When Matildas’ defender Jenna McCormick first walked into Melbourne City’s Bundoora headquarters on December 17, there was one thing, in particular, she was glad to see.
City has set new standards for the W-League both in terms of results and facilities In their short time in the competition’s; a large part of the reason the club has been so consistent in attracting national team representatives and international stars.
Indeed, current and sometimes former players will often return to the facility from their American and European bases as part of rehabilitation work.
However, though these facilities clearly play a major role in attracting high-level players, they weren’t what jumped out to McCormick when she first walked through the CFA's doors.
“It’s a great setup there,” she told The World Game. “I’m one that just loves to be in an elite environment and it certainly is an elite environment.
“Obviously there are physical things that you look for, it’s nice to have your own locker and gym facilities, but for me, personally, the best thing was having people smile and welcome you into the facilities, introduce themselves, show you around and make you feel welcome.
“It can really go a long way towards how you feel as a person and therefore how you perform as a footballer. I’ve been in places where it's the complete opposite.
“It’s nice to finally be back around people who do care about you as a footballer, as a person and are happy to have you in their room.”
The first in which she opted to once again focus entirely on football after previously juggling the W-League with becoming a two-time AFLW Premiership player, McCormick experienced a breakout season during the 2019/20 W-League campaign.
Helping to anchor the defence as Melbourne Victory secured a second-consecutive finals berth, the Mount Gambier-born centre back also made her first national team appearance; becoming Matildas’ cap 205 in a November 2019 friendly against Chile.
McCormick parlayed this success into a move to Spanish side Real Betis; one of the wave of Australian women that made the move to Europe during the offseason.
However, the 26-year-old ended up making just a single appearance in the Primera División during her time in Andalusia, getting 15 minutes in a 5-0 loss to eventual champions FC Barcelona on Halloween, before departing in early December and signing for Melbourne City eight days later.
In doing so, she became one of a number of high-profile Australian players that have opted to return to the W-League in 2020/21: joining the likes of Katrina Gorry, Lisa De Vanna, Clare Polkinghorne, Emma Checker, Emily Gielnik, and Tameka Yallop.
McCormick declined to comment when asked if her views on City’s environment hinted at her experiences in Spain, but said that she felt was now where she needed to be with an Olympics and home World Cup on the horizon.
“I didn’t say anything directly, but ultimately right now, where I am, I need to be here for my own wellbeing and to get my groove again in football because it’s been a long hard six months. I’m grateful beyond words to be able to do this again."
Set to commence against Brisbane Roar on Tuesday evening after City's initial fixture with Sydney FC was rearranged due to Sydney’s Northern Beaches outbreak, McCormick is now looking to use the coming W-League season to propel her back into incoming Matildas’ boss Tony Gustavsson’s plans for the Tokyo Olympics.
Aiding her in this quest for success will be new signing Alex Chidiac, whose capture was announced by the club on Monday morning.
Heading to Bundoora after making 22 appearances in three years with Atlético Madrid, the 21-year-old midfielder has already earned 17 Matildas' caps in her young career.
“It’s very exciting to have a player like Alex joining the club, she is a quality player and is another big signing for us," McCormick told The World Game.
"I know she will add a lot to our team and help us achieve success this season.”
Also key in McCormick's Matildas' push will be City boss Rado Vidošić, who has made clear he is under no illusion that the national representatives under his command do everything with an eye on the Green and Gold.
“We think she’s going to bring a lot of leadership and a lot of stability,” Vidošić said of McCormick. “Obviously she needs to adapt to play in our style, where there is a huge demand on our central defenders to be the playmakers in a way, they need to drive the ball forwards and then pass the ball into the advanced areas.
“I think she’s up to the challenge, she’s been doing really well.
“She just came out of the hotel quarantine as well so she hasn’t really played any of our friendly games but hopefully she should be able to last 90 minutes [against Brisbane].”