23/04/2024

Canberra United player Ellie Brush (Picture: A-League Women's/Twitter, Design by Madeline Irwin)

Being the only A-League Women’s team without a mens equivalent, Canberra United has had the Women’s team at the heart of McKellar Park.

Canberra United has been largely successful since it’s inception in 2008, taking home the championship twice, while also being the premier of the W-League three times.

Retiring club legend Ellie Brush started her A-League career at the club in its inaugural year so she has seen the many changes that Canberra has seen over the years, with three separate stints there.

She spoke exclusively to The Inner Sanctum about the club’s establishment and its evolution over the years.

“I suppose at Sydney, it definitely felt like you were almost under the banner of a bigger club and you weren’t maybe the main priority of all of those involved [and] there is still a bit of that stigma,” Brush told The Inner Sanctum.

“Whereas all the way through at Canberra, being that one team club you are really built up [and put] more on that pedestal within the club. It’s something that has got a lot better at Sydney but there’s still a bit of a way to come probably but it’s always been there at Canberra.

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Brush then detailed the role that Canberra United’s former president Heather Reid had in establishing the conditions at the club, some which were not matched around the league until they were mandated in the latest player collective bargaining agreement.

“Back in the early days, it was one of the real positives and a bit attracting point for players coming to Canberra because we had a female president in Heather Reid who really had a strong emphasis on growing the women’s game and [she] put everything she could into resourcing the women’s team.

“It was even from the start, without the standards of the collective bargaining agreement had [been] mandated, it already had some of the things in place and the training standards and travel conditions and things were already in place because of that importance that was place on the team from early days.

“[Canberra was] sort of ahead of its time, it’s good to see that the rest of competition has caught up whether that’s been because of the mandation of a lot of these things [or not], which is why it was important to get it in place because I know in a lot of cases the women’s side was falling back.”

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Having featured in the green on three seperate stints that culminated in over 100 club appearances, Brush opened up on what kept her coming back to play at United.

“You hear people say they love the culture of places and that word gets banded around a lot and the family sort of feel aspect, but that’s been my experience at Canberra,” she said.

“As I say from those early days of Heather Reid’s sort of ownership of the club, she really made [and] fostered those feelings within the club and that went all the way through from the back room staff and the administration to the coaching staff and the players. Everyone knew each other well, it wasn’t ever an ‘us versus them’ mentality, you can see it’s a professional club.

“I’ve sort of felt that a lot this year coming back to Canberra with Njegosh [Popovich] coming back on board in the coaching staff.

“I hear over the last few years [the club] has lost a bit of that, with a few different coaches bringing in their own styles as they do with administration boards and things changing, but it’s been a huge focus of Njegosh’s this year has been to bring back a lot of that feel and culture.

“He has worked really hard to bring that back because it has been quite a lot of years since he was last at Canberra and he’s done really well, so I suppose you bring back myself and some of the other players being around from those [past] years and bring that back to the club.”

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