Melbourne Victory W-League will break new ground for the club when it heads off to Japan for the International Women’s Club Championship.
The tournament will feature Melbourne Victory for the first time and the significance is not lost on either coach Joe Montemurro and captain Stephanie Catley.
“It’s going really well, it’s such a relief going over with a finals spot,” Victory’s skipper Stephanie Cately said.
“For the club, it’s massive, it’s the first time we’ve been able to go do the club championship and we’ve got a really strong team.
“It means a lot, we don’t get much coverage of women’s football and to do really well in the tournament would give us some great exposure and I think we’ve got the players to do it.”
The team at Victory do not appear to be content with just being there, with Montemurro having clear faith in his charges.
“We get out Thursday, have a game on Sunday so we’ll get two training sessions in,” Joe Montemurro said.
“Each game has its own little approach and as long as things go well and we click at the right time, we’re very confident we can go all the way.”
Victory’s skipper believes the club is well placed coming in to the tournament, having had a sudden death situation for the past three weeks just to make the W-League finals series.
“I don’t think so, because it’s been such a tight race for finals and you’ve gotta get as many points as you do to get to finals. The girls have been really focused and Joe had a chat to us when it got a bit closer and said ‘no more chat about Japan, no more chat about finals, just go game-by-game” and that’s how we approached it,” the former Portland Thorns defender said.
Victory’s weekend opponents, Okayama Yunogo Belle, are for most part an unknown quantity to Victory, but with Catley’s vast experience on the international stage, the full-back will have some idea of what her side will come up against.
“We’re just about to do a review of that team when we get back into training tomorrow, so although I’ll say to Joe also that Japanese players are all technical and really skillful,” Cately said said.
“Yeah, I’ve done a bit of reconnaissance on the squad they’ve had.
“They’ve got a classic no.10 midfielder that’s great with free-kicks, two Japanese internationals that are very technical and well structured.”
Montemurro also believes the W-League is at a stage where it can hold its own against teams all over the world, paying tribute to its standard of play.
“It’s right up there, obviously there’s a lot of dollars thrown in the European leagues but in terms of standard and quality of play, we’d have to be up there with a lot of them,” he said.
“A lot of the [W-League] clubs can compete with the clubs in Europe and the US.”
Victory will begin its campaign this Sunday afternoon (4:10pm AEDT), where a semi-final meeting with Arsenal Ladies FC will await the winner.
The timing of the tournament comes at a stage where more are becoming interested in women’s football, as Victory’s home fixture with Perth drawing over 100 thousand viewers.
But it was revealed yesterday the W-League will no longer feature on the ABC, following Abbott government cuts, the now-Prime Minister promised on Election eve would not take place.
“Obviously it is really disappointing, the ABC have done a really good job and it’s so important for us to have a game on TV. It’s not great but I hope somebody can pick us up.” Catley said.
Melbourne Victory coach Montemurro echoed his skipper’s sentiments.
“As Steph said, the ABC has been great in regards to the exposure we get and having that game week in, week out has been fantastic,” he said.
“It is disappointing, we just hope someone will be great enough to pick it up and go from there. There’s a lot of growth in women’s football and it needs and deserve the exposure.”
Montemurro pointed out the need to have the W-League on television believing mass media was the way for the league to gain the exposure it deserves. However without a television deal, Montemurro still believes the women’s game in Australia can still pull foreign stars over.
“FFV and FFA do a great job, we get game coverage in regards to each club. Where they wanna go with it, I’m not sure. We really do need a professional outfit taking it to the mass media,” Montemurro said.
“Players come for all different reasons, I still believe the high level of the competition will make it important for players to come and make players still want to come. W-League is at a very high standard this year, it’s safe to say this season has been a great season in regards to the competition.”