Melbourne Victory Head Coach Jeff Hopkins says his team is hungry for more success ahead of the 2021/22 A-League Women season.
Victory will enter the campaign as defending champions after winning the Championship for the first time since 2013/14 with a Grand Final success over Sydney FC.
The core of the title-winning squad has returned for Victory, which will begin the new season against Adelaide United at AAMI Park on December 5.
Hopkins said his players were desperate for more success after last season’s title charge.
“It (pre-season) has gone really well. The lockdown was obviously hard to take, but it also gave us one or two advantages that we could get our group in together and start doing a little bit of work together earlier than we would normally,” he said.
“The players, although they haven’t been playing games through that period, they’ve been together, the physical preparation has been there, we’ve had them together on the field a few times as well.
“Most probably if I look back to last year, we’re most probably better prepared at the moment than we were last year.
“I’ve been really pleased with what I’ve seen so far and the attitude of the players is really positive, they’ve had a taste of success last season and we really want to have a real good crack at it again this season.”
A solid core of Victory’s squad last season was young, or playing in Australia’s top flight for the first time.
Kayla Morrison (25) and Claudia Bunge (22) formed a standout central defensive pairing in their first seasons in the A-League Women and Catherine Zimmerman (27) scored six times, while Polly Doran (20), Kyra Cooney-Cross (19), Melina Ayres (22) and MelindaJ Barbieri (21) impressed regularly.
It leaves Hopkins confident there is plenty of room for improvement within the Victory squad.
“There are a lot of players that the league was quite new to them last year and, it was not surprising, but it was great to see how they reacted to the challenge last year and really stood up and stepped up,” he said.
“The great thing about it is they’re young and they’re hungry and they want to get better and they want to experience these things again. That really excites me.
“I’m not going to have to motivate them, they’re just a self-motivating group and they’re feeding off each other at the moment. We’re working hard with them, but we don’t have to really get them motivated.
“They turn up every day, they want to work, they want to work hard, they want to get better and we’re just here to just facilitate that and it makes it a nice environment for the coaching staff to be involved in. I’m really happy with where we are at the moment.”