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Melbourne Victory W-League head coach Jeff Hopkins: “There are so many positive things happening in the game right now”

Hopkins spoke to Soccerscene about success in a season upended by the pandemic and the future of the W-League and women's football in Australia.

Jeff Hopkins coached Melbourne Victory to the most dramatic of wins in this years W-League final – a goal directly from a corner kick, in the dying seconds of extra time.

He speaks to Soccerscene about success in a season upended by the pandemic, his storied career throughout England, Malaysia and Australia as a player, plus the future of the W-League and women’s football in Australia.

Q: It must have been an ecstatic feeling to win the final the way you did.

Hopkins: Leading into the final, the week we had before that, was the game in Sydney which was a rearranged game that ended up being a decider (for the league title). We were on a real high leading into that game, on a run of wins, to have lost that, it was an emotional rollercoaster. To get ourselves up for the weekend to go to Brisbane, win that game, and the way we won the game in the final made it even more special. Leaving it until the last seconds of the game, when everyone thought we were going into penalties and the game becomes a little bit of a lottery, so to win it as we did was amazing. The harder something is to get the more special it becomes, and it was definitely the case in that game.

Q: How did you become involved in football, and into coaching?

Hopkins: I was brought up in the UK, came from a family with two older brothers, both of who are involved in football. My older brother was a professional at Bournemouth, and my other brother came through the ranks and was a schoolboy with Plymouth, so it was in the family and the blood. I played as a professional for 17 years before coming to Australia, after a year playing in Malaysia. In my last year of playing, I played in the NSL with Gippsland Falcons and progressed into coaching from there. As I was progressing through my middle to late years in England I was very interested in coaching and got into it, and started my coaching qualifications over in the UK with a couple of UEFA badges and finished it up while I was over here. I played as a professional for 18 years so it was a natural progression for me to go into coaching.

Q: How does winning the W-League final as a coach rank up against your career achievements, which included 16 caps for Wales?

Hopkins: It’s right up there. What I am doing at the moment, and it’s something I put everything into, this year was really special. We worked with a really special group of players and in really difficult circumstances with COVID hanging over us, and the uncertainty from week to week, not knowing what is happening with playing and training. I rate what we have done this season so highly, and it’s a testament to the people who are at the club and the playing group that we got through it and won the final.

Q: How important is the expansion of the W-League?

Hopkins: I think it’s something we have been waiting for a long time and it’s a natural progression for the league. To grow the league to maybe 12 teams would be excellent, it’s something we’ve been talking about and hopefully heading towards this season. Starting to work towards a full and home and away season gives the league more credibility. I think we are heading in the right direction, I think it is important for the game in this country. Leading into 2022 there is a great opportunity for us to grow the league and the participation levels. We’ve got our place to play in that picture as well. We’ve got to be a place in that pathway for young girls to look to get to that next level, and we are part of that pathway and a stepping stone to fully professional football, representing the Matildas and playing in world cups and Olympic games. It’s important there is a credible league for young girls to come into and aspire to their level. It’s important we make the league as strong as possible.

Q: Do you think the long off-season is a detriment to the league?

Hopkins: At the moment, hopefully in time will change as the league grows, we spend more time away from the players than with them across the year and it becomes a little bit of the problem. COVID added to that problem. There were options for players to play overseas and come back and play in the W-League with good opposition. But at the moment players are limited to the NPL competitions which are improving year on year. It is a problem because we then have to monitor our players in different environments and you lose track and control of your players. Over time we can make the league longer so we have more control, but also coaching in the NPL is improving so players are getting into better environments when they aren’t with us.

Q: With the new broadcast deal, the existence of the A-League and W-League is guaranteed for the next five years. How important is the security this has created?

Hopkins: The television deals all over the world drive the football leagues, it allows clubs to get out there to the general public. There are plenty of different components of football, especially in terms of getting the fans to see the product. The TV deal is important, and it’s great we have a free-to-air component so everyone can see it. As the game grows it’s important we get our product out there in the best way possible, and as many ways as possible. I think this deal is a big step forward for the game. Everyone in the game can see that and is happy with the work that has been on this TV deal.

Q: Do you think the deal will increase the professionalism of the W-League?

Hopkins: As the game grows, and the league grows and we head towards a longer season, the environments will have to grow. There is a lot of things happening in the game now, the growth of women’s football, and the women’s World Cup is going to massive as well. Companies wanting to jump on board, sponsorship, there are so many positive things happening in the game right now. The TV deal is a part of that, and the more money that comes in the game, and the women’s side of things will allow to do a bit more, create better environments. It can only make the game better.

Q: Will the Women’s World Cup be a catalyst for the W-League to reach new heights?

Hopkins: It definitely will. There is a massive opportunity to grow the game on the female side of things as we get closer to the excitement that it will generate. If the Matildas can do well at a home World Cup it will be a massive boost for the game. Participation levels will go up, and it’s a great opportunity for us in this country to showcase women’s football, but what we are doing in the W-League is a big part of that as well. The Women’s World Cup is a massive opportunity for us, and an opportunity we are all behind and pushing in the same direction for the women’s side of the game. It isn’t just a competition that will come and go, we are going to push hard to drive the game on, and when the competition is over we are hoping we will be in a much better place.

Football Tasmania launches Coaching for Women Scholarship program

Football Tasmania Scholarship

Football Tasmania has announced the launch of their Coaching for Women Scholarship program, an initiative which reaffirms the state’s recent focus on female participation within the sport. The program is an important step towards growing participation across all areas of the game for women and girls.

The Scholarship aims to address the lack of female representation within the state and wider country’s coaching ranks, with women from clubs and associations with states encouraged to reach out and apply.

