Ben Gilby, Holly Wright, and Ryan Miller-Woods report on four club’s media conferences today ahead of Round One this weekend (17/11/22).
by Ryan Miller-Woods
In preparation for Canberra United’s opening game of the upcoming A-League Women’s season against Perth Glory, the media yesterday heard from players Ellen Gett and Grace Maher.
Asked what to expect from their Western Australian opponents on Saturday, Ellen Gett said: “Perth always brings a physical side, they’re kind of known to be very physical but other than that you know, energy, a generally good team we’ve got to prepare for.”
In terms of what she feels her side need to do in order to ensure they start the campaign with the three points, Gett emphasised the importance of a fast start. “We’ve got to start from the kick-off and we can’t drop, making sure we are on top and we’ll be sweet.”
Canberra were a side who did not quite pick up the amount of points that were expected of them last season, and Gett outlined that if her side can get the little things right, then the big things will take care of themselves.
“The pressure is always there to win, you know, you want three points in every round. It’s such a small season so every point counts and matters but as a team, we are just going to focus on the small things and the team objectives and the three points will follow.”
Club legend Grace Maher also gave her thoughts to the media and outlined just how important it is that Canberra United start with a home game, with the return of the side to McKellar Park after two years away.
“We love playing at home. It is not only easier on us for our preparation but it is a spiritual thing, a connection to our fans. We want to get the season off and running, and we love doing that at home and we hope that Perth are fearing that and we will take it in our stride.”
Maher feels the added value of Canberra’s renowned vocal home support will be vital against a Perth Glory side who she rates.
“They have retained a lot of their players from last season, but they’ve brought in a few new players. I’ve formally played under Alex Epakis, so I get an idea of what he is doing but he’s grown as a coach, so we are anticipating everything and being prepared for everything but at the same time, we know that if we play our football, then they (Perth) shouldn’t be too much of a worry (for us).
“I think the focus has just been, be ready for anything and everything. We’ve worked a lot on playing and working with our teammates, obviously, we’ve had a bit of disruption with a few of our players out with national team duty and everyone has slid in perfectly if they have to, everyone’s ready for whatever they need to play and however, they need to play, so our focus is just, be ready for anything.”
by Holly Wright
After rupturing her anterior cruciate ligament, a little over 11 months ago, Melbourne Victory defender Kayla Morrison is going into this weekend’s opening A-League Women’s against competition newcomers Western United full of positivity and can’t wait to get the season started after spending much of last season watching from the sidelines.
“It’s going to be an amazing game. They (Western United) are going to come out full of energy. It might be their first game, but it’s also our first game and my first game as well. Something we have got to remember is we have been here before. We need to stay calm, stay professional and get the game done.”
She added, “I’m absolutely buzzing. It’s hard because I’m so excited but I’m also nervous. I think it’s okay to be a little bit nervous so hopefully, I can just calm those nerves, bottle up all the energy and just do what I know I can do. I feel like I had a great rehab. I feel strong, I feel mentally in a good place so hopefully, everyone can see that when I’m back on the field.”
The defending champions have had a strong preparation for the season and Morrison believes they are in a great position to win a third consecutive grand final. “No preseason ever goes perfectly according to plan. We obviously had girls leaving for international camp, but it helps us adapt and gives us that extra little edge. Other than that, it’s been pretty smooth. We have got done what we wanted to accomplish as we go into the first game of the season, so I think we are as ready as ever.”
Victory suffered from a lack of defensive strength in depth after Morrison’s unfortunate injury. The 26-year-old commented on manager Jeff Hopkins’ business over the winter and how the new additions have settled in. “I think the vibe this year is different. It’s just as good. It’s just as positive, but for the past two years, we have had a very similar team.
“We have a lot of new girls this year, but they have brought in extra vibes, extra positivity, and have more experience. It’s different team but it’s just as good and I am excited to see what the team will do and throw out on the pitch.”
The American has a great deal of respect for Saturday’s opponents saying: “I think they are going to be a really good team. They have had all their girls the entire preseason. They have had about four or five weeks together, which is very beneficial. They are a team not to overlook, but we will go into every game feeling like it’s a championship game. We are going to put our best foot forward no matter who we are playing.”
by Ben Gilby
Perth Glory head coach Alex Epakis emphasised to the media at Fremantle Oval today that he sees no limit on what his exciting squad can achieve this season.
“Last season we did really well, and hopefully we’ll continue to progress as a team. The players got to play football over the winter whereas I got to stew over what happened last season (when the club missed out on Finals football on goal difference). It gave us time to analyse and assess what we did, and more foundation for this season, where we can improve, and what we can achieve.”
In terms of the key developments he wants to see in his team this season, Epakis highlighted game management in terms of holding onto leads in the face of mounting pressure from the opposition.
“The two games we drew – Canberra with a 3-1 lead and Newcastle Jets with a one-goal lead with five or six minutes to go – we weren’t able to see those games out. We’ve looked at how we can manage and get things in our favour when momentum is not going our way, but we do have a lead. It’s intelligence. (New signings) Rylee (Baisden) and Ella (Mastrantonio) will assist in those moments.”
The return of home-state star Mastrantonio, with experience of playing in England and Italy as well as international football, is, for Epakis, key to assisting his talented young team’s development this season.
“Ella will be invaluable,” he said. “She has already had a big impact on the team these last six weeks. She has so much quality on the field but so much off it too. She’s been great for me. You learn from these experienced players. I wouldn’t be naive enough not to involve Ella in certain conversations. She is a real asset to the Australian game.”
