Who's Who: Coaches - Brisbane's Hopkins & Sydney's Stajcic

This week Girls FC is lucky to have two Who-s Who in Ws—Brisbane Roar coach Jeff Hopkins and Sydney FC coach Alan Stajcic. They-re currently prepping for the Westfield W-League grand final, where their teams will go head to head for the second year in a row!

Jeff Hopkins

In approaching the game this Saturday will you be encouraging the girls as if it-s just another game? Will your own nerves be intensified?

In some respects we will be treating the game as just another game. Our training preparation will be similar through the week and we will keep the routine similar. But this is grand final week and we want it to be a bit special and want the players to enjoy the build up to game. The week is too busy to feel any nerves, but they will come just before kick off. I will feel the nerves the same as the players—it-s at this time as a coach you hope everything you and the team have done in the week will be enough to win the game.

Will you be changing anything in regards to training session/preparation this week?

A very light pitch recovery session on Monday, a game of football golf and head tennis, then ice baths and massage to help them recover from the extra time and penalties. There-ll also be penalty kick practice for outfield players and goalkeepers.

You-re playing away from home. The Sydney crowds can be quite vocal. Does this concern you?

I haven-t noticed the Sydney crowds being any more vocal than anywhere else in the country, and the Westfield W-League supporters are also pretty fair and appreciate good football. We are used to playing in front of good crowds in Queensland, so going away doesn't bother us from a crowd perspective. Sometimes playing away is better for the team, as keeps the squad together in a controlled environment leading into the game and team moral and bonding gets better.

How do you think the girls have recovered physically after the semi final on Saturday against Canberra United? Do you think this will affect their energy levels during the game?

Surprisingly well! The game was physically demanding, so our recovery started straight after the game finished, with stretching, ice baths, eating and rehydrating. We have a very professional and conscientious group of players, and it is obvious from their physical state on Monday they had looked after themselves.

We are also aware of the mental stress that penalty shoot outs can have, so we have tried to keep things light and easy and relaxed and given the squad practices that they enjoy. They will be full of energy and ready to go by Saturday.

In your own team, who do you think will be the players to look out for in this weekend-s battle?

The midfield will be a key area for us. If we can take control it will give us a great advantage, so we will be looking to Lauren Colthorpe and Aivi Luik to dominate. Tameka Butt-s energy and enthusiasm and Lisa De Vanna and YaYa Cordner-s pace will also make them ones to watch.

Who do you find a threat among the Sydney FC girls?

Kyah Simon is in great form and can turn games in an instant with her skill and pace. Leena Khamis is in good scoring form and poses a physical threat. Playmaker Kylie Ledbrook is classy player who can open games up with her passing ability. At the back I have a lot of respect for Daniel Brogan and Servet Uzunlar—their duels with Lana Harch, De Vanna, and YaYa will be a highlight of the game.

Your career highlight to date? Your most satisfying moment?

The inaugural Westfield W-League win—being the first is special and will never be done by anyone else. Seeing so many Roar players involved in the winning of the Asian Cup—a reward for all the work they do

You two are some of the most successful coaches in Australian women-s football. What attributes do you look out for in aspiring footballers?

Ball-handling and ball-striking skills. Good game awareness and understanding. A good attitude—is she coachable (listens, works hard, doesn't quit)?

What kind of advice do you have for younger girls?

Get a ball at your feet and practise. Get lots of touches of the ball, play in the street, play at school, play with your mates, and enjoy your football.

Your advice for young football coaches?

Watch and listen to experienced coaches. Look and learn, but always be yourself. Study the game and never stop learning.

Alen Stajcic

In approaching the game this Saturday will you be encouraging the girls as if it-s just another game? Will your own nerves be intensified?

I'm always a bit nervous, but these players are all fairly experienced. Despite the hype around the occasion and all the extra pressure we put on ourselves, at the end of the day it just comes down to being another football match against opponents who know each others- games inside out.

How are you feeling personally about the game this weekend? Do you think your girls will be ready?

The players have worked extremely hard for about six months now, so I am 100% sure they will be ready. I am also sure it will be a great contest where most of the best footballers in the country will be displaying their skills

Will you be changing anything in regards to training session/preparation this week?

No, our training will continue as normal. The players are always striving to improve at training and this week will be no different

In your own team, who do you think will be the players to look out for?

Our whole squad of 19 have performed really well this season, so it would a bit unfair of me to say one player will dictate the result this week more than any other. They are all capable of producing high levels of football.

Who do you find a threat among the Queenslanders?

In the front third, obviously Lisa De Vanna and Meeks [Tameka Butt] are dangerous, but Lana Harch always seems to fire up against us as well. KK [Elise Kellond-Knight] is a great player and so is Casey Dumont and so are…the list goes on and on. They are a great squad. I'm sure all are capable of being a threat, and I'm sure they'll provide a great contest on Saturday

How much of an advantage do you think you and the girls will have by playing at home?

Have you seen our record at Campbelltown??? So not really. Whoever plays the best on the day will win (old cliché, I know). I don't think us playing there will be a decisive factor.

Will you try to capitalise on the tired bodies of the Queenslanders due to their lengthy semi final battle?

They had an extra day to recover, but either way I am sure they'll be fine. Unfortunately we can't rely on [fatigue] to beat them, so we-re sticking to our usual game plans and hope we execute well enough on the day to come out on top.

Your career highlight to date? Your most satisfying moment?

This Saturday, hopefully.

You two are some of the most successful coaches in Australian women-s football. What attributes do you look out for in aspiring footballers?

Technique at a younger age. Then, hopefully, they have some athletic genes, but most importantly the desire to compete and improve. Without these last two attributes, succeeding at any level of sport is pretty difficult!

What kind of advice do you have for younger girls?

My advice focuses around a couple of key concepts: FUN, FUN, and FUN. Without that as the foundation of playing football at any level, then I think it-s just too hard. To reach elite levels, however, the fun needs to expand to include that willingness to get better, the ability listen to older players or coaches and to work as hard as you can when you can

Anything else you would like to add?

Hopefully the football fraternity will come out and give the support that these players deserve. We will have 30 fantastic players on the field on Saturday and it-s important that if younger girls want this league to continue to be a success into the long term, then they must support it now.

Thanks for speaking with us Jeff and Staj! We wish you both the best of the luck on the weekend!