These are the key talking points from the fifth episode of Dub Zone, breaking down all the action from Round 5 of the 2023/24 Liberty A-League season.
Round five of the Liberty A-League delivered some historic moments; from Perth Glory captain Natasha Rigby playing her milestone 100th match to Matildas World Cup star Emily van Egmond scoring on her return to the competition.
But the round ended on a worrying note as Melbourne City youngster Holly McNamara suffered another injury blow after proving the match-winner against Newcastle Jets.
On the latest episode of Dub Zone, A-Leagues commentator Teo Pellizzeri and host Niav Owens were joined by Matildas legend Alicia Ferguson and Sydney FC great Teresa Polias to break down all the major talking points!
WATCH DUB ZONE BELOW FOR A FULL RECAP OF ROUND 5
The ‘moment of leadership’ that changed the course of Perth Glory’s match
Perth Glory kept their unbeaten start to the season intact by securing a hard-fought 2-2 draw against Melbourne Victory, but the match also marked a special milestone for long-serving captain Natasha Rigby.
The 30-year-old defender played her 100th match in the Liberty A-League, joining Shannon May and Marianna Tabain as the only players to have made a century of appearances for Glory Women.
Speaking on Dub Zone, A-Leagues commentator Teo Pellizzeri noticed an interaction between the Rigby and Hana Lowry moments before her teammate scored from a stunning free-kick that epitomised the type of captain she is.
“Interestingly, before the Hana Lowry free-kick, (Rigby) actually went up and hugged Hana Lowry – almost as if to calm her down and whatever she identified there as the captain of the team, that moment of leadership led to a goal,” he said.
“She doesn’t get the assist for it but still I think that’s the sort of captain Tash Rigby is. That she just has a great emotional understanding as well as being a great footballer.”
In 2016-17, Rigby debuted for the club and became an instrumental figure for the squad, starting in two Grand Finals in 2017 and 2019, before being handed the captain’s armband in the 2019-20 season.
She took over the captaincy after the exit of Sam Kerr and has gone on to captain her side for five consecutive seasons.
Could Alex Chidiac return to the Liberty A-League? ‘I imagine every club will be lining up’
The Liberty A-League has already welcomed back a number of Matildas stars, headlined by the likes of Tameka Yallop, Kyah Simon and most recently Emily van Egmond off the back of a historic Women’s World Cup run.
But there’s one name the Dub Zone crew would love to see back on home soil – Alex Chidiac.
The former Melbourne Victory midfielder joined Mexican outfit Tigres UANL on loan from Racing Louisville until the end of the season.
With only a few matches remaining abroad, Chidiac could potentially be eyeing a move elsewhere and a comeback to the Liberty A-League isn’t out of the realms of possibility, according to Pellizzeri, with many clubs likely to express interest in signing a player of her calibre should she become available.
“I think clubs will be having the conversation and they’ll be making their bids because everyone wanted a piece of (Chidiac), but she chose Melbourne Victory the last two seasons,” he said.
“Obviously (Chidiac) was the Dolan Medallist from the last campaign and won that medal from a small sample size.
“Tigres drew 0-0 in their first leg of their semi-final in Mexico. If they’re knocked out, (Chidiac returns to) parent club Racing Louisville. The contract ends in December. This could be the transformational mid-season signing, not necessarily for Victory.
“I imagine every club will be lining up, just asking the question ‘Alex would you like to come back and play in the A-Leagues’.”
Matildas legend Alicia Ferguson added: “She’s an experienced attacking player… of course clubs would want her.
“But in terms of the Matildas, she needs to be playing regular minutes and that’s going to be difficult for her to get back into the team until she’s doing that.”
Chidiac was included in the 23-player squad for the Matildas’ Olympic Qualifiers last month, but was left out of the upcoming friendly series against Canada.
Ferguson threw out Brisbane Roar as a potential suitor given that new head coach Alex Smith has flagged an intention to implement a more attacking brand of football.
