Canberra United midfielder Grace Maher hopes a landmark five-year collective bargaining agreement for W-League players will offer Australia its best chance of success at the 2023 Women's World Cup.
The deal announced last week has raised the minimum W-League wage to $17,055, along with increasing the minimum high-performance and medical standards that must be attained by all clubs.
An annual review of the agreement has also been included, which offers the potential for even better conditions for players as the deal advances.
Maher, who recently signed a one-year contract extension at Canberra United, was one of the club's delegates during the CBA negotiations, and lobbied hard for the option of an annual review ahead of the fast-approaching World Cup.
"One of the big points that I pushed for for W-League especially was review triggers, with the 2023 World Cup on the horizon, the potential for growth - it can be large," Maher said.
"We don't want to miss out using those resources back into the W-League.
"Five years is one of the longest CBAs we've had in the history of the A-League and W-League, and [part of that] was that at the end of those five years we were hitting targets that we really wanted. The important thing about those five years was the clubs had that time locked into get to that stage.
"I'll continue to work with Canberra and the PFA to make sure that for our team, everything is getting put in place for those next five years."
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Maher was paid just $500 for the season when she first joined Canberra in 2014 as a 15-year-old, a mere fraction of the new W-League minimum salary floor.
"It's so important now to see that girls can put everything in to be as professional as they can," Maher said.
"At the end of the day if you're that young and you're receiving the minimum of $17,000 that's fantastic, that's savings, you're not paying for cost of living.
"It's a little bit of a different story when it comes to a liveable wage for an adult but that will continue to grow and I hope those girls coming through now and in the next five years will see the best of that."
The new CBA has also increased the cap on scholarship players, allowing clubs to further invest in youth.
But perhaps most importantly is the leap in gender-equality embedded high performance standards, which incorporates training venues, travel and accommodation, and includes workloads of players and club staff.
"The raising of the standards is making sure players going to other clubs are getting recovery facilities, when we have games closer together that's very important, having access to a gym that's separate to the public so that players can work on rehab," Maher said.
"Melbourne City obviously have been bought by the Abu Dhabi royals and they have a lot of money to put into infrastructure, other clubs don't have that money.
"I wasn't aware of this until it was brought up but some of the W-League clubs apparently would train on not even full-sized pitches and it's unimaginable how you can practice when the field isn't even full.
"Bringing in a minimum standard ensures clubs work towards that. It's up to them to take it to the next level and hopefully it means that players aren't deciding where they're going purely based on what facilities clubs have. It's actually about the teams, the players and what's best for them."
Maher has been working to an intensive preseason program for the past month, during Canberra's lockdown.
She hasn't played a match since early June, where she spent the winter playing for APIA Leichhardt in the NPL NSW Women's competition, before COVID shut down that competition.
"At the moment it's consisting of a lot of ball work followed by some top up running and gym," Maher said.
"We can lift heavy in gym and just really strengthen and get a good base heading into preseason.
"When you're training by yourself it's pretty hard to push out more than an hour. There's only so much you can do by yourself.
"Prior to COVID shutting down Canberra. . .a lot of Canberra girls were training alongside the academy girls."