Lia Privitelli: Victory’s leader in attack

For this week’s Midweek Dub interview, Melbourne Victory’s Lia Privitelli talks to Impetus’ Kieran Yap about her experiences in the league, managing a demanding job and football career and being a surprise Grand Final captain. (8/2/23).

Above: Lia Privitelli shows her delight after scoring against Adelaide United last season. Photo: Melbourne Victory.

Melbourne Victory began the 2022/23 season as defending Champions for the second consecutive campaign and Lia Privitelli is relishing the challenge of striving for a third.

“It’s very exciting to be back for another season with the added pressure of being defending champions,” Privitelli told Impetus.

“Over the years with Jeff (Hopkins, Victory head coach), we have really progressed as a group and have now got a bit of a name for ourselves. We know teams want to beat us which means we take no game lightly and hold ourselves to high standards and expectations.”

Two losses to Sydney FC and Western United meant that the season did not start off according to plan. Privitelli was sidelined for those matches, Victory did not want to risk or rush her early on. When Jeff Hopkins’s team embarked on a four-game winning streak, it coincided with Privitelli’s return.

Although there are numerous reasons for the turnaround, not least that the new-look squad needed time after a short pre-season. Be that as it may, the attacker’s influence was a clear factor.

Privitelli is a lightning-quick, direct winger who can play either side of the pitch. Now in her seventh season at the club, Privitelli is also a Grand Final-winning captain. Following the injury to Kayla Morrison in 2021/22, she was chosen to lead the squad in a challenging but successful season.

It was not an honour or responsibility she was expecting, but it was a role executed to perfection.

“It was a bit of a whirlwind of emotions with Kayla getting injured and needing to fill really big shoes in the captaincy role. I really had to add a different dimension to my game and be a voice for the team on and off the field.

“It was a tough experience for me as in the past I felt as though I was someone who had preferred to focus just on my game but I needed to put that aside and have a more holistic view.

“I felt a responsibility that I needed to lead by example which I believe in a way helped me have a successful season personally. It gave me a desire to go to a different level for the team!

Above: Lia Privitelli pictured after scoring against Adelaide United last season. Photo: Melbourne Victory.

“Throughout the season I learnt that as footballers no matter how old we are, we are capable of adapting and growing our game. I learnt that it’s important to stay grounded and lean on others for support. Jeff was massive for me in this aspect, guiding me and helping me along the way.”

Melbourne Victory’s recent sides have valued pacy, goalscoring wingers with defensive tenacity. It has made Privitelli a valued member of Jeff Hopkins’ squad and a popular figure in the stands.

The club stalwart has shared the field and her position with many high-profile players, and gained a lot from two former teammates in particular.

“There have been so many players during my time at Victory who have taught me a lot during their time at the club however two that come to mind are Emily Gielnik and Darian Jenkins.

“They were both so influential wingers for us and I was just in awe with their abilities. I was able to learn a lot from them both and take their strengths and adapt them to suit my style of play.

Hopkins’s fondness for creative wide players, has made Victory a consistently exciting team. Privitelli is joined on the flanks this season by new arrivals Rikke Madsen and Ava Briedis, along with Beattie Goad, Sarah Rowe, and Paige Zois as options.

She describes it as being part of the DNA of the club.

“If Jeff signs you it’s because he trusts and values you as a player. We have so much depth in our squad that even when key players are out we can call on anyone to do their job for the team.

“Ava is a kid with so much talent. She has a real X factor about her and she will be a big name for Victory in the coming years. Like I said before, Jeff has a knack for not only signing good footballers but good people and these two are no exception to that.”

During the NPLW season, Privitelli returned to the Bulleen Lions for a campaign that saw them finish runners-up to Calder United. Privitelli scored some spectacular goals throughout the season including an incredible one-touch chip to finish off an Alana Jancevski cross.

She finished the season with six goals from the wing, and hopes to add more to her A-League Women’s tally. Her attacking nous was perfectly encapsulated in last season’s semi-final.In the 2-1 win over Adelaide United when she set up one goal, and scored the other.

“There’s no better feeling than scoring goals especially when it’s for the childhood team you grew up supporting.

“In my opinion, there is still a big difference in the level between NPL and ALW and I’m working hard to get more consistent with goal scoring in this league.

“We have a great support staff who work alongside Jeff who have been supporting me with this aspect of my game so hopefully, I can get my name on the score sheet a few times this season!”

When she is not lifting trophies for Melbourne Victory, Privitelli is teaching in the classroom. The A-League Women’s still awaits full professionalism, and she emphasises that no job while playing football is without its challenges.

As a veteran of both careers, she enjoys both and receives as much advice from the students as she does from her coaches.

“Fortunately, I’ve been doing it for close to seven years now so I’ve got my routine down pat which makes it easier. I do have to be extremely organised which at times can be stressful but I’m still at a point where I love playing football and love teaching and don’t want to give up either.

“I do at times get some feedback from students but more so from the senior ones. They are not shy to point out both good and bad performances but overall, they are really supportive and it’s great to see their faces when they come to games to support the team.”

As a Victory player since 2016/17, Privitelli is uniquely placed to look back at the history of her team and the competition as a whole. She was part of the rebuild that took place after the arrival of Melbourne City into the league.

Above: Lia Privitelli (right) with her team mate at Bulleen Lions in the NPLW Victoria last season, Perth Glory’s Alana Jancevski. Photo: Bulleen Lions.

In her era, Victory have risen to become perennial contenders and a destination club for senior Matildas and international stars.

“In terms of MVFC I believe our style of play has been quite consistent. Jeff rebuilt the team from scratch and although it took a few years he has got us playing an attractive style of football who take pleasure in attacking but are also quite disciplined in defence.

“Over my time at the club, I have seen a number of players come and go but Jeff ensures he brings in people who are not only good footballers but are good people which has no doubt resulted in our rise to be one of the most competitive teams in the league.

“The competition has evolved as well. I remember starting out and all the Matildas were spread across the league which was incredible to be around. Now we have an abundance of youth coming through which is really showcasing the talent we have as a nation and the growth women’s football has made in Australia.

“We are also seeing the ALW being attractive to internationals who want to come and play in our competition which is a credit to the league and the developments they have made.

“No doubt when we go to a full home and away fixture in the coming years we will see further improvements to the competition.”

In the present day, Victory are contenders again. With Morrison and Privitelli on the pitch they have the last two players to lift the Grand Final trophy. They have depth in both midfield and defence, and in Privitelli one of the most consistently dangerous wide players in the league.

Last season, she invited Kayla Morrison onto the pedestal to hang a medal around her neck. With Privitelli in form, this time there could be one for each of them.

Artwork: Charlotte Stacey, founder of On Her Side.

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