"We deserved better" - Disappointing campaign frustrates Canberra midfielder Robinne
The first-ever French female footballer to sign professionally in Australia, Margot Robinne, just played her last game of a frustrating season with Canberra United. Despite the disappointing results, she believes her positive first year in the capital “was a blast.”
Robinne (right) in a match against Sydney FC. (Getty Images)
When she arrived in Australia in 2017, the number 10 did not think about playing professionally at first.
“I joined a friend I used to play with at Rouen and in the French Futsal national team. She is running football academies for girls in Victoria. She told me to sign with her local team, so I played a couple of games in [the] State League,” Robinne recently told Front Page Football.
Watching the then Westfield W-League and the NPLW more closely gave the French player an inkling to play professionally for a team down under.
“I like to work in the shadows. I signed with an NPLW team, thinking that my performances would convince W-League clubs. I told myself, 'if I score goals, they’ll come get me',” she added.
And score goals she did, with 16 in 16 games for her first Australian club Bayside United FC.
Back in her youth in France, scoring goals was already Robinne's forte. In her last three seasons with French second-tier side Montigny-Le-Bretonneux, she was unstoppable, with 41 goals in 61 games.
Then came a knee injury, but then hope of a fresh start with Rouen (17 goals in 27 games), before more injuries, a short adventure in Toulouse, and finally the trip to Australia.
Despite her solid first season in the NPLW Victoria, the professional clubs did not come knocking yet.
“It’s not easy for a foreign player without a name, and an agent, to find a club,” she said.
So Robinne decided to contact Melbourne City herself, and she was successful. In 2020, she signed the first professional contract of her career.
“I remember calling my parents, ‘I made it, it’s a dream, I can finally focus on football and nothing else,” she said.
“Psychologically and physically, playing as a pro changes everything. Now I know why I used to lose 11-0 to Lyon!”
Robinne has fond memories of her one year in Melbourne.
“At Melbourne City, everything is done for you. You don’t think about anything else than training. Everything else is sorted for you, anticipated for you,” she said.
Canberra celebrate a victory; a rare sight this season. (Getty Images)
At the end of a complicated season with a young team, she knows which club she would rather play for, Canberra United.
“What I enjoyed most watching them playing last year, and what I came here for, is the mindset. On the pitch, the team spirit is awesome. It is a real team; the girls play for each other, fight for each other,” she added.
She signed with United in October 2021 and instantly loved it.
“It was what I expected from the get-go: the group, the team spirit. We are a young team; I am the second oldest here,” she said.
The expectations were high for a team that reached the semi-finals last season. But the results, unfortunately, did not follow in the 2021/22 campaign.
“There were a few changes during the off-season. Our team also lacked a bit of experience,” Robinne continued.
“It’s frustrating because the team gelled well; we played well from the get-go. We were having fun; we had the possession, the opportunities. The stats show we were in it.
“We are the team who drew the most this season, with some crazy results.
“The game that hurt the most is Adelaide United at home. We dominate, have opportunities, don’t convert them, and concede every time they have half a chance. Score these chances, and it changes everything.”
The results were frustrating, but the group's togetherness made an impression on Robinne. It also made her realize the cultural difference between her country of birth and the one she thrives in today.
“We have always been like this (she put her two hands together, gesturing solidarity), win or lose. We stayed positive no matter what,” she said.
A disappointed Robinne after a 0-0 draw against Victory at Vikings Park. (Getty Images)
“In France, we are a bit more…. grumpy,” she laughs. “Here, you lose 3-0, and you are congratulated for the great game you played. I was like, how can I be good? We lost 3-0!
“But that’s Australia; everyone is always trying to have a positive outtake on things. I am not there yet, but I am trying!”
Another difference between the two countries is the training regime.
“In France, the focus is on technique and tactics only. Here, the girls might not [be] as technically gifted as in Europe, but physically, it’s another world. They are real athletes over here,” she added.
“The other way around, when players like Emma Checker and Jenna McCormick signed in France and Spain, they giggled when they saw what the gyms look like.