At least five female coaches will be provided with Scholarships and the subsequent opportunity to complete the Football Australia ‘C’ Licence course. This will consist of at least one participant from each region – North West, Northern Tasmania and Southern Tasmania.

Each Scholarship includes a $1,200 contribution towards the course fee for the FA ‘C’ Licence course. Additionally, successful applications will have their attendance to the 2021/22 coaches conference included in the Scholarship.

Going forward, coaches will receive continuous support from Football Tasmania’s Coach Development Manager, David Smith, and Female Development Officer, Debra Banks. The successful Applicants will be required to complete the Scholarship within 18 months and attend the 2021/22 Football Tasmania State Coaching Conference.

Furthermore, an opportunity will be potentially offered to participants of the Scholarship program to travel interstate as an assistant coach at the Girls National Youth Championship in 2022.

Plans to increase participation across all areas of football are what is driving the initiative behind Football Tasmania’s Women’s Scholarship program.

The state’s governing footballing body is seeking to increase female participation to at least 30% total, whilst raising the number of active coaches and referees with accreditation by 15%.

With this program, Football Tasmania have recognised the significance of the raising awareness of and strengthening of the pathways for players, coaches and referees. As a result, strong and effective relationships with clubs can be better maintained in order to deliver tangible value for all stakeholders. Moreover, initiatives that subsequently recognise and reward achievements and successes in the game at all levels can champion the game for the state as a whole.

For those interested, the application form can be accessed here.

Dave Beeche appointed as new CEO of FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023

FIFA has named Dave Beeche as the new CEO for the upcoming FIFA Women's World Cup 2023 in Australia and New Zealand.

FIFA has named Dave Beeche as the new CEO for the upcoming FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 in Australia and New Zealand.

Following the announcements of Host Cities and FIFA Chief Operating Officers earlier this year, the addition of Beeche is another step in the tournament’s preparations, where he will oversee its delivery throughout the two host countries.

Beeche will begin in his role from June 14, 2021 – we are now just over two years away from the World Cup’s commencement.

Originally from New Zealand, Beeche has 15 years’ experience leading high-profile commercial and non-profit organisations in the sports, events and tourism sectors. His previous leadership roles have seen him deliver successful major sporting events in both host countries, while he worked alongside current personnel involved in the upcoming women’s rugby and cricket World Cups when he served as the CEO of the Local Organising Committee for the FIFA U-20 World Cup New Zealand 2015.

“I am honoured and excited to be given the opportunity to lead the delivery of such a significant tournament, especially at a time when there is so much focus globally on the development of women’s sport and, more broadly, the empowerment of women,” he said.

“I look forward to working with both member associations and the Host Cities to not only deliver an outstanding tournament that showcases the world-class talent in women’s football, but leave a lasting positive legacy for women’s sport.”

FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura also spoke regarding the appointment:

“We are delighted to welcome Dave to the FIFA team to head up our newly created offices in Australia and New Zealand,” she said.

“The FIFA Women’s World Cup has gone from strength to strength with new levels being achieved on and off the pitch in France 2019. We are looking to continue this growth and set a new benchmark for this fantastic tournament in 2023 together with our hosts Australia and New Zealand.”

The FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 is the ninth edition of the tournament and will take place in Australia and New Zealand from July 20 to August 20 2023. It will also be the first edition of the FIFA Women’s World Cup to feature 32 teams.

Perth Glory announce PGFC Academy School partnership

PGFC LJBC

Perth Glory have announced a partnership with Lake Joondalup Baptist College (LJBC) which will see them become an official PGFC Academy School.

As a result, the prestigious northern suburbs college has become the third school to partner with the club, joining John Curtin College of the Arts and St. Andrew’s Grammar in offering a 12-month program which will provide a unique opportunity for highly-motivated young players to develop their football through additional training sessions, whilst also enabling them to continue with their education.

John Walmsley, LJBC Teacher and Football Coach, believes that the partnership with Glory will massively enhance the school’s already highly-regarded Football Academy.

“We are delighted that Lake Joondalup Baptist College has become a Perth Glory Academy School,” he said.

“This link will provide many benefits for students within our Football Academy and provide alignment to a professional football pathway.

“This partnership will allow us to maximise the potential of each player’s development on and off the pitch, as well as expanding opportunities for talent identification.

“Our Football Academy students will now have weekly strength and conditioning sessions with Perth Glory coaches and access to Perth Glory Nutritionists and Sports Psychologists through our Leadership Program.

“This will allow us to continue to further develop our students on and off the pitch into hopefully not only better footballers, but also better people.”

Former Glory midfielder Brad Hassell, who coaches at LJBC, echoed the sentiments of Walmsley.

“We are excited about the potential of this partnership with Perth Glory and how it will help us continue to evolve our program,” he said.

“We aim to provide a challenging, yet enjoyable learning environment at LJBC and will be able to offer greater opportunities for our male and female footballers through our collaboration with Perth Glory and participation in Perth Glory Football School events.”

A-League legend Terry McFlynn, who is currently Perth Glory’s Football Operations Manager, was similarly enthused by the partnership.

“LJBC has a fantastic reputation both in terms of its football program and academic results, making it very much a natural fit for the club as we expand our PGFC Academy Schools program into the northern suburbs,” he said.

“We are very excited at working closely with John, Brad and the rest of the staff to maximise the opportunities for the school’s students and replicate the great success that we have already enjoyed at both John Curtin College of the Arts and St. Andrew’s Grammar.

“The PGFC Academy shares LJBC’s strong commitment to producing both better footballers and better people and we look forward to developing this partnership in the coming years.”

Trial Registration for the LJBC Football Academy is now open for both male and female students in Years 4 – 12 for 2022. Those interested can register by clicking here.

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