Adaptation is key for football’s comeback queens

Canberra United in its pre-game huddle Source: Canberra United

Three games, two wins, one draw and an unmatchable desire to steal the points sums up Canberra United’s W-League campaign so far.

The only side in the women’s competition without a men’s counterpart have already improved drastically from their sixth place finish in the 2019/20 season.

Michelle Heyman, Paige Satchell, Kendall Fletcher, Grace Maher and more provided a star-studded group of signings ahead of the season start.

United have proved, however, that they’re more than just a list of talented names.

A second half hat-trick from veteran Matilda Heyman against Adelaide, and a long-range strike at the death from Nicki Flannery against Melbourne City were absolutely heroic efforts to steal wins for United.

Even more impressive was 21 year-old midfielder Grace Maher’s equaliser from the centre circle against Newcastle on Thursday.

Talking post-game after the draw to Fox Sports, Maher couldn’t wipe the smile off her face.

“I love my long range shots, everyone knows that,” she said.

“I thought I had the wind and time, so if I hit it hard enough hopefully it was going to go in.”

The remarkable goal was just the Young Matilda’s eighth at W-League level, having also kicked three in 13 appearances for Australia.

Maher made her debut for United in 2015 at just 16, becoming their youngest ever player at the time.

After 28 appearances in the green and black, Maher defected to Melbourne Victory, playing 17 games for both it and Icelandic team KR.

Head coach Vicki Linton was impressed with the determination of her young side, amidst criticisms of leaving their scores late.

“I just think the resilience of this group, to fight the way they did under the fatiguing conditions they were under, to dig that out was incredible,” she said at a press conference on Tuesday.

“What you mightn’t have seen was that the wind was horrendous. It was gale force.

“We were up against it in the first half, and had it in the second half. It was going to be a game of two halves, it just was.

“We scored earlier than we often do, and we had chances at the end.

“We did ride our luck a little bit as well, Brisbane continued to create chances but the effort the girls put in across the squad, I’m really proud of that.

“We got a well deserved point away from home against a very strong team.”

Quarantining and fixture changes

Due to the Queensland government declaring the Greater Brisbane area a COVID hotspot, all players and staff who attended the game against Brisbane Roar were required to quarantine for three days.

New forward Paige Satchell was one of the players affected.

Despite this, she did all she could to stay match-ready.

“We still carried on, we did some training at home,” Satchell said during Tuesday’s press conference.

“I was living with another teammate so we had some gym programs to do. They were actually pretty hard.

“It’s good that we could get out earlier and back on the field today, good preparation for the next game.”

After playing three games in nine days, United will receive an extended break with a bye this weekend.

The fixturing change, announced on Wednesday morning, will see its game against the Newcastle Jets delayed.

Linton stressed the importance of remaining flexible in a continually COVID-affected fixture.

“It’s vital, and our resilience continues to be tested,” she said.

“As a coach and as a playing group, we want to be as open-minded and flexible as possible, being ready to adapt.

“We’re never quite sure what’s going to happen so we’re just going to have to wait and see as people continue to get tested.”

Looking at the season so far, Satchell is optimistic about the new-look side’s start to the year amidst uncertainty.

“Getting seven points on the scorecard is an amazing start. I think the team did really well,” she said.

“We did really well in the pre-season. To get a couple of wins for our first games is great.

“Tough game against Brisbane, I think we were pretty happy to come away with a point there as well.

“Now we’ve just got to refocus and look forward to the next game, try and get some more points on the table.”

About Alex Catalano 129 Articles
Alex is a studying journalist from Melbourne with an obsession for all things Aussie rules. From the elite level to the local leagues, you can find him either attending, writing or speaking about the sport seven days a week. Alex also writes about football, basketball and esports. You can hear him on the Sanctum's own AFL podcast, The Checkside.

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