“You must adapt, change your football. Here, you run a lot more.
“I have always loved possession football, but here, I felt like I was slowing down the game. I had to work on it, find the balance between my comfort zone and what the game demands.”
With Canberra this season, Robinne was used as a holding midfielder, an attacking midfielder, and a winger.
“I had a blast. I am quite polyvalent, so I put the team first and do what’s needed. Of course, I love playing the number 10 role, but I will always play where the team needs me,” Robinne said.
The French midfielder remembers having this exact discussion with teammate Hayley Taylor-Young. When the winger was asked to play full back, she quickly shone in that position.
As a result, Taylor-Young is in the top three players who have impressed Robinne the most at United.
“I did not see it coming. I was told, ‘she (Taylor-Young) is a winger; she scores goals’. Then I saw her defending skills. I called her the bulldog. I would hate to have her defending me,” she said.
“Her energy, her relentless efforts, were so important and impressive.
“I told her, 'maybe you don’t love playing lower on the pitch, but wing-back, or full back, is your position'. The way she defends, her ability to go back and forth, everything about her screamed wing-back.”
The other two players Robinne highlighted play at opposite ends of the pitch: an up-and-coming goalkeeper and a Julie Dolan award winner.
“Chloe Lincoln, wow. Another one I did not see coming,” she said.
“I sincerely believe she has a bright future. In green and gold even. She is one to watch.
“At training, she works hard and impresses.
“She is young and still has loads to learn, but she is tall, can play with both feet, works hard, and is very humble. That mindset, to me, is so important.
17-year old Chloe Lincoln impressed in her Liberty A-League Women debut. (Getty Images)
“Ashleigh Sykes, I did not know her at all. It is never easy to come back and play in [the] A-League Women after a break, and I believe that if she had been fit all season, she would have caused a lot of problems to a lot of teams.
“Her influence off the pitch can’t be understated either. She has a unique personality, and she is so important.
“Her ability to step back, analyse accurately, and give constructive, helpful feedback in all circumstances is unmatched.”
Canberra finally got their first win against Western Sydney in mid-February. The girls in green then finished the season undefeated, even avoiding defeat against reigning champions Melbourne Victory twice.
“That last game against Victory, we shoot 25 times, and we don’t score. A 0-0 against the reigning champion is nice on paper, but for us, it’s frustrating. Like all season, we feel we deserved better,” Robinne said.
Premiers Sydney FC was the one team that impressed Canberra's number eight this season.
“It’s not a cop-out answer; they are a strong team. It’s obvious they (Sydney) have played together for years,” she continued.
“They are not only great players, they are a great team, they attack together, defend together, know what to expect from each other.
“Usually, when the bench comes in, teams can get weaker, but not with Sydney FC. The subs are as good as the starters. You can see, it’s a whole group.”
With the season now over, Robinne is looking to the future. First, she will travel back home and, hopefully, stay on for another year in the capital.
“I have not seen my family in so long. I have a new nephew, [and] there [are] a lot of people I miss!” Robinne said.
“First, I will go back and play in Victoria, with the Boroondara Eagles. They have a shot at promotion, and I want to help them achieve it.
“Then I’ll go back to France, and when I come back, I will get ready for the next season. I want to play with Canberra United again.
“I am very competitive. As long as I can play at a high level, I will do what it takes to keep playing.”
For Robinne, it seems like the future is written in Australia rather than France.
“The Australian experience has been perfect for me. I (almost) speak two languages now, I play at [a] professional level, and the game has more exposure than in France,” she said.
“The difference between the football played and the media coverage you get, Australia is better.
“I will also become [an] Australian citizen soon; my life is here now.”
This upcoming World Cup year, the Liberty A-League Women will be as exciting as ever.
Hopefully, we get to see more of the only French player in the league. With two goals and three assists in green this season, she hinted at what is to come, and we are ready for more.
Want to read more interview pieces like this one? Writer Jeremy Magan also did a feature with former Canberra United midfielder Emma Stanbury, which you can read by clicking here.