Steph Catley: Western adventure

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On Saturday morning my alarm woke me up at 6:30am; I packed my boots and threw my Melbourne Victory bag into the back of my car and went off to training. 

I picked up Rebekah Stott on the way and was surprised to see that she’d brought two bags worth of clothes for an overnight trip. Overly cautious Stotty!

Image Credit: Melbourne Victory Women

On arrival at training, Amy Jackson’s lift drove off with all of her gear in the back of his car and then didn’t answer his phone for the next hour. This left her with just a pair of boots. Luckily AJ rarely ever panics! She got her gear back before we left for the airport.

I found myself in trouble already because I’d worn shorts instead of the flare-pants that we’d apparently been told to wear (missed that memo). After debating that it’d be hot in Perth and that I needed to change into skins for the flight anyway, Naomi (Team Manager) had won the battle easily. She’s probably one of the most organised and brilliant team managers I’ve ever had to pleasure of travelling with!

On the flight, Rebekah Stott excitedly pointed out that the singer from the show Offspring, Clare Bowditch, was on our flight. She was so excited by this that she put an episode of Offspring on her laptop and watched it for the remainder of the trip to Perth.

On just about every single flight I’m on I usually end up next to my best pal Brianna Davey. Generally we have the exact same taste in music, so much so that we count down and press play on our separate iPod’s so that we can listen to the same song without annoying the entire plane.

I also shared a room with Bri. She’s pretty much the perfect roomie; laid back, likes the same music as me, brings her GHD hair straightener wherever she goes, doesn’t snore and is one of my best friends!

We had a meeting that night where it was announced that Louisa Bisby would captain us for the game, it was a privilege to have such an experienced and talented player lead us into our first match.

The bus ride to the ground was a dead silent one as most players opted to listen to their own music and prepare themselves for the game in their own way.

As we arrived at the ground, it was a familiar site for me as I’d played at Intiga Stadium at least once a year over the past four seasons. But for many of our girls it was their first time arriving at not only the stadium in Perth but at their first ever Westfield W-League game.

As we entered the change rooms where our jumpers hung high on the walls displaying our last names boldly, I could feel the nerves. We had four debutants; Jackie Vogt, Cindy Lay, Tiffany Eliadis and Rachel Alonso. None of them looked flustered on the ball whatsoever during the game and I am extremely proud of every single one of them for how they approached the game and performed on Sunday. They are all fantastic players with bright futures.

We’d had an interrupted pre-season but we are an extremely positive team and went into the game against Perth ready to give it everything. Working extremely hard during the game, the standout performers for me were Enza Barilla and Gulcan Koca – both provided attacking flair and were defensively solid. Although we gave it everything we could, Perth were the better team and played some really attractive, structured football.

Grazed and bruised, we walked back into the change rooms a little stumped. It was an unusual feeling. We’d lost, and losing does not sit well with me or with any of the girls that wear the Victory jumper. But there was a certain feeling of “we are capable of so much more and we will reach our best” buzzing around the room. I felt comfortable with the fact that we would not let this first loss define our season.

After finding ourselves in a bit of a pickle at Melbourne airport on the way home with a very well-mannered but petrol-less cab driver, we had to sit in his cab at the petrol station for a good twenty minutes! We arrived home safely and were all craving sleep.

We have now had another week training underneath our coach Mike Mulvey and we feel revitalised and will once again be the team that no one wants to play against. With three internationals set to join the team in the coming weeks, a few missing links will be filled and we will be ready for anyone.

Now, we approach our first home game on Saturday. Last season, we were undefeated at home and aim to do the same this time around.

Brisbane is a tough and experienced side and we head into the game as the underdogs, a label that has stuck with us throughout most of the W-League’s existence. It is a label that does not faze us and we will be more than ready to face the Roar on Saturday.

Last year we attracted some really good crowds to the Veneto Club in Bulleen, so make sure to get down there and support us on Saturday. There’s nothing like a big, home crowd to pump us up for the game ahead.

Hope to see you there!

Read all of Steph’s columns for The Football Sack. 

Winner of 2011/12 Female Footballer of the Year in the Australian Football Fan Awards, young star for Melbourne Victory Women Stephanie Catley is a current Matilda and is a born and bred Victorian. Catch the W-League every week at your local groundor if you can’t make the game watch it on ABC1.

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