A-League Women Previews

12/1/23

CANBERRA UNITED v NEWCASTLE JETS

by Ryan Miller-Woods

Above: Grace Jale speaking to the media yesterday. Image: Canberra United.

Canberra United will be going into their match on Saturday against Newcastle Jets with a lot of confidence from the result and performance they had against Adelaide United – an outcome that ended a three-match losing streak.

Canberra United’s Grace Jale has been an integral and crucial player so far this season. Her form is going a long way to prove to national coach Jitka Klimková that she is worth a starting place in New Zealand’s squad at this year’s World Cup based on her current form for Canberra.

Jale, who recognises that the Jets will offer “a challenge”, outlined how she is settling into life in Australia’s capital city after moving from Wellington Phoenix when she spoke to the media yesterday.

“I’m loving it here, the group is great, the coaching staff is great, the players are great. I think it is a great environment to be in.”

“My own personal battles with confidence and coming into a new team was a bit daunting at first but once I was here it was great and it was really nice for all the players to be so comforting and encouraging but I think it’s just for me putting a stamp on the league (A-League Women) and trying to put my best foot forward for the World Cup coming up this year.”

Jale returned to the theme of confidence, and revealed that it took her quite a while to find her feet in the A-League Women with Wellington Phoenix last season.

“Kind of later into last season with the (Wellington) Phoenix when I had started scoring some goals I thought it’s a bit of a confidence boost and that I can do it and with Njegosh’s (Popovich) encouragement and just giving me the freedom to kind of play my own game and everyone else’s encouragement as well to play my own game, working with Michelle Heyman and all the encouraging words has made it so much easier going into games more confidently.”

Above: Canberra United head coach Njegosh Popovich sees Saturday’s opponents Newcastle Jets as “a very good side”. Image: Canberra United.

Jale’s head coach Njegosh Popovich also addressed journalists yesterday. Speaking about what the Kiwi has added to his team this season, Popovich said: “Grace (Jale) is a super person, a great player to watch.

“I think she has some incredible talent in terms of going forward and also her running metres are incredible, I can’t get over her work rate, she does things so easily that people think she is relaxing and being lazy but the reality of it is, she just makes it look easy.”

Popovich’s first season so far has seen his side playing quite well despite certain results not going Canberra’s way. He feels that their superb win in Adelaide last weekend could be the start of better things.

“I think that turning point is one word to use, it’s a new year, it’s a new beginning as people say but the reality for me is that the team has been performing well it just hasn’t been getting the results and on the weekend we still had a lot of opportunities that were missed and missed chances, we are definitely creating a lot of goals, so very happy about that.”

As for Canberra’s opponents Newcastle, they have had an up-and-down season so far and while they have scored the fourth most goals so far this season with 14 (only behind Western United, Sydney FC, and Melbourne City ), they also have the unwanted feat of having conceded the most goals so far with 22. For comparison, Perth Glory and Wellington Phoenix have the next most goals conceded with 15, so Newcastle will want to make a statement on Saturday against Canberra.

When asked about what to expect from Newcastle on Saturday, Popovich said: “I think Newcastle Jets are a very good side, to be fair and honest with you, I think they have been unlucky in a lot of games.

“I think the inconsistency on their results is probably based more around some of the younger players they have in the back third, more so than the front line, the front line is rapid so that’s something we need to keep an eye on.”

PERTH GLORY v WELLINGTON PHOENIX

Above: Perth Glory head coach Alex Epakis speaking to the media today ahead of Sunday’s home game with Wellington Phoenix. Image: Perth Glory.

Perth Glory head coach Alex Epakis began today’s media conference with an update on Rylee Baisden’s injury after the American confirmed on social media yesterday that her season has come to a premature end, writes Ben Gilby.

“It’s a serious knee injury,” said Epakis, “and it’s going to be a long-term one. It’s devastating because she’s been fantastic for us and the competition. We’re offering her as much support as we can and looking to get the rehabilitation in.”

The Perth boss underlined how Baisden’s loss to the team is more than just her ability in front of goal. “With Rylee you get fantastic energy and leadership and you also get a fantastic player on the field. To replace that isn’t easy and that’s something we’ll all have to do to try and fill the void. Other players get a chance to put their hand up now and I’m excited to see how that goes.

“We are still able to bring in unattached players, whether that is local or overseas. I’ve been really active to ascertain what that list might look like to make the most informed decision. If we can find someone, then great, but if not, we have players, we are comfortable.”

In far more positive related player news, Sunday will see Glory stalwart and former Matildas star Kim Carroll play her 150th W/A-League Women match – an achievement that Epakis believes is fitting for such an influential individual both on and off the pitch.

“That’s a huge testament to her as a person and a player. Kim has been a fantastic servent to the competition, to the national team for as far as I can remember. We’ve been very fortunate to have her here…she is someone who I value a lot. She has a lot of leadership capacity. She is a good person to rely on.

“We have conversations regarding the team, and it’s a really good exchange of ideas. She improves me as a coach, and we’re really looking forward to the team and her putting on a great effort and performance for this game.”

Above: Sunday marks Kim Carroll (centre, white shirt)’s 150th W/A-League Women appearance. Photo: Kieran Chea for Impetus.

