For this week’s WA On Wednesday feature, Murdoch University Melville captain Charli Wainwright speaks to Impetus’ Ben Gilby about her footballing journey, life at MUM FC, and how she views the NPLW WA this season (26/3/23).
Above: Charli Wainwright (right) in possession for Murdoch University Melville at Perth SC this season. Photo supplied by: Charli Wainwright.
Charli Wainwright has been part of the Murdoch University Melville squad since the dawn of the NPLW WA in 2020. Over those three full seasons, she has experienced huge success and become an integral part of the club’s squad.
Wainwright took up the game at the age of nine, and has been on a rapid trajectory ever since, as she takes up the story: “The first time I ever played football was for a primary school competition…where my sport teacher said I should give it a go. I had really enjoyed playing it and decided to join a local club and play in a mixed under-nines team.
“I then moved to Rockingham City Football Club. This is where I played under-10 and under-11 with a junior boys team for two years before playing with the under-12s NPL alongside goalkeeper Miranda Templeman (now at Melbourne Victory). This was the period of time that I was selected for the under-12s School Sport WA (SSWA) State School Girls team twice. Once competing over in Adelaide in 2015 and then Perth the following year in 2016 where we finished third and received bronze.
“I then stayed at Rockingham City Football Club playing another two years in their under-13s Boys NPL. At this time I was selected for the under-18s SSWA State School Girls where we competed over in Shepparton, Victoria, and received a bronze medal for finishing third. I decided to switch clubs and play for the under-23 reserves at Queens Park Soccer Club for a year in 2019 under coach Peter Rakic where we were league champions.
“The following year the women’s teams at Queens Park were required to move in order to play WNPL. Fortunately, that led us to Murdoch University Melville Football Club (MUM FC), and became 2020 league champions. I was lucky to be given the opportunity by Peter Rakic to play in the first team at MUM FC in 2020, where I was exposed to a very high level of experienced players. The following year we were coached by Mark Jones who is one of the most intelligent coaches I have been coached by and evidently, the team became treble winners of the Cup, League, and Top Four Cup in 2021. I have remained there to this day.”
Whilst the first two years of the NPLW WA were full of success and silverware for Murdoch University Melville, the subsequent seasons have been ones of rebuilding, as the MUM FC captain explains: “Leading into the 2022 season, we had lost quite a lot of players due to our own success in 2021. Players were headed over east to play in the NPL system over there or were selected in the Perth Glory women’s squad.
“I would say a big low for us was losing Tia Stonehill in the Night series group stage or the departure of Tahlia Organ. They both played an important role in the team given their experience. A high we experienced during the season would definitely be the 1-0 victory over a very good Perth SC side.
“A personal high I experienced was captaining the team for the season. The biggest low for me was probably the last game of the season, it was against Perth SC and we weren’t able to claim a victory over them and missed out on a Top Four opportunity. Overall, I would say that despite a rough start to the season losing players, it was a great opportunity for younger girls to step up.”
Preparations for this season have been led by new head coach David Biancuzzo, and Wainwright believes the club is in a good place for 2023: “Pre-season preparations were good, I believe we have built a good environment at the club and in the team and David Biancuzzo has played a really big role in this.
“David has been precise with how he would like us to play this season, it’s up to us as players to show we are capable of it. David is an approachable person and contributes so much to the team. I do also want to mention our assistant coach Dom Lasenza as his input at training and in games has been effective for each player and his ability to drive intensity has improved the quality in training.”
MUM FC have pieced together a new look team for the 2023 campaign as they bid to move back into the top four places. The club captain outlines the qualities that her new teammates have added to the squad.
“Charlotte Meaden’s younger sister, Sophie Meaden, joined us this season. Previously playing at NTC. Sophie has had a big impact in training and on game day. She has brought intensity as well as work rate along with her and has moulded with the team very quickly. She played a big part in our game against Fremantle City in round one, scoring two goals to secure us the win.
“Another young player that has impacted the squad is Jessica Johnson. Jess has proven she is capable of playing at this level despite being so young, she is a talented player and has impacted the team’s performance this season. A new player coming into the squad to play an important role is goalkeeper Stacey Cavill. Stacey has been able to impact training, providing her experience to the young squad.
“Danielle Brown is also new to the squad and like Stacey comes from Curtin University Football Club. Danielle has definitely had an impact on the team and shows effort and ability. Nicolina Lerino comes from Perth SC. Nicolina had instantly gelled with the squad and is a polite player with work rate and good attitude. Katie Sabatini isn’t new to the team but she’s back after a break and is playing a huge role in the squad, she is offering the players a large amount of experience and has contributed to the team’s morale greatly.”
With the first month of the new NPLW WA campaign now played, Murdoch University have had a mixed run of results. After opening the campaign with an excellent 2-1 win over Fremantle City, they have subsequently suffered two reversals, 2-0 at home to Perth RedStar and a 6-0 defeat at league leaders Perth SC before defeating Subiaco’s Women’s League team 4-0 in the State Cup first round.
Wainwright reflected honestly on this run of results saying, “I think that our start to the season has been average. It’s a tough thing to say but I know we are capable of more and it comes down to how much we really want it.
“I believe we can play good football and at a high intensity. That 6-0 loss to Perth SC made everyone devastated and brought us to a low. However, it was a learning experience for the young squad. It has outlined what we need to do moving forward and provided clarity on the expectations from each other and from ourselves as individuals.
“Our goal is to play good football and at a good intensity, to set a standard for ourselves that is hard to play against, we want to disrupt teams and show them what we are capable of.
“I feel like the league is slowly getting stronger, it was good to see Perth SC become champions in the Night Series campaign over previous Night Series Champions Perth RedStar who had a very good record last season. Although, I also think some teams have gotten weaker, lacking depth in their squad, and are struggling to find quality. I believe there has been both an increase and decrease in strength across the league this season.”
Whilst overall, Murdoch University Melville would like to end the season back in the top four, for Wainwright there is a bigger picture – one of whole club growth.
“Players have been offered extra training with selected boys’ teams. I personally have found this has made a huge impact on my football ability and I would argue that other girls feel the same way. A good season for the club has already started in terms of growth and progress, I feel the club has offered opportunities and resources you wouldn’t get at other places and it has, ultimately, had a positive effect on the club’s growth.