The 2020-21 W-League season hasn’t exactly gone to plan for Melbourne City’s Jenna McCormick on the park, but the Matildas’ defender still has no regrets about her early return to Australia from Spain.
Having played, at a minimum, one game more than any other side in the competition, City enters their meeting with Newcastle Jets this weekend experiencing what is, arguably, their nadir as a club; sitting seventh on the table with just a single win and draw against five defeats.
Though this position possibly representing the worst the club has ever experienced does speak to its unprecedented success throughout its short history, such qualifiers will likely serve as little comfort to coach Rado Vidosic and his playing group.
Six points and an eleven goal turnaround in goal difference adrift of fourth place, the dreaded ‘mathematically’ qualification is now being bandied around the club’s chances of returning to the finals.
“It’s been challenging,” McCormick said on Thursday. “Everyone would love to be winning and I think the mood is a lot different when you are winning each week. It just means we’ve had to face some problems head-on and confront issues and try and resolve them right here and right now on the field.
“This week is another week to improve and put in a better performance. I think we have improved a lot over the past six weeks compared to the beginning of the season. It may be too little too late but I’m not the only one here that doesn’t’ believe that and we’ll be going out this weekend with three points.”
Though she ultimately only missed a single game because of it – City’s 2-1 defeat to Adelaide in what had loomed as a South Australian homecoming – McCormick has this season battled the effects of a concussion sustained in her side’s early-season 6-0 defeat to Melbourne Victory over the past month.
The 26-year-old spent two weeks with a t-shirt over her head during meetings, rationing her screen-time and slowly building up physical activity as she observed City’s concussion protocols, and her resulting lack of fitness led to her first-half substitution in City’s 2-0 loss to Sydney FC last Thursday.
The cranial issues compounding on her battles born of her interrupted pre-season and City’s poor form, and 2020-21 sits in start contrast her 2019-20 – when she was part of a Victory side that finished second place.
Nonetheless, McCormick, who signed with City on the eve of the season after a dispiriting stint in Europe with Spanish side Real Betis, still believes her decision to return to Australia was the right one and that she’s still on track to push for selection as part of new Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson’s Tokyo Olympics squad.
“I feel like… ultimately, I feel mentally in such a better place,” the four-time Matilda said. “Although we’re losing and it would be great to be winning every week I still feel like the decision to come back to Australia was the right one and I am in a better place.
“I’ve still got a team-first mentality and winning games at the forefront of my mind – I’m a competitor, I’m always going to have that. But I also see these games as 90-minute opportunities to work on my game and do the things that I know are hopefully going to get me a look in for a Tokyo spot. That’s the ultimate goal right now.
“I can only control what I can control so I’m just trying to do everything that I can to be able to get that spot. I know it’s hotly contested and we’ve got a lot of options, which is fantastic for Australian football.
“At the moment it’s trying to put in those consistent performances and minutes on the park here at City to be able to lock that away or at least get a chance to go into a pre-Olympic camp and try and work there and show how much I want that spot. I’m in the mindset of controlling what I can control, doing what I can do in the moment and hopefully it pays off.
“[I am] trying to continue to get overseas [following the W-League season]. We’ll have camps leading up to the Olympics but it won’t be for that entire time, there will be weeks where we need to be playing and training and making up that time and ensuring that we are still getting those loads in a professional environment to stay at that level and give ourselves the best chance to compete at the tournament.
“I said when I first got here I wasn’t shying away from going back, it was a matter of being the right move for me. I know the right move is to continue to put myself in those environments to give myself the best opportunity to be fully prepared and available for selection.”