05/03/2024

Alex Chidiac holds the A-League Women championship cup aloft. (Picture: Alex Chidiac/Twitter)

Coming off an A-League Women Championship, Melbourne Victory will look to continue their stronghold on the title. Looking to build season upon season, midfielder Alex Chidiac is confident that her side will use the extended season to continue to foster the culture at the club with the introduction of new players paying dividends towards the latter stages of the year.

Coming into the 2022/23 season as the reigning champions once again, Melbourne will continue to back its culture with a third championship in a row on the cards.

Star midfielder Alex Chidiac fronted the media at the A-League Women season launch to speak about what makes Melbourne such a powerful force in the competition.

“We are obviously really proud of what we achieved last season but each season is different,” Chidiac explained.

“We saw last season we weren’t as dominant during the season but we finished off strong and any team can do that, especially with a longer season this year.”

Bringing in some big-name talent in defender Gema Simon from the Newcastle Knights and Matildas midfielder Elise Kellond-Knight, the Victory will look to bring them in with the goal of those known talents getting entrenched within the culture.

“We’ve just been trying to work on what we’ve got, we’ve got some new players as well so trying to get them up to speed and the main thing is just team building,” Chidiac said.

“We know we’ve got a really good culture at Victory and we are going to try and continue to build off of that and when players are happy in their environment and we are gonna play well.

“[Head coach] Jeff (Hopkins) is really good at doing that and he’s created a great environment for all of us, it’s easy for the new players to come in and I think you are gonna see that on the field, we are gonna be there fighting for each other week-in and week-out.”

When looking back at its season last year, the Victory was not as dominant or as clinical as it would have liked to be. Having their best game arguably in the final, they only just scraped into finals after a hot start saw them win six of the first nine games.

From there they beat an Adelaide United team that was playing in their first-ever final which started their winning run through the finals.

Chidiac addressed the form slump from last season conceding that the competition is now so even.

“You are never gonna be perfect, like you saw the seasons where Melbourne City was dominant and they won every single game leading into finals. I think it’s gonna be harder and harder to do that within this league with the amount of quality that we have spread across the teams this year especially,” she said.

The 23-year-old touched on Victory’s areas for improvement with a keen eye on her lack of scoring last season.

“There are always things to work on and I think we definitely need to work on our defensive pressure as a unit,” she said.

“[Being able to finish] off our chances was one of the things too, especially personally I need to learn how to hit the back of the net. There are always little things that you need to tweak and we have time to do that during this season as well especially because it is longer but really keen to get into that.”

With a longer A-League Women season than in previous years, the added game time will be a bonus for all squads. Chidiac explained that Victory’s deeper extended squad outside of the playing eleven will feature more prominently compared to past years.

“It’s all about that game time and you need a full squad to be able to win a championship, you can’t just be playing the same eleven week-in and week-out,” she said.

“[This means that] a lot of the younger girls will get opportunities and I think that’s the beauty of it when you have such a strong squad and we definitely have that this season.”

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Looking ahead to its first game of this campaign, Melbourne looks set to get its championship defence off to a good start against Western United. Coming into the competition this season, Western United looms as a relatively unknown quantity with chemistry and game style still to be sought out.

Chidiac said that they will not take the newcomers lightly and insisted that they will take the historical meeting in their stride.

“There is going to be a lot of unknowns going into that [match]. You can’t really sit down and do video footage or go over what they did last season though [so] you are gonna have to go out there and battle for the first game of the season which is pretty cool,” she said.

“It’s a historical game for that club, it’s great to have them in and great to see some of their players get great opportunities within the league too. I think it’s going to be a really close one but we are definitely ready for that game.”

With Australia and New Zealand sharing the right to host the upcoming FIFA Women’s World Cup in July 2023, this A-League season will see several players push for squad selection.

This should see a cracking season played out in the ALW with the chance to play in a home World Cup for some new Matildas.

Earning her first cap for the Matildas against Thailand, Chidiac said that if she performs for the Victory first then World Cup selection will take care of itself.

“It’s huge, I think everybody that is in this league is definitely pushing for that World Cup and even if they’ve not made that squad before,” she explained.

“If you have a good season, the coach is now based in Australia [and can watch] every single game so everyone has that opportunity to make a squad.

“For myself obviously, I want to push week-in and week-out too, but first and foremost I need to represent Victory and gotta do my best for the team, so that’s where my focus is and hopefully those things will come like last season but that’s where the aim is at the moment.”

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Melbourne Victory will meet Western United in their maiden A-League Women clash on Saturday evening to open their championship defence.

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