There will be an unlikely reunion in an unlikely location on Sunday when Canberra United host Melbourne City in a Westfield W-League blockbuster.
Seattle in America’s Pacific Northwest might be best known as the home of Starbucks and 90’s grunge music (not necessarily in that order), but it is also becoming a genuine hotbed for women’s football.
Seattle Reign have topped USA’s NWSL ladder for the past two seasons, helped in no small part by Canberra United’s Kendall Fletcher, as well as Melbourne City superstar signings Jess Fishlock and Kim Little. And the trio will meet up again on the field on Sunday in Gosford.
Canberra may be reigning champions but Melbourne City, as new kids on the block, have shown their intent by winning all three matches in stunning fashion.
Canberra, though, demonstrated their class in dismantling Sydney FC in their last outing. It all shapes up as a massive contest to be enjoyed by Fox Sports and ABC TV viewers, as well as Central Coast’s football community who arrive prior to the Hyundai A-League match.
“They (Melbourne City) have obviously done well with their recruiting,” Fletcher says with a laugh, perhaps aware she is making somewhat of an understatement. “Our goal is to be worthy of the challenge, be a good test, provide a good game and see what happens.
“We have a good roster and are always consistent. We respect them, but we want is to use it as a test to see where we are.
“It will be fun to go up against Jess and Kim. Every day in training (in Seattle) I go up against them, so it is something new yet something very familiar.
“I’m really looking forward to it, but I like the challenge. I have a tremendous amount of respect for them. Two of the best players in the world, no doubt. This is why we play the game, to be tested like this.”
For Fletcher, the match provides another layer of intrigue being her first return to Gosford in six years. The North Carolina native first headed Down Under for a stint with the now defunct Mariners in 2009.
“It feels like I am going back to my roots,” says the midfielder. “It is where I started my journey down here so I feel it is a little poetic.”
No international player has enjoyed coming to Australia more than Fletcher. Quite literally in fact, with Fletcher now in her sixth visit to the W-League – far more than any foreign player.
“I really really do (like coming to Australia),” Fletcher says. “Ever since my first summer I saw the benefits, and then I saw the development I had from playing here.
“It has been great to see the development of this league getting better and better. And I have been grateful to be a part of it. I have been happy to have this experience of Australia and it is my second home for sure.
“I just enjoy the people. It is very laid back and enjoyable, and that resonates with me. I also enjoy just love Australia. I just enjoy the lifestyle, the nature, the beaches, the country. I find it all very enjoyable.”
But what about on-field differences to the US league? “One is experience,” Fletcher says. “Many of the rosters here are very young. And that is partly why the league was created, which was to create a platform to get into the Matildas.
“There is a real hunger here which I appreciate. The younger players want to learn and grow. Not that we don’t have that in the US, it is just a different environment.
“There is a tactical understanding here that might also be different. You guys (Australians) enjoy having time on the ball, maybe more so than is encouraged in the US. It has helped me work on my time on the ball, which I can take back home.”