Hopkins urges Victory ALW side to seize their opportunities ahead of Wanderer visit

Melbourne Victory A-League Women (ALW) coach Jeff Hopkins is backing his youngsters to step up and fill the void left by the departure of Lynn Williams and his Matildas’ cohort for the club’s suddenly crucial fixture against Western Sydney Wanderers on Sunday afternoon.

Two losses on the bounce – the first a 5-1 humiliation at the hands of local rivals Melbourne City and the second a 4-2 loss to Brisbane Roar in which the Queenslanders scored three goals in the final ten minutes to romp home – has Hopkins’ side sitting on a bit of a precipice heading into their trip to Sydney this weekend. 

See Also: Brisbane Roar in come-from-behind ALW win

See Also: Despite COVID chaos, “five-star” Hannah Wilkinson lifts Melbourne City to thumping win over Melbourne Victory 

While a win would ensure that the defending champions kept pace with Sydney FC and Melbourne City atop the ALW ladder, a defeat would leave them in significant danger of sliding out of the league’s finals places – only three points separating them from seventh-placed Wanderers. 

After starting the season has prohibitive title favourites, Victory appears still yet to have accounted for the loss of captain and central defender Kayla Morrison to a torn ACL in round one both in terms of goals conceded – only Wellington Phoenix have shipped more this season – and in their structure of the team; a number of players thrown into deference to account for her absence that have both failed to plug the gap and led to disruptions in other positions. 

The ongoing injury problems of 2020-21 PFA Team of the Season squad member Melina Ayres, still two to three weeks away from making her season debut according to Hopkins, has also been an overlooked factor. These challenges were further compounded by outbreaks of COVID within the team and around the league: Victory’s fixture against Newcastle Jets cancelled last week due to positive cases amongst the Jets camp. 

“We would love to have played last week to have gone to Newcastle and put [the club’s poor form] right,” said Hopkins. “But what we have had the chance to do is to work on a few things from the previous week and just try and put a few things in place that are going to help us be better this week. 

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“This is a big game for us this week. And I think the players realize that we need to get back to our winning ways and get things right back on track. If we don’t, we’re back in the pack with a number of teams. It’s an important game and I’m sure that the performance that we get from the girls this week will really show how serious we think this game is and how important the game is.”

Though losing Kyra Cooney-Cross and Courtney Nevin to Matildas’ duty and Lynn Williams at the end of her loan deal, Victory is set to welcome back Alex Chidiac, Tiff Eliadis, and first-choice goalkeeper Casey Dumont for their trip to face the Wanderers. 

The trio was all absent from their side’s loss to Brisbane due to tests that would later confirm they had tested positive to COVID not arriving back in time and re-joined the side this week following their mandatory isolation periods. 

Victory captain Kayla Morrison (right) suffered an ACL injury in round one.
Image Credit: Melbourne Victory

While keen to reintegrate them into his side post-haste, Hopkins acknowledged that he would have to be strategic in their deployment – potentially holding one or two in reserve to manage for potential fatigue or adverse reactions to a game setting. 

“Chids (Chidiac), it hit her quite hard for a short period of time,” Hopkins said. “She’s eased back into things quite gradually this week. But she also did a conditioning session on Wednesday and she actually asked to do more than we had her down to do.

“Tiff Eliadis as well has trained really well. And Casey Dumont had quite a tough time as well.

“The first couple of days when they came back they were just struggling maybe at times to just to get their breath a few times when they did a lot of prolonged work. So we’ve eased them in nicely and whether they’ll be able to last the full game, I’m not sure but they’re all keen to play and I’m keen to play them as well. 

“So we’ll just we’ll have to kind of play it by ear a little bit. Considering they’ve only been back a week we’ll just have to just be quite careful with them on the weekend.

See Also: Kicking it at Coopers: Melbourne City ALW coach Rado Vidošić welcomes Coopers Stadium challenge

“We’ve sent Kyra and Courtney off to the Asian Cup this week. Everyone’s wishing them really wishing them well and hoping they do go on the game time and play well. 

“But I think the way that we’re looking at it is that it is an opportunity for other players to step up now. Yeah, we’ve lost Kyra is one of the best young players in the country at the moment but I believe that we’ve got someone coming through in Alana Murphy that will be will be right up there in a couple of years as well. 

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“So a great opportunity for players like Murph to actually start a few games.

“It’s opportunities for players and I’m hoping that’s how the players are going to be looking at it. We need other players to step up and if players can’t see that this is a fantastic opportunity for them to cement a place in the side for themselves… I don’t know what they’re doing, I don’t know what they’re doing at the club.

“But I’m pretty sure that that’s how the players are looking at it.”

After making five appearances off the substitutes bench this season, one of the young players potentially looking to make the step-up will be 20-year-old Maja Markovski.

“Maja, she’s most probably one of the people that I was talking about getting an opportunity and grabbing that opportunity with both hands,” said Hopkins. 

See Also: Melbourne Victory’s Maja ready to continue proud Markovski tradition

“She’s trained really well this week. 

“She’s telling me ‘throw me in, give me a chance this week’ and she’s kind of put her hand up. 

“I would think that she will start and it’s then down to her to show us what she’s capable of. Over the past month or so she’s really kind of starting to fill me with more confidence in the type of player I think she can be. I think she can come into this side and be quite effective. 

“We might just have to adjust the way that we play slightly to get the best out of her but she’s proved to me over the last three or four weeks that she really wants to play and that she’s prepared to work hard for it. 

“If we have to put her in this week, which looks likely, I’m really confident that she can go in and she can be really effective for us.”

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You’re seeing this advert because this is an unpaid, self-published piece.

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Header Image Credit: Melbourne Victory

One thought on “Hopkins urges Victory ALW side to seize their opportunities ahead of Wanderer visit

  1. Pingback: Barbieri continuing to lead Melbourne City’s ALW side on and off the park | JDL MEDIA

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