As the dust settles on the announcement of the Matildas World Cup squad, Canberra United coach Heather Garriock lent her expertise to discuss her thoughts on the selections.
The Optus Sport expert is also a retired Matilda who played 130 matches for the national team, appearing at two Olympics and World Cups.
We spoke to Garriock to ask her thoughts on everything from Australia's defensive depth, the experience and youth in the side and what can be expected.
We had Ante Milicic announce his World Cup squad, what are your initial reactions?
It wasn't surprised with the squad, he took the majority of the players to the States. I think it's a very balanced squad and safe. You can see his purpose for selecting the squad was to have cover in each position.
We did see the likes of Kyah Simon left out, who has gone to two previous World Cup but you also had Alex Chidiac and Princess Ibini. Was it a surprise to you that they were left out of the squad?
The biggest surprise was Kyah, given her experience at previous World Cups. Obviously, she still has an opportunity to maybe bring her into the squad if someone gets injured, but for me, someone like Kyah who has produced at many World Cups and major tournaments over the past. I thought that was a big call.
She did get put on as a standby player alongside Kyra Cooney-Cross but both of those players are attacking players. Is it a bit strange that Milicic didn't include a backup defensive player in that role?
I was surprised that there wasn't a backup defensive player given we've got Steph Cately, who's coming back from a calf injury. So defensively you've got the likes of Gemma Simon who hasn't been at any major tournaments.
Teigen Allen hasn't been part of the Matilda's for a very long time so I think our depth in defence, you would pick a defensive player but someone like Liz Ralston that came into America didn't get the opportunity so I'm surprised to see two attackers.
Talking about the defensive depth in this side, Ante Milicic has addressed this before including after that game against the USA where they leaked five goals. Do you think that this is an area for concern going into a World Cup?
Yes, I do indeed.
When you concede five goals at any international especially against the USA who is going to be a contender for the World Cup, I do think it's a problem. I think not having the defensive depth is a problem and I think it gives a good opportunity to our keepers who have play time over the past couple of months. Someone like Lydia Williams who's normally a shoe-in to be the first keeper, she hasn't played so I think that's a concern.
There are many players in our Matildas squad going to a World Cup having not player minutes.
Looking at where the squad is at the moment, who has played and what leagues they have played in or maybe they have not played due to them playing in Future Matilda's? How do they look going into their pre-World Cup game against the Netherlands?
Let's put it this way. This Matildas squad especially the starting XI have been together for many years so in terms of cohesion together, I don't think that there'll be a problem it's more from a conditioning point of view and being able to back up every three days.
So the Netherlands game will give us an insight into the starting XI but for me, I think our biggest weapons are our attack. I think we are so potent in attack that we may leak goals but I think will score a lot of goals as well.
We did have Canberra United defender Ellie Carpenter make the squad. It's quite weird seeing that she's making her first World Cup squad despite around the team for such a long time already.
When she got selected for Rio, I think it was similar to a Mary Fowler situation that she's a dynamic and X-Factor player who's included and I think Ellie's just progressed with leaps and bounds for her as a player and she's a really experienced player now. So yeah, a World Cup to have that feather in the cap as well, I think she's going to be a real weapon on that right-hand side, especially in attack.
Having Ellie in your W-League side, seeing that growth over the past few seasons? What's that been like?
Total Transformation. You've got a young kid that I met several years ago that just come back from the Rio Olympics that was trying to find herself as a person and the way she's grown into herself as a player. I think she's still finding herself off the field but I think what she's achieved within the last couple of years is such a great achievement and just transformation from a technical sense.
I think, and hope, her progression and making that right back spot her own is a credit to her determination and dedication on her wanting to be the best right back in the world.
There are a few experienced players going including Lydia Williams and Clare Polkinghorne, but most importantly, we have Lisa De Vanna who is going to make her fourth World Cup appearance hopefully.
Lisa is a crucial player in this team. Not only on the field but off it as well. Obviously, we score many, many crucial goals even in the goal against America. That was a class act. But off the field as well hopefully she can play a role in and amongst the team, especially with some of the younger ones that she's been training with the Future Materials program, just to be able to be that leader off the field. So it's a credit to her.
Looking at the players who have made you see Haley Raso, who overcame a back injury but you also see Amy Harrison, who's also come back from a serious injury. How exciting is it to give them that call-up, after everything they've gone through.
Amy Harrison is very close to my heart. I coached her as an eight-year-old when she came into my football academy. And she's basically following the footsteps of me, she's a dear friend. Back in 2007, she came to watch me play at the World Cup in China.
So to see her overcome adversity and be part of this World Cup squad. It just makes me so proud. And I'm hearing from her to say that she made the squad it was such a beautiful feeling because she's worked so bloody hard for it.
From your experience, what are you most excited about for this squad?
I'm most excited because I think we've got the quality to go all the way in this particular tournament. I'm most excited that we've got some players that can play a crucial part in big moments of the World Cup. So that makes me really excited.
You do have Sam [Kerr] leading the squad after her announcement as captain earlier this year. How much of a role does she play in leading the squad and the amount of pressure that's on her to perform at this level?
I don't think the pressure is a problem because she's been under pressure to constantly produce goals and she's done it so well over the past couple of years.
So I think the pressure won't get to it's more her bringing the team together and really excelling and uniting together as a team, especially when things don't go well. I think that's the key to a great leader. It'll be great to see how she performs.
A lot of these players, as you said have been together for quite a while. Do you think that's a benefit for the squad going into France?
Most definitely, to know players inside out and know what their strengths and weaknesses are and be able to link up and play together for many years. I think that's such a massive strength and that's a key strength of Australia going into this tournament.
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