Wednesday, October 14, 2009

girlswithgame profile - meet Perth Glory Matilda Collette McCallum

The 23-year-old just had the wildest ride of her soccer career to help claim the inaugural Women's Professional League title in American with Sky Blues FC, and now she's back in Australia trying to get Perth Glory into its first W-League finals campaign. The Scottish born midfielder has a killer kick from set pieces, hence the corner she took last week against the Newcastle Jets that ended up going in for the matchwinner. Introducing, Collette McCallum.

girlswithgame: Happy with your first win last weekend for Perth Glory? Collette McCallum: It was good to get a win at home and certainly better than last year, last year it took us a long time to actually get going. It was unfortunate against Melbourne last week for us, the 2-0 loss, it just wasn't out best game, the girls looked really nervous so to actually go out on the weekend and get a win was really good.

How important is it to make than home ground advantage count for Perth this year? Well, I don't feel that we are that far away, but most people think we are pretty far away. But for the long flight there we have to take advantage of being at home and feeling fresh while the other teams do have a long trip over.

Are you keen at Perth to go better than your disappointing season last year? Definitely, we still have a few of the young ones here and physically they aren't as strong, but they are quite smart players, very technical so that is to our advantage. [Lisa] de Vanna is back, Emma Wirkus, she's a goalkeeper who is very experienced and a great communicator, so she's a great addition. Evenutally we are going to have Katie Gill come into the team so she will add plenty of experience up front.

On your American season that only finished in late August, have you had much of a break before starting the Australian one? We were the last ones apart from LA to finish our season so it was quite long, but I took a week off and then headed to Scotland for a holiday. While there I still just did some fitness, just some running and stuff, but I think I was a bit jetlagged when I came back to Australia. That didn't help me in the Melbourne game as my legs were still very heavy, it was pretty unbelieveable actually. I think the holiday gave me a little break but I'm still quite fresh to get back into this and hopefully play well.

The finish to your season in the WPS was nothing short of incredible, after losing two coaches throughout the season, one being fired and the other one walking out with no notice, to then go on and win the league, have you ever been part of anything like that before? Last year I had the Pali Blues, which was the then highest league in America and we won that which was really good and it was a great feeling to play and win it. But because this is now the WPS, womens pro league and the first year back, it was such an achievement to win and also with all the ups and downs that we did have, my team was just crazy in all the stuff we went through, so to get to the end and then actually win it, it was just great.

At any point in the season did you think it was a write off, or were you still positive? I think that we kept it positive, I've been in other seasons where teams have lost the first eight games or so and then gone on to win it. Football is a funny game, so we just tried to keep positive. There were a few months when we were on our road  trip when we did really really well and I think we got a bit lucky, because we had to have Boston lose the last game for us to make the four and then that happened, so after that, we just had this feeling 'we are going to win this' and we went all the way. It was brilliant.

So did the team know that Christie Rampone, who was captain and then took over as the third coach of the season, was actually three months pregnant when she played in the final against LA soul? No we had no idea. She told us literally after the final, that we won, she told us then. She is just unbelievable, I have so much respect for her and what she's done in the women's game. She has done so much for the American team but also around the world for girls to really look up to her. She's a brilliant defender, very hard to get past and I was very grateful to play with her in that team. She knows her football too, so she tweaked a few things in our team and we have gone out and won the final, so did she a lot in the final few weeks and the finals.

Are you a better player because of that season in the professional league? Physically I think I'm stronger, technique wise it kind of goes out the window a little bit because the American game is so different and its such a direct physical game, that you have to try and cope and adapt to. So physically that was good for me but tactically and technically I have to get back into the different game here in the Australian league.

Back into the Australian league, how hard is it to approach as such a short season after playing more than 20 games in America? It is tough because its such a little league, but it's good and it's exciting because every game is a tough game, you can't just expect to go through the motions and then pick up points next weekend because every game counts and every point is important to get and especially away from home. [Perth coach John Gibson] Gibbo is great and we're doing great at training, so hopefully this weekend I think we will get a result against Canberra. They have a good squad, with the likes of Lydia Williams who has also been away in America, so she brings experience as well. They still have young players like Ellie [Brush, Gracie [Gill] and Ashleigh [Sykes], so I think its going to be an exciting game but I think we should definitely get a result out of it.

Has John Gibson changed the way that Perth play this year? He has changed the style and I think he has the same philosophy as the Canberra coach Reggie (Ray Junna). They've both at the AIS and they kind of have the same philosophy in the game as you know in the game, playing good football, keeping the ball, not just launching it and running and they do have good players and so do we, do we have changed the system and tweaked a few things and it will be interesting to see how it plays out on the weekend.

Canberra have been playing the new formation favoured by the dutch that FFA have now adopted, four-three-three, is that they way Perth have lined up so far? We're actually playing a 3-5-2, so it's a similar system but it just depends on what players you have available and for us that system works best to our strengths.

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