Western United’s landmark day more than five years in the making: ‘A stepping stone’

Catch the highlights as Western United hosted Newcastle Jets on an historic day in the Liberty A-League.

You could sense the occasion as soon as you approached Leakes Road in Melbourne’s west; the floodlights and the Regional Football Facility’s grandstand on the horizon.

This was Western United’s long-awaited homecoming, more than five years after receiving their A-Leagues license.

The club’s 15,000-capacity main stadium is still to come as part of a $2billion development project in the mixed-use suburb within the Wyndham City Council.

And while the Liberty A-League Championship hopefuls lost 3-1 to party-poopers Newcastle Jets, Western United were home in Tarneit on Sunday.

MATCH REPORT: Newcastle crash Western United’s homecoming party as historic theme continues

It was an historic milestone, ticked off in front of 2,040 fans – the second-highest attendance for the 2023-24 runners-up, only behind their first ever match against Melbourne Victory at City Vista Recreation Reserve.

Western’s inaugural Liberty A-League signing in 2022-23, Alana Cerne, told aleagues.com.au: “I think we rocked up here and we were expecting a crowd, but not something like this.

“The club put on fun things for the kids. We arrived at 12pm and they were already full in here. The carpark was full, it looked packed.”

“It’s good to have something like, especially out in the west where the community is building. It’s a good base for us. It wasn’t the result we wanted but I feel like we’re at home now and we will build from this.”

Sunday was cause for celebration, for the board – including executive chairman Jason Sourasis, players, staff and fans.

There was a hobbling Chloe Logarzo (hip) on crutches and Adriana Taranto walking around with her knee strapped following a season-ending injury. But the Western pair were their team’s biggest fans on the sidelines.

Former coach Mark Torcaso – now in charge of the Philippines – was in the crowd. John Aloisi’s Isuzu UTE A-League side were also among the fans in the stands – from star Daniel Penha to Angus Thurgate and Tomoki Imai.

The magnitude of the occasion was not lost on anyone, with some Western staff members close to tears before kick-off as cars were still queuing up to find a carpark long after the Round 20 fixture got underway.

At the end of the match, players and fans mingled for more than 30 minutes – signing autographs and posing for photos.

“I remember sitting down with Jason and Chris a very long time ago, and there was the word that there was a new Melbourne-based club,” head coach Kat Smith told reporters post-game, with a smile despite falling to second in the standings behind defending champions Sydney FC.

“I had the chance to work with the club previously in a development role, so then stepping away from the club, I feel like I have the shortest runway in terms of that waiting period.

“To have an opportunity to lead a group and support a whole club into this milestone, it’s fantastic. Just the atmosphere it’s provided, the drums, the fans, all the kids.

“Driving in before the game and knowing there’s hundreds of kids on the pitches kicking a ball and meeting the players. It’s inspirational for them – the next generation. They have access.”

At the end of it all, once the crowd had filtered out, there was one memorable photo to be taken for Western’s coaching staff and off-field team.

Smith added: “This is a great opportunity for everyone involved and what we now get to build on.

“This is always a stepping stone and this club will be around for a very, very long time. It will have foundations to propel this club to the highest of heights going forward.”