Squad Balance the key as Victory Women kick-off

by Skip Fulton 0

Melbourne Victory will today kick-off in their 2017-2018 W-League opener against Canberra United at Epping Stadium.

It is the second year Jeff Hopkins will be occupying the technical area and wearing the coaches jacket. Hopkins has a wealth of experience coaching Australian football spending seven years at Brisbane Roar before being appointed to his current position last year at Melbourne Victory.

Two years ago when Melbourne City entered the W-League, responsibility for the Melbourne Victory Women’s team transferred from Football Federation Victoria back to the club itself. It was a tumultuous time and the transition didn’t go as well as expected. Whilst City dominated, Victory had a horror season finishing last with just two wins from twelve fixtures.

Enter Jeff Hopkins.  A new approach and a new philosophy saw a number of changes. Hopkins retained international experience through players such as Natasha Dowie and Christine Nairn whilst bringing in some new and young talent. The first season under a new coach is always a challenge and again the results didn’t come with just nine points resulting from the last season.

Talking to TCF, Hopkins contrasted last season to the preparation for this season saying “Look, last year was a tough year, but also it was a year to have a look at the team and I think we’ve recruited very well. We’ve kept on some of the real good young players that we developed last year, brought in some good overseas players and players from interstate and we’re looking much stronger.”

“We’ve worked on the team spirit and the girls are a really close-knit bunch, so I’m hoping for good things this year. Most probably looking at finals for sure and you know, if we can get ourselves into the finals you never know what can happen then” he said.

Victory has also taken their marketing and promotion of the Women’s team to the next level this year. Always a club on the front foot, the exposure of the squad and individual players in 2017 has been impressive. One of the more significant initiatives was travelling to Gippsland to play a pre-season friendly in Morwell against Adelaide United. It was a full-day of promotional activities last week and the success off the pitch was matched on the pitch with a 3-0 win.

The match had a twitch of nostalgia for defender Alex Gummer, who returned to the region where she grew up playing the great game. Asked what it was like coming back to the area, Gummer said “yeah, look, it’s great. You know, I grew up in the area, I played for Drouin Dragons growing up and to come back and see how much growth has happened in the area. When I started playing there were no girls teams. There was, you know, maybe three or four girls in the entire league, and now to see how much growth there is with the women’s game it’s grown, it’s fantastic to come back.”

This was just one example of Victory integrating its activities with the broader football community. TCF asked Hopkins about his recruitment strategy, how much he gets out and watch the NPLW and the local players to see what the calibre is there like in Victoria. “I think last year I was out looking at three, four games a weekend. It’s been more difficult this year because you can only get to one game a weekend, just for the kick-off times. I’ve got a pretty good understanding of the players that are out there and I think the players that we’ve got were amongst the best. I think we also realised that we needed to recruit from interstate as well, bringing Laura Alleway in, Casey Dumont and Angela Baird from Brisbane. Then add in four quality internationals. The quality of the internationals that are coming in are getting better and better each year. So I think by looking at the game today we’ve got the balance just about right and obviously some great young plucked talent as well. You look at Kyra Cooney-Cross today. Oh, wow. She could be anything, that girl. So really pleased with a lot of performances today.”

Hopkins and his squad kick-off against Canberra United at 4:30pm this afternoon at Epping Stadium.

Photo: Melbourne Victory