W-League pitch blasted for putting players at risk
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W-League pitch blasted for putting players at risk

Melbourne City coach Rado Vidosic has launched a stinging attack on the curators of the Epping Stadium pitch - which hosted the Melbourne W-League derby last weekend - for preparing a surface which left elite players, including several Matildas, at risk of sustaining injury.

A number of players from both sides complained to their union, the PFA, following the derby game last weekend, won by top-of-the-table Victory with a late goal.

The PFA posted a two-minute audio piece on social media with comments from players saying the conditions reflected poorly on elite women's sport, with the pitch ''a danger to the players''.

''I felt embarrassed that we played on it for our home game,'' said one Victory player, while another added that she wasn't ''sure why the club chose that surface''.

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Others said that the conditions were not in accordance with the players' CBA, while one senior player said it was the worst surface she had played on in five years.

Vidosic, whose defending champions now sit fifth on the table and need to beat Brisbane on Friday evening to keep their finals chances on track, was equally outspoken on Thursday.

Victory's Angela Beard and City's Rhali Dobson play at Epping on Saturday, with the surface having been roundly condemned.

Victory's Angela Beard and City's Rhali Dobson play at Epping on Saturday, with the surface having been roundly condemned.Credit:AAP

''We tried to talk to the [match] commissioner and the referees and tell them that the surface was very dangerous – soft underneath, loose, uneven and lots of holes.

“Whoever was looking after that field didn’t really spend enough time [on the pitch] over Christmas, maybe they had holidays.

“Our girls were very sore two to three days after the game because of the uneven and soft surface, we had to change our training program to accommodate them. Luckily we avoided any major injuries.

“I don’t think we should promote the W-League on surfaces like that, especially when those games are televised across the world.''

Players said the Epping surface was one of the worst they had played on.

Players said the Epping surface was one of the worst they had played on.Credit:AAP

The outcome of the game was directly influenced by the conditions, he said.

“The ball slowed down and girls had problems moving the ball from under their feet – the perfect example was [Matilda] Tameka [Butt’s] one on one with the keeper when [the ball got stuck] under her feet.

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“Luckily we didn’t have any injuries because of the field, I’m not sure about Victory.''

He was adamant that the game should not have been played on such a surface.

“Absolutely not [safe]. We tried to speak to the [match] commissioner, we tried to contact [FFA], we tried everything to help our national team to not get any more injuries because they’ve already got a few they must deal with.''

Vidosic wants games against Victory to be played elsewhere if the surface is not improved.

“Definitely it was not safe. So unless they improve it, I would suggest to take it somewhere else,'' he said.

Victory have put in place plans to shift their next game to an alternate venue should the Epping surface be deemed unsatisfactory when Sydney's W-League side is due to meet them there on January 27.

Club CEO Trent Jacobs said match officials had agreed before kick off against City last weekend that the pitch was safe, which was why the game went ahead.

''Melbourne Victory have spoken to the council to ensure the pitch condition improves prior to the next game and the club and FFA will monitor this.''

Michael Lynch, The Age's expert on soccer, has had extensive experience of high level journalism in the UK and Australia. Michael has covered the Socceroos through Asia, Europe and South America in their past three World Cup campaigns. He has also reported on Grands Prix and top class motor sport from Asia and Europe. He has won several national media awards for both sports and industry journalism.

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