Alana Jancevski: The pitch is her playground

Perth Glory attacker Alana Jancevski spoke exclusively to Impetus’ Ben Gilby about last season’s challenges, the tightness of the playing group, and how she hit THAT free kick at Western United last month (28/2/23).

Above: Alana Jancevski fires in a shot for Perth Glory against Newcastle Jets at Macedonia Park. Photo: Tom McCarthy.

There are 72 minutes on the clock and Perth Glory are locked at 1-1 away to A-League Women leaders Western United. The Western Australian side are awarded a free-kick around 25 yards from goal, up steps Alana Jancevski.

The 19-year-old delivers a set-piece combining a vicious spin with awesome power that whistles past Hillary Beal and into the net. It’s not just one of the goals of this season, it’s one of the goals of any season. Yet it’s something that those who have followed her career since its earliest days were not surprised by.

Above: Alana Jancevski celebrating her sensational strike for Perth Glory against Western United. Photo: Keep Up.

Last season, Perth Glory captain Tash Rigby said of her teammate: “The pitch is her playground.” It’s where Jancevski delivers the incredible on a regular basis. She is a player that you can never take your eyes off as you are never quite sure what the Victoria-born youngster will pull out of her large bag of tricks next.

Alana Jancevski began playing football at the age of five. Her first club was Bundoora United to the north of Melbourne, where she was a part of boys’ teams until the age of 12 when she became part of the NTC (National Training Centre) in Victoria where she remained for five years.

Given a place at Melbourne Victory as a train-on player for three of those years, she was called up by the Junior Matildas in 2018/2019 – a period that saw her score another memorable goal for her country against Thailand. The teenager was also given national exposure by being part of the Kick TV series on ABC ME which followed her journey in football.

Above: Alana Jancevski pictured after scoring for Thailand for the Young Matildas. Photo: AFC.

Jancevski made the move from Victoria across to Perth as an 18-year-old last season. That in itself would be a challenge for anyone so young, but with the additional difficulties of the pandemic, which closed the state border and force the club into a New South Wales hub for the entire season, before the player herself became ill, it was seriously tough.

“It was a difficult period for us as a group,” Jancevski admitted to me, “being away from your home is challenging. Not having home advantage and being stuck in a hub wasn’t good. It did though help our team culture. We got closer as a group and we really flourished in our performances and we kinda became a little family. It was also tough with COVID.”

Despite the difficulties, the attacker had an impressive season as part of a Perth side who against all odds only missed out on Finals football by goal difference from eventual champions Melbourne Victory.

With the A-League Women season over, Jancevski returned to Victoria and played the NPLW campaign with Bulleen Lions – an environment in which she thrived.

“It was my second season there and it was one I wanted to do well in, and after the sickness I had, I wanted to come in and get fit again. I had a lot of confidence in the season and that showed in my performances. As a club, they gave me that environment and the confidence to do that, and I enjoyed my time there.”

Above: In her trademark 23 shirt, Alana Jancevski at Bulleen Lions during the NPLW Victoria season in 2022. Photo: Gold Leaf Creative.

In the latter part of 2022, the 19-year-old joined up with her Perth Glory teammates once more, and for the first time since joining the club was able to fully experience life in Western Australia, and the advantages of home support. It’s fair to say it’s a city that Jancevski is loving.

“I really enjoy it here, it’s a great environment for football. I have the enjoyment of training, but also being able to go to the beach and experience the day life of Perth. I’ve really enjoyed the calmness and chilled vibe. Being able to play at Macedonia Park, the atmosphere is amazing.”

Perth Glory are experiencing a season of two halves in 2022/23. With a strong squad and high hopes of Finals football, it took a bit longer than hoped for the results to come, and a further difficulty added in was the season-ending injury for top scorer Rylee Baisden. It was a huge blow, but Jancevski believes that it has only underlined the fact that her team are one that thrives when their backs are against the wall.

“Losing Rylee was a big loss to the group. She was such a sunshine and we all loved her very much. It was tough to digest. We might not have started the season as we wanted, but we brought components of our game in snippets and we knew when we brought it together for larger parts of the game we would do well.

Above: Alana Jancevski in possession for Perth Glory against Melbourne Victory this season at Macedonia Park. Photo: Tom McCarthy.

“When our backs are against the wall, and we’ve been through so much together the last few years, we thrive. Sometimes things don’t go your way – are you going to rise above it, or just sit in it, and as a group, we love to thrive in difficult conditions. We love the heat and we love to travel. We are ready to do things that are uncomfortable. We are in that hunt mode and we know what we are capable of.”

The Victorian reflected on her own game this season, saying: “I’ve had some really good performances, and I’m happy with how I’m going. I’ve been able to show the player that I am and the confidence and flair that I like to play with in front of goal. It’s been nice to score and get some assists. I’m playing with confidence and being myself, and I’m enjoying having that impact on the team.

“We have a very strong team and everyone has different assets. I’ve been able to execute really well coming on as an impact player. It depends on how the team are going. I’m training well and executing well on the pitch. I think I’m doing really well in that respect.”

When it comes to executing well, there is no better example than the stunning goal that Jancevski scored against Western United.

Reflecting on that strike, the Perth star said: “I’ve always loved being on a set piece. There has been a lot of practice. My craft is being in front of goal and shooting. That one felt pretty nice and sweet off the boot. It was definitely one of my best.”

“I’m very much an instinct player. In the moment, I was very much in the zone. Everything around me just stopped. It was one of those special moments that footballers get. When you are in that flow state, everything kinda happens on its own. I’m an instinct player and that is how it felt.”

Alana Jancevski on her stunning free-kick against Western United.

With Perth Glory well in the mix for Finals football as one of four or five sides competing for potentially only one available spot, there is a lot to look forward to for Jancevski and her teammates as the season reaches its climax. However, in order to reach the Finals, the team will have to overcome a packed March schedule of five games – which is equal to a quarter of the entire season – including a run of three games in three different states in six days.

“March is going to be a crazy month of football,” the attacker admitted, “but in terms of how we want to perform when you play football you want to be in a competitive environment. When you see four or five teams so close to that bracket, is something you thrive in and you live for. You want competition, you don’t want an easy tournament. It’s good pressure.

“In terms of what we need to do, we have clicked well as a group. We just need to keep being confident, keep playing our brand of football, keep scoring heaps of goals, and the rest will settle itself. If we put pressure on some teams, they might crumble.”

“As a footballer or an athlete in general, your main goal should be to win. I’m so competitive and hate to lose, so getting into the Finals is one step, and if you make that top four, you never know what is going to happen. I just want to keep adding to the group by scoring goals and assisting.”

With Alana Jancevski on the pitch, a goal, assist or moment of magic is never far away, and that Finals dream is very real indeed.

Artwork: Charlotte Stacey, founder of On Her Side.

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