A trio of Northern NSW products have been selected in the Junior Matildas squad for the 2022 AFC under-17s Women’s Championship qualifiers at Cessnock this month.
Thornton’s Annabella Thornton, Chloe Walandouw from Macquarie Hills and Zoe Karipidis (Emerging Jets Academy) were named in the 26-player outfit following a high-quality Elite Match at Valentine Sports Park, Glenwood, earlier in March.
The squad assembled for a five-day Junior Matildas camp with under-17 head coach Rae Dower in Sydney recently in preparation for round one of the 2022 AFC under-17 Women’s Championship qualifiers.
Thornton, 14, started playing football in Year 4 when she tried the sport at her school, Hunter Valley Grammar School.
From there, she progressed to the Hunter Hawks Skills Acquisition Program before she was selected in the Newcastle Jets Academy where she is about to start her third season.
Thornton starred in goal in the Elite Match, conceding only once, and said she was excited to enter her first national team camp.
“It’s a really good feeling,” she added.
“I’m super pumped for it.
“I am really excited for the whole experience.
“I want to take it all in, being in that environment.
“It would be awesome to play in the qualifiers [at Cessnock].
“I do owe a lot of my career to the Hunter Hawks.
“I played a lot of junior football out in the Cessnock area – I can’t wait.”
Walandouw also impressed during the Elite Match, scoring from left back to top off an energetic performance.
The 15-year-old Warners Bay and Macquarie Football junior has been with the Newcastle Jets Academy since she was 11.
She said she hoped to get plenty out of the camp.
“It’s a really good opportunity,” Walandouw added.
“I’m looking forward to it but [I’m] a bit nervous [as well].
“It will be good to get some advice and play at that level.
“It was a pretty intense feeling [scoring in the Elite match].
“It was a good moment – really exciting.
“It would be a good goal to achieve [playing in the home qualifiers].
“I’ve come pretty far and developed a lot since I’ve been at the Jets.
“I’ve had a lot of good coaching and met a lot of good people.
“It will be nice to be around that high standard.
“It helps a lot – and gives you a lot of confidence.”
Northern NSW Football head of football development Peter Haynes said the selections demonstrated the wonderful opportunities and pathways available to aspiring players in the region.
“Initially for the Elite Match we had the second highest representation across the member federations with our 10 players selected,” he stated.
“So, even more so now with three players chosen in the Junior Matildas squad for these important qualifiers it confirms that our processes are working and that Football Australia are encouraged by what they see from players from this area.
“On top of that, the Newcastle Jets are clearly doing a good job with their academy and our clubs are starting to bridge the gap which is excellent.
“We need to continue to keep working hard to ensure we have higher representation across boys’ and girls’ representative teams moving forward.”