Melbourne Victory’s W-League squad has been significantly strengthened by the return of Natasha Dowie for the 2017/2018 season.
Dowie holds the club record for most W-League goals in a season (nine in 2016/2017) and is a key part of the squad W-League coach Jeff Hopkins is building.
“We’ve been talking to her since before she left last year,” Hopkins revealed.
“We’ve stayed in touch and I’ve spoken to her regularly.”
Dowie, who is on loan from Boston Breakers, has made 23 appearances this season in the NWSL.
In returning to Victory for her third season, Hopkins is looking to Dowie to continue setting an example for her teammates.
“She’s a real influential person off the field in the dressing room, got very high standards and she’s a great role model for everyone else around her.
“She’s the type of player we want to get our younger players looking up to.
“Part of the attraction for younger strikers in the squad is working with Natasha.
“Tash is the type of player where she’ll spend time with other players and it’s not just about herself.”
Dowie’s sense around goal will be what makes her so valuable to the team on-field.
But in taking her game to another level in 2016/2017, it added an extra dimension to what the 29-year-old can produce.
“When she came here she was a typical target player, gets involved in some of the build-up, but kind of relies on her wingers and people around her.
“As (last) season progressed, we had to change our style a little bit. She had to get used to playing a little bit more on her own and doing things for herself a little bit more.
“She actually said to me that she thought her game really improved in certain areas because she was forced to do certain things she hadn’t done in the past.
“But she does her best work in and around the 18-yard box. We’re going to look to get balls into the box and she’s the one we want in there to finish.”
Dowie will start the season just two goals behind Victory’s all-time leader, Caitlin Friend.