Impetus’ Kieran Yap reports on Melbourne Victory’s media conference today with Jeff Hopkins as they prepare to host Wellington Phoenix, with both sides in need of a win (2/12/22).
Above: Melbourne Victory’s Lia Privitelli celebrates a goal in 2021/22. Photo: Melbourne Victory
It has been a tough start to the season for Melbourne Victory, but there is some good news as they prepare to face Wellington Phoenix and get their first win, and goal of the season.
Grand Final-winning captain Lia Privitelli is set to return from injury after missing the opening rounds. The timing could not be better.
Victory have lost both Nat Tathem and Catherine Zimmerman to injury against Western United and Sydney FC respectively. Their absences will be felt, but the addition of Privitelli to the matchday squad adds width, leadership, and a goalscoring ability that Melbourne will need against The Nix.
Speaking to the media, Victory coach Jeff Hopkins said that the winger is fully fit after the club erred on the side of caution over the last fortnight.
“We maybe could have pushed her to be involved at some stage last week,” said Hopkins, “But we decided to look after her for this week…she’s trained really well this week, and proven she’s fit and ready to go.”
Victory and Wellington face each other at the foot of the table. Although neither set of fans are too concerned so far. The season is now a marathon rather than the sprint of previous years. Wellington have been defined by their young players, and the silver lining for Victory’s injury-hit month is the opportunity it has provided to their own rising stars.
One of those is winger Ava Briedis. She has joined Victory after a season with FV Emerging in the NPLW.
Briedis looked remarkably comfortable against Sydney FC. She appears confident and creative on the ball, with the courage to take on far more experienced players. Like Alana Murphy before her, Briedis is a graduate of Victory’s Elite Girls Program.
“That’s where we really got to see her over the last year and realised she was a real super talent,” said Hopkins. “Through losing players, and players coming off, we’ve had to through necessity use some of our younger players. “But it’s just proven to us our decision to bring them into the squad was a good decision.
“She’s done exceptionally well. She came on and made an instant impact for us although she admitted it was the hardest game physically she’d ever played in her life. It was a great experience for our young players, and that was something that really pleased me from last week.
“We had her, Alana Murphy was able to be reintroduced into the game, we had Paige Zois on the bench and Rosie Curtis as well. We’ve got some very accomplished senior players, like the Kellond-Knights and Chidiacs and Morrisons, and also we’ve got some really good young talent coming through as well.”
As players return, and others get exposed to senior football, Victory’s depth is growing. But they still need a win, and although Wellington have conceded eight times in two games, they have scored twice.
Hopkins and Victory’s players will not be taking this contest lightly. Even if the visitors are missing star defender Kate Taylor.
“We’re definitely not underestimating them,” said Hopkins. “We had a real tough game against them last year. They’re a team that have lost a couple of games, so they’ll be motivated, be hungry. They would have worked on things from last week and worked very hard on them.
“In terms of them as a team, their strengths are they press very high up the field, they’re very organised with their pressure and they don’t stop. They’re a team that back what they do and they keep going. They’ll keep trying to put pressure on us.
“They’re also a team that’s quite good in possession. They’ll try and play out and build up from the back. They’ll try and play through the lines. They’ve got players that are capable of doing that.”
Victory struggled to win the ball against Sydney FC but will be determined to avoid a repeat against Wellington. Defensively, Gema Simon is in contention to play at left back after Emily Kos received a knock in the last round.
According to Hopkins, the key to this game is pressuring the opposition. Wellington are a ball-playing side, and Victory will set out to force errors and then capitalise on them.
“If we do things correctly, there’ll be opportunities to win the ball in dangerous areas and then to go on from there. The key to us is making sure we build up well with the ball, that we’re accurate, and we get our positioning right. Our game is built on our high press and pressure…we must do that really well.”
Wellington’s recent score lines have not entirely reflected their performances. But when momentum is against them, they have conceded in quick succession.
Victory will not be taking them for granted, but after facing a Western United in their first-ever game, and Sydney FC out for Grand Final revenge, this represents the best chance for three points so far.
“We are hungry, we are desperate to open our account,” said Hopkins. “We’ll be going at them with all guns blazing. They need to understand that they’re in for a real tough test, but we definitely don’t underestimate them as a team.”