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W-League Key to Matildas Future

by Michael Huguenin on May 17, 2011

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Football in Australia is currently in a tough period.

You’ve read the reports. You’ve seen the headlines. It’s not going too well right now, is it?

But amongst all the doom there are some bright points.

One is the current standard of women’s football.

Australia’s women’s national team, the Matildas, should be considered the country’s most successful national football team right now.

Quarter finalists at the 2007 Women’s World Cup and then last year they became the first Australian national team to win an Asian Championship. The girls can play and according to 119-game veteran Heather Garriock, the W-League is key. The left winger is currently based in Sweden at LdB Malmö but also plays for Sydney FC in the Australian competition.

“I’ve played five-odd games now for [LdB Malmö] and I’ll probably play another three or four before the World Cup,” Garriock explained just before the Matildas’ recent friendlies against New Zealand.

“The quality of play in the Swedish league is a lot higher than the Australian league is.”

It’s easy to explain why the Swedish league is better.

“I just think when you’re training every day as a professional and you’re treated like a professional then you act like one so that’s a major component,” Garriock says.

Reading between the lines it’s clear that there’s still a way to go for the W-League. The women’s competition runs for just three months. There’s a big disparity between the best teams and the also-rans. But Garriock says the current Matildas’ squad have no plans to abandon the W-League and just play overseas.

Plus Garriock believes that with a bit more support the league could very quickly be rated one of the better women’s leagues in the world. The 28 year old wants the FFA to be a bit more proactive in women’s football.

“I think if they can have a close connection with different clubs around the world to make an agreement that players that are on full-time contracts [abroad] can come over for the summer and play for a W-League team that won’t necessarily cost the Australian team financially,” proposes Garriock.

“I think that would be a great concept and something that the FFA can look toward in the future.”

One way this could work would be for the FFA to organise loan deals with top level women’s clubs in Europe and the USA where Australia’s governing body chipped in for fifty percent of a player’s salary to come and play a few months down under. This would take the financial burden off W-League clubs and increase the level of the Aussie competition. The imported players would get a new experience and more games; their clubs would receive a financial benefit as well.

Garriock has played in the USA, Denmark and Sweden over the past three years and she says she’s noticed that the W-League, which only completed its third season in February, is already appealing. Garriock believes it’s important that she plays a marketing role.

“If we can get some international players around the world talking about the W-League and wanting to come and play in the W-League it’s only going to strengthen it and also strengthens the Australian girls coming through,” Garriock argues.

The Matildas are already achieving very impressive results with a bare-bones local league. Imagine the potential results if the FFA gave the W-League a bit more support.