The 23 women who’ll represent Australia at the upcoming Cup of Nations have today been unveiled, as new Matildas coach Ante Milicic faced the media for the first time since his controversial replacement of Alen Stajcic.
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The Matildas will gather in Sydney on Monday as they consider the road to the World Cup without coach Alen Stajcic.
Stajcic was removed from his role on Saturday after a bombshell – but secret – report which alleges cultural failings in the camp under his tenure.
The 45-year-old was shattered by the decision and has engaged legal counsel.
While the coach ponders his next move, the Matildas will also take theirs.
The team will be briefed by FFA chief David Gallop while in Sydney for the two-day camp, planned well before Stajcic’s departure.
More than half of the core senior players have taken to social media to express their alarm and hurt by their coach’s axing.
Captains Clare Polkinghorne and Lisa De Vanna, Sam Kerr, Kyah Simon, Ellie Carpenter, Alanna Kennedy, Tameka Butt, Elise Kellond-Knight, Chloe Logarzo, Emily Gielnik, Lydia Williams and Larissa Crummer have written message of support.
Caitlin Foord joined them late on Sunday, saying she was still “very much in shock”.
“I’m saddened Staj will not be on this journey with us anymore. I can’t thank Staj enough for what he has done for me over the years. What he has done for the game is above and beyond,” she wrote on Twitter.
Williams at least put something of a positive spin on her message, saying “for those questioning our World Cup campaign…. never underestimate the power of a team with a point to prove”.
It remains to be seen who will lead the Matildas in France, with high-flying Arsenal ladies manager Joe Montemurro linked to the role.
Stajcic’s predecessor Tom Sermanni also hit out at Stajcic’s axing and FFA’s decision to withhold the ‘smoking gun’ that brought about the end of his tenure.
“The FFA statement was very vague, which made the decision even more bizarre,” he told The Women’s Game website.
“The reality is, in elite sport, you’re not going to be keeping everyone happy and there’s going to be conflict.
“And at times you just need to suck it up and get on with it. Unless, and I stress unless, the environment has reached a stage where it does become untenable.
“I had not seen, heard or sensed that here with any of the Matildas I had contact with … and Staj has been in the system for probably 12 years so it’s not as if he’s someone who’s just come in and tried to suddenly change things.”
The Matildas are next in action on February 28 as they begin a four-nation series on home soil.
FFA has pledged to find a interim coach to lead Australia through to the World Cup.