SEASONED PERFORMER: Cheryl Salisbury celebrates after scoring a goal for the Matildas against Mexico in Melbourne two years ago. The national team captain will lead the Newcastle Jets in their W-League game against the Queensland Roar at Oakes Oval, Lismo
SEASONED PERFORMER: Cheryl Salisbury celebrates after scoring a goal for the Matildas against Mexico in Melbourne two years ago. The national team captain will lead the Newcastle Jets in their W-League game against the Queensland Roar at Oakes Oval, Lismo AP

This time it's for real

UNLIKE previous incarnations of national women's soccer leagues, the opposing captains involved in the clash at Oakes Oval, Lismore, tomorrow night believe the W-League is here to stay.

Newcastle Jets and Australian captain Cheryl Salisbury and her opposite number at the Queensland Roar, and fellow Matilda, Kate McShea, have lived though some of those previous unsuccessful incarnations.

McShea was especially struck with positive thoughts about the new W-League when she was walking through a Westfield shopping centre recently.

“I was walking through my local Westfield and there was this 20-metre sized banner with pictures of all the different teams and that wouldn't have been dreamt about three or four years ago,” she said.

“I've played in five national leagues prior to this season and just with Westfield coming on board and the whole organisation of the league it has just become more professional.

“The standard of the league has already attracted players from Canada and New Zealand, so we have already shown that we can attract international players as well keeping our best players here.

“I think in a few years it will be right up there with some of the best competitions in the world.”

Salisbury is also just as enthusiastic about the new eight-team league which is just two rounds into its inaugural season.

“We've been waiting for this competition for a long time, since the last national league folded four or five years ago,” she said.

“It's great just having that regular week-in, week-out competition. That's what you look forward to at the end of a week of training, playing in those competitive games.”

With several Matildas and young Matildas in their line-up, the Queensland Roar are one of the early favourites to win the title.

Both players are behind the move to take the game to regional areas like Lismore to give country people a taste of national league soccer.

But the game at Oakes Oval on Saturday is seen as more of a home game for Queensland, which can hop on a bus and be here in three hours as opposed to Newcastle, which will take most of Saturday to get here in time for kick-off.

“I travel to a lot of clubs in regional areas because of my work and they all say we wish we could see more national league games and have more coaching clinics,” Salisbury said.

“It's great for Northern NSW to be able to do that but the situation for us on game day is that it will be more of home game for Queensland than for us.

“We will fly from Newcastle to the Gold Coast and then have to hop on a bus and drive back down to Lismore.”

Adding to Salisbury's burden is the fact she has taken on an assistant coaching role with the club this season.

Perhaps it is a pointer to the day when she gives up her international duties entirely.

“There's not another Olympic Games or World Cup campaign left in the old legs,” Salisbury said.

“I've coached in previous national leagues before and I'm used to being bossy out on the field, so many of the players are fairly used to me.”

Tickets to the game tomorrow will be available at the gate. They are $5 for adults and free for children under 16.

Kick-off is at 7pm.



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