“She’s looking sharp” – City, Matildas set for boost with Vidošić eyeing Holly McNamara return

Melbourne City and the Matildas appear set for a boost in the coming months, with City coach Dario Vidošić signalling his hope that injured attacker Holly McNamara will be soon given the all-clear to return from an ACL injury. 

McNamara, 19, emerged as one of the A-League Women’s brightest stars during her first season in the competition last year and was duly rewarded for her standout domestic form with a call-up to the Matildas’ squad for the Asian Cup. 

However, the youngster suffered a rupture to her left ACL after an innocuous incident during a February clash against Sydney FC – taken off in tears as her season came to a cruel and early end. 

It was the second time the prodigious talent had suffered an ACL ailment, the start of her professional career having already been delayed after tearing the ligament at 15 years old, as well as a stress fracture in her foot at 17. 

Despite the injury, she was still subsequently named as the ALW’s young player of the year at the Dolan Warren Awards and shared City’s player of the season award with ALW golden boot winner Hannah Wilkinson.

Melbourne City and Matildas attacker Holly McNamara
Header Image Credit: Melbourne City

And now, with that injury now almost 12 months in the rearview mirror, McNamara has rejoined City’s ALW side in training, and Vidošić is hopeful that he will soon be able to feature the teenager in his matchday squads. 

“She’s training. She’s involved in pretty much everything in the training,” he told reporters on Friday. 

“We still need to be a little bit cautious in terms of tackling and that, the doctors and surgeons have said that contact needs to be a little bit limited, but she’s involved. She’s training and we’re looking after her. 

“She’s looking good and we’re hopefully a month or so away from getting the green light where she can become involved. We’re really looking forward to welcoming her back. 

“Obviously, it’s not that they’re twelve months not doing anything; Holly’s been training for quite a while, she’s taking part when we’re playing eleven vs eleven, she’s in those sessions, she’s training, she’s playing. So her fitness is building, she’s looking sharp, she’s looking better. 

“But it’s now just getting that last part, which I imagine will be in the next few weeks where then she’ll be allowed to and then just building up her confidence, building everything up. And once she’s given the green light she’s basically straight in and she can play. 

“That’s the good thing, once the medical team say she’s fine she’s pretty much ready to play.”

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Unfortunately for Vidošić, while McNamara may be on the comeback trail he will now have to try to find a way to replace 23-year-old Emina Ekic, after the attacker’s loan deal was cut short by a fractured leg suffered in City’s 1-0 win over Perth Glory. 

“Unfortunately, my time in Australia has come to an end much sooner than I intended,” Ekic wrote on her Instagram.

“Thank you all for the kind messages and concerns. Despite breaking my leg, I wanted to highlight all the great memories I’ve had with Melbourne City and my amazing teammates.”

Initially set to replace the American when her loan move from Racing Louisville ended, María José Rojas, having already served as an injury replacement player for Wilkinson, will fill the void left by Ekic. 

That, however, will have to wait until she has returned from a training camp with the Chilean national team in preparation for their 2023 Women’s World Cup qualifiers in New Zealand in February. 

In the meantime, Vidošić indicated that teenagers Caitlin Karic or Daniela Galic may fill the void when City faces Western Sydney Wanderers on Sunday, which will be the first of three games they will play in a week.

Following the game against Wanderers, City will fly straight to Adelaide to take on the Reds on Wednesday evening, before then returning home for a derby against Melbourne Victory on Saturday afternoon. 

“It’s not ideal. We’ve been dealt the worst hand in terms of player welfare,” said Vidošić, who will likely play several players out of position as he seeks to manage his player’s loads. “I’m not sure who did the scheduling and the fixtures for this. 

“To ask people to ask three games in six days… we’re the only unfortunate squad that’s been given that. Everyone else either has seven days or they’ve got two games in four days. “That extra day of rest can make a big difference. 

“It is what it is. We can’t change it, it’s not ideal. But we’re lucky enough that everyone’s ok and the biggest thing now is to try and look after players because it’s going to be very very hard for the same players to play three games in such a short period of time.

“We’ll need the whole squad for this whole week upcoming.”

After the pair made their first appearances of the season in the 1-0 win over Glory, Vidošić indicated that Karly Roestbakken and Wilkinson were both available for the coming slate of games. 

So is captain Emma Checker, who has been absent with both injury and illness this season. 

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Header Image Credit: Melbourne City


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