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Do the Matildas need a female coach?

With the recent decision by former Matildas coach Ante Milicic to move into the head coaching role at A-League club Macarthur Bulls, the national team is now in need of a new mentor.

The 46-year-old Milicic did a commendable job with a group of women fast becoming Australia’s national team of choice. The 2019 World Cup in France did not quite bring the football glory for which the nation had hoped, with the women entering the event as a top ten ranked team, seemingly destined to navigate the group stage and compete in the knockout phase.

A Round of 16 loss to Norway torpedoed the Matildas from the competition when the dreaded penalty shootout denied them an opportunity to advance. Since, Milicic has continued in his role and after two warm up friendlies against Chile, led the team in a successful Olympic Qualifying campaign.

In truth, he had done little wrong and had he chosen to stay in the job, the likelihood is that he would have been afforded that opportunity. However, it appears the Sydney born ex-Socceroo had his eyes fixed on the top job in Sydney’s southwest and the chance to test his skills in the A-League.

That decision has opened up discussion around who his successor should be. Rumours circle that former USWNT coach Jill Ellis is high on the FFA hit list, others claim the popular Ross Aloisi is the clear favourite, whilst some believe Ante Juric or Arsenal coach Joe Montemurro would be ideal.

In recent weeks, it has been noted that Ellis appears to be a front runner for the position yet the only woman on the short list.

Internationally proven names such as Sarina Weigman and Carolina Morace have been thrown forward as female candidates for a position that many feel should be filled by a woman. There is a firm belief that the time is nigh and that the potential symbolism of such a move would be a powerful statement.

Personally, I would like to seek the best person selected for the attractive task of taking the Matildas to the Tokyo Olympics and forwards toward the 2023 Women’s World Cup on home shores, whichever sex they may be.

Getting the right professional fit will be vital for a team competing in the most speedily advancing women’s code on the planet, with the quality and depth seemingly improving at an exponential rate. Appointing a new coach for any reason other than them being the best suited to the role and a with proven record of being able to extract the absolute best from the players at his or her’s disposal would be folly.

Whilst I believe that the above is indeed a measured and logical argument, there is also a line of thinking that sees significant women in the Australian game determined to ensure that the role is indeed filled by a female; a view that is reportedly at odds with the sentiments of many players within the Matildas squad.

The last time a Matildas team was coached by a woman, things ended in disaster; perhaps informing the current players’ preference not to demand a female appointment and their contentment with the men who have led them in recent years, Milicic and former coach Alen Stajcic.

Certainly there is no suggestion that the appointment of a female coach would result in the same outcomes as 2014, however some players appear fearful of a ‘token’ female appointment; one based on a belief that a woman’s team should have a woman coach and not only on the quality of the candidate.

Personally, I would love to see the Matildas led by a woman, in the same way I would like to see the Socceroos led by a woman should she be the best person for the job.

Former Matilda Shelley Youman has been a strong advocate for a female coach of the national squad. In an interview with Australian website Women in Football contributor Janakan Seemampillai, Youman suggested the modern group of Matilda’s should “grow up” and accept the idea of a female coach.

She doubled down by stating that the importance of appointing a woman to the role was so paramount at this stage of the women’s game in Australia that “If we can’t find a woman, look harder.”

Many would bemoan such an appointment as one designed to suit an emotional and utopian aspiration for the Matildas. The alternative view presented by women previously or currently involved in the domestic game, would instead cite the lack of belief in and failure to identify and develop female coaches in the past.

Those holding that view believe in investing in a highly credentialed woman for the role now, rather than potentially recirculating another male from within the FFA system.

As the Matildas embark on a busy three years of important football, the appointment could well make or break their chances. Firstly, of a successful Olympic campaign and also the development of a squad capable of seriously competing for the 2023 Women’s World Cup.

The powers at be will need to determine;

a) Whether it is indeed time for a woman to take the reins of the Matildas.

b) The identity of the woman capable of doing so.

Should the answer to a) be no and/or the right candidate not found, the coach will, once again, most likely be male. That decision would infuriate the proud female pioneers of Australia’s football past, yet also be one with which the Matildas appear to have little problem.

Stuart Thomas is a trusted Journalist with Soccerscene. He reports widely on macro policy within Australasia and industry disruptions.

W-League awards to be held this week

Football Federation Australia (FFA) have confirmed a special W-League edition of the Dolan Warren Awards will take place this Thursday, July 23.

The awards will be held virtually via the W-League website and the competition’s official Facebook page.

Hosted by Fox Sports presenter Tara Rushton, the event will begin from 12pm with the Julie Dolan Medal winner to be announced by 7pm.

FFA Head of Leagues, Greg O’Rourke, was excited to celebrate the best of the past W-League season.

