Jeff Hopkins prepares for the Jets and names his favourite Olympico

Following a win on the road, Melbourne Victory coach Jeff Hopkins spoke to the media about a turbulent week, improved performances, and a rising young midfield star. Kieran Yap was in attendance. (16/12/22)

Above: Jeff Hopkins speaking to the media. Photo: Melbourne Victory FC.

Melbourne Victory rediscovered their scoring touch against Perth Glory, and Jeff Hopkins’ side is high on confidence as they host the Newcastle Jets on Sunday.

Victory had only scored the one goal leading into the Round Four match, but a brace from Melina Ayres and a Olympico goal from Alex Chidiac gave meant that the scoreboard reflected their general play.

Chidiac’s goal, direct from a corner kick was one of the highlights of the round, and her first of the season. These types of goals remain a glorious rarity in football, but Victory fans have been spoiled by choice for their favorite. Since he became head coach of the club, Hopkins has seen three.

Christine Nairn scored a memorable one in 2019, Kyra Cooney Cross scored a legendary one in 2021, now Chidiac has her own to add to the Victory highlight reel.

When asked to name a favourite, Hopkins had a laugh, then answered in the way one would expect a winning coach to.

“Alex Chidiac for sure,” he said. “Because it was the last one. The most recent one is always the most important. The rest are just history now.

“It was funny, at half time I had a chat with Chids, and said there’s goals out there for you this half. I wasn’t expecting it from there, but we’ll definitely take it. It’s good to see her get on the scoresheet because she’s been in really good form. That’s a good reward for her endeavours over the first few rounds.”

Victory brought Alana Murphy into the starting 11 against Perth. She made an obvious impact as they regained supremacy in midfield. It is an area that they have struggled with this season, and the Young Matilda’s energy and confidence was as effective as it was exciting.

With Amy Jackson still unavailable through injury, it is likely Murphy will partner Elise Kellond-Knight again in the middle of the pitch. Hopkins was delighted by her performance and confident she would produce another strong game against the Jets.

“She’s an incredibly talented young player,” said Hopkins of the 17-year-old. “We had a good strong heart-to-heart before the game. A real positive conversation where we really let her know what we thought of her, and how much we thought of her.

“We’ve got bags of confidence in her and her ability. I think she responded really well to that. She put in a great performance, I think she was one of the top three players on the field.

“Her ability to switch play and to look so comfortable on the ball really went a big way to allowing us to control big parts of the game. For a player as young as she is, they’re great qualities to have. She’s like the rest of the squad, she’ll keep getting better and better each week.

Above: Melbourne Victory head coach Jeff Hopkins directs training. Photo: Melbourne Victory.

“She works really hard in training. She is quite analytical and critical of her own performances. I’m sure she’ll be better this week than she was last week. I’m really excited to see where she might go by the end of the season.”

Victory are in form as they face a dangerous but winless Newcastle side. Hopkins said that he was pleased with training during the week. Especially as the mood of the entire competition felt flat flowing the news that the Grand Finals would be played in Sydney for the next three years, and the resultant fan backlash.

Despite the obvious distraction and potential disruption, Hopkins described some of the best sessions of the season. It is encouraging for fans given they will face a Newcastle side that can score goals and will attack relentlessly.

It has been a hard week, but football-wise, the players are feeling good.

“The main thing that we talked about after the game was, there’s still a lot of improvement in us,” said Hopkins. “We know that we can be a lot better, and we want to be a lot better.

“This week’s about enjoying the performance from last week but adding to it and growing from it to take into the game this weekend.”

The players are focused on the weekend’s game but have expressed disappointment with the A-League’s decision. Striker Maja Markovski posted a strong statement against the move on Instagram, which was shared by her teammates and captain.

Hopkins is in full agreement, and would like the decision to be reversed. Although Victory have won the last two Grand Finals in Sydney, he values the right to host a home Grand Final.

Beyond the footballing reasons, the coach is considering the good of the women’s game. With Australia about the co-host the women’s World Cup, a prime opportunity to grow the domestic league may have been stalled.

“You’ve got to listen to the supporters,” said Hopkins. “We want to grow our support base as big as we possibly can. “I think decisions like this where people feel like they’re not being listened to turns people away from the game rather than brings people towards it.”

Melbourne Victory hosts the Newcastle Jets at AAMI Park on Sunday afternoon.

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