Westfield Matildas' coach Alen Stajcic is planning for the future, confirming a second debut call up for a teenager as Australia plans to take on the best in the world at the Tournament of Nations.
On Tuesday, 16-year-old midfielder Amy Sayer was announced as part of the Westfield Matildas’ 20-player squad to travel to the United States to face USA, Brazil and Japan to defend their 2017 Tournament of Nations crown.
On Wednesday, Stajcic also announced a late addition to the squad, with 15-year-old striker Mary Fowler set to join up with the team for the first time after impressing for the Westfield Young Matildas at the AFF Women’s Championship in Indonesia this month.
Fowler scored 10 goals in five appearances – including a brace in the final, a heartbreaking 3-2 loss to Thailand’s senior women’s team – and has been lauded by Stajcic for possessing the rarest of attributes in world football.
“Mary has been brought in because Caitlin [Foord, returning from a foot injury] won’t be able to contribute in terms of game time,” explained Stajcic to matildas.footballaustralia.com.au.
“With Caitlin, it will be great to reintegrate her into the team but there’s also an opportunity to give another player an chance to come in.
“Certainly over the last six or seven months we've been tracking Mary and she’s shown the rarest ability in Australian football — the ability to find the back of the net.
“Both with her left and right foot, in and around the penalty box, Mary’s ability to find space in tight areas is the best I’ve seen for a kid her age. She's shown a tremendous weapon in a position that we’ve lacked that quality. It’s a great opportunity to have a taste of what that next level will be like.”
According to Stajcic, Fowler’s best attributes include her “lethal” finishing, ability to find space in the box, two-footedness and balance and power.
Born in far north Queensland to an Irish father and Papua New Guinean mother, Fowler debuted for the Westfield Young Matildas in March where she assisted an Amy Sayer goal in the 2-1 win over Thailand Under-19s.
Since then, the teenager has risen consistently, impressing Future Matildas' head coach Gary van Egmond and Westfield Young Matildas' head coach Leah Blayney.
“Mary is an exciting young prospect,” Blayney told matildas.footballaustralia.com.au.
“She’s a two-footed player and a natural goalscorer who you can see loves the game whenever she’s out on the pitch.
“That passion was evident throughout her time away with us in Indonesia and I’ve got no doubt she’ll make the most of this opportunity at the Tournament of Nations.”
Blayney added: "Amy is another who impressed in Indonesia - she's a strong technician, a hard worker on and off the field and is another presented with this great opportunity."
Fowler and Sayer also combined well during the AFF Women’s Championship, with 16-year-old Sayer grabbing four assists and two goals in her four appearances at the tournament.
Having impressed in her debut Westfield W-League season with Canberra United, the attacking midfielder is another Stajcic is excited to expose to the top level to see how she can adapt alongside big names such as Sam Kerr, Steph Catley and Emily van Egmond.
“Amy has shown her qualities over the last 12 to 18 months playing in the W-League and with the Future Matildas program,” Stajcic added.
“She has the physical and technical tools to play senior international football but she still has a long way to go with her development.
“Both Mary and Amy have shown they have the tools, now it’s up to us to up-skill them tactically and to help them develop the mental toughness and experience required to be effective at the top level.
“Gary van Egmond and Leah Blayney deserve a lot of credit their role with the Future Matildas and Young Matildas programs to be able to up-skill these two in the short time the program has been up-and-running.”