close for her.”
The impact of the number missing is the possibility that some players may have to play out of position against Canberra United on Saturday.
“We have players raring to go for an opportunity and they are training really hard. It’s the players who don’t play as often as they would like who really set the tone for the players who are starting. It pushes the players who are in their position at the time. the squad mentality is what marks us out as a group. I have absolute belief that every player can do their job and that we can achieve something special this season.”