Youth in focus: Alana Cerne
Front Page Football returns to the A-League Women for our Youth In Focus in the wake of a tremendous Cup of Nations performance by the Matildas. League leaders Western United have a true gem in Alana Cerne, and it's the 20-year-old defender we take a closer look at this week.
Alana Cerne became Western United's inaugural A-League Women signing back in August. (Western United)
Western United's rise to prominence in the A-League Women has been meteoric. In the first year of their women's program, Western has managed tremendous results over league stalwarts Melbourne City, Sydney FC, Melbourne Victory, and Canberra United, currently sitting five points clear of City at the top of the A-League Women ladder. Mark Torcaso has built one of the strongest squads in the competition, finding great value in the market. International signings of American top scorer Hannah Keane and Guyana international defender Sydney Cummings have been strokes of genius from the former Calder United coach. Adriana and Melissa Taranto's consistency guides Western through some difficult matches. Meanwhile, the goals have been flowing for Western thus far this season, as they've scored 27 in 13 games. A second-best defensive record of 13 goals conceded has played a large part in Western's success. In this vain, we highlight the blossoming talent of Alana Cerne, rising from the Victorian NPL to become a mainstay in the league leaders' defence.
Playing under Torcaso at Calder United, Cerne vaulted to the A-League Women, becoming Western United's inaugural signing for their first season in top-tier Australian women's football. Cerne isn't the only Calder player who joined Western, with the Taranto twins, Stacey Papadopoulos, Raquel Deralas, Harriet Withers, Emma Robers, Julia Sardo, Aleksandra Sinclair, Natasha Dakic, and Alyssa Dall’Oste all joining the club ahead of their inaugural season. Beginning her footballing tutelage at Fawkner SC, Cerne has undoubtedly been a significant part of the pathway building between Western United and the local NPL competitions in Victoria. Western has delved into its local footballing talent pools, leading to an unbelievable first season.
Speaking to KeepUp recently, Cerne reflected on how privileged she feels to play professional football and her surprise at being approached by Western United.
"I was eight years old and I was thinking to myself; I want to be a professional footballer one day," Cerne said.
“When I got the phone call from the club, I was actually at work and when I heard that they wanted to sign me as a first-ever player my first thought was 'are you sure?'
Cerne has asserted herself as a starting centre-back alongside Sydney Cummings, showing poise in possession, defensive solidity, and maturity, unlike many other young defenders entering their rookie season. Cerne has averaged one tackle and interception per match after starting 11 of 13. Whilst this statistic is lower than other defenders, the high tempo often displayed in the Western midfield by the Tarantos, Jaclyn Sawicki, and Robers means they are picking up the significant defensive workload. Every week, Cerne demonstrates her positional sense and intelligence, winning 2.6 duels per match, with the Western United defence snuffing out opposition attacks. Cerne is also very comfortable on the ball, averaging 27.5 passes per match at a 75% success rate, whilst also completing 0.5 dribbles per match, often starting transitional play from the backline into the midfield and attacking third. She has shown real promise when launching long balls for Western's talented attackers to chase, completing 2.8 per match and showing shades of Matilda Alanna Kennedy. Cerne's displays this season suggest that she could be the focal point of the Western defence for years.
Cerne on the ball for Western during their clash against Wellington last month. (Jonathan DiMaggio/Getty Images)
As Western United push for silverware for the first time of asking to crown their incredible first-ever A-League Women's season, Torcaso will ask more from the several rookie players in his squad. Alana Cerne will undoubtedly be amongst this group, as her talent has shone through up until this point in season 2022/23, so much so that she may find herself on the Matildas' radar in years to come. With names such as Clare Hunt and Charlotte Grant being given opportunities at an international level, it's evident that the Matildas are continually looking to bolster their squad with a new crop of young talent. Cerne is not in many immediate discussions about an international career. But should she find consistent form and presence in the Western United defence, Cerne could represent her country in the future.
All statistics sourced from SofaScore.
Click here to read last week's 'Youth In Focus' on Macarthur midfielder Jake Hollman.