23 April, 2024
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Injured Kerr still helps stand-in skipper Catley

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Steph Catley is used to stepping into Sam Kerr’s shoes.

But the Matildas’ stand-in captain is still leaning on her injured superstar teammate as she prepares to lead Australia towards the Paris Olympics.

Wednesday night’s Olympic qualifier against Uzbekistan at Melbourne’s Marvel Stadium – the Matildas will enter with a 3-0 advantage – is Australia’s second since Kerr tore her ACL last month.

Catley, who stepped up as skipper when Kerr was sidelined with a calf injury at the start of last year’s World Cup, insists she is still very much a part of things – albeit from the other side of the world.

“I’m still very much leaning on Sam and she’s very much involved in a lot of the decision making and things that we talk about,” Catley said.

“She’s an incredible leader and someone that’s very, very important to this team. 

“So we’re absolutely still involved in talking about things. 

“I did ask her right at the beginning if she ever feels like it’s too much  and she’s got obviously so much to deal with, and so much to focus on with the her injury and getting back (and) she doesn’t want to be involved at whatever point, she’s more than welcome to step away. 

“But she cares about this team so much. So she’s definitely very much on top of everything and I’m still leaning on her for a lot of things. 

“So it’s nice to have her there.”

As captain, Catley has been crucial to helping fresh faces like debutant Kaitlyn Torpey or returned veteran Michelle Heyman settle in the squad.

That players are competing for a spot in a far smaller 18-player squad in Tokyo only adds to the stress.

“It can be difficult,” she conceded. 

“We do obviously have a great consistency in this team so a lot of us have played together for a long, long time.

“Sometimes it can be challenging when a new player comes in because you’re so used to playing with someone else and you’re used to their movements and the way that they play. 

“But I think it’s a credit to the players that have come in straight away at training (and) they’ve been at an incredible level. 

“Technically, tactically, they’ve taken in everything that we do as a team and put that into practice straightaway. 

“It can be a challenge but it’s amazing what they can do as players to come into a set-up and still make an impact and not disturb what’s already there as well. So that’s been fun to watch.”

Melburnian Catley, 30, will have plenty of support on Wednesday.

Even coach Tony Gustavsson has passed on some of his own ticket allocation to the hometown hero.

“Every person I know I feel like has been on my back for a ticket this time around,” she laughed.

“But I’ve got lots and lots of friends coming, the whole family will be there so I’m looking forward to it.”

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