New Zealand take on the 10th ranked Matildas twice in four days – a team they haven’t beaten on Australian soil in 21 years, or anywhere else for that matter in 18 years.
But ending a 12 match losing streak against China last week with consecutive victories in Auckland has given the London-bound Ferns a spring in their step heading into a predictably heated trans-Tasman derby series.
Swedish based professionals Ali Riley and Kirsty Yallop have returned to Europe for club duty meaning New Zealand coach Tony Readings will make at least two changes to his starting line-up but he says he intended to look deeper into his squad during this series anyway.
“It’ll take a whole squad to win a medal in London,” Readings said, “there’s six games in 16 days and it’s a question of when, not if, players will be called on. Everyone will need to be ready.”
“On this tour there will be opportunities handed to players who didn’t play much, or at all, against China.
“We are serious about becoming a team that is capable of winning six games at the Games and winning a gold medal.
“Earning back-to-back wins over China, and needing to draw on different qualities to achieve the wins over a nation we’d never beaten, were important steps in that process.
“There’s five warm up matches left and we must improve in every one of those.”
Riley’s absence should see German-based fullback Anna Green enjoy more game time while Annalie Longo and Betsy Hassett appear the front runners to fill Yallop’s boots in midfield after being used off the bench against China. Holly Patterson and Katie Bowen who have both played in defence and midfield for New Zealand should also see some action as they push for Olympic places.
Hannah Wilkinson and Rebecca Smith had their on-field minutes restricted against China as medical staff managed their recovery from injury but could both see more time against Australia.
Readings is expecting a more physical approach from the Australians and while he says he may tinker with formations in the upcoming matches he is backing the Ferns new possession-based style of play to reap rewards.
“We’re adopting a style that gives us more opportunities to win matches against a variety of teams and the long-term payoff will be worth it.”
The first test kicks off on Sunday at 5pm New Zealand time.
Football Ferns v Australia
WIN Stadium, Wollongong, Australia
3pm (5pm NZT)
Football Ferns v Australia
12.30pm (2.30pm NZT)
New Zealand (from): 1-Jenny BINDON (GK), 2-Ria PERCIVAL, 3-Anna GREEN, 4-Katie HOYLE, 5-Abbey ERCEG, 6-Rebecca SMITH (captain), 8-Hayley MOORWOOD, 9-Amber HEARN, 10-Sarah GREGORIUS, 12-Betsy HASSETT, 13-Rebekah STOTT, 14-Holly PATTERSON, 15-Emma KETE, 16-Annalie LONGO, 17-Hannah WILKINSON, 18-Katie BOWEN, 19-Kristy HILL, 20-Rebecca ROLLS (GK).
Coach: Tony READINGS