Impetus’ Kieran Yap attended Melbourne Victory’s media conference ahead of the A-League Women’s match against Sydney FC (26/11/22).
Above: Melbourne Victory head coach Jeff Hopkins. Photo: Melbourne Victory.
It is a sad and familiar feeling for Melbourne Victory fans. Natalie Tathem was injured in Round One once again.
The Victory fullback tore her ACL in her last Victory appearance in 2020. In the 1-0 loss to Western United, she sustained an elbow fracture. Thankfully, she will not be out for too long according to head coach Jeff Hopkins.
“We all feel for Nat,” he told the media. “It’s the first game again this season. she’s got a slight fracture across the side of her elbow.”
Hopkins estimated that Tathem would most likely return in three to four weeks, and the club would proceed cautiously towards her return.
“She’s been on the bike, she’s been at training every day. She’ll be able to start running next week. In terms of her fitness, we’ll be able to keep her levels right up there. As soon as she’s able to get the ok from the doc and have it re-x-rayed she’ll be back. She’s a pretty tough character as well.”
It is an especially difficult week for Victory to be missing Tathem. The team travel to face Sydney FC and the star Matilda she would have been up against, Cortnee Vine.
Hopkins has options at left-back. Both Lia Privitelli and Gema Simon have been declared fit and included in the squad. However, he is reluctant to rush either of them and has faith in the player who entered the field for Tathem against Western United.
“We’ve got the ideal player to go in there, and that’s Emily Kos. She came on and did well last week, she’s done really well in pre-season and played most of our games. She understands how we do things and that’s why we signed her, to play and for these types of occasions. If that’s the way we decide to go, I’ve got plenty of confidence in her that she’ll come in and do a good job for us.”
On the other side of the defence, Jessika Nash will face her old team. The Young Matilda had big boots to fill after Polly Doran’s departure to England. Hopkins was impressed with her game and excited for her future at the club.
“I thought she played with a real intensity. It’s whet my appetite for what we’re going to see out of her for the rest of the season. I think she did a lot of things very well. She defended well, she got forward and supported. Once we get her playing exactly the way we want her to play in our system I think she’s going to be a fantastic addition to the squad.
“In terms of her ability to defend one-vs-one, to cover but also her ability to get forward. Her data from her GPS is phenomenal at the moment, she’s doing so much work, a huge amount of high-speed running. We’re really pleased with everything we’re getting from her.”
Victory are eager to bounce back from their loss to Western United. Hopkins described complex training during the week that has been individualised for each player, combined with team and tactical sessions.
He said that he was pleased with most of last week’s performance, but that the team was lacking sharpness in the defensive and attacking thirds. Victory has a number of new faces this season, but he said that they had adapted quickly to each other.
“It’s been a difficult pre-season for us. We’re expanding the league by six weeks and had our pre-season cut by a week. We want to play games, and we want to be match-fit, but we want to be conscious in pre-season that we don’t overdo it with players and end up with half the team injured. I think over the next week and two weeks we’ll get a lot sharper at those things
“K-K (Elise Kellond-Knight) has slotted in really well. More to the point is the fact that five or six of the players that were on the pitch last week were away on international duty the week before.
“We’ve done a bit of 11 vs 11 in training and the quality has been excellent. The combinations between Chids (Alex Chidiac), K-K, and A-J (Amy Jackson) as well…when she’s been on the field, they complimented each other really well.”
Hopkins was eager to highlight another midfielder, Tiffany Eliadis. The skilful attacker enjoyed a terrific individual season with Bulleen in the NPLW, and earned the admiration of Victory fans with her ability to play anywhere in the injury-hit 2021/22 season.
“She’s had a fantastic pre-season,” said Hopkins. “She’s forced her way into the starting 11 through hard work and her ability to add something different to our midfield. She makes those forward runs and has been able to get into our box really well.”
It shapes up to be an engaging contest between two of the best sides of the previous seasons. Victory will take an almost full squad and aim to get three points against a Sydney FC side welcoming striker Remy Siemsen back into the line-up.
It might be too early to call this a Grand Final preview, but everyone is eager for the Grand Final replay.