Victory’s chances of another ALW title are stronger than ever, says veteran midfielder

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At just 21 years old, MelindaJ Barbieri hardly strikes you as someone you would classify as a veteran presence.

And yet, now in her fifth season with Melbourne Victory, that is exactly the kind of role she has been looking to fill.

“I’ve definitely put some of the onus on myself to be a leader,” she said.

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This role has come somewhat out of necessity, as complications resulting from COVID-19 have forced the club to deal with an ever-changing schedule, meaning short turnarounds which have made coach Jeff Hopkins to look for different line-ups and strategies to get the job done.

“We’ve got a lot of depth in our squad, and we’ve dealt with these problems before in terms of having to play catch-up games last season,” she said.

“The persistence and courage of our squad is really a testament to what’s to come this season.”

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What is yet to come is a more packed schedule, with the aforementioned complications from isolation requirements meaning the side will have to play more games than its contemporaries at the top of the ladder.

Barbieri seems unconcerned by the prospect of having to back up sooner than the teams around Victory, reiterating that the side’s depth allowed a great deal more freedom than might otherwise have been the case.

“We’re able to rotate players in that can do just as good of a job out there as our starting 11, and that’s what we’ve done all season,” she said.

“We’ve been building each and every week, and really progress nicely through our training and the games.”

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To add further insult to injury, the team lost their captain Kayla Morrison within 30 minutes of the season starting. Since then, they have needed to look further into the squad to find the leadership that is so important in building a successful culture.

“We were obviously really disappointed to lose Kayla, she had a major impact on our team,” Barbieri said.

“She’s still supporting us from a distance, and we recently brought in Brook Hendricks to fill that centre-back role. So once again the combination of the new players we’ve brought in and the girls that were around already have been huge for us.”

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The winning culture surrounding the club appears to be rubbing off on both the men’s and women’s sides, with Tony Popovic’s side recently taking out the FFA Cup for the first time in club history.

Barbieri said the kind of culture that both halves of the organisation are bringing to the table has aided them in generating the motivation necessary to reach the pinnacle of the sport.

“It was fantastic to see the boys win, and it’s just made us hungrier to match them,” she said.

“We know what success looks like, and I think that’ll really hold us in good stead when it comes time to play in those important matches.”

Feature Image Credit: Peter Hugg

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Mitchell Turner
Mitchell Turner
Third Year Undergraduate Arts Student at Monash University (Journalism Major). Generic sports tragic living out my failed dreams of going pro vicariously through other people.

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