Winning partnership

Western United and Calder United have joined forces. (Western United)

Tara Murray

Western United has shown its commitment to the growth of female soccer, forming a partnership with the top female team in Melbourne’s west, Calder United.

Western United, which has applied for a W-League license for the 2022 season, will work with Calder United, sharing resources and expertise to grow participation in the sport and talent pathways for females of all ages to fulfill their sporting ambitions.

The partnership vision includes programs from juniors, through the transitional youth years and on to the high performing Women’s National Premier League (NPLW) in the hope of producing the next crop of young and senior Matildas, as well as forming the core of a future Western United W-League team.

The Keilor Park-based Calder United claimed all three trophies on offer in 2019, winning the National Premier League women’s title, the Nike FC Cup and the 2019 Premiership. It’s the only team in Melbourne’s west in the NPLW.

Western United chairman Jason Sourasis said they wanted to nurture and develop the football talents of all people from Melbourne’s west.

“This partnership will be the first of its kind in Australian female football,” he said.

“It will enable participants to have consistent programs within one clear, robust development pathway right through to the W-League.

“Without it, we felt we weren’t truly representing our region and diverse fanbase. The club is committed to supporting FFA’s target of 50:50 male-to-female participation in the sport by 2027, and today’s announcement is a big step towards achieving that vision.”

Calder United president Amanda Stella said the partnership would not only benefit her club, but other clubs in the west.

She said discussions had started 18 months ago about forming a partnership before all coming together in the last few weeks.

“I’m very excited,” she said. “It’s about the full picture and Calder is at the forefront and will look to bring everyone on the journey.

“Calder is looking forward to being able to continue with the development of female footballers while working closely with Western United to build a platform for the successful transition of players through mini Roos, NPLW and the W-League.

“Western United is developing the female space, before they have set up a boys [junior] space, which is a big tick for us.

“What we’re doing with it, is putting female football on the map.

“There’s been some hard work to make it happen and United is an amazing bunch of people there.”

Ms Stella said there was no other programs like this in Victoria and hoped that it would be the start of something bigger.

She said they had players who could match it with the international players who play in the W-League.

Several Calder players have signed with Victory and City for the upcoming W-League season.

“It makes sense and it’s a win-win situation,” she said.

“It’s a uniformed approach and we’ll work with United to be the number one female team.

“We’re producing players and the opportunities we can give them are getting better.

“Other clubs and their coaches and players will be invited. The journey will be good.”

Western United is also planning several on and off-field programs in the areas of women’s development and leadership, complemented by investments in female football employment and female community scholarships to be announced in 2021.