FFA open door of opportunity with Women's Talent Identification Camp

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This week, Football Federation Australia announced the formation of a first-ever Women’s Talent Identification Camp to be held in Canberra over the next four days.

The players, who hail from the likes of the W-League, Women’s National Premier League and Football NSW Institute program, will be evaluated by the Matildas’ coaching staff in a bid to strengthen the pool of talent and provide crucial match minutes for Australian national team representatives.

22 of the players named in the squad are uncapped at senior level while 19 of the players have already represented Australia at Junior and Young Matildas levels respectively.

Though Cassidy Davis has since been withdrawn as a medical precaution, Matildas assistant coach Melissa Andreatta remains full of enthusiasm for a program she believes will help take the upcoming generation of budding stars to the next level.

"We're very excited for activity to resume across all our national teams,” Andreatta told the media today.

“This 23-player group will be working the four days to show off their talents and breed the competition that we know the Matildas thrive on, and show us and the coaching staff what it is that they bring that can strengthen the Matildas for the years of competition that lie ahead.”

This year, the governing body released two iterations of their “XI Principles” - a blueprint for the future of Australian football - and Andreatta believes that the establishment of the talent identification camp addresses one of the key components found in their research.

"There's a performance gap report that's indicated a need for more international minutes and quality games for our senior players and for our youth national teams," she said.

“It's something that as the FFA, we're considering and looking at how to make possible. We've already committed to this talent ID camp, elite games and what comes in 2021, I'm sure we'll build on the platform that's already been set to reduce the performance gap."

With Matildas head coach Tony Gustavsson currently seeing out the remainder of his contract with Swedish men's top-tier league club Hammarby IF until the end of 2020, the process of developing and selecting talent has been up to Andreatta, Junior Matildas head coach Rae Dower and Future Matildas coach Leah Blaney.

“He’s (Gustavsson) entrusted us to continue to do that and, at the right time, that experience and what we've learnt will be shared with him," Andreatta added.

"It was a process that we as a staff - myself, Rae Dower, Leah Blaney - have worked together in identifying these players through our experiences with them in previous W-League seasons, time spent in the Future Matildas programme and eyes that we've had in the WNPL competitions that were able to get up and running or continue.”

With the camp originally scheduled to take place in Adelaide, it was moved to Canberra after a spike in COVID-19 cases put the South Australian state into a brief lockdown period and while the slight hiccup presented challenges, Andreatta said it’s been “smooth sailing” ever since.

"All the staff and players have received the message and the protocols and are working within the camp and the constraints that we have, like the professionals that they are," she said.

"It's been a great start, very positive. I'm looking forward to getting onto the pitch later this afternoon.”

Perhaps the most encouraging aspect of all, however, is the news that the future of women’s football in Australia is looking bright and full of budding young talent who we could see feature in the FIFA Women’s World Cup come 2023.

“I think we need to look at the player pool with exactly that mindset; that it's exciting and there's a lot of hope and potential," she said.

“Our league, our player pool has been through similar transitions before - in 2009 to around 2011, the landscape changed when the retirements of Joey Peters, Cheryl Salisbury and Kate McShea all occurred.

"At the same time, the players that are idolised now made their debuts so we've been through this before.”

“Those following the W-League and our local leagues closely - the talents are there. The opportunity in this challenge is that we give all our talents equal opportunity to succeed.”

With four major tournaments slated for the next four years and a host of talented female footballers banging on the door of opportunity - it appears as though the best is yet to come.