Matildas and Melbourne City defender Laura Alleway on the professionalism in women’s soccer. By Jack Kerr.

Defence force: Laura Alleway, 27, soccer player

All these beautiful new facilities at Melbourne City, it makes you feel more valued as a player. You’re in a professional environment. You step onto that field knowing you’ve got a club that’s behind you. They back us 100 per cent and they’re willing to put their money where their mouth is, and show that they do support us and they’re happy to have us in the club. It gives you confidence and builds a good positive feel around the club. It’s a real family feel. It’s nice to know we have a place that we can call home and feel part of. 

Our top training pitch is pretty decent. Immaculate! You can’t really compare it to anything but the top grounds around the world. It’s absolute carpet. It is hard to maintain, but they’ve got this massive shed filled with all sorts of equipment – I have no idea what it all does. It’s like, how many things do you need to maintain a pitch? Apparently a lot. If we can show that we can train on those kinds of pitches, then the standard of playing pitches around the country need to get better too. But it costs a lot of money. Step by step.

We train in the morning, so it’s hard to get another job. Some teams will train in the afternoon so the girls can do a full day’s work and then head to training. But with us, they are trying to make it more professional. That doesn’t mean we get paid the amount that we deserve to be professional – there’s only so much they can do with a salary cap of 150 grand for the entire team.

I also play in America, and I play for the national team, so I’ve got a couple of other incomes. I’m lucky in that way. One of the girls in the team is also an air hostess. Some girls try to get cafe jobs. Some girls will work at the club, like in the department where they reach out to communities. The club can offer other jobs around our schedule, which is helpful. And then we’ve got some schoolgirls as well.

What’s a typical week? For a Sunday game, we’d do a double session on a Tuesday, and on a Wednesday. That’s a field and a gym session, back-to-back, plus physio and stuff like that. That’s an 8 ’til 1 day. Then you have Thursday off. A field session on the Friday. Then a light session, up to an hour, on the Saturday to get the nitty-gritty stuff out: set pieces, structural play, tactical stuff and really focusing on what the opposition will be doing and how we are going to counteract that. Then game day. And recovery. 

I’d say we train the same amount as the men’s team. There’s only so much you can do. You can’t overload an athlete – and it’s a fine line between getting it right and overdoing it. You couldn’t do much more, or you’d get people burning out and getting injuries. I feel like we have a similar program to other W-League teams, but they might have to do their gym sessions before work and their field sessions after work. We also do come in early and do video sessions.

All of our video footage gets sent back to Manchester City for analysis. What we analyse and how we want to approach the game goes through their analysis team as well. They want to make sure we’re all on the same page, so the whole of the City group are working off the same script and they’ve got the same style of play through all of their clubs. We work on a solid defensive shape – you defend so you can attack.

They’ve stepped it up, the video analysis, this year. It’s been really cool. You can’t do it all on the field, so we have to find other ways to get on the same page, and part of that is through video analysis. [City midfielder] Jess Fishlock is behind a lot of that, given she’s trying to transition into coaching, and she’s doing a phenomenal job. We’ll probably do three or four video sessions with her a week, focusing on ourselves, and then focusing on our opponents. These also help with getting all the new faces in the team playing our style as quickly as possible.

People are saying Melbourne City just won their first silverware [the FFA Cup]. They forgot about us! [Melbourne City are reigning W-League champions.] It was not a slap in the face or anything. They just forgot the men word, that’s all: the first bit of silverware – for the men.


1 . This week’s highlights…

Cricket: WBBL – Melbourne Renegades v Hobart Hurricanes

Saturday, 4.10pm (AEDT), Queen Elizabeth Oval, Bendigo

Basketball: NBL – Cairns Taipans v Illawarra Hawks

Saturday, 4.30pm (AEST), Cairns Convention Centre

Soccer: A-League – Melbourne City v Melbourne Victory

Saturday, 7.50pm (AEDT), AAMI Park, Melbourne

Basketball: WNBL – Perth Lynx v Adelaide Lightning

Sunday, 1pm (AWST), Bendat Basketball Centre, Perth

Soccer: W-League: Western Sydney Wanderers v Melbourne City 

Sunday, 3pm (AEDT), Popondetta Park, Western Sydney

Cricket: BBL – Adelaide Strikers v Brisbane Heat

Wednesday, 7.10pm (ACDT), Adelaide Oval

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Dec 17, 2016 as "Defence force".

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Jack Kerr
is a journalist and documentary maker.

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