The addition of Mastrantonio and Baisden to an already exciting group of players is something that clearly excites the Perth head coach:
“This is the best team environment I’ve ever worked with. Every player is committed to what we are doing and putting the team above themselves and its a real joy to be part of. There is a real energy and vibe about what we are doing.”Alex Epakis, Perth Glory head coach.
It’s always hard to gauge the opposition for a first game of the season, but Canberra United, who Perth face on Saturday, are potentially even more of an enigma with a new head coach in Njegosh Popovich and a host of new players coming in. One thing is for sure though, any team with Grace Maher, Nikki Flannery, and Michelle Heyman in it pose a real threat. Yet, for Epakis, it’s all about his own team.
“I think this season all the games will be on fine margins, and we need to make sure that every game we are doing our best for 90 minutes. We can put value into what the opposition are doing, but if we focus on us and our job at hand, anything is possible.”
Exciting Western Australian talent Abbey Green spoke about the confidence and excitement that the Perth Glory squad is exuding ahead of their opening A-League Women game at Canberra United on Saturday.
“We’ve been on the come-up for a few years now, so I think we can go well this season and build on what we had last season. All the girls went to all their other clubs during winter, but they’ve come back with one goal – to make Finals.
“I think last year we did better than anyone expected. We have quite high internal expectations of ourselves, and we just want to do our best, but still have that underdog mentality.”
Green was visibly delighted to be able to learn from experienced fellow WA native Ella Mastrantonio who has returned to the Glory for this season, and reflected on the importance that both the Australian international and American signing Rylee Baisden add to the squad:
“Rylee and Ella are real leadership players. I’ve never played with Ella before, but this is her hometown too and it’s great to have her back.”
Another big benefit for Perth Glory is the ability to play regular home matches this season, and that, plus the knowledge of having another year on her contract at her hometown club has given the attacker renewed confidence.
“It’s good to know I have another season on my contract. Coming back to Perth to play (after the NPL in Sydney) is great. Perth is my home and I love playing for this team. I’ve played with these girls for years. It’s great to be back and to stay back.”
Whilst Perth Glory had to face and overcome the challenge of spending by far the vast majority of last season based out of New South Wales, Green sees long-lasting benefits from the period. That sense of togetherness plus the potential of a partisan WA crowd behind the team gives Glory a real shared identity and belief.
“Having to go away last year (into the NSW hub) brought us together, we’re like a family away from our family. It’s nice to be back to normal and have fans at home and have our families watching those of us from Perth. Last year did bring us close together, and it’s nice to still have that.”Abbey Green, Perth Glory.
Finally, Green looked ahead to Saturday’s opposition – a team who always give Perth Glory a tough battle. “Canberra – it’s hard. We couldn’t quite get past them last season, but we’ve put six weeks of hard work in and we’re confident that we can go there and give them a good game.”
by Holly Wright
Western United are making their A-League Women debut this weekend after years of hard work finally paying off for the club and what better way to kick off their campaign than against the defending champions.
According to the club’s USWNT striker Jess McDonald, the club are more than ready for the battle. “Everyone’s been really hungry throughout this preseason since I’ve been here at least. We have such a young team who is hungry, and who is willing to work really hard for one another. Going into Saturday, we’re super stoked. We want to make it very difficult for every team to try and beat us. That is another one of our goals. We want to be one of the hardest teams to play against.”
United had a very strong pre-season one in which they actually defeated a Victory side with McDonald looking to bring her vast experience and knowledge, which saw her earn 19 caps for the USA, including an appearance at the 2019 World Cup, to guide the youngsters in the right direction.
“I’ve tried to bring my experience as a footballer into the squad because it is a very young group of players, so you try to give them that little bit of knowledge and bring out the best in them. Being a pro, it is nerve-wracking, especially when you’re a young player and, you are playing your first game that comes with a little bit of pressure.
“With my leadership presence, I’m just hoping that I can just bring out the best in everyone. It is actually a very fun role to play for me because I know what I can bring to the table as a footballer, as a leader, someone on and off the field, someone that my teammates can look up to so those are the type of roles that I do enjoy having.
McDonald also spoke about how exciting her role has been as well as the respect the players have given her along with their willingness to learn. “It has been awesome to see that everyone in this team has been very coachable.
“Little things are just coming together and bringing our strengths together. It has just been really nice to see everyone mesh really well together but that is something that we need as a team. Any team needs communication to be able to come together, especially if you have a goal and you want to succeed. I love that pressure as a leader on a young squad because, honestly, you know, at the end of the day, it makes me feel young.”
Western United will take time to adjust to what is a very competitive league, but this is a club that has been built to compete and are accustomed to success as Calder United in the Victoria NPLW under head coach Mark Torcaso.
McDonald also reflected on her return to the competition which sees her face her old side a decade after leaving Australia. “It is one of the most competitive leagues and it’s been amazing to see it rise. Melbourne Victory kind of gave me that second chance of playing football again. Coming in 10 years ago was a whole different vibe for me.
“I have my career set in stone, so it is nice to come back here and know what to expect from this league. It’s just cherry on top that my first game of the season just so happens to be against Melbourne Victory. It doesn’t get any better than that at the end of the day. I’m super stoked to play against my old club, old teammates, and even current teammates. It’s always nice to obviously play against friends and old clubs as well so it makes the competition even better.”
Western United has the potential to be a very entertaining and competitive side in the A-League Women this season, one definitely not to be underestimated.