Capital Football reporter Maddison Sawkins sat down for a quick chat with Assistant Technical Director (Women & Girls) Kelly Stirton to find out more about the Canberra United Academy, the pathway for aspiring Liberty A-League players in the National Capital.
Maddison Sawkins: What is the focus of the Canberra United Academy?
Kelly Stirton: The focus for Canberra United Academy is about development pathways into the elite area of football in Canberra. So, the girls who come into the Academy will be development players but also elite players. We’ve had players who’ve been in Junior Matildas, Young Matildas, A-League level but were not about winning, we’re about developing players and seeing where we can improve.
Maddison Sawkins: Why should young girls want to come to the Canberra United Academy?
Kelly Stirton: I think all girls of all ages should be coming to Canberra United Academy because it is that development pathway to the next level. We’ve got qualified coaches with all levels of experience but for us we want to see females develop as footballers and be able to get to that next level because we have connected within that community.
Maddison Sawkins: What makes Canberra United Academy different from club football?
Kelly Stirton: Canberra United Academy is different to club land because of what we provide. We’ve got Psychologists, Nutritionists, Sports Scientists with GPS in our seniors. Filtering down we have testing, recovery, and highly qualified coaches. We have access to Junior Matildas, Young Matildas, and A-League coaches as well and we have A-League players that come into senior training environments to help train our players.
Maddison Sawkins: How connected is Canberra United Academy to Canberra United?
Kelly Stirton: It’s the level below. Canberra United Academy is your starting point with our U14s up to First Grade and the next level is A-League and that’s when Njegosh Popovich and Antoni Jagarinec filter in. We’ve seen many Academy players graduate into Canberra United, the likes of Hayley Taylor Young, Emma Ilijoski, Sasha Grove, Chloe Lincoln, Meg Roden. There’s Sofia Christopherson and Holly Murray who have been training with the girls and playing in competitive games between the A-League seasons.
Maddison Sawkins: Are there any Canberra United Academy players Canberra United fans should look out for this A-League season?
Kelly Stirton: You’ve got the likes of Holly Murray and Sofia Christopherson but there’s definitely players coming through the ranks and there’s too many personally I think to mention. There certainly is quite a number in the senior group that I think Njegosh and Ant are really impressed with and on the verge of making their debut in the A-League season.
Maddison Sawkins: What’s Canberra United Academy’s connection with the ParaMatildas?
Kelly Stirton: There’s myself, the head coach of the Para Matildas and head coach of the U17s CUA team but we’ve got three ParaMatildas who are registered to play with the U17s team. Two of them being Carly Salmon and Bec Jones.