Heading into this weekends round of the NPLW where Capalaba host Gold Coast United, we caught up with Capalaba Captain, Stephanie Latham for a chat.
CFC: Hi Steph, ahead of Pink Weekend we thought it time for a catch-up and get your thoughts on the season so far, the challenges ahead and how you are travelling personally.
Let’s take a walk back to 2018, Capalaba’s first year in the NPLW and your first season back in the top flight for a couple of years. The team finished ninth overall during the regular season and chalked up some decent results over the course of the season. From your perspective, what was the highlight of that first season both personally and as a team? What were your overall thoughts on the season, the lessons learnt, the biggest challenge/s?
SL: For me personally, the highlight has to be selection into the NPLW Team of the Year. It was really unexpected and a proud moment for me after having been absent from the NPLW for a few years. I also really enjoyed playing on Pink Day with my family and friends watching on cheering. Even though we didn’t get the result we wanted, the atmosphere is something I’ll always remember. As a group I don’t think there was one particular moment throughout the season which would be considered the highlight but once the season was over it was good to know that we were heading in the right direction and were able to compete at that level.
Looking back at the 2018 season, although I believe we underachieved finishing 9th overall, we had some good results against some quality teams and it was a good sign of things to come in future seasons if we could gain more consistency. One of the biggest challenges was the realisation of knowing we would need the financial support to retain and attract the skillset we would need in order to compete and this is always a difficult task in women’s sport. It’s been heartening to see new sponsors (F45 Capalaba, Physiodynamics Cleveland and Southside Airconditioning and Electrical) come on board to help us achieve these goals.
CFC: Fast forward to season 2019, new and young coaching staff, a number of new players to the club and some old favourites returning to the fold. What were your expectations in pre-season?
SL: It was a busy off season knowing we would need to recruit not only new coaching staff with Gibbo deciding to have a break, but also securing some quality players if we wanted to compete. Candidly, I was a little worried as we were late to sign our coaching staff which made it difficult to promote the club and attract new players while other clubs were finalising their squads. Shaun, our Technical Director worked tirelessly to ensure we secured quality coaching staff and once we had this in place we were able to sign some last minute marquee players which would strengthen our squad. Based on the acquisition of the coaching staff and players our expectations were high.
CFC: Observing pre-season and early season training, it seemed that there was a buoyant and confident mood around the squad at that time, energy levels were high, the talk was constant, all the players were challenging each consistently and there was competition for starting spots. That all translated into 7 wins from the first 8 rounds. How did it feel during that run? And what was the biggest change from the previous season?
SL: We were really happy with our momentum over the first 8 games, not only securing the points but displaying good performances of football and this gave us the confidence to believe that we could match it with the best.
The biggest difference I’ve noticed this season has been the level of professionalism of the women’s program as well as the attitude and dedication of the personnel in our squad. With new resources at our disposal such as the SPT GPS tracking system, we are constantly being held accountable for our work ethic. The schedule and intensity of our training sessions has increased significantly and this is something the players have embraced. I believe this is one of the major contributing factor in facilitating our results to date. This standard of professionalism is something that I hope will continue to develop in the women’s program at Capalaba.
CFC: When Head Coach Dan Baker took charge of the team, one theme that he adopted, and was consistent with, was that he was coaching footballers, not female footballers or male footballers, just footballers. He also brought a different style of play than most of the squad were familiar with. How did the squad adapt to those changes and what challenges were encountered?
SL: Dan is a great asset to our squad. Since day one, I have backed his ability to come across from men’s football to coaching women. He has brought a new level of expectation, accountability and intensity to our game. He has been able to identify a formation that allows us to work to our strengths and exploit our opposition’s deficiencies and can adapt when needed based on circumstances. I think the girls are really enjoying this different approach and hopefully Dan is too. Hopefully we haven’t traumatised him too much. J With Dan, Fernando and Shaun, we have a great balance of coaches across our squad that each bring something different and it works really well.
CFC: Its round 23 this weekend, meaning there are 4 rounds to play in the regular season. As luck would have it, three out of the four opponents all sit in the top 6, with our round 26 opponent, Eastern Suburbs sitting not far behind in seventh spot. It is a big challenge. Are the girls are up for it and what looks to be the biggest challenge of these last four rounds?
SL: The girls are definitely up for it! While it will be a tough run to the finish line, I think it will be a good opportunity for us to play some quality teams leading into finals. I believe Lions will be our biggest challenge as they are the strongest opponent we have played in my opinion, but we will take each game as it comes. Our focus right now is on Gold Coast who are a quality side with some dangerous players. It’s a must win game if we want to hold our position on the table and I am more than confident in my players that we can control the game and get the result we need.
CFC: There have been a number of standout players this season, Katy Couperus, Sachi Tatsuoka, Abbey Lloyd and yourself have been regular entrants in Football Queensland’s Team of the Week. If you had to select one player who has made the most impact on the squad this year, who would that be and why?
SL: I don’t think any one player has had more impact than any other. Looking at both retained and new players, we have all stepped up this year and all have an important role to play. I will however give a shout out to Katy Couperus who has travelled from the US to play for us this season and has settled into squad very comfortably. Katy has shown us that not only is she a quality footballer and one of our marquee players, but she has also shown her versatility playing out of position and leading from the backline. She has taken on 2 coaching roles within the club and her commitment and attendance at training is second to none. She is always getting involved in social events with the group especially if it involves Guzzies J She is a true doggy and great asset to the team.
CFC: Off the field, the girls are a tight bunch and are regularly seen out and about enjoying each other’s company. Gym sessions, social functions or just hanging out there is always loads of laughter and energy around the group. Is there a prankster or that one player who just drives the others nuts and what is it about them?
SL: Definitely Vicky! Vicky is the team clown with her ridiculous questions and outrageous one-liners. She could always lift the atmosphere at training and generate a few laughs. Unfortunately, she had to move back to the UK and we have all really missed her and the vibe she brought to the group, but she keeps in close contact and hopefully we will convince her to come back at some point. Luckily, there have been a few people who have stepped up and taken on this role in her absence which keeps the positive energy amongst the group.
CFC: This season you have entered the coaching ranks, taking charge of the under 15 NPLW squad with Kelly Crew. How have you enjoyed that aspect of football? What have you learnt and how do you feel the girls have responded?
SL: I was hesitant to take on a coaching role at the start of the year due to a lack of experience in this area, but with the support of Kelly and Shaun it has been an easy, enjoyable transition into coaching. I’ll admit at times it can be testing and I have definitely gained a higher level of appreciation for all my previous coaches, but the girls are a great group. I have particularly enjoyed coaching this age group because they already have the basic skillset, it’s about developing that further and focusing on positioning, formation, and moving the ball around. This has improved greatly within this group over the course of the season and something which makes me proud of as their assistant coach.
CFC: 2019 can be classed as relatively successful for the club, the team and for yourself. Looking ahead to next year, what should the expectations be, what are your ambitions and are we likely to see you pull on the Bulldogs “7” shirt for another year?
SL: Looking ahead I think the club need to maintain the level of professionalism and support within the women’s program they have instilled this year and build on that. We have an opportunity to become one of Brisbane’s premier women’s clubs and this is something we should be striving for, a club that women will be drawn to because we have something to offer. It’s important to support those people within the club who are fighting for the women’s program and keep them involved. As for me, I am yet to make any plans for next season. At this moment I want to finish this season strong and focus on doing something great this year.
CFC: Thank you Steph and good luck to you and the squad on the Pink Day encounter, and on behalf of Capalaba FC, thank you for your time and everything you have done for this club both on and off the field.