Catley on her dazzling 'crazy' year

Stephanie Catley hasn’t had time to reflect on the last year in her life, she’s too focussed on the here and now... though she admits it’s been pretty crazy.

So, let’s recap.

She starred at the FIFA Women’s World Cup in mid-2015, was subsequently signed by big-spending Melbourne City. Oh, and she was on the front cover of FIFA 16 – with Messi and Cahill no less!.

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Not a bad few months. But there was more…

She won the Westfield W-League with all-conquering City (they smashed it, unbeaten all season), was signed by US club Orlando Pride shortly after. And she helped Australia qualify for the Games in an epic campaign in Japan. 

And now, she is preparing for the Games in football-mad Brazil.

Westfield Matildas defender Stephanie Catley

The 22-year-old Melbourne footballer truly is living the dream.

“When you put it like that and put it all out there, it’s kind of crazy to think about.

“It doesn’t just feel like it’s been 12 months, it feels like it’s been a lot longer.

“But a lot has happened and it’s been a really exciting year. It couldn’t have gone any better. It’s been amazing,” she told http://matildas.footballaustralia.com.au.

Not that it hasn’t been a challenge at times.

“The first big challenge was leaving Melbourne Victory and going to Melbourne City. It was a big decision for me and one that was pretty scary at the time.

“It was like leaving home basically because Victory was all I knew. But I wanted to get better as a player, I wanted new experiences and I wanted to get out of my comfort zone.

Steph Catley on the ball against China PR.

“That was one of the best decisions I could have made.”

But not long after, walking past shops and seeing herself next to Messi and Cahill on the cover of FIFA? For someone studying to be a teacher, it was pretty bizarre.

“It still doesn’t seem real. It’s one of those things where I walk past it in the shop and I’m like ‘there I am’. 

"It was an amazing opportunity and very humbling. It’s incredible.”

Incredible too was beating the brilliant Japan on their home soil in the qualifiers for the Games.

Catley offered her insights into how the game plan worked to a tee in what was an absolutely brilliant qualification campaign that took the nation on an unforgettable ride (described brilliantly by commentary team Melissa Barbieri and Brenton Speed). 

“We played them [Japan] in the quarter final of that World Cup in 2015 and we watched that game so many times.

Caitlin Foord and Steph Catley

“We analysed it, we worked on exactly what we needed to do and didn’t do well on that day.

“So by the time we got to Japan again we were so ready, we were so prepared, we knew exactly what we needed to do in every circumstance of that game.

“We were all so pumped to be at those qualifiers but we knew exactly what we needed to do in that game in particular and it got us off to the best start possible. The confidence just built from there.

“The idea is not to let them have time on the ball. We were aggressive in our defence, we were aggressive in our attack and we were able to smother them, which was the game plan.”

The former South East Cougars player added that the work done before Japan was key.

“We had some of the most intense training sessions and training camps leading into that tournament than we have ever had.

Katrina Gorry v DPR Korea

"We were running every second day, we were playing practice games and then running after those games and we just felt so ready.

“By the time we got there you could see that everyone was fit and so ready to go.

“Physically we knew we were ready so mentally it came along with that.”