NPL Countdown: Barrett’s determination to go one step further

In what was an unbelievable 2018 for the Women’s Academy, Head Coach Dan Barrett is determined to see his squad go one step further. With the 2019 campaign commencing on March 10, we caught up with Barrett to preview the season ahead.

After a successful 2018, which saw Barrett crowned NPL 2 Coach of the Year and star striker Candice Phelan claim the league’s Golden Boot with a whopping 44 goals, our women’s team made it all the way to the Grand Final.

It was a huge season for the women’s program who finished second in Club Championship standings, with all FIVE teams qualifying for finals football (First Grade, U17’s and U15’s all made it to the Grand Final).

Despite last season’s success, Barrett approaches his second season in Yellow & Navy with unfinished business on his mind.

Golden Boot Winner, Candice Phelan continues her road to recovery from a serious ankle injury that was sustained in last season’s final against APIA Leichhardt. Captain, Gabby Blanch returns to skipper the side, leading young guns such as Iona Snape who earned invaluable experience over the summer training with Barrett’s Western Sydney Wanderers W-League outfit.  

NPL round one on the horizon…
“We’ve been back a few weeks now and the girls are really enjoying it,” Barrett said. “This year we are obviously looking to add another layer on what we did last year, we were super competitive and we want to be the same but we also understand we will be one of the teams to beat this year, so we need to make sure we go out an even better side and a slightly different looking side than last year.

“There’s been a lot of time spent on the playing style and you will see us play a little bit different than last year. The squad’s coming together really well, once again we’ve got really exciting youngsters coming through the program and just like last year, don’t be surprised if one or two pop their heads in the first team.

What needs to be done to take that next step…
“There are three key things. One is the players we have. We obviously have a smaller squad compared to the teams in Sydney and sometimes that can be challenging when players are unavailable through injury or suspension. The second one is not being one dimensional and that’s what we are building on this year. We are going to have a few strings to our bow which I think is going to be critical to how we perform. The third is scoring goals, we will always create a lot of chances and have a lot of the ball but being able to put the ball in the back of the net is a big thing and Candice Phelan is someone we will be looking at again this year to hopefully convert those chances.

Update on Candice Phelan’s injury…
“She’s (Candice) coming along okay, she won’t be ready for round one but we expect to see her come back into the fold quickly. We want to make sure when Candice comes back, she is 100% right and she can make the contributions she made last year without any concerns of her injury.

Leadership amongst the group…
“Players like Gabby Blanch, Liz Shorter, Mel Young (formerly Swinfield), Katie Oliveira – these are players who have come through the program right from the beginning and I guess they went through the tough times and I think it was really good for them last year to experience the success and winning those games.

“What they do is they provide a really good platform for the younger ones in and around the understanding that things only happen if you work hard and listen to your coach. Those are the two things the two girls do really well and if your senior players are doing that, then the younger ones will follow suit as they look up to the older players. That’s one thing we’ve got at the Mariners, the girls who have been there for a long time and are super role models to the younger ones.

15-year-old Iona Snape’s rise through the ranks…
“Iona did very well down there [Wanderers], she is a player that is a prospect. You never make guarantees on players, I don’t, but she’s certainly one that continues to get better and better at her young age. She will be a player we will look to, to impose herself again.

“She came in relatively young last year, scored a lot of goals but played good football. She then took the transition to the next step by training with a W-League side, she did extremely well there, did not look out of place. Now Iona comes back into the fold this year and at the moment she’s the fittest and sharpest player that we have, and we will look for her to make an impact. We will also keep in mind how young she is, that’s something we can’t forget. The pressure and the expectations on her, I’ll make sure we keep a lid on, it’s just about her getting out there and enjoying her football,” Barrett said.