Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Girlswithgameprofile - meet Aivi Luik

She would prefer to play in the midfield, but has dabbled in everywhere from up front to centre-back, has an impressive American career for Women's Premier League soccer team FC Indiana, a playing stint in Ukraine that included UEFA cup qualifiers and a knack for scoring match-winners in important games, like the winning penalty to win the 2005 American Women's Soccer league title and three goals in three games in that UEFA champions league series.

 So what brings Aivi Luik back to Brisbane Roar and Australia?

 A few days out from kick-off, girlswithgame caught up with the 24-year-old Gold Coast girl at a Matildas camp to find out why.

 GirlswithGame: You have been playing in the American W-League for Indiana FC for a while now and last year spent a stint at a club in Ukraine, what made you want to come back to Australia?
 Aivi Luik: I want to play for Australia, it's always been a desire of mine and it's my number one priority now.

 So you have never played for the Matildas before? No, basically after high school I got a scholarship to college in America and I played for four years, did my degree and in the summer I played for a club team called Indiana FC and as soon as I graduated the team became more professional and they had a three-month pre-season and played from May to August. Because it became more professional I was signed for two more years and then after the season, I went to Ukraine for the off-season, but now I think, I'm 24, I want to make the [Australian] team and I think now is the best time to do that. That they have the league here now I wanted to come and play here and try and make the national team.

 Were you happy to get straight into Matildas camps? I attended a Matildas camp in March so I kind of knew that I was in the loop then but to come back and go straight into the Queensland team, when it's the strongest team, we have so many Queensland girls in the Matildas, it's just been great.

 What are you expecting from the W-League? Have you been able to watch much? It's basically just been what I can get off YouTube, the first one that I actually saw was last year when Canberra United beat Queensland by one goal, so my jaw kind of dropped at that. But what I have seen, it is a really good level. Once I started training with the girls I was blown away with how great the standard is, I think this team would give Indiana a run for their money and I think we were ranked fourth in the world a few years ago, so we had a pretty strong team.

 So tell us about Ukraine...
The offer came through and I spoke to my mum as she's from Sweden and she was a bit sceptical about it, eastern europeans countries are a little bit dodgy in terms of safety and my coach at Indiana, who is Polish, actually said 'if you were my daughter I wouldn't let you go', so it was a bit 'oh my gosh'. But I though, A chance to play in the European champions league, it was a once in a lifetime opportunity. [which she made the most of, scoring the match-winning goals in three games that finished up 1-0,1-0 and 2-1!]. I went over there and it was great. There were certainly barriers as far as language goes, but it was fine. It's not something I'd probably do again, living standards weren't that great and you feel very spoilt when you come back, but it was a great experience and I loved it.

 What was the league like in terms of professionalism? [In terms of payment] it was kind of enough to live on, as pretty much everything like lodging and food is taken care of, but in terms of standard it's nothing compared to the standard in America or here.
 Read more about Aivi's season in Ukraine in this great post from theglobalgame and from a post on the UEFA site here.

 What are your goals for this W-League season and Matildas? For the Roar, definitely to win it. Trying to win a league back to back is one of the hardest things you can do. I found that out with Indiana in one of my first years, we didn't have the players and it didn't quite work. But the girls are great, we are a great team and we are all really motivated. With Matildas, I know this is the last camp before January but I'm just hoping to be in Tom's thoughts and hopefully be one of the players selected for the World Cup qualifiers in May.

 You have scored a lot of goals in your time overseas, particulary match-winners, but where do you prefer to play? I like centre-midfield, but I've pretty much played every position apart from outside back. This season actually I was centre-midfield, more defensively, but our centre-back was drafted to the LA Soul (in the American WPS) so I was put back into centre-back. I used to play outside mid for Indiana in my first few years and occasionally I'll go up front in the last part of the game, but generally I'm a centre-midfielder.

Is that where you want to line-up this Saturday for the Roar against Canberra United? Definitely. The last few pre-season games I've played in the middle with Loz Colthorpe and we've started to get the connection going, so we're just hoping that it gets better and better. But who knows what Jeff [Hopkins] might do with his starting line-up as there will probably be Matildas players sitting on the bench. It's a good problem to have, but no-one really knows who will start.

Are you hoping that you will add a surprise factor to the Roar this season? I have played with a few of I guess the older girls a while ago, Karla Reuter, Lana Harch, but not a lot of people know me and throughout the W-League I don't think that many people know me. One of the girls parents said, "Oh, I got an email from another mum who said 'I hear you have recruited an American'," I definitely an Australian! My parents are Swedish and Hungarian, but I'm a born and bred Australian.

