Melbourne Victory youngster Melina Ayres feels confident her side can ‘make a statement’ against the star-studded, three-time defending Westfield W-League champions Melbourne City in Friday’s much-anticipated Derby.
Ayres has come a long way since beginning her career on the other side of town alongside a cluster of Westfield Matildas and seasoned international professionals three years ago.
In that time, she has gone from a 16-year-old member of Melbourne City’s inaugural Westfield W-League match to the scourge of her former employers – famously scoring a goal of the season contender in last year’s Derby, which Victory won 2-1.
The 19-year-old is now thriving in coach Jeff Hopkins' maturing squad and, refusing to be intimidated by the experienced seniors in the opposition ranks, believes Friday’s Derby could be a game-changing clash for the Navy Blue half of Melbourne.
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“It feels like this year, we’re getting to that age [where] we don’t feel overpowered by the Matildas girls or internationals,” she told w-league.com.au.
“It just feels like we have a good team dynamic.
“We’ve beaten them last year … to beat them at AAMI Park in their home game would definitely make a statement.”
Ayres has quickly developed a knack of producing the spectacular.
She has already written her name in headlines this year when her outstanding effort helped clinch a 2-1 win over Newcastle Jets in Round 2.
And Ayres' goal against Victory last season will live long in the memory.
First, she overpowered Australian international Alanna Kennedy before lobbing Lydia Williams from long range, producing the stroke of brilliance that makes her one for the three-time reigning Champions to marshal carefully.
“It just kind of came out of nowhere,” she said.
“It was one of those moments where I backed myself to go and win it.
“It popped up right there for me and it was so awesome … everyone piled on top of me, so it was really cool.
“Then we scored that second goal to win it and it made us realise that even though City are supposedly an unstoppable force, a couple moments of brilliance just fell together, and you can beat anyone.”
Victory are unbeaten after two matches and go into this clash with the upper hand, sitting one point clear of City, who started with a 2-0 defeat at Canberra United before cruising past Sydney FC.
But, having made the cross-city switch in September last year, you could forgive the teenager for being for casting an envious eye back at her former teammates and their unprecedented success.
Ayres said it was a move that needed to happen, though, in order to continue her development.
“It was in between seasons, it just seemed like the best thing to do,” she said.
“Sometimes you just have to move on to a different environment and its turned out alright.
“It’s really sunk in this year because last year was the first year I was in the starting team a fair bit.
“This year I feel like I’m meant to be there. I know I’m meant to be there and I’ve done the work.”