Injury, virus clouds Catley's Games dream

Murray Wenzel
·2-min read

Unrelenting injuries and England's lockdown life have left Steph Catley viewing an Olympic campaign later this year as some sort of fantasy.

The Matildas defender has battled a recurring calf injury, concussion and most recently a hamstring complaint and been restricted to just 134 minutes across four games since joining Arsenal in the Women's Super League last July.

Confined to her apartment, the club and grocery runs, Catley's abbreviated campaign took another twist when one player returned from an unauthorised Christmas trip to the UAE with COVID-19.

It forced the WSL to postpone Arsenal's clash with Aston Villa on Saturday and rammed home why, in Catley's mind, lighting the Olympic cauldron in Tokyo this July seems "unthinkable at this stage".

"It's something we've all thought about," the former Melbourne City captain said on Saturday.

"We all desperately want it to happen, but it's hard to consider having that many people from different countries in the same place.

"We all want the Olympics so bad, but it's people's lives and health and safety comes first.

"It does seem a bit like a fantasy, also because we haven't had (Matildas) camps, but now we've turned the corner and it's an Olympic year you have to remind yourself it really is coming."

The fact she's yet to meet or even speak at length with new Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson has added to that fantasy.

But remote meetings, both as a team and individually, will begin within a week as the world No.7 side plot their course for a medal at a delayed Games that is still expected to go ahead.

"It'll start to become real once we're all together; we'll work it out but there's so many complicated things that have to be solved first," she said.

"I can't wait though; I've had lots of niggles in a frustrating start to life here in England."

Catley, who has been a keen observer of the W-League from afar, said her move will have long-term benefits despite a rocky start.

"It's going around the entire league; there's been people off visiting family and friends and that's their decision," she said of her teammates flouting lockdown.

"Hopefully we can get the league clean and play as many games as we can.

"Not being able to prove myself in a new league has been challenging, but I've learnt so much from this year, feel like a stronger person and in the long term I'll come back a stronger footballer."