Logarzo, Kellond-Knight, Gielnik issue A-Leagues rallying cry to Australia

Matildas trio Chloe Logarzo, Elise Kellond-Knight and Emily Gielnik have issued a rallying cry to increase funding in women’s football and support the Liberty A-League, in order to build off the success of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup and sustain the sport long term.

Australia’s run to the semi-final of the Women’s World Cup has captured the imagination of the wider public, selling out stadiums in three major cities, while fans across the nation packed into live sites and millions more watched on at home.

As a result, there have been calls for greater funding in women’s football, to ensure the long-term stability of the game and in order to truly capitalise on the success of the World Cup.

READ: Loved the World Cup? Here’s how to enjoy the Liberty A-League Women incl. FREE tickets for U16s

These sentiments were echoed by the trio of Matildas, who were on hand at Allianz Stadium on Friday morning to announce the Liberty A-League’s special Round One celebration for women’s football.

READ: A-Leagues announce special Round One celebration for women’s football, aiming to break records

“I think every single individual person (is important), this is corporate, this is people putting bums into seats because realistically, if you think individually that you’re not going to make an impact, every single person needs to turn up and we’ve been able to do it for a whole entire nation for the last 3-4 weeks,” Logarzo, who plays for Western United in the Liberty A-League, said.

“It’s been immense and it’s been incredible. It’s not just for the Matildas games, but we’re turning up for all the other nations who are playing and, for us, we’ve always spoken about how Australia is a sports-loving nation and that’s just a prime example of it.

“So for us to really get a return on what we’re investing in and not just allowing this to be something that we dwindle away in the next couple of months, we need to continue to have that support.

“I think I spoke the other night about the connection, I think the Matildas have brought into this nation and I think we need to continue that connection into the A-Leagues and we need to foster what we can have and help this be the catalyst for what the world can see, for Australians coming out as footballers because I think we’re not bad.”

The 2023-24 Liberty A-League season gets underway on October 14; it will be the biggest campaign on record with a full home-and-away 22 round season and 12 teams competing as a result of the reintroduction of Central Coast Mariners.

The first round – which will be a standalone celebration of the women’s game – is aiming to break domestic attendance records off the back of a history-making World Cup on home soil.

Logarzo feels this is a step in the right direction to make the Liberty A-League fully professional, but said there’s more work to be done, including more investment needed to upgrade facilities which in turn will entice “high calibre players” to play down under.

“The biggest thing that I’ve taken away from this World Cup is that we have just affected the whole entire nation and that’s pretty incredible to be able to take out the gender part of this role and just appreciate the sport,” Logarzo added.

“I think that speaks volumes on what this tournament has done for our nation and for me, it’s incredible and this is why I hope that we capitalise on the back of this World Cup, especially in this A-League season because one, this is the first full time season, this is the 16th season and this is the first time we’re having two full rounds.

“I always joke about it, but to make it fair so that we’re not kind of looking at the schedule being like who we’re gonna play.

“And for me, it just a step in the direction of making this the professional league that it needs to… but I wanted to touch on the fact that, if we want to bring the high calibre players to Australia, we need to be able to create the facilities to entice them to bring them here.

“This tournament has showed us that we could play in stadiums like this, but it’s the facilities that are going to draw people in and it’s obviously the money that’s going to bring high profile players in.

“But for us, it’s about feeling like we’re the professional players that we need to be because there’s some incredible young talent that’s here and we need to foster that to be able to make them the best so that we can continue to having the platform for the Matildas so that we can make sure that we’re making this country proud.”

Meanwhile, Kellond-Knight detailed how Melbourne Victory have allowed her to rehab her torn Achilles, but added that not all players are afforded the same privileges throughout the competition due to a lack of investment in clubland.

She believes better facilities and more full-time staffing in the A-League Women will help improve the overall product.

“What we’ve experienced right now in the World Cup is a world class product, right? Great stadiums, full houses, just the whole production has been amazing,” she said.

“So we now need to make a product in our Liberty A-League that replicates that and gives our fans a similar experience.

“It’s going to be impossible. No one can ever replicate a World Cup, right? It’s just a once in a moment type of thing, but we need to do our best to do that.

“So the girls need to be playing in good facilities, so fans want to go to them. I also think that we need to pump a lot more investment into the facilities we’re actually training at, so not all clubs actually have great facilities, but they’re training every day and that hasn’t the end product.

“Then also the staff around the team. Like we’re not all full timers for 12 months. We need to be on full time, 12-month contracts where we have access to staff 24/7.

“I’ve had a really unique scenario in that Victory have given me access to do my rehab, full time staff and at most other clubs that wouldn’t happen.

“End of the season, then you’re off and a lot of the players are playing in the NPL. How do we get the girls together, 12 months, a year and a full time staff that are paid adequately to then create a great product that can replicate what we’ve just experienced.”

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The Liberty A-League has acted as a platform for a multitude of Matildas to break into the senior squad and then overseas, with the entire World Cup squad starting their careers in the competition.

Gielnik spoke at length about how Brisbane Roar helped make her and many of her Matildas teammates into the players they are now, hinting that she would be open to a return home at some point.

“The likes of KK (Kellond-Knight), Katrina Gorry, Tameka Yallop, Casey (Dumont), just to name a few, all were in that Roar season where we we developed in this A-League and we were able to develop enough to get contracts abroad,” Gielnik said.

“So that was kind of a stepping stone for us, and for me personally, for my career, if I think about where I developed enough to get to Matildas, this was my background. This is where I started.

“Brisbane Roar is where I I started banging in goals and I had a step with Victory, which was also very successful, but… we’ve all been abroad for a really, really long time and credit to the A-League, this was the platform to what gave us the confidence and the skills to be able to get big time contracts overseas.

“But lot of us miss playing at home, we miss the league. I think just what we’re struggling with is the massive pay cuts that we’re taking to come back home is a little bit disappointing and this league wants to attract world class players.

“I’m definitely considering coming home, I’m looking to come home. I’d like to be home. But the Matildas was the pinnacle of my career and I can proudly say that it’s really because of the A-League.”

The striker – who is currently out of contract after being released by Aston Villa – also believes the added investment in the league is extremely important for the longevity of the competition.

“We need support, firstly, financial, bums in seats, sponsors all that to keep growing the league,” Gielnik said.

“We need players like Cortnee Vine and the other players that you mentioned earlier to want to stay in the league, but also it doesn’t matter if they develop and go abroad, but we want them to be able to come back.

“It’s crucial. We need the funding. This is a major stepping stone. The league is still at a really good level, but there is no ceiling.

“We need to reach greater heights. This league needs a lot of financial pumped into it. We need to see it grow, capitalise off the back of this World Cup.

“It’s an amazing opportunity and the likes of these Matildas coming back into the league, I don’t know, what would it do for this nation? What would it do for the A-League season?… The world is your oyster.”