Hopkins: It’s the strongest bond I’ve seen

Melbourne Victory

Melbourne Victory head coach Jeff Hopkins praised the bond formed by his players as they prepare for Sunday’s Westfield W-League Grand Final.

Victory will face Sydney FC at Jubilee Stadium in its third Grand Final and first since 2013/14 as it eyes a second championship.

It has been a season of records and milestones for Victory, which has seen Amy Jackson break the club’s appearance record and MelindaJ Barbieri and Angela Beard become the seventh and eighth players respectively to play 50 Westfield W-League games for the club.

Lia Privitelli is one appearance away from becoming the ninth, while Melina Ayres has played 48 league games in Victory colours.

Barbieri and Privitelli were part of Hopkins’ first Victory squad in 2016/17, while Ayres and Beard arrived a campaign later as the rebuild continued.

Hopkins said the core of the Victory squad had played a key part, but the bond between his players in 2020/21 was unlike anything he has seen previously.

“I think that’s quite an important factor. We’ve brought players in every year and we brought a lot of players in this year,” he said.

“But there are players that are still here that understand the way we do things, understand what we’re all about and they play a very important part in terms of the playing style, most probably the culture of the club as well, I think that’s really important because that’s one thing that should never change and I don’t think it has.

“Although this group of players are an amazing group of players, I think they’ve really invested a lot of time and effort into each other and I think it shows out on the field.

“There’s a real emotional attachment there and I think it’s a very, very strong bond and the strongest bond I’ve seen in a team that I’ve been working with so those players that have been around a lot have helped, especially in the beginning just to help mould where we go as a group, but the bond that there is between this team is as good as I’ve seen anywhere, male, female game, as a player or a coach.

“I’m really just looking forward to the weekend and knowing that I don’t really have to worry too much about motivating this team, we just need to make a few adjustments and they’ll take those on board and they’ll run with it and they’ll look after the other side of things just like they did on the weekend (in a 6-2 Semi Final win over Brisbane Roar).

“I thought it was an amazing performance from our team considering it was our third game in seven days, to play with that intensity, that energy and that quality as well. I was so pleased for the team, so pleased for the girls because they deserved it.”