Since the days of Sue Monteath through to current Matildas captain Clare Polkinghorne, Queensland has been a frequent supplier of quality players to the Matildas.
And in U17s Matildas captain Sunny Franco, this proud tradition continues.
As the team prepare for the AFC U16s Girls Championships, doubling as a World Cup qualifier, Franco is shaping up to be one of Australia’s key players.
Her importance has been evident in the last twelve months with the 16 year old leading the scoring in the Championship qualifiers last November in Manilla.
A pacy and creative player, Franco’s improvement and increased output in front of goal has been no coincidence.
“I have been doing some one-on-one sessions with a local [coach],” she said after a two goal performance against New Zealand on the weekend.
“I have been doing shooting and I have also been doing sprint training to get my speed up.”
An attacking midfield reminiscent of fellow Queenslander Tameka Butt, Franco has many of the attributes key to her role; pace, confidence on the ball, vision, technical ability, physicality and an eye for goal.
In the recently completed series with Trans-Tasman rivals New Zealand, she proved the key difference between the two sides with three goals and a number of assists.
After taking out the first game, Australia went on to draw the second match before running out comprehensive 6 – 0 winners in the final game.
“Yeah it was a tough series. We were struggling in the second game but we were good to come away with a win in the third game.”
The series was coach Belinda Wilson’s first internationals in charge of the team since her appointment in early May with the Brisbane Roar coach the third coach in charge of the side in less than six months. However, despite the upheaval, the team has taken the changes in their stride.
“It’s been hard. We have had three coaches in and out but as a team we have just stuck together and put the team first.”
The end goal for the U17s in qualification for the 2014 FIFA U17s World Cup; a competition that Australia has never qualified for.
As part of the preparation Franco and her teammates have competed against former World Cup winners Korea Republic as well as New Zealand.
“From the Korean experience we saw the standard of the team that we need to get to and now we know how hard we have to work to get there.”
“Against New Zealand we came up against a team that really competed and it was hard for us to get the wins.”
With regular camps and matches, the U17s are arguably the best prepared they have ever been for the AFC U16 Championships and in Wilson, a former AFC Administrator, they have a coach who understands tournament competition.
In preparing the team Wilson has set a challenging schedule, one that Franco and her teammates have been keen to rise to.
“Belinda is always demanding of quality,” she stated.
“All the girls have put in the effort they should be so we hopefully when we go away we will be able to qualify for the World Cup and make history.”
The AFC U16 Girls Championships will run from 26 September – 6 October 2013.