Above: Isabel Hodgson speaking at a recent club media conference. Photo supplied to Impetus by: Adelaide United.
Isabel Hodgson, Adelaide United’s captain, spoke to Kieran Yap for this week’s #MidweekDub feature. They discuss the Reds’ superb season to date and their high hopes for Finals football (16/2/22).
Say it quietly but Adelaide United are one of the best sides in the A-League Women competition.
This is not just based on ladder position, The Reds are currently in the top four with their destiny in their own hands, but they are also capable of playing some scintillating football.
After a tough start to the season that began with a 5-1 loss to Melbourne Victory and a 3-1 loss to Melbourne City in the opening month. Things eventually began to click, and they returned to the form that they ended the previous season in.
Their turnaround on field coincided with the return of their new captain. Isabel Hodgson battled injury early in the campaign but has been on hand as Adelaide climbed the table.
Although happy with the place on the table, the right back remains grounded and focussed on what lays ahead.
“Obviously it’s a really good start to our season,” she told Impetus.
“We’re in a pretty decent position.
“Obviously, we can always be doing better and playing better but for my first year as a captain I’m really happy with my side and how we’ve been going so far.”
Hodgson has spent her entire senior career at Adelaide United. The club embarked on a long-term strategy to build the team for success. The core of the side remains committed to the team, chief among them is their captain.
“We have a lot of loyalty to the club and a lot of loyalty to Adelaide itself,” she says of the players.
“I think we’ve been building this for a couple of years, and we’ve put in the work to get to where we are.
“I would hate to put all these years in and move on from the club as they do well and make finals.”
Hodgson was forced to watch from the sidelines as the season got off to a less than perfect start. For the incoming skipper, it was a difficult few weeks.
“It was really hard,” she reflects
“I got an injury quite early, and I had to watch the team, which is really hard in my first year as captain.
“I was really looking forward to the season and doing the best that I could.”
Hodgson is a popular player amongst the Adelaide faithful. She is a skilful and tenacious fullback who is also capable of driving upfield and setting up goals. In the last match of the 2020/21 season she was thrust into an attacking role as The Reds needed to increase their goal difference.
She responded with a sensational goal in front of a record crowd.
This season she has largely remained in defence although her crossing ability has been a valuable asset for Adelaide’s strikers.
“I love playing up front,” she says emphatically.
“I used to play there when I was younger and its somewhere I like to venture up to when I can. Last year I did it a couple of times due to personnel on the field.
“I’m pretty secure in my right back position, but if I get the chance I’m definitely saying yes to going further up the field.”
She is relatively new to the captaincy at A-League Women’s level. However, she has not had to change much of her game style to befit her new role.
“Probably just trying to lead a little bit more on the field,” she says, describing her approach to wearing the arm band.
If the game isn’t going the way we like just to keep things positive, but I think the way I play has stayed pretty much the same. Just asking for a little more of a leadership role from myself.”
Adelaide is certainly not lacking in leadership. The team’s midfield stocks received a huge boost when former captain Dylan Holmes returned. It is safe to say that everybody was glad to welcome her back to the line-up.
But was there any chance of a leadership challenge from the prodigal star?
“Absolutely not,” laughs Hodgson
“I didn’t have to stamp my authority.
“It was really good it was obviously different for her to come back into a different position. But the good thing about our team is that we’ve got leaders everywhere.
“We’ve got three girls in the leadership group and obviously Dylan as an ex-captain, it helps us. The more leaders you have, the better the team does.
“Even if it’s not the captain role she had last year, she’s still very much a leader.”
Adelaide United have played some of the league’s most eye-catching football recently. They defend with composure and attack with intensity and unpredictability.
The passing is often direct, fast and without hesitation. A brilliant Fiona Worts goal against Newcastle Jets ended a move that began at centre back and involved seven players all constantly moving the ball forward.
That on field chemistry is something that has developed with patience says Hodgson.
“It’s something we’ve definitely been building towards.
“Obviously, a lot of us have played a few years together and even Fiona (Worts), this is her second year, and we’ve had that season with her to know what she likes and where she is going to be and, people like myself and Dylan Holmes have played together on and off since we were 11.
“I think finally now it’s clicking at that higher level and that’s showing in how well we’re playing as well as winning.”
Another rising star in red is striker Chelsie Dawber who rose quickly to find herself in a position to challenge for the Golden Boot. She sits two goals behind Hannah Wilkinson who will miss matches due to national team duty.
According to Hodgson, the team is using their leading scorer much better than in previous years.
“I think she’s getting the ball a lot more. Last year she scored a lot of goals as well but I think we’re utilizing her a lot better than we did last year.
“She’s that year old now, she had a pretty good season last year… that confidence just keeps getting better and better every week.”
Adelaide enters the “football frenzy” of high frequency matches in a strong position. But Hodgson is as composed about the situation as she is with the ball at her feet. It really is just one game at a time to achieve that coveted top four spot.
“You’ve got to be a little bit switched on with recovery. We’ve got three away games in a row. We’re not scared we’re not worried. We know we can go away and do our job.
“That’s what it’s about, it’s about playing games and that’s what we do so the only thing to think about is the first game. Once you’ve done that you can think about the rest
“Play each game the best you can and recover as fast as you can after that. Just make sure we keep getting the three points.
“For us, every game is a must win, it’s a short season. If you drop points anywhere it really does affect you, we learned that last year with goals difference.”
While a top four finish would be a historical first for the club, the players have higher goals. Considering the football that they can produce, they are justified in dreaming big.
After missing out by a single goal last season, they are eager to make amends and to go one step further.
“I think that was our main focus. We were heartbroken last year to get so close, in the end that was out goal to make finals and we didn’t reach that so there’s that bitter taste in our mouths.
“But I think this year we went into this season wanting to win it. It wasn’t even just about just making finals. It was ‘we want to be competitive enough to win the whole thing…anything less than a Grand Final game is going to be disappointing for us.”