Do you do anything outside football here? At College I got a bachelor of science of geography, but I concentrated on soccer straight after I graduated so I haven't been able to do much with it, now coming back to Australia and not having any contacts plus the GFC, getting a job within my degree could be very hard so I'm just looking for a part-time job for the mornings, as I'm a Gold Coast girl we travel up in the afternoons to train.

Finally, for all aspiring Matildas (and Socceroos) out there, what's the best ever football tip you've recieved? I would probably say, to never give up and that's a lot easier said that done. There has been times when you are struggling so much, but if you can hang in there....I saw Man U come back to win one of the cups a few years ago and they were losing and then scored two goals in extra-time and that's an example of a top class team that doesn't give up. Ever since I saw that game, I've always thought, make sure you never never give up and my mum says that as well, just whatever you do, don't give up.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Canberra United setting the trend again

So last year Canberra United coach Robbie Hooker went out on a limb and picked the youngest captain, by about five years, in the Westfield W-League - Ellie Brush. This year Brush turned 21, and as such won't be the youngest captain in the league, the new title goes to Brisbane Roar's new leader Clare Polkinghorne, 20.

But Canberra have still found a way to be out in front as trend-setters this year, under new coach Ray Junna. So let me introduce, United's co-captains Lydia Williams and Ellie Brush!

The pair - who celebrate their 10th anniversary playing together this year, they played in an ACT schoolgirls team together in 1999 - will share the captains arm-band this year. But who will have it for the first game this Saturday against Brisbane Roar? Both joked at the press conference yesterday that they would fight it out to decide.
So they will be the first co-captains in Westfield W-League history, but it will also be a first for Williams and goal-keepers overall as she said, "I think most people are hesistant about giving a goal-keeper the captaincy because really, you have to stay in the box, so if something happens up the field you can't run out and ask the ref what happened there, but I'm really happy I'm getting this chance and working with Ellie will be great too."
 Williams has captained the Young Matildas before, in World Cup qualifiers in China, while this will be Brush's second consecutive season as a Canberra United captain.
 Pic thanks to Canberra United.

Less than a week and counting

Yay, the second season of the Westfield W-League is almost upon us!
First of all, some notes from the weekend's Matildas camp. There was no WA girls as the ones who would have been invited, Collette McCallum and Lisa de Vanna, were on route back from America where they both played in the finals of the American WPS league (McCallum won it with her team Sky Blue FC).

 Sasha McDonnell and Kara Mowbray officially don't have a club as yet, but expect them to pop up at Melbourne, Adelaide or Newcastle by this weekend. Also, not so great news for Perth who I tipped her to sign with, but Katie Gill probably won't be lobbing back in Australia until mid-November due to her playing committments in Melbourne. The striker arrived in just hours before the Jets played Canberra United in Round 1 last year (and still scored two goals to boot to hand the Jets a 2-1 win), but given the Aussie league starts earlier this year it means fans are unlikely to be able to see much of miss Gill. Which is a shame as she's brilliant to watch.

Other notes from the weekend, in the ACTAS/Canberra United game, where a combined ACT team played the Matildas, they only lost 1-0 and looked very impressive. Plus in the first half, when the Matildas failed to score, the backline included Kate McShea, Karla Reuter and Elise Kellond-Knight and in the centre midfield, Aivi Luik and Lauren Colthorpe. I bet Brisbane Roar coach Jeff Hopkins would have been very happy with that, giving half of his starting line-up a run against Canberra, which just so happens to be the round 1 grand final re-match game on ABC TV this weekend. New recruits Ellyse Perry, Emily van Egmond and the two girls from Taiwan, all settled in very well with the mix of ACT players.

But anyway, just a quick update to say girlswithgame will really get active this week, stay tuned to meet Queensland's 'American' import Aivi Luik (in inverted commas because she's a true blue Aussie) and find out what Matildas coach Tom Sermanni wants to see in Westfield W-League season two. Also on today, the league is launched in Sydney, so will have any news from there and Canberra United name its captain - or will it be captains?
Stay tuned!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Matildas into camp in Canberra

So the Matildas have arrived in Canberra for their final camp before this year's W-League. Westfield Matildas coach Tom Sermanni has picked 36-player squad, including a number of under-18 players.
But interestingly, no-one from Perth in the camp. Every other state has one representative, but no West Australian's among them.
Also interestingly, Queenslanders Sasha McDonnell and Kara Mowbray have scored invites. Both good contributors for Canberra United last year, but as far as I know, haven't been signed to any W-League team for season two. Maybe could change after this weekend?
 Will have all the gossip from the camp this weekend right here, watch this space!

