Key defensive pillars set for integral roles again

Kayla Morrison

An integral part of last season’s A-League Women Championship-winning side, Melbourne Victory has retained most of the defence which led the success.

Victory Medallist Kayla Morrison, New Zealand international Claudia Bunge and young star Polly Doran are all returning for another season.

The trio played every game of the 2020/21 campaign, alongside left-back Angela Beard, who left the Club to join Fortuna Hjorring in June.

While the departure of Beard, last season’s captain, leaves a hole for Victory to fill, Head Coach Jeff Hopkins has added Commonwealth Bank Matilda Courtney Nevin to his squad.

Jeff Hopkins

Goalkeeper Gaby Garton started every game of the Championship success, but Casey Dumont is back after missing last season due to an Achilles injury.

It leaves Victory in good shape ahead of the new campaign beginning against Adelaide United at AAMI Park on December 5.

Victory’s defence last season was a revelation.

Garton, Morrison and Bunge were playing in Australia’s top flight for the first time, while Doran, 19, had made just eight substitute appearances in her A-League Women career. Beard, meanwhile, had established herself as a leading left-back.

It turned out to be one of the league’s most formidable defences.

Victory kept eight clean sheets in 14 games, including denying Sydney FC during the 1-0 extra-time win in the Grand Final.

The performances led to recognition for Garton, Morrison and Beard in particular, with the trio named in the LUCRF Super PFA Team of the Season.

Morrison would be rewarded with the Club’s highest individual honour, too, claiming the Victory Medal.

While Morrison popped up with a goal, Bunge also contributed two in attack to complement her brilliant defensive efforts.

To top it off for Victory, Doran showed incredible growth at right-back.

Doran improved as the season went on, highlighted in the Grand Final, when she won more duels (10) than any of her team-mates.

The trio has Victory in a strong position heading into 2021/22 and Nevin’s arrival should also be a boost.

Already a two-time Australia international who played 28 A-League Women games for the Western Sydney Wanderers, Nevin joins a defence which starred last season, leading to the Championship success.