While the CommBank Matildas were entertaining Perth with a dazzling eight-goal performance against the Philippines, on the other side of the country in Melbourne, the CommBank Young Matildas gathered together with their eyes glued to the TV to watch their senior counterparts.
Narrowly avoiding their 10pm curfew, the CommBank Young Matildas’ squad were able to watch Sam Kerr and Caitlin Foord’s hat-tricks and Clare Wheeler’s first international goal, serving as the perfect inspiration for the nine-day camp at the newly opened Home of the Matildas.
While one day playing for the senior national women’s team and replicating the exploits of their heroes is no doubt on the ‘to-do’ list for the CommBank Young Matildas, for now, many of them face a more pressing task, the High School Certificate (HSC).
Juggling the commitments of playing football professionally and striving to represent your country is difficult enough before you consider the fact that most of the squad are also studying for and taking their HSC exams.
But for Head Coach of the CommBank Young Matildas, Leah Blayney, education came first, accommodating the players who needed to fly in and out of camp to make sure they had enough time to prepare for their exams.
“We had a few people coming in and out, and then a few that we left at home just because they had several back-to-back exams and we felt that we wanted them to study at home in their usual space,” Blayney said.
“It's always difficult to manage when you have people flying in three days late for a camp or departing early, however, it’s important for them to put their studies first.”
The 23-player squad arrived in Melbourne for the camp in preparation for AFC U-20 Women’s Asian Cup Uzbekistan 2024™ after sealing their qualification for the tournament in June when they topped Group A in Round 2 of qualification in Vietnam.
With much of the squad spread around Australia and the world with their respective teams, Blayney said it was invaluable to get everyone under the same roof as often as possible.
“Yeah, the camp was a really valuable experience for us and a good opportunity to get a large chunk of the most talented under 20s in the country all together,” Blayney explained.
“It was a great opportunity to continue our preparation for our upcoming fixtures which are at the end of February.”
The squad also had the chance to rub shoulders with the CommBank ParaMatildas and CommBank Pararoos who were competing in the IFCPF Asia Oceania Championships.
“We had everything we need at the Home of the Matildas, the CommBank ParaMatildas and Pararoos coming into camp while we were down in Melbourne was a massive benefit,” Blayney said.
“We were able to have one of the CommBank ParaMatildas come into the environment and interact with our planning group, which is something that was pretty special and not possible when we're not in the same area, which is what the Home of Matildas offered us.”
The camp in Melbourne also presented a chance to expose some new faces to the Young Matildas’ setup including forward Milly Broughton who made the trip from England.
“We're always looking to find the best for this squad, so there is going to be some interchange at different points,” Blayney said.
“It was really pleasing that Millie Boughton has come in and fit in well for us. She's currently playing in England for Tottenham Hotspur and we are really pleased with how she's fitting in, and we look forward to continuing to work with her and Tottenham in the future.”
The AFC U-20 Women’s Asian Cup Uzbekistan 2024™ in March is expected to be highly competitive with the newly announced expansion of the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup 2024™ to 24 teams.
But the groundwork Blayney and her staff are putting in now, will hopefully pay dividends soon.
“There's always more work to do, but we are happy with where we're at,” Blayney said.
“I have some tough decisions to make moving forward in a couple of positions, as there are several very, very good players to select from.
“We've got one more window before the U-20 Women’s Asian Cup, so we'll look to be nailing down what the squad is for this upcoming activity, and then it's about them performing in their A-league environments or overseas clubs between December and the next selection in February.”
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