Canberra United focused on youth

The Grand Final rematch between Brisbane Roar and Canberra United on Saturday may not have produced any goals, but there were plenty of positives to come out of the season opener.

The Grand Final rematch between Brisbane Roar and Canberra United on Saturday may not have produced any goals, but there were plenty of positives to come out of the season opener.

With a raft of Westfield Matildas missing for the 2012/13 campaign - either through injury or, for Melissa Barbieri and Heather Garriock, pregnancy - the Westfield W-League has a much younger look to it this season, and Canberra United is leading the charge.

Coach Jitka Klimkova filled the final five places in United's roster with young Canberra players, and hopes the injection of youth in her squad will not only help her team push for back-to-back championships, but also develop local talent to boost the profile of women's football in the capital city and the rest of Australia.

"The best thing is they're all from Canberra, they're young girls and it shows it's great for the future of Canberra United," Klimkova said.

"They will prepare themselves for the W-League and the national team and I'm sure it can be helpful for Australia as well that we've picked the young girls for the squad."

The Canberra United team sheet on Saturday looked slightly different to last season's Grand Final-winning squad, and the surprising addition of Catherine Brown on the bench will do wonders for the confidence of fellow newcomers Grace Field and Samantha Wood.

The three Canberra youngsters are joined by returning locals Christine Walters and Sally Rojahn as the team strives for another Westfield W-League title.

Other Westfield W-League clubs have been feeling the pinch of injured stars recently, with Sydney FC and Brisbane Roar the hardest hit. Elise Kellond-Knight, Casey Dumont and Kim Carroll were notable absentees from the Roar's opening round match, with Dumont and Carroll expected to be out for the entire season. Sydney FC also have to do without Garriock and Leena Khamis.

While both sides will sorely miss their more experienced players, it's paved the way for a number of youngsters to take advantage of the vacant spots. Most notable on the weekend were the Sky Blues' youthful trio of Caitlin Foord, Sam Kerr and Larissa Crummer.

Crummer shone on debut, but it was Kerr who helped Sydney FC claim an unlikely point thanks in large part to the 19-year-old's double for her new club.

The future is looking bright for the youngsters of the Westfield W-League, and Canberra United is setting the bar with their desire to shape local talent.

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