A-League Women Media Conferences

Ben Gilby, Denise Duffy, and Ryan Miller-Woods combine three of this week’s media conferences ahead of the final round of the home and away season (30/3/23).

Canberra United:

by Ryan Miller-Woods

Above: Laura Hughes speaking to the media ahead of her team’s vital game against Melbourne City. Image: Canberra United.

Ahead of their crucial final match of the regular season against Melbourne City on Sunday which the capital city side need to win to qualify for the Finals, Laura Hughes reflected on how the squad have been revelling in the pressure rather than feeling challenged by it.

“I guess whoever turns up on the day best prepared can win so I think you never know what can happen. These are the games for why we love football, these high-pressure moments and one game can create something. We’re very focused on Sunday (against Melbourne City).”

Canberra United and Melbourne City will go into their match with the advantage of knowing the result from Melbourne Victory’s game at Wellington Phoenix before their match on Sunday. For Hughes though, this is just another case of focusing on themselves rather than anyone else.

“I think especially the last few weeks, it’s about controlling what we can control, other results we can’t really focus on that. All we have to do is prepare (the) best for Melbourne City on Sunday.

“Three points there will either get us into Finals or we’ll finish the season on a high, so I think either way not depending on any results we want to beat Melbourne City especially because they beat us earlier in the season, we want redemption like we did against Western United. So I think we want to stay focused on that because we can’t control the results.”

Above: A positive Michelle Heyman ahead of Canberra United’s game with Melbourne City on Sunday. Image: Canberra United.

Canberra United’s 3-0 win at Western United last Saturday served to highlight just how far the side have come over the last month or so. The last time the teams met, the capital city side went down to a 5-0 defeat. Since that period, it’s been onwards and upwards as Michelle Heyman reflected with the media this week.

“It’s incredible! The girls have definitely shown what we (as a side) can do, we’ve dug deep in tough times when we needed to do that but we just have that belief we knew walking into that game (against Western United) we were going to win because we knew we had to win.

“I feel like we do really well under pressure, so coming into this weekend’s game, it’s going to be the exact same feeling, especially losing to them 4-0, I think deep down we all know that it hurt us and I think that gives us more fire in the belly to come out throwing punches, we’re ready to come out there and give it our all and to the last whistle just keep putting everything out there.”

The A-League Women’s record appearance holder and record scorer also belives that her side have thrived in the pressure of having their season on the line almost every week since those two consecutive 5-0 defeats.

“I definitely think so. I feel like pressure makes everyone step up and I think if collective as a whole team that we can do that on the weekend then it’s our game. I know we all respect each other and we all have each other’s back, we always work hard for each other and that’s something we’ve brought into after we lost those two games (against Wellington Phoenix and Western United in Round 11 and Round 12).

“We had to sit down and do some soul-searching and we really wanted to figure out what it was that made us go so low. The one thing that we came to together as a collective and we were like well if we work harder for each other then nothing can really stop us because we know we have the talent, we know we can score goals, we’ve got everything that we need.”

Melbourne Victory:

by Ben Gilby

Above: Melbourne Victory boss Jeff Hopkins is encouraging his side to get the result they need in Wellington to clinch a Finals spot once more. Photo: Melbourne Victory.

Melbourne Victory head coach Jeff Hopkins has increased player availability for his team’s crunch trip to New Zealand to face Wellington Phoenix in a game that his side dare not lose.

The return of Gema Simon and Lia Privitelli comes at a hugely important time as Hopkins admits that the Victory have found it difficult to put the right selection together in recent weeks.

“We’ve been pushing hard to find the right balance and right line-up since ‘Chids’ (Alex Chidiac) has left, and we’re getting there.

“It’s been hard to put out the team we’ve wanted to each week as we’ve had one or two niggly injuries that we’ve had to manage. In the front third, the quality of our runs and final pass hasn’t quite been right. I’m still looking to find that right balance and combination of players to really click.”

Hopkins reflected on how pleased he was to be welcoming Simon back into the fold after over three months on the sidelines. It’s been a real hard one. A real slog for Gema. For a professional player, she just wants to play. She’s had a lot of niggly knock-backs which have stopped her. Lia (Privitelli) is back as well after not quite being ready last week.

