Matildas unfazed by Marvel Stadium pitch for Olympics qualifier

Mary Fowler and Michelle Heyman train at Marvel Stadium on Tuesday.

Mary Fowler and Michelle Heyman train at Marvel Stadium on Tuesday. Photo: Getty

Stand-in captain Steph Catley has no concerns about the Marvel Stadium pitch as the Matildas prepare to play at the venue just four days after a P!nk concert.

After playing on a soft, snow-sodden pitch in Uzbekistan for the first leg, Australia will face a harder, speedier surface in Melbourne.

The playing surface at Marvel Stadium is well known for being hard during AFL season, due to having a carpark underneath it.

It also played host to two concerts from the pop superstar last Friday and Saturday, with the venue being quickly packed down and turned around for Wednesday’s match.

Melburnian Catley, deputising while Sam Kerr is sidelined with an ACL, had no complaints – especially after an arduous trip to get to Melbourne.

The Matildas travelled to Dubai for a training camp, then were in and out of Tashkent within 48 hours, before a long flight back from the UAE.

Catley and coach Tony Gustavsson had a look at the pitch on Tuesday morning, before training there in the afternoon.

“To be fair, I think it looks good,” Catley said.

“If you hadn’t have told me there was a concert on it, Tony told me as well, I might not have known.

“I’m used to it being that hard, I think that’s initially the first thing I think about is what footwear and it’s pretty obvious because it is so hard.

“But yeah, it looks like it’s in good nick – it’ll probably be the opposite of what we’ve just played on (in Tashkent).

“So that might be a little bit of adjusting but I think in terms of playing good football, it’s perfect and we’ve played on it before and it’s something that we’re absolutely used to.

“In terms of everything that we’re overcoming for this trip that’s probably quite low on the list. But yeah, I think everyone’s just excited for a big crowd and it’s a flat surface, it’s a good surface, so we’re ready to go.”

The stage for P!nk started about 30cm behind the goalline, meaning it didn’t directly sit on the area used for the pitch.

There were some patchy spots, especially at that end where there was a crowd, but the pitch generally appeared in good condition.

Gustavsson had expected the hard pitch to play to Australia’s strengths as it attempts to build on a 3-0 lead from the away leg.

“It’s definitely a pitch we can play our football on,” Gustavsson said.

“But I think it’s extremely important that we water it a lot.

“Because right now the ball sticks in the grass as of right now when it’s this dry.

“So we definitely need to water it a lot to get a fast surface that we can play fast football on.”

Gustavsson’s message was seemingly heard, with the pitch thoroughly watered before Tuesday afternoon’s training.


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