Tonga, Vanuatu and Solomon Islands’ preparations for the upcoming OFC U-19 Women’s championship is about to get a boost following Football Federation Australia’s (FFA) announcement of the Westfield Junior Matildas’ 2019 Pacific Step-Up tour.  The team will be the first Australian national football team to visit Oceania since they left the confederation.

In partnership with the Australian Government and the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade as part of the ‘Pacific Step-Up’ and the Australia Pacific Sports Linkages Program, the Westfield Junior Matildas will play a match against the under 19 women’s national team in each country.

The Westfield Junior Matildas will be joined by an expanded travelling party led by International Relations Manager Kieran Lilley that will include Westfield W-League players Emma Checker and Hannah Brewer, match officials Lara Lee, Sarah Ho and Joanna Charaktis, FFA Girls Youth Development Manager Debbie Fisher and Football Queensland Women & Girls Development Officer Kerry Hammersley, as well as a media unit that includes the production company behind the KICK series, Gold Leaf Creative.

“Football Federation Australia (FFA) is proud to be partnering with the Australian Government on another significant foreign policy initiative, in the Pacific Step-Up,” FFA’s Chief Operating Officer & Head of International Relations, Mark Falvo, said.

“As part of our commitment to supporting the development of football internationally, we’ve worked with more than 35 countries – both in and out of our home confederation of Asia – oftentimes in partnership with the Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade (DFAT), as part of the Australian Government’s Sports Diplomacy 2030 Strategy.

“The ability to bring an expanded travelling party is an evolution of that DFAT partnership, and will allow us to increase the number of football development initiatives we can deliver while on the tour. These initiatives are designed to support the ongoing work that our counterparts do to grow football in their countries, and we’re excited at the opportunity to work with them.”

Delivered in partnership with the Tonga Football Association, Vanuatu Football Federation and Solomon Islands Football Federation, the Westfield Junior Matildas and its expanded travelling party will conduct a number of coaching and refereeing workshops, as well as skills clinics, while visiting the three countries on the tour.

Westfield Junior Matildas Head Coach Rae Dower is looking forward to the tour.

” This tour will provide the squad with valuable training and match conditions against opponents who play a different style of football, and will expose our players to a variety of environmental and football challenges that they will need to overcome.” Dower said

“The additional social and cultural benefits for the players and staff on a unique tour opportunity like this will help to build relationships with Australia and the South Pacific region. I am confident that they will be fabulous ambassadors for the FFA and for Australia, and that football will once again prove to be the game that brings the whole world together.”

First Assistant Secretary from the Office of the Pacific DFAT, Ms Kathy Klugman, said:

“We are pleased to support the Junior Matildas’ tour of the Pacific. They are a source of inspiration for Australians, especially young women and girls. We hope through this experience the Junior Matildas and their Pacific opponents will continue to act as role models for their peers and communities across the Pacific.”

The Westfield Junior Matildas will use their tour of the Pacific in August as preparation for the 2019 AFC U-16 Women’s Championship, which will be held in Thailand in September.

The squad will report into camp in Sydney on Friday, 2 August 2019, before departing to the first country on the tour, Tonga, on Monday, 5 August 2019.

Tonga U-19 Women’s National Team v Westfield Junior Matildas
Date: Thursday, 8 August 2019
Kick-Off: 1:00pm (local); 4.00pm (AEST)
Venue: Tonga Football Academy, Nuku’alofa, Tonga

Vanuatu U-19 Women’s National Team v Westfield Junior Matildas
Date: Monday, 12 August 2019
Kick-Off: 3:00pm (local)
Venue: Korman Stadium, Port Vila, Vanuatu

Solomon Islands U-19 Women’s National Team v Westfield Junior Matildas
Date: Thursday, 15 August 2019
Kick-Off: 4:00pm (local); 5:00pm (AEST)
Venue: Lawson Tama Stadium, Honiara, Solomon Islands

Courtesy: FFA Media