Adriana and Melissa Taranto were no strangers to the A-League Women’s competition when they signed on with new team on the block Western United last year having previously played with Melbourne Victory back in 2015/16 at the age of 16.
The pair were given a second chance of sorts after a strong campaign with Calder United in the NPLW Victoria and now at the age of 24 the twins have become key players in Western United’s dream first season, which will see them take on Sydney FC in the Grand Final on Sunday.
Speaking exclusively to The Inner Sanctum, the pair spoke about playing together and returning to the Liberty A-League almost seven years later.
Not many siblings get the chance to play together at the top level but for Adriana and Melissa, the pair haven’t known anything different with the pair even in their junior days a package deal.
“It’s so special for us, playing together,” Adriana told The Inner Sanctum.
“Everyone always asks us do we ever want to go to different teams, and we honestly haven’t planned to go to the same team, it’s always happened that way.
“Even when we were in Victory or Young Matildas, we were always together and I’ve always said I think we play really well together on the field. We complement each other, we make each other look better and that’s because we know each other inside and out, so our chemistry on the field works well so that’s good,
“We can fight sometimes.”
“Sometimes when we’re on the field, people are telling us to shut up because we’re yelling at each other,” Melissa joked.
Despite the fighting, the pair are able to get the best out of each other and the Taranto family couldn’t be prouder of having two of their own pulling on the black and green each week.
“We push each other, we know each other’s standards and we always expect the best from each other,” Adriana said.
“Just a credit to our parents and our family, they’re extremely proud to have both of us out there but to both start is just incredible, and I know how proud they would be.”
It’s not every day that a player is able to make a Grand Final in their respective sports let alone at the top level but to be able to do it with a sibling is even more special. Adriana said that they’re thankful for the chance that they were given at Western United.
“I don’t think many can say that they’re playing in the A-League Grand Final with their sister on the same team,” Adriana said.
“It’s been nice to have her by my side and do this together. It just goes to show, when you’re giving a real shot and a real opportunity it can make a big difference. We’re happy that Mark [Head coach Mark Torcaso], Amanda [Women’s football manager Amanda Stella], [and] Helen [Assistant coach Helen Winterburn] saw something in us and gave us that chance and we were able to step up and get to where we’ve got now.
“To just have my sister by my side, we don’t (often) say nice things about each other.”
Western United has become a blueprint on how to create an expansion club, with the team making a Grand Final in their first season. With the club getting the mix right between their partnership with Calder United and bringing in some of the best players in the world including Jess McDonald and Chloe Logarzo.
Adriana said that there was already a solid foundation when it came to connection because of the partnership with Calder with the likes of Alana Cerne and the Taranto twins themselves coming through that pathway.
“I think it was really important to have a really good foundation which I think a lot of the Calder girls had that chemistry and that gel happened really quickly. Then you bring in the quality of some of the internationals in Jess [McDonald] and Chloe [Logarzo] that just elevates that team to the next level and brings that quality in,” she said.
“I think people like myself, Mel and the Calder girls stepped up to that next level as well. We’ve had some experience in the A-Leagues, obviously it’s very different now from when we were in it back in 2015/16.
“I think it makes everyone step up when you have the quality like that in the team. It helps when you’ve got that really good foundation when you see a lot of other new teams into the competition.
“You’re bringing in girls that have never played together before, but I think we had a really good foundation to kind of push things and really get going without having to build that chemistry because it was already there.”
The jump from the NPLW Victoria competition to the Liberty A-League was big, with the sheer amount of training a week doubling as the pair returned to the premier women’s football competition in Australia. Melissa said it was thanks to the set-up at Calder United that the transition wasn’t scary.
“It was tough obviously being in the A-League, you train more, it’s a little bit more intense. Pre-season was a little bit sore and tiring but the transition was pretty smooth because Amanda [Stella], Mark [Torcaso] and Chris [Pehlivanis] had a really good set-up at Calder to prepare us for it,” she said.
“And I think you can tell with the season we’ve had that we were already gelling in the first game and I think that was set up from Calder United.”
Re-joining the A-League has been a different experience this time around with the pair no longer 16 years old or playing up against Kim Little instead they’ve had plenty of experience and are starting each week for Western United.
“I can say it’s been a very different experience when we were in the W-League, we were 15/16 [years old]. I think we were playing against the likes of Kim Little, and we had Steph Catley, Jess Fishlock,” Melissa said.
“It’s very different, it’s been a very different experience, but we’ve just learnt a lot from Helen [Winterburn] and Mark.
“I think a lot of it is get your head down and work hard, those kinds of things. Recovery has been important, just really learning how to be a professional athlete at the end of the day.”
Adriana added that this time around it’s about stepping up and taking their game to a whole new level both on and off the field.
“I think it’s been that stepping up to the next level, we’re not the young 15/16-year-olds that we were in the league,” she said.
“So I think it’s stepping up, taking more responsibility just gaining experience, I think there’s so much confidence you need to gain just by playing and we’ve been lucky enough to be playing pretty much every game this season compared to we were in one or two games in 2015/16.
“Gaining confidence by playing, getting on the ball, just working hard that’s been a massive learning curve. Recovery, being professional doing all the right things. We’re training five, [or] six times a week compared to two, [or] three when you’re in NPLW. I think that along with work has been a bit of a struggle and a learning curve but all worth it in the end.”
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Although the club itself has been around for a short time, the culture at Western United is something truly special with the club having such a community feel with everyone playing an important role no matter if you’re the CEO or a bench official.
“The foundation started at Calder United where we had such a great culture, it didn’t matter who you were everyone was just so humble, we just worked hard,” Melissa said.
“I think that really came into Western United, I don’t think I’ve ever been at an A-League club where the CEO is just walking around, the big bosses are just coming around and giving you hugs.
“We had our finals lunch the other day and everyone just knows each other, I’ve never been in a club like that. The biggest part of why we’re so successful is that culture that we brought from Calder but it’s come out of Western as well.”Embed from Getty Images
Adriana added that it doesn’t matter if the teams have won six games in a row or lost six in a row, the vibe at the club is always high.
“I think the togetherness that this club shows no matter what’s going on, winning, losing whatever it is I think is really strong,” she said.
“I think it’s the reason why we’ve done so well and will continue to do well but definitely that culture of togetherness all the way from the grassroots level to the A-League Men and Women is really special and it’s just such a nice environment to be a part of.”
Western United will come head-to-head with Sydney FC in the Grand Final on Sunday who have been a powerhouse within the competition. This season is Sydney’s sixth consecutive finals appearance.
Adriana said that the belief is there that Western United can bring the trophy back home to the Western suburbs of Melbourne.
“For us, it’s just going to be about focusing on ourselves, we know Sydney is a great team and they’ve been in the finals, so they’ve got the experience,” she said.
“It’s going to be a tough game, I think if we focus on ourselves, defend like we did we’ll give them a good run for their money.
“We’ve got the confidence, we’re going in with the belief that we can win the game, and anything can happen, it’s going to be a tough one but it’s going to be exciting.”
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