What do the Matildas do with Lisa De Vanna?

Merryn Sherwood Roar Rookie

By Merryn Sherwood, Merryn Sherwood is a Roar Rookie

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    The Matildas played Germany in a friendly the other night, but to write about that would fail to address one of the best questions heading into the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup. That is, what is going to happen to Lisa De Vanna?

    See, the thing about De Vanna is that she is supernaturally talented, a brilliant striker with a turn of pace that leaves most defenders dizzy. The 25-year-old is currently one of the most experienced Matildas, having played professionally overseas for years.

    But she’s not exactly a team player.

    Prone to temper tantrums on the pitch, last year De Vanna was suspended for giving her Westfield W-League Perth Glory coach John Gibson a spray and then gave the fans at her home ground the finger.

    At a game I watched in Canberra, she was so frustrated by her team’s performance, she stormed off the field at half time, ahead of everyone else. She then returned after the break a good five minutes after the team, missing the warm-up. It wasn’t surprising when she was dragged shortly after.

    It’s not something new, she’s always been something of an enigma. In a story by Jessica Halloran in Fairfax newspapers during the last World Cup, in 2007, Alistair Edwards, who coached De Vanna for years in Perth, said there was a touch of Diego about her.

    “She’s like Maradona. He was high maintenance … maybe it’s because these players are so talented that we mere mortals can’t understand them,” Edwards said.

    “She goes from being the most committed person to ‘I don’t give a shit’ kind of attitude.”

    He goes on to say, “It’s worth it when you see how she performs in these major tournaments.”

    The question is heading into Germany, is it really going to be worth it?

    De Vanna broke her left leg in the group stages of the Asian Cup this year. She has since been back and playing in the professional American WPS league for Washington. But what that injury does to her speed and confidence is yet to be tested in the Matildas environment, as De Vanna’s American season ran too late for selection on the Peace Cup/Germany tour.

    Then there is the fact that last night in Wolfsburg, the Matildas scored one goal against the current FIFA World Cup champions.

    It came through Sam Kerr, a nimble-footed West Australian with acceleration to burn and a nose for goal.

    Last year, despite missing half the season because of Australian under-17 representative duty, Kerr was named players’ player at the W-League awards. She’s only 17, but she’s got star striker written all over her.

    Almost four years ago in China, De Vanna was played as a super sub off the bench. Extremely effectively might I add, she ended-up in the FIFA All-Star team for that World Cup. But can she do the same role now, and can she still do it better than Sam Kerr?

    It’s going to make for a compelling story, whichever way it finishes.

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    The Crowd Says (17)

    • Roar Guru

      October 31st 2010 @ 9:18am
      Fussball ist unser leben said | October 31st 2010 @ 9:18am | ! Report

      Nice column, Merryn and a very interesting topic that is relevant to every sport – how do we handle the petulant and super-gifted players?

      I have watched quite a few Matilda’s games in the past couple of years and, I have to say, De Vanna is a quality footballer. Her movement off the ball is excellent – she probably gets caught off-side a bit too often, but that often happens when a striker’s mind is working a second quicker than her less visionary midfield teammates; her 1st touch is deft and her ability to find the back of the net cannot be questioned.

      But, as you say she is prone to temper tantrums and is very high-maintenance.

      By contrast, Smantha Kerr seems like a really nice person, who loves being part of the team. However, at this stage Kerr is no where near Da Vanna in terms of technial ability or tactical awareness.

      Interestingly, during the 2010WC, one of my favourite footballers – and, one of the world’s best – Christiano Ronaldo exhibited the same sort of petulant behaviour as we see in Da Vanna and the Portuguese team suffered as a result. It seems Ronaldo’s club manager, Jose Murinho (also a fellow Portuguese) has driven this attitude out of Ronaldo and he seems a totally different player – and his form is as good as it has ever been.

      So, to answer you question … in my opinion, Da Vanna is essential to a the Australian Women’s Football Team BUT … only if she buys in to the team ethic. Either Da Vanna takes it upon herself to change her attitude, or the manager must adopt “the Murinho philosophy” for how to deal with star players, who have big egos and “unhelpful” attitudes.

