19/04/2024

Alana Cerne was Western United's first A-League Women signing. (Photo: Western United/YouTube)

Western United’s inaugural A-League Women team has perhaps one of the best foundations in Victorian football to build from, in partner club Calder United.

One of few clubs at NPL level that fields just a women’s team, they’ve been the benchmark of the NPLW Victoria competition for the better part of the last half a decade.

Calder completed a treble this year, becoming the premiers and champions of NPLW Victoria, and winning the Nike F.C. Cup.

The club has now claimed the championship five times straight, the clear stand-out of the competition.

Building the inaugural squad with a number of players from that successful Calder team, the club is looking to carry that winning culture on to the elite level.

“We have about 10 girls coming from Calder,” inaugural United signing Alana Cerne told The Inner Sanctum at the A-Leagues season launch.

“This season’s been a great season for not only me as an individual, but as a club. Our culture at Calder is amazing.

“We’ll carry that across into the Western squad, and hopefully everybody jumps on board and we all get around each other and have a laugh. Western as a club… it’s like a family.

“When we were [signing] the deals, they were saying this is a family now that the girls have come in. We get treated the same as [the boys] and we are family.”

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For Cerne, the level of carryover from the Calder squad is helping her to get comfortable in what is her first season of professional football.

She played her first full senior year across 2021/22, and starred in an already strong side. The 19-year-old contributed a goal in the grand final, and five more across the season.

So much was her impact on the club that she was announced as its first ever signing in August.

“It’s a big honour, especially with the success the club’s had in such a short amount of time,” Cerne said.

“For me to sign as the first player, coming into a strong league with a strong team, it’s going to be good.

“It’s good to play with the Calder girls, the twins [Adriana and Melissa Taranto], Aleksandra Sinclair.

“There’s a lot of girls that have come down from higher levels that have already played A-League, or haven’t been given the opportunity yet that should have been.

“To play alongside them again and mix in with a few internationals and a few Matildas, that’ll be good for me as a young player to come up and learn from them, and for others to learn from each other. As a team I think we’ll be great.”

United just announced two new international signings in goalkeeper Hillary Beall and centre-back Sydney Cummings. Big names including Matilda Chloe Logarzo and Melbourne City’s Tyla-Jay Vlajnic have also added to what is shaping up as a powerful group.

Familiar faces everywhere you look

Leading Western United from the sidelines will be coach Mark Torcaso, who is also a familiar name to Cerne and many of the players.

He has spent the last year coaching the Western United development squad, which a number of Calder, and now Western players, have come up through.

But perhaps more important than that, Torcaso had been coach of Calder from 2015 before making the shift to the development role full-time.

He is Calder through and through, and has helped to establish the success that the club is looking to carrying up to the next level.

“It’s good, because [Mark] knows how we like to play,” Cerne said.

“Not even soccer, but how we are off the field. We’re more than a team, we know everything about each other, we spend majority of our time with each other.

“Especially the Calder girls, I’ve spent four days a week training with them, it’s more than I spend with my family. We’re really close.

“I think the only thing that he has to do differently [at A-League Women level] is with the players he has coming in. There’s girls with different needs, different wants.

“Everyone wants the same thing, but I think it’s just how to deal with different people.”

Inaugural Western United A-League Women coach Mark Torcaso. (Photo: WUFC)

Round 1 will see the biggest challenge United will face all season, as they kick off with a derby against back-to-back reigning champions Melbourne Victory.

Just as United have in the NPLW, Victory have set the standard at A-League Women level in recent history, also being premiers in the 2018/19 season.

Cerne is embracing the challenge that they have ahead of them in a month and a half.

“They’re good nerves,” she laughed.

“I don’t think we’re nervous as in ‘oh, we’re going to get beat’. I think we’ll just go out there and take the opportunity to go out and play our first game, and play against such a good team like Victory.

“I think we’ll give them a run, so it should be good.

“Just going out with the feeling of playing your first game for Western, it’ll be an amazing experience in that. Playing against them will just make it even better.”

Western United kick off the A-League Women season on Saturday, November 19 at 3:00pm AEST.

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