“I know from talking to some of the players, the intensity of training has gone up about 10 notches with that Brisbane Roar team so that’s going to take time,” Ferguson said.
“I think a different style, he definitely wants to improve on the attacking. Hence why I was putting my hand up to say ‘Chids if you want to come play for Brisbane!’”
Whether or not Chidiac returns to the Liberty A-League, her last spell proves it doesn’t take her long to make an impact having won the prestigious Julie Dolan Medal after playing just 13 matches for Victory.
Holly McNamara’s injury cloud
Melbourne City’s Holly McNamara is arguably the hottest commodity in the Liberty A-League right now, but a new injury scare has raised alarm bells.
The 20-year-old forward headed into City’s contest against Newcastle Jets fresh off scoring her first ever A-Leagues hat-trick and earning a recall to the Matildas squad for the December friendly series against Canada.
McNamara’s red-hot form was on show at No.2 Sportsground as her two late goals ensured City walked away with a 3-2 victory. However, celebrations were cut short when she immediately fell to the turf, clutching at her knee and was stretchered off.
Speaking on Dub Zone, Ferguson shared her initial thoughts on the incident: “Holly’s reaction when she went down and just the fact there was no contact as well.
“So she played that ball past the goalkeeper, she landed and looked like there was a little twist – no contact there.
“You could see her mouthing the words ‘my knee, my knee’ and obviously in some distress so really wishing Holly all the best for that injury.
“Hopefully it’s not too sinister, but a big loss for Melbourne City.”
Unfortunately, dealing with adversity is not foreign for McNamara who ruptured her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) at 15 and, at 17, also sustained a stress fracture in her foot that brought her career to a halt early on.
“Just seeing her reaction was heartbreaking and our thoughts are with Holly,” Sydney FC legend Teresa Polias said.
“It’s never nice to see that and as a player that’s done it before, you could see her reaction – maybe she knew.
“But hopefully it’s not as serious and look, we know she’s bounced back before from serious injuries so we know we’re going to see her again.”
However, McNamara’s performance prior to the injury deserves plenty of plaudits as City were in the ascendancy as soon she netted the equaliser, before delivering the final blow in the 92nd minute.
McNamara’s sheer explosiveness and pace is tough to contain for many oppositions, including the Jets who had to put extra bodies on her to weather the storm.
“When (McNamara) plays, she’s incredible and she had ridden two yellow card challenges in the game,” said Pellizzeri.
“She was targeted physically by Newcastle and yet it’s non-contact, it’s horrendous luck and it’s left everyone, including myself, frankly feeling really flat.”
Ferguson added: “She gets so many hard challenges against her because she has that pace.
“She faces up, runs at the opposition and she makes it difficult for them and they have to challenge her. They can’t keep up.”
While the extent of the injury is not confirmed, McNamara has proven she is more than capable of overcoming major hurdles and returning stronger than before.
A World Cup hero’s sensational return in Newcastle
Matildas hero Emily van Egmond returned to her hometown club Newcastle Jets for the first time in two years, with 3,207 fans in attendance at No.2 Sportsground.
While the Jets suffered a 3-2 loss to City, Van Egmond’s comeback was a memorable one as it only took her 12 minutes to find the back of the net before notching an assist as well.
Van Egmond’s starring performance came as no surprise to Ferguson who was impressed by her stint in the NWSL.
“It’s just the measure of what a great international player she is,” Ferguson said.
“She’s had a great season with San Diego Wave, they won the NWSL Championship plate under Casey Stoney, (a) very experienced former England international.
“She came up with a goal (that was) nice and composed. She could’ve got another one… but that is what this team needs as well. They’re a young team and they need that experience and they need Emily who is a winner.”
Polias added: “Yeah instant impact and great to see Emily pick up where she’s left off and what a player to have around that camp for those youngsters.”
“They’ll see her in and around the training ground, on and off the pitch – it’s invaluable.”
The Jets will be hoping Van Egmond can continue to provide a boost and end their four-match winless streak before her brief time at the club is up.