Aussie Summary – What a Place, What a city, What a team.
As I Sit in my house in Wales, with a cup of tea ( yes girls, not coffee) with snow barricading me in.. I can finally sit down and reflect on my time in OZ. I started this blog, with every intention of writing a weekly / two weekly piece, but unfortunately life took over and the weeks flew by without my regular updates.
However, I’m here now and I find myself thinking of the girls at Melbourne Victory, getting their rest before the MASSIVE semi final tomorrow (I hope they’re resting anyway or ima..) wishing I could be there to play, watch, support .. HELP in any way possible.
SO. Ive decided to write a final piece, to summarise my time with them and explain how much fun I had, how much I learnt and how much belief I have in this group of girls .. Here goes.
Summary of Down Under.I left my last blog with our Game against Sydney, So ill talk briefly about the next match. My home Debut .. Home to Canberra. One thing I love about the Australian league is the little rivalry’s that are made from team to team. I didn’t know much about teams here, but I knew by kick off on Saturday 17th November, this Game was big, it meant a lot, and we were pumped. Canberra had an unbeaten run of 15, champions of last year W-league, No Matildas – we wanted this. Run out winners 3-0. Scored my first goal on my first home debut .. clean sheet. MAGIC. I was beginning to feel at home.
Before I go further, I have to talk about and mention -my Australian Family, possibly one of the nicest families I have ever met. Jane and Mike Natoli, Rebekoh Stott (scotty) .. Alex and Gus. Without these opening there house to me, a complete stranger. Life would not have been the same. They opened my eyes to Australian life, a Christmas day extravaganza which will now be hard to beat. A life lesson on how try and catch possums.. (and fail may I add.. ) I can never thank these people enough. A house is always open to them if they ever came to Wales … not sure why you’d leave OZ for Wales but just saying.. if they did.
Okay so … back to Football.
We trained basically every day, a day off during the week and recovery day after a game. So your with your team a lot, youd think wed have enough of e/o but no. Wed have pre training coffee.. which was a highlight of my time in OZ .. Thankyou Caity and Stotty. I introduced the girls to my infamous ‘ one touch, one bounce’ game.. not going to lie at first the girls were a bit sceptic, unsure as to what it was about this game that got the welsh girl so excited. HOWEVER, by the time I left OZ, the game was a hit and the girls themselves.. Big kids. That’s how we started our sessions … best way. (who was the worst your asking … PETRAAAAA )
Our league run was starting to take off. Wed had a run of good games and results. I believe came from our team spirit. The best thing though, was how tight the League was tight. Another highlight of the W League, the competitiveness. You had to play well to win, it was that simple. Made the games so exciting and kept you on your toes. No complacency. Great for the fans, who btw, are awesome, come to that later.
We got to round 9 of 12, league starting to shape up. We had to win our next game to really give us a push. Top 4 was tight. 6 teams fighting for a spot. We had Canberra away. Difficult tie 1) they would surely be after blood 2) they had never lost at home .. like ever. 3) it was on TV ( the pressure ) !!!
I got asked what my best moment was as I was leaving OZ, from a football perspective. I could pick a few but, this game has to be it. It was a good, hard fought game. The Matildas were back for both teams, Canberra would argue this was now there strongest side. For reasons I stated above this victory was ever so sweet. We won 2-1. Stoppage time winner. Game could’ve gone either way easily, but it went our way. ESTACTIC from our point, I could imagine Canberra felt a bit sick. Soz about that.
Unfortunately due to me being a Guest player, I had 1 more game. Then my Australian adventure was up. Time actually flew by.
Before we go into that, I must talk about the Coach MIKE MULVEY. Who unfortunately left us during this period to go and manage Brisbane Roar, Men’s A league team. Not bad.. (pretty sure we were better but that’s a debate for another time ha) I have to thank Mike for bringing me over to the W league and giving me the chance to experience what I have and play in such a great league. So thanks. I wish him every success with Brisbane men and I hope to see him in the Women’s game again.
Back to the football. My last game. Home to Sydney Wanderers, which was always going to be a tough game. They, like all teams were a good side. We needed to win to set us up with a better run in to the finals. Pressure seemed to affect us as SW went in front early on. Script wasn’t going to plan. However, we soon got in our stride and won the game 3-1. Petra Scoring an absolute beauty.. (I will stick to my *fluke opinion, she will argue it). I think I provided the match entertainment with a slip and fall in the penalty box as I was about the take a shot (how embarrassing ) It was a good game, I enjoyed it. We played well. I was substituted with a few minutes to go, a chance to say farewell and thank the crowd that turned up in MASSIVE numbers … the applause and reaction I got is something I will never ever forget … and so onto the fans ..
