Having a Capital time


Canberra United might get vertigo on top of the Westfield W-League table – can they last the season?

At the top of the Westfield W-league table, Canberra United are charting unfamiliar territory. For the first three seasons it was a case of “close, but not quite close enough”. Yet there now seems to be new aura surrounding the team in green.

They have had their best start of any season to date and are already sitting five points clear of the rest of the competition.

So what’s changed? Is it the new coach? A more attacking style of play? Is it Michelle Heyman scoring a hat-trick or the presence of Lydia Williams between the sticks?

According to Heather Reid, CEO of Capital football, it’s a combination of all those factors and much more.

The current purple patch being enjoyed by Canberra United is a point of pride and extreme satisfaction for Reid, given that when the concept of the Westfield W-league was first mooted, a side from the capital was not even in the reckoning.

It was the tenacity of Heather Reid, with the full backing of Capital Football that saw the team included in time for season one. She firmly believed that after a strong presence in women’s football with Canberra Eclipse in the W-League’s predecessor (WNSL) coupled with the number of Canberra based players involved in the national team set-up, the city was deserving of a presence in the new league.

A new coach for season four was also a result of Reid’s determination to bring the best to Canberra. Though by her own admission she didn’t exactly scour the globe looking to secure the services of Jitka Klimkova.

Reid was at the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Germany in a technical capacity with Football Federation Australia, when she received the call saying Ray Junna would not be available to lead the side for the upcoming season.

With plenty of coaching talent in close proximity she set about finding someone to take the reins and on the recommendation of others, asked Klimkova if she fancied a stint in the Australian league.

Reid laughs as she recalls the question raised by the first foreign coach to join the W-League. After being picked up at Sydney airport for the three-hour drive to Canberra, Klimkova asked, “Why did you hire me when you didn’t even know who I was”?

A fair point Reid acknowledges, but more than from the due diligence on Klimkova’s credentials, which included talking to April Heinrichs who worked with Klimkova in the US, it was pure gut instinct that had her prepared to take the risk. And so far it has been worth it.

Klimkova has embraced the challenge with relish and by all accounts never stops in her quest to make the United girls a force to be reckoned with. The former Czech Republic international holds a UEFA Pro licence and her CV boasts experience at both club and international level in her homeland but it’s the one on one communication with both players and backroom staff that are part of the key to the “Jitka effect”.

That’s not to take anything away from the talent on the pitch or the strong support behind the scenes. Engagement with the community is an important factor for Canberra’s flagship football side.

Backing from the ACT government has also been critical as well as the core group of sponsors who have been on board from the start, including ActewAGL and The Tradies. The Rock Development Group pledging their support for the next two years just adds to the financial stability of a club whose star looks to be on the rise.

A win against Newcastle this week could extend Canberra United’s lead to eight points before the halfway point of the season, but after falling agonisingly short last time round can they go all the way?

Here the normally effusive Reid pauses, “I’m only allowed to say one game at a time!”

To see Canberra take on Newcastle, if you can’t get down to McKellar Park on Saturday, tune into ABC1 at 3pm.