Westfield Matildas squad list
AIS Training Camp, AIS Football Fields
25-27 September 2009
WIRKUS Emma - Adelaide, BURGESS Joanne - Brisbane, BEAUMONT Ellen - Brisbane, HARCH Lana - Brisbane, REUTER Karla - Brisbane, SPENCE Brooke - Brisbane, TRISTRAM Jenna - Brisbane, POLKIINGHORNE Clare - Brisbane, ALLEWAY Laura - Brisbane, MCSHEA Kate - Brisbane, COLTHORP Lauren - Brisbane, MCDONNELL Sasha - Brisbane, MOWBRAY Kara - Brisbane, DUMONT Casey (U18) - Gold Coast, KELLOND-KNIGHT Elise (U18) - Gold Coast, LUIK Aivi - Gold Coast, BUTT Tameka (U18) - Gold Coast, WILLIAMS Lydia - Canberra, VAN EGMOND Emily (U18) - Canberra, BRUSH Ellie - Canberra, GILL Grace - Canberra, SYKES Ashleigh (U18) - Dubbo, SYKES Nicole (U18) - Dubbo, BARBIERI Melissa - Melbourne, NEILSON Amber - Newcastle, CRAWFORD Hayley - Newcastle, DAY Stacey - Newcastle, LOGUE Alison - Newcastle, GARRIOCK Heather - Sydney, WALSH Sarah - Sydney, SIMON Kyah (U18) - Sydney, PERRY Ellyse (U18) - Sydney, BROGAN Danielle - Sydney, ROLLASON Renee - Sydney, UZUNLAR Servet - Sydney, KHAMIS Leena - Sydney.

Melbourne Victory announce squad

Less than two weeks out now, and woo hoo, another squad! So with Canberra United (who may still have a few high profile names to come, and one that is very unexpected but exciting), the Central Coast Mariners, Brisbane Roar and now Melbourne, we are at the halfway mark for teams.
So here is Melbourne, most back from last year including international Marlies Oostdam, who is joined by two new international visitors, American Julianne Sitch (from women's pro soccer champions Sky Blue FC) and Canadian Katie Thorlakson.
In terms of Matildas, they have just one current one, goal-keeper Melissa Barbieri. Tal Karp and Selin Kuralay both have Matildas caps though, and Karp, who was last year's Victory captain, has plenty.
They have also signed four Queenslanders who will fly in and out for games including, Vedrana Popovic, Laura Alleway, Monnique Hansen Kofoed and Katrina Gorry.
But mostly, it seems that Melbourne Victory's squad will be made up of mostly young Victorians. Which is great for them given the lack of Victorians in the Matildas squad, here is their chance to prove to Tom Sermanni there could be more.
The full squad can be found here.

In other squad news, Perth Glory has announced 12-players, but no official word on Lisa de Vanna, Collette McCallum or Katie Gill, which I floated here. Will be interesting to see what happens over the next week or so. See who Perth Glory have already signed here.
At Sydney FC, they seem to have not officially released anything but coach Alen Stajcic seems to say that their big names, Heather Garriock, Sarah Walsh and the season one Westfield W-League golden boot winner Leena Khamis will be back. And I'm thinking Kyah Simon too, given she didn't sign for the Mariners? And as for Garriock and Walsh, will be huge for Sydney FC if they can both actually play. Both had injuries last season, Walsh a broken leg and Garriock persistent hip problems, but are some of the best players in the league if they are in the park.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

More stylish women revealed

So last week here I introduced you to Grace Gill, the face of Canberra United for Westfield W-League season two. Now Football Federation Australia have introduced two more, Adelaide United's Angela Fimmano and Brisbane Roar's Jenna Tristram.
And it seems the FFA are onto this reporting women's football for women thing, the Q&A's with both Tristram and Fimmano include questions about their favourite Westfield store and in the 'fast five', if they prefer heels or havaianas.
Meet Angela Fimmano here, and then come on over and see what Jenna Tristram has to say here.
But as well as the first poster shots from this today, I'm also excited by the few words at the top of the profiles. That Amy Taylor, former Canberran-based Matilda now Wollongong based newsreader, and the legendary Cheryl Salisbury, (who both did the Q&As with the girls), will both be joining ABC TV's Westfield W-League coverage this season. Julie Murray co-hosted the coverage last year, with Liz Deep-Jones on the sidelines. Pic courtesy of FFA.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

A little look back with Grace Gill

Around this time last year Canberra girl Grace Gill was an ACTAS players who still hoped of getting to the Matildas again (she had been thereabouts before, made the Young Matildas squad for a World Cup but didn't play and only had one Matildas cap), but no real way of getting there.
Fast-forward to this week and in the last 12-months, Gill would have claimed her second Matildas if not for ill-timed ankle injuries and she has been in every senior Matildas camp since the W-League finished.
Not just that, this year the 20-year-old midfielder will be the 'face' of Canberra United that will be on posters and billboards arond Australia.
I caught up with Grace at this week's Canberra United launch.

