A chance to test themselves against some of the world's best has given Canberra United a huge confidence boost for the remainder of their Westfield W-League title defence
A chance to test themselves against some of the world's best has given Canberra United a huge confidence boost for the remainder of their Westfield W-League title defence.
The club has just returned from the inaugural International Women's Club Championship in Tokyo, a four-team tournament bringing together the women's continental champion clubs from around the world.
After losing their first game 4-0 to Japan's INAC Kobe Leonessa, the Australian side rebounded strongly to suffer a 4-3 loss to another Japanese powerhouse, NTV Beleza, in the third-place playoff.
It was a heart-breaking loss, with Canberra leading with 12 minutes to go before conceding two late goals. But star midfielder Sally Shipard says results were heavily outweighed by the learning experience.
"To be pitted against Kobe, for example, who have seven members of the (world champion) Japanese national team, essentially we were over there competing against the best club in the world," said Shipard, who was named the Australian women's footballer of the year while she was away with the side.
"It was just such a learning curve for our club and we took so much from the experience.
"The way we lost the last game was a bit frustrating but we took more positives away from the experience than negatives."
With a focus on homegrown talent, the defending Westfield W-League champions are lighter on experience this year. Goalkeeper Trudy Burke played against the best teams in the world in Tokyo after only two W-League games.
And Westfield Matildas star Shipard feels the experience will greatly benefit Canberra's domestic campaign, as they look to climb from fifth spot on the ladder starting with Saturday's showdown against Sydney FC.
"I'm certainly looking forward to our squad returning back to the Westfield W-League and being able to play the way we played over in Japan," Shipard said.
"Bringing the bits and pieces that we learned home to league here will be our main priority over the next few months."
Having arrived back in Australia on Tuesday, Canberra will have to overcome a quick turnaround when they take on the Sky Blues at Leichhardt Oval, and could be without Ariane Hingst (quad tear) and Grace Gill (ankle), who suffered injuries during the International Women's Club Championship.