On Tuesday morning, Lyon confirmed every Matildas fan’s worst fears. Australia’s star fullback, Ellie Carpenter had torn her ACL.
The 22-year-old is estimated to be out of action for a minimum of six months, and that is if all goes to plan.
Carpenter is no stranger to hard work and commitment. The football community can have faith that she will do everything she can to return to fitness. In the meantime, Tony Gustavsson will be without one of his best players.
Carpenter’s absence leaves a hole in the side that has not existed since 2016. She cannot be directly replaced. But The Matildas do not need to necessarily find another star player, they just need a good right back (should the favoured 4-3-3 formation remain). The Inner Sanctum takes a look at some of the potential options.
Charlize Rule (Sydney FC)
The Sydney FC fullback enjoyed a breakout season. She was a key player in Ante Juric’s side as they won the premiership and made the Grand Final.
Rule does not have the explosive pace of Carpenter, but few players do. What she does bring to a side is intelligent off the ball movement, tactical discipline, and a genuine goal threat.
The 19-year-old was included in the senior Matildas’ squad against the USA but has not earned a cap yet. As a likely inclusion in the Under 20 World Cup squad, Rule will get every chance to impress.
It is worth remembering that Karly Roestbakken and Mary Fowler earned call ups to the 2019 World Cup after impressing with the Young Matildas. It is an effective pathway that the senior selectors trust.
Jessika Nash (Sydney FC)
When Sydney FC manager Ante Juric began playing Jessika Nash at right back, some eyebrows were raised. She had started almost every game for Canberra United as a centre back the previous season. Additionally, Tony Gustavsson had started her for The Matildas against the USA.
The 17-year-old looked comfortable in the role and formed part of the best defence in the A-League Women’s competition.
Like many others on this list, she will likely be given an opportunity to stake her claim at the Youth World Cup. Unlike others, she already has a senior cap to her name. It was a forgettable 5-0 loss, but she looked more confident as the game went on.
Her move to fullback at club level might prove serendipitous. She is definitely one for the future, but her time might come sooner than anticipated.
Hayley Taylor Young (Canberra United)
Hayley Taylor-Young has been used all over the field for Canberra United. The 20-year-old has been an attacker, a left back and a right back.
However, as Canberra found its best form toward the end of the season, the young speedster was among its best performers.
Taylor-Young is very quick, and seems to enjoy the rougher aspects of defending. Whether she is ready for the leap to top international football is unknown, but we may know more after the Youth World Cup.
Polly Doran (Melbourne Victory)
Two seasons ago Polly Doran was being trialled by Jeff Hopkins at fullback. It seemed a gamble to use a prolific striker from the state league as a wide defender. She now has two championship medals to her name and is one of Melbourne Victory’s most consistent players.
The 22-year-old has blistering pace and relishes winning the ball. She has flown under the radar for Matildas selection so far.
However, Doran has proven repeatedly that she has a big game temperament, is unintimidated by opponents, and can adapt to different tactics and teammates.
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Alexia Apostolakis (Western Sydney Wanderers)
Apostolakis made her senior debut for Western Sydney at just 15 years old, and immediately looked born for the big stage. The young right back was one of the most consistent defenders for a side under siege for most of the season.
The 16-year-old is an almost purely defensive player. Gustavsson is an attacking coach, and this could stand in her way. However, she is a natural right back and was unawed in her first senior season as a professional.
Like Mary Fowler and Ellie Carpenter before her, Apostolakis could be called on under the old cliché, if you’re good enough, you’re old enough.
Kaitlyn Torpey (Melbourne City)
Melbourne City’s 2021/22 squad boasted some of the best up and coming Australian defenders. Naomi Chinnama, Tori Tumeth and Winonah Heatley all impressed throughout last season.
Rado Vidosic build much of the attack around his two wing backs. Tyla-Jay Vlajnic dominated on the left and Kaitlyn Torpey had a breakout season on the right.
Torpey is tireless as a marauding fullback and has a powerful shot. She effectively replaced Ellie Carpenter at Melbourne City and could be given an opportunity to do the same with the Matildas.
Karly Roestbakken (LSK Kvinner)
The former Canberra United prodigy is the most experienced of the potential fullbacks. After impressing with the Young Matildas, she was a surprise inclusion to the 2019 World Cup squad.
Roestbakken has primarily been used on the left for Australia and Canberra, but is naturally right footed. She is deceptively fast and a good crosser of the ball.
The 21-year-old has struggled with injuries over the past two years. She was selected in the extended squad for the Asian Cup but did not make the final 23.
If fit, the Norway based fullback is an almost definite inclusion in the Matildas. Experience counts for plenty at international level and Roestbakken has more than anybody on this list.
Charlotte Grant (FC Rosengård)
Charlotte Grant is the most likely replacement in the short term. After impressing with Adelaide United in the A-League Women, Grant earned a move to Swedish giants FC Rosengård.
She is a regular in the first team, and was trusted to start in a successful cup semi-final. Grant either starts or is subbed on in most games. The 20-year-old can play on either flank and has been in the Matildas setup since Tony Gustavsson took over.
Grant is extremely fast. However, she is also blessed with a feather touch and has impressive close control. She did not look out of place against Brazil or the USA.
The Rosengard defender is a perfect fit for the right-back spot, considering that she is a constant presence at Matildas’ camps and there will be a minimal adjustment needed by her or the team.
Her style and position have invited comparisons to Carpenter. However, she is her own player.
Both players are lighting quick. While Carpenter is more like an unstoppable force, powerful and direct, Grant is more evasive and an inventive player on the ball.
Grant has all the attributes and the temperament to make an impact at international level.
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