The Japanese legend continually inspiring her City teammates

She’s known as Melbourne City’s ‘Energiser Bunny’ and the much-loved inspiration to the club’s sensational start to the Westfield W-League 2019/20 Season.

While City’s squad is choc-full of international stars and experienced players, it’s Japanese midfielder Yukari Kinga that draws special praise from her teammates.

Kinga is now in her third season with City and, at 35-years-old, is showing no signs of slowing down.

It was her late gut-busting run into the box to get on the end of Steph Catley’s cross that saw City win the derby against Melbourne Victory last Thursday night.

It’s that type of play Kinga’s City teammates have become accustomed to in recent seasons and, according to midfield partner Aivi Luik, it is why she’s so respected around the club.

I feel really honoured playing next to her. I’m continually inspired, not just in games but in training as well,” Luik told of the 2011 FIFA World Cup winner with Japan.

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“When it comes time to play, Kinga just has this extra level. She just doesn’t stop, she’s a little Energiser Bunny on the field.

“It’s motivating to see when in the last few minutes of the game when you’ve already run 10+ kilometres and you see her make that 30-40 metre run. 

“You think: if she can do it, I can do it.”

“She’s great with the team, not only her technical ability but she’s a very smart player. She’s composed and a fun girl. Everyone loves her.”

Together Luik and Kinga form arguably the Westfield W-League’s most formidable midfield duo, providing a solid base and the vital link between defence and attack.

Yukari Kinga and Aivi Luik embrace after last week's win over Melbourne Victory

They were the midfield combination the last time City won the title in 2017/18 and it’s no surprise since reuniting this season that City haven’t missed a beat.

Luik admits her job is easy playing alongside the Japanese legend, who’s limited – but improving – English can make communication difficult.

“But often it’s just the movement. She’s that smart that she doesn’t need someone to speak to her,” the Westfield Matildas star said.

“[Kinga] just watches the play unfold and sees where you are and knows what area of the field needs to be covered and she’s there covering it.

“And if there’s space, she’s there running into it. You don’t even have to tell her to run into it. It’s great to play alongside someone like that.”

REPORT: Kinga’s winner gives City Melbourne Derby bragging rights over Victory
REACTION: Catley lauds squad depth as unbeaten City lay down another marker

Where Heroes are Made

After missing the Finals Series last season, City are on track to get back there in 2019/20 after four wins and a draw from their first five games.

Rado Vidosic has assembled a star-studded squad, including new faces like Westfield Matildas stars Emily van Egmond, Ellie Carpenter and Emma Checker, and international quality like Milica Mijatovic and Claire Emslie.

Often we’re lining up with 11 national team players, whether that’s with Australia or other national teams,” Luik said.

“We’ve got a lot of experience, there’s a lot of class and there’s a lot of demand for perfection or as close to perfection as we can get.

“[It adds pressure] but we’ve had that every other season so it’s nothing new. We all like it because we all are very competitive players…we always want more.

“You don’t want to be hated or anything, you want to be respected and I think we have that level of respect.”

After spending last season playing in Spain with Levante, Luik is enjoying being back in the Westfield W-League and living in Melbourne.

Aivi Luik in action against Korea Republic at this year's Cup of Nations tournament

It’s not just the football side of things the 34-year-old is loving but also the opportunity to get back to her other love – surfing – on her days off from training.

“Just yesterday I headed down to Ocean Grove and met up with Laura Alleway and Melina Ayres for a surf. The afternoon session turned out to be an absolute cracker,” she said.

“We were getting three-foot left-hand waves all to ourselves. We were hooting and hollering and it was a great mental escape from football, we had a ball.”

City have a chance to consolidate top spot on the ladder when they host Perth Glory on Thursday night in the opening game of Round 6.

“We’re going into it with a certain amount of confidence given the results we’ve had and the way we are playing but, in saying that, we aren’t cocky,” Luik said.

“We want to be sure of our game plan and make sure we execute it. If we do, we are quite confident we will win.”

TALKING POINTS: Siemsen stakes claim in wide open Golden Boot race
TEAM OF THE WEEK: The stars of Round 5

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Melbourne City v Perth Glory
Thursday, 19 December 2019
Kick-off: 7.30pm AEDT
Venue: ABD Stadium 
Broadcast: FOX Sports
Stream: MyFootball Live App, Kayo Sports

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