No games but an action packed Friday in women’s football

Emily Gielnik. (Image: Aston Villa Women's FC/Twitter)

Friday September 3 saw a flurry of activity across Australian Women’s football. The Inner Sanctum takes a look at what was a momentous and exciting day off the field.

5:30 am – Emily Gielnik signs for Aston Villa

In the final few hours of the transfer deadline day, Aston Villa added one of Australia’s best to their FWSL roster.

Former Brisbane Roar striker and W-League Golden Boot winner Emily Gielnik signed as Villa’s new number 9.

Manager Carla Ward had been in pursuit of Gielnik for some time. At the last minute she finally secured her striker. 

“Emily is someone we’ve monitored for a few months and I’m delighted we’ve managed to agree a deal that suits all parties,” Ward said

She’s a player with a wealth of domestic and international experience. And is a player that can score goals at the highest level.

“Emily’s link-up play and aerial threat is something that will cause teams problems. I’m pleased to finally get this one over the line.”

The move makes Gielnik the tenth Matilda to be playing in England’s top flight.

6:30 am -The APL outlines future strategy

Now with independent control over the W-League, the APL has set out making changes to womens football.

The plans are bold and eye catching. The league will expand and add three teams before the 2023 World Cup. Additionally, the finals series will be expanded to give the top two sides a second chance.

Central Coast Mariners will make a return to the W-League, Western United will be added for the first time and Wellington Phoenix will be allowed entry after a rejected bid last year.

A Club Championship was also announced. The results of the women and men’s sides will be combined to crown an overall winner.  Where this leaves Canberra United as a club without a men’s side remains a question for fans.

“This is just the beginning of a sustained investment programme in women’s football,” said Danny Townsend, Managing Director of the APL.

“We want to unleash football’s potential in Australia and this is a significant step forward in delivering the future that the game deserves.”

While expansion is welcome, disappointingly the league will still run for 12 rounds. A full home and away season remains elusive for the W-league.

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Head of Women’s Football for Football Australia Sarah Walsh highlighted the increased opportunities for players.

“Women and girls now have more choice than ever when it comes to selecting a sport to play in Australia,” the former Matilda said.

“It’s imperative that football continues to progress and evolve when it comes to providing greater access and opportunity for women and girls in football.

“Football has always provided women in football with a clear and accessible pathway to play for the Commonwealth Bank Matildas and junior women’s national teams.

“W-League expansion not only broadens these existing pathway opportunities, it additionally strengthens our national team aspirations for the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia and New Zealand 2023 and beyond.”

1:30 pm – Football Australia ratifies board directors

Former Socceroo Mark Bresciano was reappointed to the Board of Directors, joined by Matildas alumni Heather Garriock. Catriona Noble from ANZ Bank and CEO of Mcdonalds Australia meanwhile was added from the business world.

Bresciano was part of the selection panel that delivered Tony Gustavsson, a solid decision to be a part of. His legacy for women’s football builds on his playing career.

Garriock brings a wealth of on and off field experience. She is an Asian Cup winner with Australia, a former manager of Canberra United and the former CEO of Taekwondo Australia.

5:00 pm – Sydney FC signs two young guns in surprise coup

Jessika Nash played almost every minute of every game for a very good Canberra United side last season.

At just 16, she was nominated as Young Player Of the Year at the Dolan awards. She is regarded as a future Matilda and a possible solution to the issue of depth in defence.

Sarah Hunter is a goal scoring midfielder, combative and skilful.

At just 17, she made a serious impact for Western Sydney. Last season’s highlight was a memorable brace against Adelaide United and she also boasted her own cheer-squad.

Both of these players are impressive signings by the top team from 2020/21. Hunter will have big shoes to fill with the departure of Clare Wheeler and Theresa Polias. Importantly at her age, she will get game time in a demanding team.

These are additions that will significantly strengthen Sydney while weakening their opposition.

7:00 pm – The Matildas are back

In a welcome surprise for fans, Australia will play The Republic of Ireland on September 22 at 4:00am AEST.

It will be the first time the team is back together since the Olympics, and for the majority of the players, Dublin is just a short trip from their clubs.

The friendly will be significant for fans, as it will be broadcast free-to-air for the first time on Channel 10.

“Like the rest of the country, I was proud of the way the team represented the nation in Japan,” Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson said.

“Every time we play an international match, it is an opportunity for this team to reinforce our foundations and truly become one day better.

“The last couple of years have demonstrated the impressive growth of women’s football internationally and that every nation presents a different challenge that we can learn from. 

“It’s vital that we continue to focus on our own progression as a team and every match is key to that mission.” 

8:30 pm – Tanya Oxtoby becomes Chelsea’s assistant coach

Perth’s other footballing export to England was announced as an assistant to the top manager in the land.

Tanya Oxtoby was head coach at Bristol City where she achieved impressive mid-table results on a limited budget. The club was relegated at the end of the 2020/21 season in which Oxtoby was absent on maternity leave.

She departed the club and made a surprise move to Chelsea to support Emma Hayes’ title defence.

Oxtoby is a sports psychologist, W-League player and highly qualified manager. She holds a UEFA A-license and will strengthen an already formidable club.

General Manager Paul Green spoke on the acquistion, pleased with the addition to the already strong club.

“We are pleased to add Tanya to our coaching team,“ he told the club website. 

“She is a coach with considerable experience in the WSL and a good track record of developing players.

‘We feel that she will add another dimension to our talented group, both on and off the pitch. That will impact the team.”

Oxtoby’s surprise move concluded a massive day in women’s football. It left fans with many things to look forward to and more things to discuss.

It was an action packed, historic and overall positive 12 hours of football. And not one ball had been kicked.

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