Life on Matildas fringe challenges City’s Checker

Melbourne City captain Emma Checker admits it’s been “challenging” being part of a group of players in their mid-20s overlooked for Matildas duties.

In the wake of Australia’s shock Women’s Asian Cup quarter-final exit, former captain Melissa Barbieri told AAP it felt like “battle-hardened” and “resilient” players in their mid-20s were “being skipped for the teenagers” at international level.

Most notably, head coach Tony Gustavsson opted for a central defensive pairing of 17-year-old Jessika Nash and 19-year-old Courtney Nevin against the United States in November.

Barbieri cited City team-mate Checker (25), former Melbourne Victory skipper Angie Beard (24) and Western Sydney Wanderers’ Clare Hunt (22) – none of whom cracked the Asian Cup squad – as examples of players missing out.

“She makes an important point, I have two responses to that,” Checker said of Barbieri’s comments as City prepare to face the Wanderers on Sunday.

“One, that I understand the decision to try and progress and develop the youth and the younger players coming through but I can’t help but feel like it is really challenging being in that mid-20s age bracket, that does feel like there’s a few of us that are not necessarily getting that same opportunity. 

“But I guess that’s sport: different coaches want different things and have different plans and so the reality is you can only control so much. 

“I just am focusing on controlling my performance and I’m really enjoying our season here, and obviously it helps having success but if I keep performing and playing consistently then at least I know that I’m giving myself every chance. 

“Obviously my bigger goals are to be a consistent part of the squad so I do hope that time does come but I feel like I’m at peace with knowing that I’m doing everything in my control at the moment.”

While she has added just seven caps to her Matildas debut, which came as a 16-year-old a decade ago, Checker has long been a consistent performer in the Liberty A-League competition.

Relishing marshalling second-placed City’s backline, Checker stressed the club’s high standards had been crucial to her own improvement.

“It’s challenged me because it’s really forced me to fine-tune areas that I’ve probably gotten away with in the past,” she said. 

“I would say that when I was younger, my athleticism probably covered up for some areas that I wasn’t so great at and being here has forced me to address those.

“It’s just fine-tuning my decision-making on the ball and positioning my body shape, just all those little one-percenters that can change games.”