Newcastle Jets stand-in head coach Ashley Wilson is leading a growing crop of promising women coaches in Australian football and is full of praise for the pathway the W-League has provided for women.
“I think the W-League has always provided opportunities and supported women coaches,” insists Wilson, who took over Craig Deans late in the season.
“We have seen a number of coaches over the years like Belinda Wilson Vicki, the late Liesbeth Migchelsen, Ray Dower, Mel Andreatta and Heather Garriock, many of whom achieved great success within their clubs and the W-League.
“More recently there have been a number of female assistant coaches, myself included, who have gained and continue to gain experience within the league, working in the elite environment, being supported by the clubs they are a part of.”
Wilson was full of praise for the support she has received at Newcastle over the past five years, since taking up a role as assistant to Deans in 2015/16.
“I have always found the Jets supportive of my development and I appreciate the opportunities I have been provided.”
While COVID-19 causes uncertainty in the football landscape, Wilson was pragmatic about how it will impact women’s football in the short to medium term. She also called on authorities to ensure the women’s game is still supported, despite the challenging financial circumstances the game finds itself in.
“Obviously there are going to be ramifications and potential sacrifices as a result of this unprecedented event, not just for women's football but for all football and well beyond our game,” says Wilson.
“Women's football has made much progress over the years and it would be a shame if it was to suffer major setbacks.
“However, I’d like to think the growth of women’s football will still be a key consideration as FFA and the clubs work toward resolutions and rebuilding in the wake COVID 19.
“Ensuring the continuity and stability of the league I think will be an important goal particularly since Australia is making a bid to host a World Cup and the Matildas continue to be one of our most popular and successful national teams.
“In addition to this, a domestic league will provide our Australian based Matildas with a competition to support their Olympic preparation and to ensure those pathways still exist.
“We need to support all players including our future Matildas and state-identified talented players to promote growth in our game.”
Wilson’s young Jets team had a tough time in their 2019/20 campaign, but their results were very promising. They won two games and had a draw, but the stalemate was against runaway champions Melbourne City.
The Jets were competitive for most of the season despite having one of the youngest squads in the league. The club's academy drew plenty of praise from those around the league for the grounding it gave young players.
“The experience that our young players gained this year is going to be hugely beneficial in the future,” insists Wilson.
“Obviously in terms of where we finished on the ladder, it was disappointing however there we still plenty of positives to come from the season, one of which in particular was being able to provide those opportunities to local young players who had come out of our academy.
“The confidence they developed over the course of the season was a result of increased playing time and belief they could compete at that level.
“Obviously there are still things they need to develop to make them more effective in that environment but now they have a better understanding of the level and have established benchmarks that they can continue to build on.
“The other benefit this will have in the long run is that young girls in our Jets Academy can see a clear pathway and hopefully will be motivated to continue to work hard to give themselves the best opportunity to play W League for our club.”