Scandinavia becoming a new pathway for fringe and future Matildas
Last Monday, the Matildas saw another squad member join a Scandinavian side, with Katrina Gorry announcing her transfer to Sweden's Vittsjo FK for the upcoming season.
She will see out this season with the Brisbane Roar before jetting off to join her new club in time for the 2022 Damallsvenskan season.
Gorry will also link up with fellow Matilda Clare Polkinghorne. The latter joined the club in 2021, with Gorry looking to work her way back into the national side following the birth of baby daughter Harper.
Katrina Gorry puts pen to paper on a move to Sweden. (Instagram: katrinagorry10)
This move will see Gorry become the fifth Australian to ply her trade in Sweden this upcoming season.
Aside from Polkinghorne, she joins Teagan Micah and Charli Grant, who play for current champions FC Rosengard, and Elise Kellond-Knight, who is currently contracted to Hammarby IF.
The Scandinavian region has become an attractive option for Matilda's hopefuls. Four players are currently based in Denmark, while Karly Roestbakken and Nikola Orgill play their football in the Norwegian top flight.
Meanwhile, Alex Huynh and Dylan Holmes returned to Australia from Denmark and Sweden last month. Emma Checker also recently finished a stint in Iceland.
More Aussie girls now see these countries as viable pathways to European football.
Katrina Gorry will join current Matildas star Clare Polkinghorne at Vittsjo FK. (Bildbyran)
It may not be as familiar to football fans down under as the NWSL and the English WSL are.
But the competitions in this region have proven beneficial for Australians looking to make their mark overseas.
Many Matildas have gone to Denmark or Sweden for their first foray into Europe, most notably Lydia Williams, who played for Pitea IF in Sweden between 2012 and 2013.
But with many Matildas now looking to forge careers in Europe, the advantages of moving to countries in this region will be hard to look over.
The Scandinavian nations have an excellent reputation in women’s football, with Sweden the standout. Their national team is ranked second in the world, and according to UEFA's latest women’s club coefficients, the Damallsvenskan is among the top five leagues in Europe.
Denmark and Iceland’s premier divisions are also in the top 10, while Norway’s Toppserien is ranked 12th.
These nations also offer the opportunity to be a part of a professional setup, allowing players to put their entire focus on football.
They can play almost double the number of league games, plus cup competitions, helping the Matildas to the top-level minutes they need.
This alternative is undoubtedly more beneficial than having to play six months of a year in one of the local NPL’s, as our Australian based players do currently.
All of Iceland’s, Norway’s, and Denmark’s top divisions have at least two spots in the UEFA Women’s Champions League.
Meanwhile, the Damallsvenskan has three, giving girls based in the region the possibility of Champions League football.
Micah and Grant’s FC Rosengard will compete in next seasons UWCL as Swedish champions, while several other Aussies narrowly missed out on featuring in the competition's next edition.
Teagan Micah celebrates winning the Damallsvenskan alongside Australian teammate Charlotte Grant. (Instagram: teganmicah_)
The opportunity to be in top-level competitions is one thing. But ensuring you are getting minutes on the field is also a significant factor in players making a move there.
It’s been satisfying to see Caitlin Foord, Alanna Kennedy, Emily Gielnik, and Kyah Simon contracted to big WSL clubs. But the lack of game time they are getting could affect their performances for the national team.
Clare Wheeler, meanwhile, has been an essential figure in Fortuna Hjorring’s side and was one of the Matildas better players in their otherwise disappointing Asian Cup campaign.
Although the WSL should undoubtedly be the goal, a move to Denmark or Sweden could help build these players' reputations before further stepping up.
There is also evident respect from these nations towards Australian players.
Vittsjo made a statement in their announcement of Gorry that this was a move based on strengthening the squad to achieve a spot in Europe, showing the belief they have in the fringe Matilda.
In Denmark, meanwhile, Fortuna Hjorring offered young Matildas Kyra Cooney-Cross, Courtney Nevin, Remy Siemsen, and Jamilla Rankin the chance to train with the squad between September and October's international breaks. Hjorring proposed this opportunity so the group could travel with the Matildas and avoid Australian lockdown measures.
Hjorring spoke about the experience on their Instagram, saying that the four players helped “raise the level” of their preparations for upcoming league games.
The impression they made on the club could prove valuable, as all four players will likely be looking to make a more permanent move to Europe soon.
One of the most significant advantages that will come from making a move to a Scandinavian nation will be the chance to play under the watchful eye of Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson.
Gustavsson is still based in Sweden for family reasons.
He can keep a close eye on any young players making a name for themselves if they play in Sweden, Denmark, or another nearby country.
Gustavsson already handed out Matilda's debuts to Dylan Holmes, Indiah Paige-Riley, Charlotte Grant, and Clare Wheeler, to name a few, after they impressed in Denmark and Sweden.
Those call-ups showed his willingness to give players in these leagues the chance to prove themselves in the national team environment.
Clare Wheeler made her Matildas debut in September, shortly after making her debut for Danish side Fortuna Hjorring. (Getty Images)
The opportunities the Scandinavian region can bring for the Matildas, and particularly the young Matildas, cannot be ignored right now.
As Gorry moves over there to help increase her chances of making the 2023 Women’s World Cup squad, it should be no surprise if more players look to follow suit.
By moving to Scandinavia, Australia's fringe players will get the chance to make that step up to a more reputable competition and perform week in week out right under Gustavsson's nose.
Therefore, it will surely help boost their chances of forcing their way into the Matildas squad.
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