First of all, as the 'face' of Canberra United, are you excited about that? I'm a bit nervous about it actually, I've seen the huge billboards that they are going to roll out so seeing myself on those is going to be a little bit daunting.

What was the experience like? We did a TV commercial on the first day, just shooting over and over again with all the hair and make-up and everything and then the next day we did the photo shoot. We hair extensions and all this make-up, I'd never worn that much make-up in my life! But it was great fun, it was just tiring actually, you don't realise how much sitting around and waiting you have to do.

So this time last year, you were just hoping to get that second crack at the Matildas, are you happy with where you have come? Last season I just really wanted to play consistently and I hoped that the regular camp call-up would come. Now that it has, I'm not just happy to rest on it, I want to play consistently again so I can ensure I keep getting the call-up. I don't just want to be in and out.

Last year an ankle injury against Sydney FC interrupted your season, how big of a setback was that? It was really disappointing because you get to a point where you are really happy with how everything is going and then to get an injury like that, and then another one [to the other ankle] a few months later. It was very hard to get motivation again and get my fitness right. But touch wood, I think I'm right now and ready to go.

First game up on October 3 is the grand final re-match against Brisbane Roar. Canberra lost 2-0 last year and you were one of the players rushed back in early from injury as there was so many other injuries, needless to say it didn't end well. What about this year? We were a bit scrappy in the final this year and I think we were a bit messed up because we did have so many injuries. Now we will be more settled and I think we can do alright against them.

It's going to much a much younger Canberra United team this year, how do you see it going? It is a far younger team and we have lost a lot of experience, but that said I think Ray [Junna] is getting us to play a different style that these girls are really adaptable too, being so young they can quickly adapt to different styles, so I think it will work out well.

So what can we expect to see from Canberra this year? It's an Arsenal style of play, it's all about maintaining possession and not just kicking it away. It's about lots of small passes and just keeping it moving up the field. It's very different and should be interesting to see how it goes. But it's coming together very well.

Is 17 the new 20?

Mariners announced their 17 players this week. Canberra United also look set to start the season with just 17. Each team is allowed to have 20. But anyway, it's enough to field a team and a bench and thankfully, that's all that matters. Mariners 17 below, notable omissions from last year are Kyah Simon and Ellyse Perry, although Perry didn't play many games due to her cricket committments last year anyway. Assume then that Simon is at Sydney FC after she decided not to come to Canberra?

Mariners 2009 W-League squad
Trudy Camilleri (midfielder), Ashleigh Connor (striker), Rachel Cooper (goal-keeper), Caitlin Cooper (defender), Rachael Doyle (defender), Caitlin Foord (striker), Gill Foster (midfielder), Lyndsay Glohe (defender), Kelly Golebiowski (striker), Michelle Heyman (striker), Jenna Kingsley (striker), Elizabeth O'Reilly (midfielder), Teresa Polias (midfielder), Renee Rollason (midfielder), Karina Roweth (midfielder), Jessica Seaman (defender), Britt Simmons (midfielder), Samanthan Spackman (defender).

The media release is here

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The GG backs women's football

From the FFA today, her excellency Quentin Bryce, Governor General of Australia, is the new patron of women's football.
Bryce is a long-time supporter of women's sport and also supported the ICC women's cricket World Cup in Australia earlier this year.
Full story here,
More to come from Canberra United's season launch soon.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

National Under 17s camp in Canberra

A host of the nation's brightest young things arrived in Canberra today for a four-day camp.
It's the final selection camp for under-17s coach Robbie Hooker, (yes, this is where he is after deciding not to re-apply for the Canberra United job) picks his team to play in ASEAN Cup in October and then hopefully AFC Championships in November.

