Matildas midfielder Chloe Logarzo is living her dream. At 23 years of age, she is in the prime of her footballing career and is part of a successful Matildas squad capable of World Cup glory.
It could easily have been a different story.
In and out of the Matildas’ squad during her developmental years, Logarzo resorted to labouring just so she could earn enough to fund her training, to one day become a national team regular.
“I actually had to go and get a full-time job,” Logarzo said.
“I was working in my high-vis and work boots trying to make as much as I can to make a living. It’s great to see girls can now look into being a national team player, as an elite athlete.”
Football Federation Australia (FFA) hopes Logarzo’s experience will never need to be replicated by the brightest female stars of the sport, thanks to its Future Matildas training program launched in Sydney on Monday.
“We have to make sure that the 15 to 20-year-olds who have ability, are ready to make the step up to the Matildas,” FFA chief executive David Gallop said.
“Because the W-League season is quite short, we needed a program that would provide intense training, so these guys could make the step to the Matildas, at the right time.”
The development regime, which is a joint initiative, will run for seven months between each W-League season and will also see current Matildas invited to train with emerging talent.
Matildas coach Alen Stajcic, in charge of the national team since 2014 and involved with women’s football for over a decade, believes the program builds on Australia’s competitive advantage.
“For these young players to have the opportunity to train with the best coaches but also train and play with current Matildas,” he said.
“It’s something most countries can’t do. It’s us showing a little bit of Aussie know-how, to make the best out of our current environment.”
Matildas assistant coach Gary van Egmond will be the inaugural head coach of the program, which will recruit athletes from all over the country and be based in western Sydney.
“It gives the Matildas a daily training environment. For the 15 to 20-year-olds, it gives them homestay support,” Stajcic said.
Future Matildas to develop ‘pillars’ of national squad
Monday’s announcement comes just over a year after the FFA decided to end the Centre of Excellence at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra, which had developed a number of Socceroos.
At the time, Gallop said the governing body’s intent was to decentralise development programs and put them back in the hands of A-League clubs.
But with an urgent need to create world-class female playing talent with the possibility of a pivotal home women’s World Cup looming in 2023, a centralised program has again emerged.
— Football NSW (@footballnsw) May 14, 2018
In this case it has been engineered by Australia’s best women’s coaches, who are strong advocates for such programs, given the bulk of the current Matildas squad was developed in a similar way.
Logarzo says it was tough dealing with the changes, when she was coming through the ranks.
“I was involved in the NSWIS (New South Wales Institute of Sport) program when it was around and when I left school it folded,” she said.
“There are five players in the national team that were involved in that NSWIS program and you can see that they are now the pillars in the national team.”
The Future Matildas program will initially run until 2020 and has been underpinned by $70,000 of New South Wales Government funding along with financial support from the Australian Sports Commission.
Other collaborators include the FFA, NSWIS and Football NSW.
“For us to be able to progress as a national team, we have gotten so far, for us to keep going we need the grassroots to keep coming through,” Logarzo said.