Emma Checker Melbourne City

Emma Checker is excited to see the young talent perform at Melbourne City. (Photo: Jason Irvine)

Melbourne City A-League Women captain Emma Checker believes the club can reach the heights it has shown previously, assisted by plenty of returning players, and young talent forming the basis of the squad.

Melbourne City A-League Women captain Emma Checker is confident her side can change its fortunes around this season due to an influx of both returning players and young up and comers.

The host of young talent at coach Rado Vidosic’s disposal are ready to start their careers and show their capabilities.

It was a slight fall from grace for Melbourne City in the 2020/21 A-League Women season, succumbing to seventh place. The club claimed the premiership/championship double in the 2019/20 season, its second and fourth respectively.

Checker has seen the turnaround firsthand, both on the field in training, and off the field in the club’s signings. She has high hopes that last season’s form was just a blip on the road to becoming a threat of the competition once more.

“I’m really excited for this season, I feel like there’s no shying away from the fact that last year was difficult and we didn’t achieve what we were hoping to,” Checker told media at the A-Leagues season launch.

“We’re in a really good and positive position moving into this season, I feel like we’ve got some really good young talent and exciting talent that are willing to work hard and they’re really ambitious.

“We’re seeing it already, every session in pre-season, just what they’re willing to do to get to the next level and I think that’s going to be a big different factor in our team this year.”

Many of City’s signings and re-signings ahead of the upcoming A-League Women season have been about identifying younger players who will hope to contribute to the club’s rise up the table yet again.

While 16-year-old Isabella Accardo joins as a scholarship player, the club has also penned the signatures of 20-year-old Winonah Heatley, 23-year-old Jordon Hall, 21-year-old Chelsea Blisset, 20-year-old Meisha Westland, 20-year-old Tori Tumeth, 20-year-old Leah Davidson and 21-year-old Kaitlin Torpey.

Although, a flurry of teenagers have also joined the club with 19-year-old Leticia McKenna, 18-year-old Sally James, 17-year-old Naomi Chinnama, 18-year-old Darcey Malone, 15-year-old Caitlin Karic, and 18-year-old Holly McNamara.

Checker pointed out her particular excitement over what McNamara would bring to the side.

“When I say we’ve got a lot of really good young talent and I was to name one standout, for me at the moment, I’m really impressed with Holly McNamara,” Checker said.

“She’s come back from a big injury and the way that she’s working at training and the quality that she’s showing up-front is going to be really great for us. We’ve got Sally James in goals, the list just goes on. I really do believe that we’ve signed quality young players this year.

“I can’t stop raving about our group of girls this year, and it’s real easy for me to speak highly of our group because we really have got the perfect puzzle I believe.

“I think it’s a credit to Rado [Vidisic] and the club for putting in some serious groundwork.

“We have depth, and I think we’re now fighting for spots in every position. I think that’s a really important part of success, is no one’s complacent and there’s hard decisions for the coaches to have to make each week now.

“That’s something that is hard to have in a small squad, but we do have it in every position and I think that’s going to be a really big part of what pushes us all the way.”

Scholarship player Isabella Accardo is front and centre at training. (Photo: Melbourne City FC/Twitter)

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One of the aforementioned re-signings is Leah Davidson, who played with City last season after spending two years at the Brisbane Roar.

She’s now signed a two-year deal and is looking for more consistent games, and minutes.

In two seasons at the Roar, Davidson played 10 games (five starts), scoring one goal. In comparison, she enjoyed 12 games (and 12 starts) with City last year, wanting to build on that breakout year.

“I would love to cement a starting position and play as well as I can, that’s what I’d like to do for the team,” Davidson told media on Wednesday about her goals.

“I hope I can lead from [on] from my season last year and I hope I can build on that and share some of my experiences from last year and really build on this year so we can succeed a lot more.

“I think building on last year, we’ve really gelled as a team this pre-season, we’ve had a longer pre-season to gel as a team. Everyone just wants to work hard for each other on and off the field, so it’s going to be a great season.”

Also coming back into the fold at City is Rebekah Stott, a New Zealand international who is returning after recovering from Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Overall, the 28-year-od has spent four seasons with Melbourne City since 2015, winning three championships, with Checker also excited by the defender’s return.

“She’s a massive part of this team and our club, she wears her heart on her sleeve and as cliché as it sounds, that’s just how she holds herself,” Checker said.

“She’s doing really well, it’s obviously a big recovery but she’s doing incredibly well to stay positive and stick at it. We’re seeing really great signs from her on the training park, so I think we’re gonna see big things from her.

“I think we’re all just so proud of her and what she’s done to get back to where she is. It’s not only her as a player, it’s her character and what she brings as a person to our group is invaluable.”

Rebekah Stott returns to the Melbourne City squad after batting Hodgkin’s Lymphoma last season. (Photo: Melbourne City FC/Twitter)

With a less interrupted pre-season this time around, City have been able to assemble their squad together early.

They’ve enjoyed vital training time together to help build the connection and rapport with each other, something that the captain believes will help them perform for each other when it comes to gamedays.

“We’ve had at least a month with the full squad and in 11 seasons of playing in this league, we’ve never had that in any team where we’ve had such a big period of time really work on things and it does go a long way,” Checker said.

“If you look, in most seasons, it takes most clubs a number of rounds before they find their feet. I think we’ve had the opportunity to already do that before we start, so I think we can start in a really strong position.”

Melbourne City opens its 2021/22 A-League Women campaign away, travelling to Viking Park in the nation’s capital to face Canberra United.

It’s a fixture that Checker has conceded is always tough, but hopes to start the season on the right note, adding to both her own and the team’s goals across the next few months.

“It’s always hard… Canberra away is a tough game,” she said.

“I would say, from my time in the league, they’ve got some of the best fans in the league. If you’re in the Canberra United team, it’s amazing, and if you’re against them, it’s difficult.

“But I think that’s a challenge we want to rise to and we’re looking forward to it.

“It’s a massive season… my first response, I can’t help it but be about the team. My biggest goal… is about redeeming ourselves from last season and getting ourselves back up to the top. I genuinely believe it’s a realistic goal to aim [for], to go all the way.

“I’m just really excited on turning things around with our team for the upcoming season. I’m really set in showing that it was just a once-off downfall and we are capable of coming back and redeeming ourselves.”

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