Why City’s captain joined their arch-rivals & the $57m ‘missing piece’ that’s now in place

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It’s a mere one-hour drive from Casey Fields in Southeast Melbourne to the Home of the Matildas at La Trobe University – but this might be the biggest move of Emma Checker’s career to date.

A club career that has wound its way through South Korea, France, Iceland, Sweden and three Australian states now takes the Matildas defender from Melbourne City to Melbourne Victory ahead of the new Liberty A-League season.

Checker departed City leaving the captain’s armband at the door. Now, the central defender will line up in the navy blue and white of Victory, City’s biggest rivals.

“It can be almost a bigger move sometimes when you cross over to rivals, rather than interstate to a completely new environment,” Checker told KEEPUP. “It’s definitely been a big move in that regard. But it’s one that I felt was right. 

“I’m at an age and stage in my life where I wasn’t willing to move states, but it was a time for change. With that, there were limited options for movement.

“But the relationship I had with Victory from a decade ago when I first moved to Melbourne were still there, and I’ve always had a really good relationship with (Victory boss Jeff Hopkins) despite having never played for him.

“There was comfort in knowing that move would be smooth, and also knowing that my life away from football would effectively stay the same. It ended up being exactly what I needed, and it’s worked out really well for me.”

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But it wasn’t a decision made overnight. Checker says “it was in the works for months” following the 2022-23 campaign.

“There’s always a lot more that goes into those decisions sometimes that people think,” Checker added. 

“There were a number of changes at City in the last couple of years, and that for a player can also change their place within that as well.

“For me, (there were) some challenging changes to come around to and it ended up being the right thing for me to be in a new environment, and I’m fortunate that (Hopkins) has welcomed me into that space.”

In the end, Checker says there was no hesitation when deciding to switch Melbourne allegiances – but, if there was even the slightest tinge of doubt leading into pre-season, any such fears would have been alleviated when walking through the doors of Victory’s new training base at the Home of the Matildas for day one of pre-season.

The Australian national team’s new home has become the training base for Victory this season, as well as the venue for all of the club’s home fixtures that aren’t part of a double-header with their Isuzu UTE A-League side.


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The facilities are state of the art, funded with $57 million of a $101 million investment from the Andrews’ Labor Government into the La Trobe University Sports Park, made in addition to a $15 million contribution from the Federal Government.

The importance of calling such a place home is not lost on Checker.

Capped seven times by the Matildas, Checker understands what it takes to earn a spot among the national team ranks and is excited by the challenge of helping to nurture a talented crop of Victory youngsters hone their craft week in, week out at a home base they might one day call home as a senior Matildas star.

“Over the last few years, I think most girls that have been at Victory would always say the missing piece was the facilities and the resources,” Checker said. 

“You can see that’s been a really high priority focus for the off-season: to make sure our program is positioned better in that regard for this season, and we’re really fortunate now to have the home of the Matildas as our home base.

“The little things make a huge difference when you walk through the doors for training and feel like you’re in a professional space. I do believe that the club have worked really hard to make sure we’re able to be in that place.

“I feel like Victory have stepped up in a lot of ways this season, in terms of the resourcing, the facilities and all of those pieces are something I feel are really important to being in a professional environment. 

“Victory have now found that final missing piece. They’ve always had a good group of girls, a good culture, and been successful – but now I feel like we’ve got the full package so I’m really looking forward to the season.”

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Among Victory’s ranks in 2023-24 are capped senior Matildas Rachel Lowe (22 years old), Jamilla Rankin (20) and Jessika Nash (18), as well as promising Young Matildas Alana Murphy (18) and Paige Zois (19).

“It’s actually a really important place to be for (Victory’s) young girls,” Checker added. “We do have a lot of young players within that U20 to U23 age bracket and setup and it’s good for them to be exposed to this kind of facilities – and hopefully, facilities that they’re now going to be utilising not only as a Victory player, but also as a national team player.

“It’s huge, and it also helps them transition into those national team environments, when there’s some sense of stability and familiarity within the space. I think it’s an advantage for them now, that they are exposed to it, and able to feel like that place is home for them. 

“That’s a part of the role of a senior player, and someone who has been around the league for – well, this is my 13th season! When I reflect back on my first few years, I needed to be able to lean on the senior players. You need that guidance, the support, and the balance of care but also tough love in helping you find your feet and progress. I feel like for me that’s now I role I have to step into even more so than I probably have before. 

“The young players need that. They’re going to tap into us to learn and sponge off of us as much as they can. It’s almost our responsibility to make sure we provide them with as much guidance and support as possible.”

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Checker arrives at the club having captained City for the past three seasons, but is excited to play a supporting role at Victory among a group of experienced heads under skipper Kayla Morrison. Checker and Morrison are joined by the likes of club stalwart Lia Privitelli and Matildas trio Emily Gielnik, Lydia Williams and Elise Kellond-Knight in bringing vast experience and leadership qualities to the playing group.

“It is a different role, coming off being captain for three years, but at the same time I think with who I am as a person, and who I’ve become as a player, I don’t need the armband to show my leadership qualities,” Checker said.

“I’m actually really pleased I’m in a team where there is such a strong leadership group. Kayla as captain, when you’ve got the likes of Elise Kellond-Knight and Lia Privitelli, both of which hold really great leadership qualities as well, I feel like Im fortunate now to be a part of that group, and I know that we can do a lot of great things together.”

Checker and Victory open the Liberty A-League season on Sunday, October 15 at the Home of the Matildas.

Featured image credit: Melbourne Victory