United Trio Set for AFC Championship Challenge

Three United youngsters are preparing for the AFC U19 Women's Championship following their selection in the squad this week.

Canberra United’s trio of Young Matildas are set for a challenging test as they prepare to embark for the AFC U/19 Women’s Championship 2017 Qualifiers to be held in Nanjing, starting next week.

Midfielder Grace Maher, Goalkeeper Georgia Boric and striker Nickoletta Flannery were all named in Gary Van Egmond’s squad earlier this week and, after three weeks of intense training, will leave the AIS today as they get set for their trip to China in a bid to get through to the next stage 

But preparing for matches isn’t the only thing on the plate of the intrepid up-an-coming youngsters. Juggling their studies and training before they leave, the trio looked relaxed as they spoke to assembled media on Thursday at the AIS about their selection and the tournament.
“I feel pretty confident,” Maher said of the side’s outlook. “I think we’ve had really good preparations leading up to this tournament so I have belief in the team and myself that we can perform.”
The Qualifiers will provide a strong platform for their forthcoming Westfield W-League campaigns as Canberra United kick off just six days after the tournament finishes, and both Maher and Boric are hoping to use it as a springboard for their season in Green.
“I think it puts me in a good position to possibly get a little more game time during the season,” Boric, who was drafted into the squad full-time this season after getting a sampler of what the league was all about last year, said. “And hopefully it is recognised as a really big positive for my development and my career I suppose.”
Maher, who made a stunning breakthrough into the United team in Season 7, is hoping for a few more minutes this season as a result of her Australian selection.
“I think it is really good experience-wise at that next level, a bit more intense and to help push my case for more game-time and be in contention for a starting spot with Canberra United.”
The team will leave for Sydney today before flying out to China on the weekend, and the girls have appreciated the benefits of having training camps at home rather than away.
“I think that [training in Canberra] is one of the easiest things, Maher said.  “Your mind is just at rest, and you’re familiar, and you’ve got your teammates, and it’s just a familiar place.”
The round robin tournament, which is the first stage of qualifying for the FIFA U20 Women’s World Cup, will see the Young Matildas take on the Northern Mariana Islands and Jordan. The top team after the round robin matches advances to the Asian Cup tournament scheduled for October 2017, which doubles as the qualifiers for the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup 2018.

Photo: Lawrence Atkin