FFA looks to lighten load on Matildas stars

Matildas players will be nursed through their next international fixtures and the W-League season to ensure they are not burnt out before next year's Women's World Cup.

WORKHORSE: Emily van Egmond in action against Japan in the Asian Cup final at the Amman International Stadium, in Amman, Jordan, in April 20. Picture: AP

WORKHORSE: Emily van Egmond in action against Japan in the Asian Cup final at the Amman International Stadium, in Amman, Jordan, in April 20. Picture: AP

Coach Alen Stajcic aired concerns on Monday that some players who juggle club duties across two continents and play regularly for the national team are nearing the point of exhaustion.

Defender Alanna Kennedy has featured in a staggering 80 matches in the past 17 months - for Melbourne City in the W-League, Orlando Pride in the US-based NWSL and for Australia.

Samantha Kerr isn't far behind with 71 appearances across those two domestic leagues plus international fixtures in the same period.

There are no scheduled breaks for Australia's top women's players between now and the World Cup, which kicks off in France on June 7.

The W-League is due to begin next month and expected to finish in February, while the NWSL typically resumes in March. No announcements have been made about what the US season might look like or if it will be condensed in any way before the World Cup.

It's unlikely any Australians would skip the NWSL altogether since it represents such a large chunk of their relatively modest incomes.

Football Federation Australia's head of national teams Luke Casserly is alert to the dangers and said key players will be monitored by sports scientists and physios, who will report to Stajcic on a weekly basis.

"Depending on the players' load and well-being score, there is an option to rotate players in the upcoming international matches to ensure players are not overloaded," Casserly told AAP.

"This rotation will also assist exposing new players to high-level international competition which in turn increases our player depth.

"FFA will also work closely with the W-League clubs before and during the season to best manage individual player loads and create individual based programs to ensure that the players are best prepared for the World Cup."

The policy could lead to less games for marquee signing Emily van Egmond in Jets colours next season. The Newcastle skipper has played 51 matches – 18 in the NWSL, 11 in W-League and 22 for the Matildas – over the past 17 months. 

Van Egmond signed a two-year deal with Newcastle before last season and is set to lead them again in 2018-19. She was a key player last campaign in the Jets’ run to the semi-finals for first time since the league’s inaugural season.

Professional Footballers Australia chief executive John Didulica said the Matildas have never had a better opportunity to make history than in France.

"We need our players at their absolute peak at tournament time," Didulica said.

"This will be a challenge given the way the women's football calendar is structured, but the next six months presents a unique opportunity for Staj and his team to work hand-in-glove with the W-League clubs to get the players in the right place."

MOST OVERWORKED MATILDAS

Alanna Kennedy - 80 matches (43 NWSL, 14 WL, 23 national team)

Samantha Kerr - 71 matches (39 NWSL, 9 WL, 23 national team)

Lydia Williams - 55 matches (26 NWSL, 12 WL, 17 national team)

Emily Van Egmond - 51 matches (18 NWSL, 11 WL, 22 national team)

* Stats include 2017 and 2018 NWSL, 2017/18 W-League and national team matches during that period

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