The trip to Wellington is the last of Melbourne Victory’s ‘must not lose’ matches, and Hopkins admitted: “Nothing’s really changed over the last few games really. There’s a lot of pressure on us and other teams. This is the last chance. We know what we’ve got to do – go over there and win the game.

“The players knew the last four weeks were going to be like Finals. I’ve tried to keep a focus on us doing what we have to do. It’s more around the process. If we get the process right, the outcome looks after itself.

Ahead of their first-ever trip to New Zealand to face a Nix side who need to win to have any chance of avoiding the wooden spoon, the Victory head coach revealed the squad have been mixing up their preparations.

“This week we have had a very relaxed week. We’ve done things a bit differently. Hopefully, that change in how we’ve approached the game might get a little change in mentality that might spark us in the game.”

Whilst Wellington Phoenix go into the game bottom of the table, their recent performance levels are far from matching that status. Hopkins has made sure his team are fully aware of the potential perils that could await them at Sky Stadium, with Canberra United, and possibly Perth Glory able to pounce if there is a slip up.

“We have a lot of respect for the (Phoenix) team. They press very high, they play with a real intensity and they press with high intensity. The danger when you are playing out is that you lose the ball and they can attack. We get it wrong, and they are more than capable of playing through our press. They have some very good individual players who can hurt you on the day.

“It’s a big motivating factor for them that they don’t want to finish bottom. The results they’ve had and the performance against Adelaide the other night (a 3-1 win) will give them encouragement. Yet we’re a very good side. and we are confident in our ability to bring a performance that can bring a win. We’re playing in a great stadium, on a great surface that will suit us.”

Wellington Phoenix:

Above: Betsy Hassett speaking to the media earlier today. Image: Wellington Phoenix.

Wellington Phoenix’s Betsy Hassett and Milly Clegg are both feeling loose and confident about their chances ahead their final game of the season at home to defending champions Melbourne Victory.

Coming off their midweek win at Adelaide United, The Phoenix are looking to end the season strong against a Victory team who will need a result to make Finals.

Betsy Hassett told the media today that her side are more than ready for the task ahead as they aim to clinch the win that could take them off the bottom of the final ladder. “We’re excited to take on Melbourne Victory this weekend. They’re a tough team, but we’re ready for the challenge. We’ve been working hard in training and we feel like we’re in good form right now.”

Hassett also talked about the importance of concentration throughout the match: “It’s crucial that we stay focused for the entire 90 minutes. Melbourne Victory is a team that can punish you if you switch off for even a moment. So, we’ll need to be alert and focused from start to finish.”

Above: Milly Clegg reflecting on a big week in her embroynic footballing career. Image: Wellington Phoenix.

Milly Clegg, the young starlet who has just received a call-up for the New Zealand national side echoed Hassett’s sentiments: “Melbourne Victory is a strong team, but we’re feeling confident. We know what we need to do on the pitch, and we’ll be giving it our all out there.”

Clegg also emphasized the importance of team unity: “We’ve got a great team dynamic right now, and that’s going to be key in this match. We need to work together as a unit, communicate well on the pitch, and support each other throughout the game.”

Their matchup against Melbourne Victory has Finals implications for Melbourne City, Canberra United, and Perth Glory. This, including Wellington’s own need for a win sees the Sky Stadium clash as a monumental one to end the campaign.

However, once the final whistle goes on the A-League Women season, Hassett and Clegg will not be able to put their feet up. The next morning after the match sees the pair flying to Turkey as two of five Wellington Phoenix players who will be joining the Football Ferns squad for their upcoming fixtures against Iceland and Nigeria.

Clegg is thrilled about the prospect of her first tour with the senior team. “I want to go out there and try my hardest to do my best and put my best foot forward. I’m really excited to be involved in it. So hopefully, I can learn off the other more experienced players and just kind of get a grasp on what the environment is like.”

Artwork: Charlotte Stacey, founder of On Her Side.

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