Australian international defender Charli Grant spoke once more to Impetus’ Ben Gilby about a challenging club season, but one which has led to personal growth and regular international football (29/11/22).
Above: Charli Grant in possession for Australia against South Africa in October. Photo: Justine Burch for Impetus.
Charli Grant last spoke to me for Impetus in March when we reflected on Australia’s Asian Women’s Cup campaign and looked ahead to the new Damallsvenskan season.
Eight months later, we touched base again to look back on Grant’s emergence as a regular international player of real repute, and a challenging period in her club career.
Summarising how the period has been for her, the South Australian defender said: “It has definitely been an exciting but challenging season. Winning the Swedish Cup with Rosengård in the first half of the season was a big highlight. However, I was still struggling to get regular minutes, which made the early months of the season definitely challenging.
“I wasn’t consistently being given regular minutes and by the end of the first half of the season, I wasn’t selected in the squad. It definitely has made me appreciate every moment I step onto the pitch and has strengthened my resilience. I went on loan to gain regular match minutes at Vittsjö to help me progress as a player. I’ve loved every moment at Vittsjö, it’s a special club and I’m so grateful I could be a part of it.”
The move to Vittsjö brought Grant into a team with her Matildas teammates Clare Polkinghorne and Katrina Gorry. Their presence at the club was vital to helping the South Australian to know what to expect, and to aid the settling-in process.
“Polks and Mini always talk so highly of the club in camp and encouraged me to join the team when they knew I was struggling with match minutes. As soon as I joined the club, I felt like I had known the girls for years. It’s a special group of players and I’m so grateful to all of them for making me feel so welcome.”
As well as giving her regular game time, Grant outlined what her time at Vittsjö this season has added to her game. “It has allowed me to use more of my attacking game, I think my decision-making in the final third has improved a lot from being put in those situations regularly.
“As a team, I think we were so successful at creating attacks and our defensive game in transitions. I think we just need to continue improving at ball possession and finishing our attacks to gain a higher place on the table. Although we didn’t finish as high as we wanted, I’m really proud of the team.”
Internationally, Charli Grant has become a regular starter for the Matildas. Her performance against Spain, a game that Australia lost 7-0 with a significantly weakened squad was widely praised (see Jonathan Tay’s article for Impetus (https://impetusfootball.org/2022/07/05/analysis-charli-grants-array-of-defensive-qualities/). The defender was equally strong in the October matches against South Africa and Denmark. She recognises her growth in the national team.
“I’m really grateful for Tony (Gustavsson, Australia head coach) trusting me and giving me the opportunity to start regularly. I’m growing in confidence the more experience I get and hope I can continue contributing positively to the team.”
Reflecting specifically on the game against Spain, Grant said:
“Spain was definitely an eye opening experience. There were many learning opportunities in that game but I think the biggest one I’ve taken from it is the focus required to perform against the best teams in the world. You have to make the most of every touch, pass and tackle because they will punish you if you make an error.”Charli Grant, Australia international defender.
With the World Cup now just eight months away, and the draw now known, the South Australian star defender analysed the Matildas’ opponents and her own expectations by saying: “Canada is definitely a tough opponent but I think we have shown, especially in the first half of the Sydney game, that we can beat them. To give us the best opportunity of being a successful team in the World Cup, we need to stick to our strengths of being a high-pressing team and being cohesive both on and off the ball.
“Playing at the 2023 home World Cup has been my biggest dream since a kid. Collectively our goal is to win the World Cup.”
Before the World Cup comes another season in Sweden, and after this season’s experiences, Grant is clear about what she wants – “I want to play regularly whether that’s at Rosengård or Vittsjö, and be at the top of the table in Damallsvenskan.”