A-Leagues Life: Coach explains all after Mariners stars left out; Matilda’s emotional return

Welcome to A-Leagues Life, where KEEPUP brings you all the latest news and goings on at your club. This is how the week is shaping up across the A-Leagues and beyond.

Interim New Zealand coach explains why he snubbed two Isuzu UTE A-League champions for upcoming friendlies

There were two notable absentees when interim New Zealand coach Darren Bazeley named his All Whites squad for the upcoming set of international friendlies.

Central Coast Mariners full-backs James McGarry and Storm Roux weren’t selected for the upcoming clashes against Sweden in Stockholm on June 17 and Qatar in Vienna on June 20.

The duo were central to the Mariners’ run to the Championship, starting in each of their three finals including the 6-1 thrashing of Melbourne City in last Saturday’s Grand Final.

Bazeley opted to go with Eastern Suburbs defender Francis de Vries as the back-up to gun left-back Liberato Cacace, while Callan Elliot and Tim Payne were selected as the squad’s right-backs.

De Vries has previously been in the New Zealand squad during their push for World Cup qualification, but tore his ACL playing for Swedish outfit IFK Varnamo.

The decision to select de Vries – who returned to New Zealand to try and rebuild his career post injury – ahead of McGarry raised eyebrows locally, but Bazeley said the former’s versatility was a factor in his selection.

“They’ve (McGarry and Roux) both done really well but I suppose it’s a really good sign for us at New Zealand Football that we’re now selecting players and having to actually make some decisions rather than ‘what professionals have we got around the world?’ and picking all of them,” Bazeley said.

“We’re leaving out players who are doing really well and that’s a good sign for New Zealand, but it’s getting tougher to make decisions.”

Storm Roux

He added: “For McGarry, Libby is such a strong player and seems to play 90 minutes most games for us, which is awesome because he’s such a good player.

“But we’ve decided to bring in Francis de Vries who has played for the All Whites in the last year and was doing really well before he picked up his injury.

“He’s come back and he looks really fit but he also covers a centre-back position for us, which is slightly different to Jimmy.

“But like I said to Jimmy, he’s doing well, he’s just gotta keep working away and whatever happens in the future, he’s put himself back in the frame and Storm has as well.”

There was also no room for Wellington Phoenix’s Sam Sutton and Newcastle Jets Player of the Year Dane Ingham.

McGarry hasn’t featured for New Zealand since debuting vs Lithuania back in 2019, while Roux came on as a substitute in the Auckland friendly against Australia last September.

Matildas keeper ready to return to the field after six months on the sidelines

Matildas keeper Teagan Micah has been cleared for her first match in six months after recovering from concussion.

The former A-Leagues goalkeeper was injured while playing for FC Rosengard in a Women’s Champions League match back in December 2022, after being caught with a blow to head from Benfica’s Cloé Lacasse’s foot during a brave challenge.

Micah had been the Matildas first-choice during the Tokyo Olympics and started each of the four games prior to her injury.

However, after a long recovery, she is finally ready to return to the field, boosting the Matildas goalkeeper stocks going into the FIFA Women’s World Cup next month.

“Six months on the sideline and I’m back,” she wrote on social media.

“I don’t think words can express the journey I’ve been on, but I’ll try my best.

“The last thing I expected was to be hospitalised with a major concussion in December just eight months out from the Women’s World Cup.

“I spent about two months struggling to get through a ‘normal day’ and found myself bed bound for most of it. My mental health declined so fast and this injury has given me a whole new perspective and appreciation for my everyday health.

“From not being able to even go on walks to feeling so nauseous and dizzy with chronic headaches after training, I struggled so much with the idea of ever being able to play professional football again. I’m so grateful for the people that helped me along my journey to recovery.

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“The coaches and staff at the Matildas and FC Rosengard have helped me immensely in my recovery back to the field.

“I would also like to give out so much love to my family and friends who during this time saw how much I struggled and were always there to pick me back up each day.

“I think most importantly Dr Brandi and our SSSM staff I wouldn’t be playing football without you and I’m endlessly grateful.

“I can’t wait to keep pushing and see where the next few months take me.”

Brilliant Murphy double ensures perfect Asian Cup qualifying campaign for Young Matildas

The Young Matildas have wrapped up their 2024 AFC Under-20 Women’s Asian Cup qualifying campaign in style, with two cracking goals from Alana Murphy helping them to a 2-0 win over Vietnam.

Murphy scored two incredible long-range goals in the space of six minutes after half-time, ensuring Australia went through the entire qualification campaign with a perfect record.

The 2-0 victory also ensured Australia went through both Round 1 and Round 2 of qualifying without conceding a single goal in five games.

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Going into the contest, both sides had already wrapped up qualification to the Asian Cup as a result of two wins from two in their opening group games against Lebanon and Iran.

After having a number of the chances to take the lead in the opening half, Leah Blayney’s side finally broke the dead lock thanks to an incredible long range strike from Murphy.

The 18-year-old received the ball in space in the middle of the park, before taking a few dribbles and firing an inch-perfect chip into the top corner.

Murphy had another only minutes later, again beating the Vietnam keeper with an audacious long-range strike.

Australia will now gear up for next year’s Asian Cup, to take place in Uzbekistan next March, where they will be hoping to build off their fourth-place finish in the last incarnation back in 2019.

Wanderers heading on the road to Bathurst

The Western Sydney Wanderers will take a Liberty A-League clash to Bathurst from next season.

Western Sydney confirmed the partnership with the Bathurst Regional Council yesterday, as part of the club’s ongoing commitment to the Western New South Wales region.

Their Liberty A-League side will host a match at Carrington Park next season and will continue to deliver a range of benefits for the local Bathurst community, through school and grassroots programs.

“I would like to thank Bathurst Regional Council for all their support in hosting one of our Liberty A-League matches in the 2023/24 season,” said Wanderers CEO Scott Hudson said.

“In the year of a FIFA Women’s World Cup, it is very important to ensure that Women’s football is given the platform and exposure to continue the momentum off the back of the tournament.

“We hope that this can be the start of a fruitful relationship with Bathurst Regional Council so that we can continue the partnership in years to come.”