Supporters of the W league.
Another MASSIVE highlight of the W league is its fans and supporters. I can only speak directly about our Melbourne Fans but I’m confident it spreads across the teams. There constant support, views, passion for the women’s game is brilliant. They travel to away games, there always upbeat, they support through wins and losses and they talk to you, they even sing ha. They see the product for what it is, they don’t compare it, they appreciate, accept and support it 100%. That’s a great base to work from and it’s an advantage the W League has over others, its developing, but its developing fast with great structure and the Fans have a huge part to play in it.
I haven’t spoken much about Melbourne as a City, but ill briefly say now, what a city it is. One of my favourite places. People are so friendly and it’s a very diverse place. Everyone is welcome. I spent a lot of my time in the city and never once got bored. I would have gone every day if I could. A place id definitely recommend to anyone who’s visiting Australia.
Think that’s me done. Finito .. except of course .. my Teamies.
Melbourne Victory Girls
Its not easy for 20+ girls to be thrown together from all over the world .. ( literally) .. and for things to go plain sailing. Especially in such a young side, which Melbourne were. Infact, its quite the opposite. But a massive key to the success this year I believe was down to just that, the team spirit. There’s nothing but complete respect to each other from every single player . No-one better than the other, everyone equal, eager to learn, wanting to play ..and win.. Together. It was just so easy, within the first week I could be completely myself and have a laugh. That shows everything, normally you need time. So to the girls, each and every one of you. THANKYOU. People say I did a lot for women’s football and Victory whilst I was in Australia, but I see it as the complete opposite. It did so much for me.
Soooooooooooooooo im going to leave with a Little Message for ma Chickas in Perth right now, Go do your THANGGGGG .. Kill it. I have so much faith .. Keep doing what you’ve done from the beginning .. work hard for each other .. Body on the line and all that Jazz .. Never Give up. I will be following from home … please don’t make me have a baby .. ?!?
City – Outstanding
Melbourne Victory – Loved every Second
Women’s Football – On the Rise .. Going to be a Great League in the Women’s game.
I’m currently sat in a lovely coffee bar, listening to Of Monsters And Men in the sun. Heaven.
Team-mates. First training. First game.
So I arrived, eventually! I’ve been on some flights in my time, but to fly for one whole day was a killer. It seemed like forever. This is not me moaning by the way! I’m just saying: What. A. Journey.
I was picked up by the team manager, Naomi, at 7.30 Saturday morning. Nai clearly had the short straw to come and collect me, however, the first thing she did was buy us both a coffee. Safe to say, we got on great – thanks Nai! Off to training we went to meet my new teamies.
You’d think with age and through playing for a few different clubs that meeting a new team would be easy – wrong. It was like the first day of school all over again. Let’s not forget I’d just been travelling for a whole day! So I didn’t look great, nor was I feeling particularly energetic. Sorrrrry! The girls were absolutely lovely, you could not want to meet a nicer bunch of people. So welcoming and friendly, within minutes I felt a part of the team. AND…They even knew Wales was a country! As in, separate from England…WINNER?!?!
Let’s not forget the coaching staff. Adam the physio (For those who know me, soon to be the person I see most over here – extra physio bed for me!), Fab – assistant coach and Mike the head coach. They were all equally as lovely and welcoming as the girls.
Training – it was the last training before the game against Sydney so it was an important session. I didn’t do too much, just needed to try and run the jet lag out of my system, so I just went for a run and did some stretches. I watched the session and took the time to try and understand as much as possible about the system, how we play, the girls, and how they play. It looked good. I just wanted to jump straight in. I was already excited and intrigued for the game the following day.
I’m staying with a host family whilst out I am out here, however I haven’t yet met them, I meet them tonight so will try and update on a later post. Due to the game on the weekend I briefly stayed with a fellow player BIS, who, is a babe. It was so nice for her and her sister to open their house to me for a few days. I can never say thanks enough, or sorry – because when I got in from training around 2pm I literally slept all day and night until the following day. How rude of me! But I literally couldn’t stay awake.
Game Day: Less then 24 hours after arrival
Mixed emotions for me at the game to be honest. I could not wait to start this experience with my first match. However, I had to get back on a plane, and that did not make me excited. We were flying to Sydney, playing a big derby game, and then flying home. I thought the last 24 hours was tough, but this was going to be equally as brutal!
We arrived at the airport for 9am, flying at 10. When we arrived at Sydney we went for our pre match in a little restaurant. We then had an hour to spare before we left for the game so we went for a walk and stretch. At this point, and I think I speak for most of the girls when I say we were dying for a power nap?!?
