Friend returns to Victory fold

All-time Melbourne Victory Westfield W-League leading goalscorer and championship player Caitlin Friend has signed with Victory for the remainder of the season, as the club looks to end a four-game winless streak and qualify for finals.

Friend, 21, rejoins Victory after an impressive season with Notts County Ladies FC in the FA Women’s Soccer League (WSL), the highest tier in England.

The natural striker was a consistent performer on the wing in Notts County’s fifth-placed finish in the FA WSL and semi-finals appearances in the FA Cup and Continental Cup.

Friend said she had “learned quite a lot” from her first overseas stint and was in peak condition ahead of Victory’s clash with Western Sydney Wanderers at Marconi Stadium on Sunday.

“I came back to Melbourne just over two weeks ago and it feels very good to be back in my hometown to play football,” Friend said.

“I’ve just had eight months of full-time football and I’ve never been as fit as I am now. The training was insane [at Notts County].”

After consecutive losses to Canberra United, Adelaide United and Perth Glory, Victory has slipped to fifth on the W-League table and scored just two goals in that period.

In order to defend its title, it will most likely need to win its remaining three home-and-away fixtures against Western Sydney, Brisbane Roar (home) and Newcastle Jets (home).

Friend, who has scored 14 goals from 43 Victory appearances, said she was ready for the challenge ahead.

“We know we’ve got to win our next three to make finals,” she said.

“There’s been some attacking presence missing lately, so I want to help out there. It’s a bit of a pressure situation to come into, but hopefully I can provide some goals.”

Victory will also on Sunday be bolstered by the return of prolific goalscorer Lisa De Vanna, who has completed a club-imposed two-game suspension.

Young Matildas Beattie Goad and Emma Checker will again be unavailable, with the former scoring a brace in the Young Matildas’ 6-0 win over Hong Kong last night.

The club’s second-highest games record holder, Maika Ruyter-Hooley, has been released because of study commitments, but will continue as a train-on player.