Whilst Perth Glory have only recorded a single win for the season, the team’s recent form against the three Victorian sides Melbourne City, Western United, and Melbourne Victory has been impressive. “I think we’re finding the right balance now tactically in how we play, especially in going forward,” recognised Epakis.

Sunday’s match at Macedonia Park sees the first-ever A-League Women Distance Derby in Western Australia with Wellington Phoenix making the 5,251km trip, (flights vary from 6-9 hours). The Glory boss knows that, despite the Nix’s lowly position in the ladder, they are capable of lowering Perth colours.

“They are a very high-energy team. There are a lot of young players there and their performances have been really good. They are a hard-working group and there are a lot of parallels with us as a group as well.

“Since they have come to the competition. they haven’t let anyone get over the top of them. They are a very competitive team. We had some very tricky encounters with them last season. We know where we need to be at for the game.

“We’ve beaten them twice, both times we’ve played them. Both times we needed to be mindful of our performance and there were times where they took the ascendancy in terms of the energy.”

With the season now at it’s half way stage, Perth do not have the points on the board that many expected. Epakis stated that he his team are more than aware that for his team to reach their potential, they have to get wins on the board, and fast.

“We are in a position where we can’t have slip-ups. We’ve been really clear about that with the group. From here on in, regardless of who we are playing, we’re going all in to get maximum points, so that mindset is a good one to have. There is no Plan B, Plan A is to get a positive result.”

Alex Epakis on Perth Glory’s focus for the remainder of the season.
Above: Wellington Phoenix’s returning vice-captain Kate Taylor speaks to the media yesterday. Image: Wellington Phoenix.

Wellington Phoenix‘s Kate Taylor is back in line for selection as the Nix take the almost 12 hour flight to face Perth Glory at Macedonia Park, writes Ryan Miller-Woods.

Wellington Phoenix will really want to get a result this round to bridge the gap that they now have to 10th placed Western Sydney Wanderers thanks to Wanderers’ shock victory against Melbourne City last time out.

Wellington’s chances have been given a great boost with the return of vice-captain Kate Taylor, one of the club’s brightest young stars who unfortunately had been unavailable for the past five matches due to injury.

“I first picked up the injury back in Christchurch with the (Football) Ferns (in November). I didn’t quite know what it was but I knew it wasn’t too serious at the time so I thought I would be okay, so then we came back here (with the Phoenix) and I played those first two games (against Melbourne City and Western United) and I probably shouldn’t have.

“In hindsight, it’s just part of sport and so these past few weeks I’ve been taking it easy, kind of managing my load a bit more, and been building up slowly which has been really good and I’ve enjoyed being back running, and kicking a ball and just being back with the girls and around the squad.”

Asked about what she makes of Perth Glory this season, Taylor said: “I think they’re strong again, they’ve kept lots of the same people from last year, obviously they’ve had a horrible injury now (with Rylee Baisden who tore her ACL against Melbourne Victory last round) but I think they’re still a strong team, they like the ball, they’ve got a good coach (in Alex Epakis) and I think they know what they’re doing on and off the ball.”

With Perth Glory being very clear that they are going all out for wins between now and the end of the season, Taylor was asked about Phoenix’s own search for three points.

“Yeah, I think it’s (been) hard. Obviously, that (first) point was really momentous for us and I think that moving forward that win’s getting closer and closer, obviously, the performance last week (against Western United) was good but just not quite there so I think we just got to keep pushing and keep pushing each other in training and scoring goals as much as possible and hopefully that is reflected on the pitch.”

For Wellington, this season, unfortunate mistakes have tended to be the deciding factor in matches. This is something that they will need to eradicate on Sunday. Whilst Perth are without Rylee Baisden, they have a multitude of attacking weapons in their squad.

Above: Marisa van der Meer is positive ahead of the long trip to Perth. Image: Wellington Phoenix.

Also speaking to the media ahead of their long journey to Western Australia was Marisa van der Meer, one of Wellington’s best players up so far this season with her awareness in defence. A superb quality for a 20-year-old to possess.

Outlining how she feels the team are progressing whilst still searching for their first win, van der Meer said: “I think with each game we’re improving, getting better and better and our connection off the field is as well improving which is definitely going to help us on the field so as long as we keep moving forward I think results will follow.”

With the return of vice-captain Kate Taylor to the squad from injury, van der Meer who in Taylor’s absence had been playing centre back, will most likely be back in her usual position of right back. van der Meer feels that her vice-captain’s return is a massive plus for the Phoenix.

“It will be such a good boost for the team and especially having her as a leader in that centre back role I think will just help us to move forward and I think it will really help our defence and hopefully that can relate into our attack as well.”

Reflecting on Sunday’s opponents Perth Glory, Van der Meer observed: “I think Perth are pretty good, they weren’t bad last season as well. They’ve kept those same players, they’ve had a few good results this season as well so I think they’re quite good at their transitioning and going forward.

“They have lost one of their attacking players recently (in Rylee Baisden) but I think they’ll be a challenging team (to face). I think we’ll be able to compete with them and hopefully get a result.”

Artwork: Charlotte Stacey, founder of On Her Side.

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