It’s all about playing regularly and Olyroos coach Graham Arnold is going to hammer that into his squad and the suits all the way to the Olympics.
After 12 long years, Australia’s absence from men’s football at the Olympics ended with the Olyroos’ 1-0 win over Uzbekistan at the AFC U23 Championships in the early hours of Sunday.
With only three nations able to win their way through to the Olympics instead of the usual four – Japan already assured one of the Asian Football Confederation’s slots at the tournament thanks to its hosting – it was a must-win game for the Olyroos and they got the job done despite gaps in the sport’s development program.
The majority of the squad, compared to their rivals at the tournament, are infrequent contributors to their clubs, with just a handful being regular contributors at their clubs.
It’s a predicament that Arnold has consistently bemoaned, calling for the introduction of a national reserve grade competition that would provide young players with regular games.
Though the concept, when compared to something such as a national second division, can be questioned, there is no doubt that young players need to be playing games – a point that Arnold hammered into his squad before their celebrations were allowed to begin.
“Last night after the game when we got back to the hotel, I showed [the team] a two-three-minute documentary on Aaron Mooy and his career,” Arnold told journalists on Sunday.
“When he was 21-22, he didn’t play at the Olympics and he wasn’t playing overseas in Scotland – he came back to the Wanderers and look where he is today.
It’s all about playing and if you don’t play at this age group, your career will be over within a very quick and a very short time.
“If you’re playing and playing regularly then you can have a great journey in life and that’s what I do believe in these kids.
“The hardest thing I had to do with this job when I took over was to fix their brains because kids have no belief or self-confidence.
“Last night, if you want to talk about performance, it wasn’t a great performance – it was a good, fighting performance.
“What needs to happen, is that these kids need to play. If they’re not good enough for the A-League than give them a reserve grade competition.
“All over the world, there’s reserve grade competitions in a professional environment with the resources of professionals so they can develop and become great players.”
City looking the goods in W-League
Two weeks ago, there were subtle signs that Melbourne City was beginning to separate itself from the W-League pack.
A fortnight later there seem little doubt about it.
In fact it could be City’s crown to lose?
With Irish international Denise O’Sullivan having now departed following the conclusion of her guest-player contract, Western Sydney Wanderers suffered their second defeat of the season over the weekend when they lost 2-0 to a previous winless Adelaide United.
Sydney FC, while not in action, still suffered a massive blow to its title aspirations when both Caitlin Foord and Chloe Logarzo were confirmed to be headed to England’s Women’s Super League.
City has retained all the members of its squad ahead of the run to the finals – a time when the three-time champions traditionally step on the gas.
Indeed Rado Visosic’s side, which is mathematically guaranteed finals football, is apparently chasing American Ally Watt as a guest player for the remainder of the season.
The road to the W-League title increasingly looks like it’s going to run through Bundoora.
The nomads uniting the west
Western United promised to ‘unite the west’ when the club joined the A-League in 2019-20 and it is certainly playing throughout the region.
The expansion side played in their third home ground of the season on Sunday when it took on Adelaide United at Whitten Oval after having played home games at Kardinia Park and Ballarat’s Mars Stadium.
Though coach Mark Rudan refused to allow it to be used as an excuse for his side’s 4-3 loss to Adelaide United, he did admit that finding one permanent base until the club moves into a purpose-built home ground would be ideal.
“We’ve all said we’re here to grow the game and here to grow the football club and take the game to our areas that we want to represent,” Rudan said.
“But it would be nice, when the discussion is held in the offseason, that if we can find one good permanent [ground] that suits everyone – the fans and the players. I think that would be great.”