The recent reshuffling within the Australian coaching ranks has been completed, with the FFA announcing on Wednesday afternoon that former Matilda Leah Blayney was set to take over as boss of both the Young Matildas and Future Matildas program.
Emerging from the American collegiate system, where she played for Auburn University and Central Connecticut State University, 33-year-old Blayney represented the Matildas 16 times over the course of her playing career and had club stints with Macarthur Rams, Sydney FC, Boston Aztec, Canberra United, Boston Breakers and Eskilstuna United DFF.
The former midfielder has for the past three years been working as an assistant coach with the Young Matildas side she is now set to take over – including serving as Head Coach of an under-23 selection at last year’s AFF Women’s Championship – as well as a stint as Matildas Assistant Coach under the FFA Female Coach Mentor Program and as a lead scout role for both the Rio Olympics and the Women’s World Cup in France.
Blayney fills the vacancy created when Gary van Egmond was named as the boss of the Young Socceroos in late June. van Egmond, in turn, filled a void created when Ante Milicic was shifted from the Young Socceroos to the Matildas’ post.
She becomes the second female boss of an Australian national team; Rae Dower currently in charge of the Junior Matildas side.
“I am grateful for the opportunity and look forward to taking on both roles,” Blayney said upon her ascension to the posts.
“Our Young Matildas and Future Matildas programs are an extra layer to support our senior women’s national team, and I very much look forward to continuing to create a nurturing, supportive, and professional environment that will continue to set a high standard for these players.”
Blayney’s first task will be to steer her side for through 2019 AFC U19 Women’s Championship in Thailand this October/November.
Grouped alongside the host nation, North Korea, and Vietnam, the Young Matildas will need to finish one of the top two sides in their group to advance to the tournament’s semi-finals; where they would then clash against one of two sides from of a group containing Japan, China, South Korea and Myanmar.
A win in the semi-final would ensure qualification for the Young Matildas first U20 Women’s World Cup since the 2006 tournament in Russia; when they exited in the group stages.
Defeat, though, would mean that Australia would have to win the third-place playoff to ensure that its 14-year absence from the World Cup wasn’t extended.