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Changing perceptions: Adelaide United's W-League ambitions

Manton St Tales

The W-League season is only a fortnight away and Adelaide United will be looking for its first finals appearance. Manton Street Tales caught up with head coach Ivan Karlović about the upcoming season.

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What did you learn from the way last season ended – both personally and as a coach?

Obviously, we were disappointed in the way the season ended after a positive start.

But in saying that we felt that the season was a positive one in terms of the fact that we had the most successful season the club has ever had in its existence.

We identified the positives out of it; we identified areas we feel we need to improve.

But probably one of the biggest ones was for us being able to win games against the sides that we should be winning or games where we are going in as favourites and we failed to get the result.

So it’s a different challenge for us as a group – something that we are not used to – so certainly putting measures in place to try and help us with that.

This will be your third season in charge of the team. How do you feel this stint has improved you as a coach?

I think you’re always improving as a coach. You’re continuously evolving and developing yourself.

So for me, I think every year regardless of whether I’m here or elsewhere you want to keep on improving.

Just how important is it that Adelaide United makes the finals?

I think for us it’s important that we continue to improve as a group.

And I think if we improve we’ll be playing finals, especially based on last year.

Do you think there’s a perception out there that players see Adelaide United as a good place to start a W-League career but it’s not a place to go if you want to win silverware? If so, how do you change that?

I disagree. I think our perception has changed within the W-League circles.

We were able to attract Emma Checker back to the club a couple of years ago after so many years away; we brought Michelle Heyman to the club last year along with Kahlia Hogg.

And then this year we brought in Mary and Ciara Fowler, who have had probably every W-League club after them, so that goes to show what we are doing is certainly positive.

Kahlia has also returned this year so I think that perception has gone, it possibly was like that previously but I see us now as a club that people really respect.

Have you done a lot of scouting from the SA WNPL and has that changed your view of certain players for better or worse?

I’ve seen a lot of WNPL games this year – there are a number of players that have had good seasons.

The biggest challenge is really that most of the WNPL clubs train twice a week and we train six to seven times a week.

The gap is quite significant and we are working on trying to reduce that gap with the players that we have training with us.

Do you have four visa players signed? Will any of the players from last season return?

Yes and yes.

We will be announcing them very soon and some will be returning.

Would you consider the Sasaki sisters who have been outstanding for Adelaide City in the WNPL?

They’re both very good players and both of a W-League standard and unfortunately, it’d be nice if they had Australian citizenship.

It’s a difficult one with regards to taking up a visa position, but both are very good players and have shown that in the WNPL this year.

How big a loss is Emma Checker, who had basically been the face of the W-League team for two seasons?

Emma is a loss to the group.

Obviously she’s a quality footballer and was a great leader of our young team and a fantastic person.

In life, you can’t stop people bettering themselves and setting themselves up outside of football and that was the case with Emma.

And I’ll never hold anyone back in that regard and I’m always very supportive of all our players to ensure that their life outside of football is taken care of.

In this environment I think female athletes as well as male athletes, it’s important they’ve something outside of football and Emma has got her dreams and aspirations and I was very supportive of that.

At the same time, it also gives an opportunity for someone else to step up and take that role.

Given a likely need for centre backs, are Elena Psaroulis (West Adelaide) and Matilda McNamara (Adelaide City) in your plans?

Both Elena, Matilda and Chantelle Ryder have been training with us.

All of them have been doing well, they all know the areas of their game that they need to continue to improve on and we are continuously working with them.

Their attitude has been really good; it’s a big step and I think they also realise that. But I’m happy with the way they’re going and, hopefully, they can continue down this path and we’ll see where it all goes in the next few weeks.

We’ve regularly heard about (owner) Piet van der Pol’s plans and intentions for the A-League team. What conversations have you had with him and the other club leaders about the W-League team and the direction they want to take with it?

I think it’s very similar to the A-League where we want to give young South Australians an opportunity to progress throughout our side.

I think we’ve done that over the last few years – we’ve got a number of young girls that have made their debuts. And we are probably the youngest squad in the W-League, but we are starting to get a little bit of experience.

From a resource point of view, the club has really backed the W-League program.

I think from coaching resources, to nutritionists, to strength and conditioning, through to the medical staff, the girls have been looked after now better than they ever have.

So it’s a credit to the club and they’re really looking to drive the standards of the W-League program and we are looking to push and continue to improve.

What changes or improvements would you like to see in women’s football locally and nationally in Australia?

Obviously there are challenges in the game.

From a local point of view, I’d like to see the WNPL clubs look to increase their amount of training sessions in a week, to start to bridge that gap and increase the standard.

From a club point of view, I’m really keen on trying to get programs that underpin the W-League, so working down from the National Training Centre through to the development squads that are working all towards a common goal under the Adelaide United umbrella – investing in coaching resources and helping develop these young players.

I think that’s the next step for us especially being in a smaller city where there are fewer players in comparison to the eastern states.

So we need to be able to develop our own and really work hard in trying to get our players up to a higher level earlier.

And then, nationally, obviously in the W-League we’d like to be able to have the season go longer where you can spend more time with the girls and they can be in a professional environment for a longer period. It only goes for three months and then they’re off, so that’s something that would certainly help us and keep us in touch with the rest of the world who are starting to invest a lot more into female football.

And another thing…

Full season ticket holders gain free entry to all of Adelaide United’s home W-League fixtures. You can see the schedule here.

Spiro Karanikos-Mimis is InDaily’s soccer columnist.

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