Forward Hannah Beard played a pivotal role as Western Sydney Wanderers overcame the odds to claim a major scalp in the form of city rivals Sydney FC on Sunday.
Having been to the AFC Champions League final the night before, the motivated Wanderers proved they can match anyone on their day with a 2-1 win over the Sky Blues following on from an equally stunning victory over two-time champs Brisbane Roar recently.
The English-born Beard has spent many years away from her native Liverpool playing in the United States and, in recent seasons, for Brisbane Roar and Newcastle Jets in the Westfield W-League. Here she talks through the Wanderers unusual run of results, the motivation provided by the AFC Champions League final and much more.
Most would likely consider the win over Sydney FC a major upset. How did you see the game?
I feel as if we went into the game as underdogs. But a derby is a different thing, and many of the girls are from Western Sydney. We all went to the Wanderers (AFC Champions League) game the night before. The atmosphere was absolutely rocking, and we were all so excited to play the next day. To be fair I think we played really well. We worked hard as a team, and showed we can go for the full 90 because this season we have been a bit inconsistent and been in most of the games in the first half, and then fallen apart at times.
So how much of a motivation was Saturday night’s AFC Champions League final?
People at the game were asking about us, and we want to be able to say we are winning. With the guys doing so well, I think it was definitely a big influence for us getting pumped up for the game.
How do you see your own form this season?
I have definitely not come into form yet. I think this is the first game where I have actually played well. It is nice to be back on the wing again, where I usually play. I felt like I got a lot of the ball, and was able to run at players which I think is one of my strengths. I think every single player played well. Pommie (Caitlin Jarvie) in her first game back did so well, and showed a lot of heart. I think she is a natural centre mid, and did really well in the No10 role.
How is it being an older player in a pretty young group?
We are actually split roughly half and half. We have a bit of fun saying (Michelle) Carney is the grandma of the team! Me, Keelin (Winters), Kendall (Johnson), Jess Seaman, Caitlin Cooper are all around the same age. I played with the Jets last season in a similar situation when we had a lot of young players. It is good to have some senior players, but the younger girls work really hard. They are like sponges and absorb everything (coach) Norm (Boardman) says. They try really hard, and they want to be there, and want to learn and get better. Some are in the U-20s (Westfield Young Matildas) and will really be big players in the future. At the same time it has been a big step up from the local league.
How are you enjoying life in Australia?
I love Australia and really enjoy it. I have been lucky to travel to a few places while I have been here. Obviously I am a long way from home and that plays on my mind slightly.
The Wanderers have claimed two wins now, both against the clubs with the best record in the Westfield W-League. You must now back yourself against anyone you play against?
We should do yeah! I haven’t thought about it like that. It seems we get up for the bigger games. Now is the time to prove ourselves in the second half of the season. After the 10-1 loss that was the ultimate low in all our careers. Hopefully that will give us an extra push for the rest of the season.
Most important question last… What will you spend your Westfield Player of the Match on?
Well, we are going to the races next week, so I think I will go to Westfield and buy myself a dress.