Victory set to reinforce defence, but more Matildas’ absences loom

Melbourne Victory is expecting to lose Matildas Kyra Cooney-Cross and Courtney Nevin to international duty again before the A-League Women (ALW) season is out, but has signed much needed defensive reinforcement. 

Looking to plug the gap that captain Kayla Morrison left in Victory’s back four when she went down with an ACL injury, Victory will add former Brescia and Wet Ham defender Brooke Hendrix for the remainder of the campaign, with the 28-year-old set to be available for her new side’s trip to Wellington Phoenix this weekend. 

After bouncing around American, Scottish, Swiss and Icelandic sides following her graduation from the University of Southern Mississippi, Hendrix signed with Italian side Brescia ahead of the 2017-18 Serie A season and was a part of the Biancoazzurre’s run to a second-place league finish and Champions League campaign. 

Shifting from Lombardy to London, she subsequently spent two seasons with West Ham – part of the side that lost the 2018-19 FA Cup final to Manchester City – before returning to her homeland for stints with Washington Spirit and current side Racing Louisville. 

The defender will see out the remainder of the season as an injury-replacement player for Morrison, before returning to Kentucky for the 2022 NWSL season.  

Widely tipped as prohibitive premiership and championship favourites ahead of the 2021-22 season, Victory has struggled mightly to fill the void left by their injured captain’s absence from both an on-field perspective – experimenting with a number of lineups that have either destabilized other positions or proven unable to keep their foes at bay. 

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The defending champions will enter this game in fifth place on the table – albeit with two games in hand thanks to COVID-enforced delays – with 13 goals conceded: just one more than their goals against from the entirety of the 2020-21 season. 

“I’m thrilled to be joining Melbourne Victory for the remainder of the A-League Women’s season and can’t wait to hit the ground and get started,” Hendrix said.

“I’ve heard a lot about the league from abroad and I’m looking forward to the challenge and helping Victory achieve success this season.”

That pursuit of success, however, is likely to come with Matildas Kyra Cooney-Cross and Courtney Nevin absent for at least a portion of it. 

No doubt returning to Australia earlier than they were hoping for after the Matildas’ failure to progress beyond the quarterfinals of the Asian Cup, the pair won’t feature against the ‘Nix on Friday evening – Cooney-Cross still carrying a red-card suspension and Nevin rested – but will likely feature against Newcastle Jets next Tuesday. 

However, with a FIFA international window set to take place from February 14 to 23, Victory coach Jeff Hopkins expects to lose the midfielder and defender once again in the coming weeks. 

“I’d expect that [the Matildas] do something in that window and [would] definitely [be] picking those two to be involved as well,” Hopkins said. 

“It’s one of the downfalls, I guess, of having good players in your side. And it’s something that we’re ready to work around as well. We’ve been a bit lucky with the postponements that we’ll get to play with them in our side a few more times than we expected. 

“We wish them well, send them off to those FIFA windows, we hope they do well and gets lots of game time and do well. It’s part and parcel of the game and having good players.”

But while they may be still missing their national team representatives, Victory will still be keen to take the chocolates against the bottom of the ALW Phoenix. 

Friday evening’s game against the Kiwi side represents the second of four straight games that Victory will play against a side outside ALW’s top four and, depending upon results elsewhere, there is a not-insignificant chance they don’t face off with another final bound side the rest of the campaign.  

“We’ve spoken as a group,” Victory’s coach said. “When the rearranged fixtures came out a few of the players thought that it was a tough period with a lot of games in a short period of time. 

“But what we’re looking at now is that it’s a way to accumulate a lot of points in a short amount of time. We’re looking at the next three games as opportunities.

“t’s something we’ve talked about and something we’re well aware of. If we’re to be taken seriously as contenders to win this league we need to be winning games and starting to accumulate points pretty soon.”

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Image Credit: Melbourne Victory

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