We arrived at the game two hours before kick-off which was a little strange for me as we don’t usually go to games this early . We had a team talk and then got ready. Standard. At is point I knew I wasn’t starting, which was welcomed to be honest. I felt good but knew with the heat as well, as soon as I started running around, I would feel it. 90 minutes would have felt like a lifetime haha!
I took everything in; the warm up, pre-match drills and routines etc. but it was all slightly different to how I usually do things which felt a little strange.
The game was very entertaining. In the first 30 minutes we played some lovely, lovely stuff, and took a deserved lead. Sydney then got back into the game towards the end of the first half and got a deserved equaliser. I was actually sat on the bench just enjoying watching the game! It didn’t seem as physical or aggressive as the way I was am used to playing back home which made me a little bit tentative about playing my usual style – I was scared I’d make a tackle and get boo’d ha!
Mike called me over and gave me the news that I was going on at half time…YES! I couldn’t wait, but I was a bit nervous. I also must’ve looked like I was about 12 years of age with the over-sized kit I was wearing which I doubt was particularly intimidating to the opposition!
My 45 minutes was a bit of a blur. I wasn’t playing in my normal midfield role, so I had to adjust quickly, thankfully all the girls were helping me out loads. I just played my game as best I could given the circumstances. Steph, our left midfielder, helped me and my legs out. Thanks! All in all, the girls played very well. They work hard and play some nice football – Melbourne victory rocked. For them to put on that performance after such a crazy day of travelling says a lot to me and the victory was well deserved. Let’s go Melbourne, let’s go * clap * ?!?!
Then the travel home – Nightmare. Got home at 00.40 the following day and…sleep ?!?
What a long, long day. BUT, totally worth it for the win and a great start to my time here!
So. Not really sure what I’m doing here but I’ll give it a go. Things have happened so quickly with my short-term move to Melbourne that my brother suggested to me that writing some form of blog might be a good idea to keep people at home informed of whats going on. As I write this first bit, I’m sat on plane with hours to kill, and although this won’t get posted until a day or two, hopefully this will provide an insight as to what I’m thinking (if anyone cares about that!!).
To set the scene: I’ve just signed a short-term agreement with Melbourne Victory to play in the Australian W-League.
How it came about:
Bristol were approached by somebody connected with Melbourne who enquired as to whether they could speak to me, being the person I am and intrigued to find out more, I allowed them to pass on my details. I had a call from a guy called Spence who explained they had been trying to get hold of me for a while to get me out to Australia, but now it was too late and all the places in the squad were up. A few days later I had another call from Aus – it was the manager of Melbourne explaining he had a guest space and would I be interested. I said yes I would be. Mike called me later that day (or not even now still confused by that) explained the situation, and I found myself saying yes. Even though at the time I was thinking….THIS CAN’T BE REAL.
Before the final verbal agreement was met, we had a slight problem. Wales are playing Holland on the 25th of November, in Holland, and for all those who know me, missing a welsh game is just not an option (remember this helen lander)!!! When I thought of this I thought instantly it would stop the move, to go after the 25th would mean I’d miss too much of Melbourne’s season, and I didn’t think it would work any other way. I suggested to Melbourne that I’d still be keen but need to come back for the Welsh game at the end of the month and I waited for a call from Mike. I was fully expecting the ‘thanks but no thanks’ chat, however, the call was the opposite, move was a go, and it was to happen in 36 hours…eeek!
So much to do:
I needed to get a visa – which was a problem as I had no passport – it was expired. I had to get a brand new passport and then had to try get a visa approved and granted within a day. On top of this we needed to sort out international clearance and registration etc. I encountered more problems with the paperwork (there was a lot of it and there were issues with fax machines!!) and if wasn’t for lil fish (sister Francessca) none of it would have been possible…So thank you Fran?!?
I also had to speak to Bristol, speak to the Welsh Manager and sort all that out. Thankfully, both club and country were supportive, as always. I also had to pack and speak to Cardiff City Ladies where I was helping out, Sorry Jamie and girls! Love ya! All this to be done in like about a day and a half!! STRESS.
Cardiff to Heathrow … 10pm flight …Heathrow to Dubai, Dubai to Melbourne …. Thurs eve – sat morn.
First game Sunday .. HELP ?!?
Well I’ve not had much time to actually sit and think about this, which is probably for the best! I’m presently on the flight to Dubai now and the first time to really try and let it sink in. It didn’t really hit me til I said my goodbyes in the airport and had a few late phone calls from my Bessie’s…Gwennan you absolute babe (almost had me in tears…but not quite!).
So, in general, brief thoughts on my move down under:
It’s new, it’s a challenge…it’s football and it’s Australia…
Everything I love…Plus sun :)