      • October 31st 2010 @ 12:54pm
        David V. said | October 31st 2010 @ 12:54pm | ! Report

        “less visionary midfield teammates” – like Collette McCallum, whose passing and dead ball delivery are first rate?

        • Roar Guru

          October 31st 2010 @ 2:35pm
          Fussball ist unser leben said | October 31st 2010 @ 2:35pm | ! Report

          Well, perhaps, De Vanna never gets caught off-side when Collette McCallum passes the ball? 😉

          • November 1st 2010 @ 5:19am
            David V. said | November 1st 2010 @ 5:19am | ! Report

            I’m more wondering why we haven’t had a male equivalent to McCallum at this very moment.

    • November 1st 2010 @ 6:43am
      Eamonn Flanagan said | November 1st 2010 @ 6:43am | ! Report

      Hi Merryn

      Good to see you’re out and about!

      Lisa De Vanna performed in the World Cup, performed in the Asian Cup and is one of the best players in the World. Coach Tom Sermanni has “handled” her well and with De Vanna and Sam Kerr both in the squad we’ll have even more options.

      Perth not using De Vanna is a complete mystery. And it will be a crying shame if she can’t get a game in the W-League. What’s the point of having a W-League if De Vanna can’t get a game! Crazy.

      What W-League or National team wouldn’t want a De Vanna on the field or on the bench? Seems Perth Glory make poor decisions in the A-League and are clearly trying to emulate it in the W-League!

      • November 3rd 2010 @ 2:51pm
        Ann said | November 3rd 2010 @ 2:51pm | ! Report

        Eamon, living in Perth and being around the Glory camp often, Gibson and Sean Murphy appear to be coaches that want team players. Speaking to John his emphasis is continually on the collective not the individual. De Vanna is a great individual and I get the feeling that she is very edgy about the players around her. I for one will miss her in Perth and the lucky team that picks her up, my guess is Melbourne from rumours I have heard, will be very lucky to have her.

        Nationally she will be fine because she likes that environment. The top players in the country are around her and she has players at her level; Walshy, Gill, McCallum, Garriock etc. Please the key is she respects Sermanni.

        I think you have to remember that for the top Australian footballers to play overseas, playing in the WLeague is tough. De Vanna is not the only one I seen get frustrated, McCallum, Garriock and the like have shown it at times. Playing in the WPS or Europe and then coming back to the WLeague is a big difference. Not in quality (as a lot of the Americans have said this is a technically better League) but in the speed, physicality and the maturity of the players.

        You have to remember that the W-League, our top League, is a development League with a plethora of young players. The other countries have a three tier system already with development Leagues for the USA (W-League and College) and Europe (Div B and Uni) and then those professional leagues. We still have to catch up as our state competitions are just not good enough yet. That will come with time and numbers.

    • November 1st 2010 @ 10:54am
      Jules said | November 1st 2010 @ 10:54am | ! Report

      Thanks for this article, Merryn. I’ve heard De Vanna is headed to the Melbourne Victory. If so, I’ll definitely be going to a few of their games just to see her play. She’s dynamite!

      • November 1st 2010 @ 11:40pm
        Midfielder said | November 1st 2010 @ 11:40pm | ! Report


        She is to good for MV …

    • November 3rd 2010 @ 2:51pm
      Mez carter said | November 3rd 2010 @ 2:51pm | ! Report

      De Vanna is playing for Brisbane Roar in this year’s W League.

      • November 3rd 2010 @ 3:39pm
        Merryn Sherwood said | November 3rd 2010 @ 3:39pm | ! Report

        I’ve heard this a few times re De Vanna to the Roar, but can you confirm it? Where is the source? Hopefully it will be confirmed in squad lists for this weekend soon.

    • November 4th 2010 @ 2:13pm
      Danielle Warby said | November 4th 2010 @ 2:13pm | ! Report

      De Vanna is a class player and if she doesn’t get a gig in the W-League this season because she’s “hard to handle” or any other number of, quite frankly, lame reasons I may have to go an a De Vanna inspired rampage!

      While it’s clear that work needs to be done with her, as an individual and team player, I can’t for the life of me see why that should even be a problem. Far too many of our male athletes are no angels but we don’t see them being passed by no matter what kind of strife they get themselves in to. And we all know, there’s a lot of that.

      Looking forward to seeing the rest of the squad lists…

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