KICKING ON: Natasha Ridley is one of the exciting Ipswich teenagers being given first team opportunities at Western Pride.
KICKING ON: Natasha Ridley is one of the exciting Ipswich teenagers being given first team opportunities at Western Pride. Chris Simpson

Pride's punishing pre-season to bolster women's program

WESTERN Pride women's coach Belinda Kitching is delighted the club's recent licence renewal has allowed her to start work on a punishing pre-season schedule.

Pride finish their NPL Queensland Women's campaign against Gold Coast City on Saturday, hoping to set a platform for next season.

Kitching said her priority over the next few months was to forge her team into a more competitive unit.

"This will see players be put outside their comfort zones to improve their knowledge and skills and set higher expectations within themselves to become better players," Kitching said.

"The proposed pre-season has scared a few of the girls but hopefully provides them with the understanding that this is where the program is needing to go if we want to be competitive."

Pride initially missed out on a licence for next season, but talks between the club and Football Queensland resulted in the decision reversed late last month.

Kitching said the professional way in which all parties resolved the situation helped lessen the impact on her players during the period of uncertainty.

"As a collective group we were shaken by the decision but we never stopped believing we deserved to be in the NPL competition," Kitching said.

"Throughout the whole time the club had shown true support and professionalism in how they approached FQ and in giving the players as much information as they could.

"This allowed the players to focus on their football."

News of the renewed licence came as Pride celebrated Elli Chapple and Brisbane Roar's former Pride youngster Holly McQueen being invited to the Mini Matilda's selection camp.

In the same week the importance of female football development was highlighted when the senior Matildas won the Tournament of Nations ahead of powerhouses Brazil and the US.

 

Former Australian goalkeeper and Western Pride women's coach Belinda Kitching.
Former Australian goalkeeper and Western Pride women's coach Belinda Kitching. David Nielsen

Kitching said the retention of an NPL licence in the Ipswich region was critical at a time when the Matildas were drawing an increasing number of girls to football.

"Pride's under 13 and under 15 girls (in second and third respectively) are making successful headway through consistent training and playing standards faced each week," Kitching said.

"We are wanting to work more with clubs and schools within our region to provide these pathways and further increase female numbers."

First though, Pride face a final challenge when Gold Coast City visit on Saturday.

Gold Coast will be keen to win their last competitive game after electing not to renew its Women's licence beyond this season.

But Pride are in a confident mood having won their previous home fixture and knowing they pushed City all the way in a narrow 1-0 away loss earlier in the season.

Kitching said Pride go into every match looking to get a result.

"With such a young squad, this year we have been working hard on holding shape as a unit when defending and taking goal-scoring chances when they present themselves," Kitching said.

"Becoming very short of numbers due to injuries was the biggest challenge this year but the players learned if we stay strong we will get a result eventually."

Pride's 4.45pm clash with Gold Coast is at the Briggs Road Sporting Complex as part of a big Saturday program of home games.



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