Steph Catley: It’s A New Challenge

Impetus’ Ben Gilby heard from The Matildas’ star Steph Catley as the Arsenal defender made the short trip to South-West London to report for international duty (4/10/22).

Above: Steph Catley speaking from the Australian team camp this week. Image: Football Australia.

Australia have assembled in South-West London ahead of this weekend’s international against South Africa in Kingston-Upon-Thames.

For the squad’s large group of UK-based players, including captain Sam Kerr and vice-captain Steph Catley, along with a number of stars playing club football in Europe, this was a much shorter journey for an international window than in recent times.

For Catley, based in St. Albans, Hertfordshire, just beyond the northernmost fringes of London, the travel into camp was a decidedly atypical affair to those in the past 18 months. 

“It was extremely easy and different. Just a nice cruise in from where I am to here,” laughed Catley.  “So [it took] about 50 minutes and [I’m] feeling fresh, feeling ready to go for day one. It’s a nice change. It’s important because we can just get straight into training as there is no recovery, no sleep issues, we can just get going.”

The fullback has her eyes firmly focused on hitting the pitch against South Africa this Saturday with the opening training session geared towards that preparation. 

Above: Steph Catley training with the Matildas in South-West London yesterday. Photo supplied to Impetus by: Ann Odong/Football Australia.

“It was a good session. It was short and sharp, but we were able to sort of do some position-specific training. We were able to really home in on stuff that we need to work on and stuff that’s specific to South Africa and making the most of sort of trying to score goals in the final third against them.” 

In over 100 appearances for Australia, the Arsenal defender has only met an African nation twice (Nigeria in 2015 and Zimbabwe in 2016) and never in an international friendly. This record, Catley believes, underscores the importance of diverse opposition as part of the road to the World Cup. Following Saturday’s match, the Matildas would have met a nation from each of FIFA’s confederations in the last 12 months. 

“It’s nice to have an opponent that we don’t play often. It’s really important to play all sorts of teams.  They all possess different attributes that you have to be ready for, and you have to be used to playing against. African nations are extremely physically strong and talented with a lot of speed. It is easy to be exposed against them. It’s important for us to have this test.

“It creates a new challenge and prepares us in a way that is so important leading into a World Cup.  You don’t know who you’re going to get, and you don’t want to get there and be completely shocked and that means that you lose the game. It’ll be a tough challenge, but we’re excited for it.”

After being in the squad for a decade now, Catley is well placed to assess the impact of the new, young talent coming into the squad. The Arsenal defender admits it makes a pleasing change to see the next generation get a chance. “Yeah, for quite some time we only really had Ellie [Carpenter] coming in and maintaining her squad. They are now cementing places in the team.

Above: The Matildas vice-captain pictured in training yesterday. Catley sees huge positives in the form of the squad’s young players. Photo supplied to Impetus by: Ann Odong/Football Australia.

“Charli [Grant]’s form has been really pleasing. Seeing her grow from when she first came in – she had massive shoes to fill coming in for Ellie at right-back. She’s looked really strong, putting in great performances against Canada, when she dealt with pacey players against her. Kyra [Cooney-Cross] is also growing well into her role in the side.

“As a senior group, we pushed the young players to go overseas to get more experience out of their comfort zone. They might have preferred to stay and play W-League, but you can see each time they come in now the improvements in their development.

“We’re in a good place as a squad.”

Impetus’ coverage of the Matildas game with South Africa continues with coverage of player and coach interviews this week, plus news and pictures before, during, and after Saturday’s clash at Kingsmeadow.

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