“During these challenging times, unfortunately it is has not been possible for us to gather for the traditional Dolan Warren Awards Gala event, but we will hero the magic of the Westfield W-League 2019/20 via an innovative virtual show,” said O’Rourke.

“There were plenty of amazing performances during the past Westfield W-League season and I hope the fans will be able to get behind this special Westfield W-League edition of the Dolan Warren Awards.

“With the standard of football that we witnessed this season being so high, I am sure the award winners we announce on Thursday will be of the highest calibre,” concluded O’Rourke.

The schedule for the event and the awards that are being handed out are listed below.

Dolan Warren Awards 2020 – Westfield W-League edition

12:00pm – Welcome and Westfield W-League 2019/20 Fair Play Award

1:00pm – Westfield W-League 2019/20 Referee of the Year Award

2:00pm – Westfield W-League 2019/20 Golden Boot

3:00pm – Westfield W-League 2019/20 Goal of the Year

4:00pm – Westfield W-League 2019/20 Goal Keeper of the Year

5:00pm – Westfield W-League 2019/20 Coach of the Year

6:00pm – Westfield W-League 2019/20 Young Footballer of the Year

7:00pm – The Julie Dolan Medal (Best player throughout the W-League season)

(Times are AEST)

Destination NSW partners with A-League

Football Federation Australia (FFA) have announced Destination NSW will become an official partner for the remainder of the A-League season.

As the state government’s official tourism and events agency, Destination NSW is currently undertaking a marketing campaign titled ‘Love NSW’, encouraging people to spend locally during this time.

The Love NSW campaign will feature in LED and virtual signage across a majority of the remaining A-League games this season.

NSW Minister for Jobs, Investment, Tourism and Western Sydney, Stuart Ayres, believes the partnership will be a huge boost, in what has been a tough year.

“In what has been an incredibly challenging year, the NSW Government is proud to support the return of the Hyundai A-League and use this high-impact opportunity to help our state’s tourism industry to recover,” Mr Ayres said.

“This partnership is a fantastic opportunity for us to promote the unique experiences and attractions NSW has to offer local holidaymakers now and in the future through high-reaching broadcast and social media activity.”

“All travellers and businesses must follow the latest health advice to ensure all NSW adventures are COVID-safe.”

FFA CEO James Johnson thanked the minister and Destination NSW for their support.

“Over recent weeks, we have been working with the NSW Government at many levels, through their support and assistance in getting our Hyundai A-League teams to NSW, and on developing this integrated marketing partnership,” Johnson said.

“The fixture to complete the season will see Hyundai A-League matches played across five different NSW venues, in Sydney and in regional areas, and is therefore a great platform to showcase the state of NSW.”

Johnson continued: “COVID-19 has required sports rightsholders and marketers alike to be agile and look for creative partnerships that adapt to the constantly evolving circumstances our community is facing.

“The condensed nature of the restart to the Hyundai A-League season allows brands to capitalise on the unique media opportunity that our Festival of Football provides, especially for those looking to amplify targeted campaigns.

“We greatly appreciate the support of the NSW Government through Destination NSW for the remainder of the Hyundai A-League season and encourage our fans across the country and the world to #LoveNSW,” he concluded.

Matildas and Olyroos receive funding boost for Olympics

The Matildas and Olyroos will receive a high-performance grant from the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) to prepare for next year’s Tokyo Olympics.

The Olyroos will receive a one-off high-performance grant of $400,000 from the AIS, whilst the Matildas will have a longer-term commitment of funding from the institute beyond the conclusion of the Olympic games.

The AIS will draw the funds from the Federal Government’s $50.6 million investment package in high performance sport for the next two years, which was announced last month.

FFA CEO James Johnson welcomed the announcement and contribution from the respective parties.

“We appreciate and acknowledge the investment of the AIS and the Federal Government into the Matildas and the Olyroos ahead of Tokyo 2020,” Johnson said.

“The high-performance funding that both the Federal Government and also the Australian Institute of Sport provides our code is extremely important.”

“Football is the world’s most competitive sport – there are 211 countries across the world that are playing it, 46 in Asia alone. In Asia, Governments are investing in national team activity, so this additional support is helpful for us as we aim to continue to maintain our competitiveness against our neighbouring countries.

“We believe that the participation of the Matildas and Olyroos at next year’s Games – the first time that they have competed together since Athens 2004 – will add significant interest and excitement to the Games in Australia.

“Football has two million participants in Australia, so we expect our sport’s presence on this great international stage to play an important role in engaging Australians with Tokyo 2020, and inspiring more kids to take up sport and be active. And we look forward to working closely with the AIS and Government as we build up to the FIFA Women’s World Cup on home soil in 2023,” he concluded.  

The Olyroos will compete at their first Olympic games since Beijing 2008, whereas the Matildas reached the quarter finals of the 2016 tournament in Rio.

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