There are exciting times ahead in the west of Victoria. Although the formal announcement is not expected for another week, Western United have spent the past year putting all the pieces in place for to enter the A-League Women.
The Women's Game's Kieran Yap spoke to Western United's Women's Football Integration Manager Amanda Stella about the club's future plans for the women's potential A-League Women's side.
Western United future A-League Women's side
- A-League Women licenses for Western United may be approved next week
- The club has been running development squads to identify and prepare players for the next level
- There are plans for a new training facility for the club.
More A-League Women's news can be found on The Women's Game.
The A-League Men's club was established in 2018 and in 2021 they established the Women’s Development team. Western United drew on established links with National Premier League Victoria side Calder United to form the core of the squad.
While the program boasts a number of players from the undefeated Calder United, including attacker Adriana Taranto, players from other clubs around Victoria have joined such as South Melbourne’s Caitlin Pickett.
“There are some players from other NPLW clubs,” said Stella.
“They only got one session in before COVID locked us down again, (in 2021).
“We got up and going in about mid October and we went all the way until Christmas, training one morning a week at City Vista.”
Mark Torcaso has been confirmed as the inaugural coach of Western United's women's development squad💚🖤— WUFC Academy (@WUFC_Academy) July 20, 2021
We congratulate Mark and look forward to the brilliant impact this program will haveâš½ï¸ pic.twitter.com/X5E5Ms6Rq2
Training resumed ahead of the NPL Victoria season with the players falling under the guidance of renowned Victorian coaches, Mark Torcaso and Kat Smith. However, their aims of this development squad are very different from NPL training.
“This session is more about specific skills, those things to give them that little bit extra that you don’t get at your clubs," says Stella.
“It’s also a good environment to get the girls into a habit of four times a week training.
“We tend to go four to five times a week in an A-League Women environment so it’s getting them ready for that, plus also adapting to morning sessions.
“But it’s more focused… giving them extra time to get those skills where they need to be, not so much fitness and conditioning.
“The vision is this group of girls will form the base of our A-League Women's team.
"Obviously we will then still attract some international players and some players from other clubs.”
The squad recently travelled to Tasmania to play against a state XI. Many had travelled as Calder United players in 2021, but this was their first match as Western United players. It was also their first taste of what A-League football might look like for United’s women’s team.
“It was a tough effort for most of the Calder players,” says Stella.
“They played Monday night against Bulleen (a 1-1 draw).
"It was a tough game, to get up to the airport at 7am the next morning, fly out and play another game in really heavy, wet conditions.
"They held it together, we had a few injuries, so some of the younger girls in the squad got a chance to play.
“It was a wonderful experience. After the game we watched the men’s from the chairman’s function, then we celebrated with them down rooms and caught up for pizza that night together with the whole of the club so it was a really good occasion. “
These sorts of endeavors point to the commitment the club is making to women’s football. Western United have so far only existed as a men’s club, but they aim to give every opportunity possible to their players.
As the third team in Victoria, they see an opportunity to reach new fans outside of Melbourne.
“All of the staff the board and CEO have been very active in supporting women's football.
“Its been getting close to 2 years since our first discussion with Calder United.
"Their big picture is women and girls are just as much a part of the club (Western United) as men and boys.
“They’re going to go down the journey and make things happen. Considering they’re (WU) in their third season is a big thing that they’ve done.
“It’s a really good achievement by everybody (at WU). All their staff, their media, their commercial, all their teams are very supportive of women and girls.
“As a collective group of people all pushing for the one aspiration for have a women’s team at the end of this year.
“I think its giving something back to those female and girls football communities in the region.
“They’re just as much a part of the big picture in the game. I think it is important to acknowledge their support whether it be in Ballarat, Geelong, Tassie, wherever."
Western Unitedâ€™s commitment to gender equality and the growth of womenâ€™s football in Victoria will be strengthened with the establishment of a womenâ€™s development squad in 2021.— Western United FC (@wufcofficial) July 5, 2021
Read more 👉 https://t.co/sqtcGPmWry #WUFC pic.twitter.com/SkB1joT7kI
Among Western United’s plans are new facilities. Tarneit is the approved site of a state of the art training facility that will comprise of a 5000-seat stadium. Currently the women's program is run out of City Vista, but for any club, facilities are of paramount importance.
“We’ve been extremely fortunate that the squad have been homed at City vista which is a great facility.
“I would hope that we can work together with them to have that the base of the A-League Women team at WU until the others are ready to house us.
“For the first season I would be so happy to play out of there. It is in the heart of the west and I think we could get a couple of thousand people there to our games and really grow the fan base for WU.
“As the clubs grows, facilities become the underlying issue for everybody.
"It doesn’t matter what level your at, facilities are an issue that all states are going to have to start to address.
“Because we can grow the game as much as we can grow, but if facilities don’t , then its going to be very hard to house all these kids."
Stella hopes that Western's overall aspirations, including these announced facilities can provide opportunities closer to home.
The 2021/22 A-League Women’s season saw a number of Victorian players move to interstate clubs. Perth Glory, Brisbane Roar and Adelaide United snapped up some of the state's best.
More opportunities closer to home will not only increase the pool of talent in Victoria, but also the options for Victorian female players.
“Lets try and keep the girls close to their families, their workplaces. They can continue at Uni but still play at the level that they want to without having it uproot their lives.
“I’m not saying there wont be a couple of players from other states but the base will come from Victoria."
Western United's Women's Development squad this morning completed its eight-week elite training programâš½ï¸— Western United FC (@wufcofficial) December 22, 2021
The program will continue in February 2022 on the road to the Club's A-League Women licence later next yearâœ¨ pic.twitter.com/ia1ouCejDj
If Western United are granted the license as expected, alongside the Central Coast Mariners, the A-League Women will expand the league to 12 teams. This will be the second expansion by the APL is as many seasons following the arrival of Wellington Phoenix in 2021-22.
This expansion follows the overall aspirations of the sport in Australia. With the 2023 Women's World Cup on the fast approaching horizon, there is excitement about women's football.
However, even if Western United are not granted a new license, their current contribution already looks to be part of building that.
More Western United news can be found on the club's website.