City to rally around Holly McNamara after “devastating” ACL injury

As he prepares his side for their “most difficult game so far” against Brisbane Roar, Melbourne City A-League Women coach Rado Vidošić says the club will rally around Holly McNamara as the dynamic youngster looks to recover from a rupture to her ACL.

McNamara, one of the standout performers of the 2021-22 ALW campaign in what was her debut season in the top-flight, fell to the AAMI Park surface in tears after what appeared to be a relatively innocuous incident in the second half of her side’s 2-1 win over Sydney FC on Sunday and required the aid of trainers to depart the pitch.

The 19-year-old was subsequently confirmed to have suffered an injury to her left ACL on Tuesday. The teenager, who made her Matildas’ debut at this year’s Asian Cup, had previously suffered an ACL rupture as a 15-year-old, delaying her bow in the ALW until this season.

“Words can’t explain how I’m feeling right now, unfortunately I’ve ruptured my ACL in my left knee,” McNamara wrote on Instagram.

“Extremely grateful for the support I’ve received and can’t wait to be back.

Speaking ahead of his side’s game against Brisbane Roar on Thursday evening, Vidošić praised the impact that McNamara, who is under contract to City for the 2022-23 ALW season, had brought both on and off the field and stated that the club wanted to be a major part of her journey back to the field.

“We are all around her,” he said. “She’s been a very important part of the dressing room. She’s been a very important part of the game-day squad. She’s such a lovely person, everyone loves her.

“Being one of the youngest members of our family. Something like that happening to her, it’s been devastating.

“She’s been fantastic. She’s been a breath of fresh air. And she’s been someone that we could build our football style on. Someone like that is priceless.

“Whatever happens to her from now until when she comes back, we want to be a part of that process and then we believe that she’s got a long future with our club. And also a long future with the Matildas. Probably somewhere in between stints with our club she will also probably go overseas and play at some big clubs.

“We just want to have this relationship where she always knows how admired and how much she is loved at this club and by the people around her.

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“Hopefully, we can get over it by tomorrow night and have a good performance and see where that will take us.”

Thanks to their win over the Harboursiders, City will head into their meeting with Roar at Kingston Heath Reserve on Thursday evening knowing that the fate of the 2021-22 ALW Premiership is now in their hands.

Two points adrift of Sydney but possessing a game in hand, wins in their coming fixtures against Brisbane Roar, Western Sydney, and Newcastle – three sides that will not feature in this year’s finals – would guarantee them the club’s third premiership in its history and first since their invincible 2019–20 season that featured the likes of Steph Catley, Kyah Simon, and Ellie Carpenter.

Vidošić, though, is trying to keep a lid on things.

“No, we’re not talking about that,” he said. “We’re just talking about the next game. Every next game is the most important and the hardest game in the season because this league is so unpredictable.

“Brisbane Roar, they’ve got nothing to play for but they’ve got nothing to fear. They’re going to come out and they’re going to try and put that disaster result behind them [Brisbane lost 8-2 to Adelaide United in their last fixture] and try to get as much as they can.

“They’re going to look back at our game [a 2-1 City win sealed with a 94th minute Hannah Wilkinson goal] and say ‘we created a lot of chances, they only scored at the end of the game, what can we do better?’ And it won’t be easy. It will probably be the most difficult game so far because now expectations are higher for us and everyone expects us to just walk through the game, and it won’t be like that. It’s never like that.”

As well as McNamara, City will also be without Wilkinson and Rebekah Stott for the Roar fixture, with the latter two still absent on international duty with New Zealand.

Ostensibly three of City’s most well-resumed players (outside of ageless wonder Melissa Barbieri in goal), their absences will provide a significant test of City’s depth of youngsters – the side previously having struggled to get things going in attack when McNamara was absent on Matildas’ duty.

“We’ve got Leticia McKenna, she’s a fantastic player,” the City gaffer said on who would fill the void.

“She’s such a good technical player, she’s got great vision and she can play those long passes. She can drive the ball. Defensively she’s very, very good.

“But also we’ve got Caitlin Karic. She’s going to take part in a much larger part in this game and although she’s much younger than Holly, she possesses similar characteristics to Holly.

“So if she can play to her strengths we’re not going to feel a big difference in playing style. Of course, experience was on Holly’s side [Karic will turn 17 in June] and experience is definitely on Wilkinson’s side but she can definitely give us something that we are missing with those two players.”

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Header Image Credit: Melbourne City

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