I went out and watched the girls play a training game against the ACT boys under-15s team at the AIS tonight. Impressive. Neither team scored while I was there but it was fast and furious. More to come from this camp this weekend.
Here is the list of girls who are attending,
Teigan Allen (Sydney), Tara Andrews (Newcastle), Mackenzie Arnold (Brisbane), Nicole Bolger (Sydney), Hannah Brewer (Newcastle), Sharni Brown (Sydney), Ashley Brown (Melbourne), Stephanie Catley (Melbourne), Brianna Davey (Melbourne), Erika Elze (Brisbane), Ashlee Faul (Adelaide), Caitlin Foord (Sydney), Caitlin Friend (Melbourne), Michaela Hatzirodos (Brisbane), Amy Higgins (Brisbane), Kahlia Hogg (Canberra), Courtney Holmwood (Brisbane), Alexandra Huynh (Sydney), Alanna Kennedy (Sydney), Heidi Makrillos (Sydney), Ann Mayo (Sydney), Gemma Pearce (Newcastle), Candace Sciberras (Sydney), Madeline Searl (Newcastle), Rachael Soutar (Sydney), Rebekah Stott (Brisbane), Emily Van Egmond (Canberra), Ruth Wallace (Adelaide), Jessie Wharepouri (Sydney), Brittany Whitfield (Brisbane)

Also to note, if you are keen to hit up Westfield for some xmas shopping, see if you can win yourself a $1000 voucher by coming up with a name for the under-17 girls. The boys you see are the Socceroos, Young Socceroos and the Joeys. The girls Matildas, young Matildas and then hmm, the under-17s. It's not the first time they've tried to find a name, so help them to find one this time.
Football Federation Australia in conjunction with Girlfriend magazine online is also searching for a ‘cool new name’ for the Westfield Women's Under 17’s – and is calling out for suggestions. For the best name suggested, the lucky winner will receive a Westfield Gift Card to the value of $1,000 as well as a personal stylist for the ultimate formal shopping spree at any Westfield centre throughout Australia. For more details see the website www.girlfriend.com.au and follow the links through VIP Clubs.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Up in sunny Queensland...

So the inagural season winners Brisbane Roar have released the start of its squad for season two. Returning from the starting line-up from last year's grand final? It seems most of them.

Here is the line-up from last year's grand final.

Queensland Roar line-up: 1.Casey DUMONT (gk), 2.Kate McSHEA (C), 3.Karla REUTER, 4.Clare POLKINGHORNE, 5.Brooke SPENCE, 8.Elise KELLOND-KNIGHT, 10.Lana HARCH 13.Tameka BUTT, 16.Lauren COLTHORPE, 18.Courtney BEUTEL, 19.Ellen BEAUMONT.

Here is the players who Brisbane Roar have signed so far this year.

1. Casey Dumont (gk), 2. Kate McShea, 3. Karla Reuter, 4. Clare Polkinghorne, 5. Brooke Spence, 6. Jo Burgess, 7. Pam Bignold, 8. Elise Kellond-Knight, 9. Jenna Tristram, 10. Lana Harch, 11. Aivi Luik, 12. Stephanie Latham, 13. Tameka Butt, 15. Leah Curtis, 16. Lauren Colthorpe, 17. Emily Gielnik, 18. Courtney Beutel, 19. Ellen Beaumont.

So a few different faces in there. Aivi Luik is an Aussie girl who has been playing in the American system and according to her wikistub, scored a winning penalty in a former Women's Pro Soccer Final. That's not a bad statistic at all.

Pam Bignold is the new Pam Grant, a former Matildas defender who is back from an extended break and word is, still very very good. Jo Burgess is of course, a current Matilda who last year played from Sydney FC, while Leah Curtis and Emily Gielnik are from the local Brisbane competition.

But the most interesting part of this story, up here, is this. In a blow to the current champions, midfielder Lauren Colthorpe broke her leg in training last week but Hopkins says the news is not as bad as it could be.
“It was a clean break so we’re hoping to have her back in light training soon, ready for round one”.

What the? Picture, Lauren Colthorpe in last year's grand final, will she line-up for the rematch?

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A bit more news

Good to see some more news popping up around Australia.
In Victoria, at the Geelong Advertiser, new Victory defender Rita Mankowska has been out doing player visits. She's come back from the American College system to play for Melbourne this year. More here.
Further North at the Coffs Coast Advocate, there is even an opinion piece (well it doesn't say 'comment' but implies it) about how there girls should get a shot. Read it here.
And Fiona at fourfourtwo has been blogging again, this time on girls and their knee injuries. She speaks to Jenna Tristram about her ACL. In all the stats, she did miss one though, along with Caitlin Munoz, Amy Chapman has also just undergone her third knee reconstruction.
But mainly it's great to see local newspapers promoting the league, because let's face it the big metro ones hardly do.
Along with moi at The Canberra Times, where I am to push it all I can, there are some other great newspapers that do great women's football, check out The Daily Liberal from Dubbo and The Herald in Newcastle.