Vaughan Coveny will lead his Western United Under 21’s side into battle against Melbourne City in a big semi-final clash at Parade College on Saturday.
After finishing third on the league table, United will be out to beat second-placed City and win through to a first ever Grand Final.
For Coveny, this season represents a significant improvement for his players after the side sat seventh in the league when the 2021 season was suspended due to COVID-19.
“We’ve come a long way since last season. We’ve had good preparation, and basically my job as a development coach is developing players, and we’ve done that throughout the season,” he said.
“We’ve had a good season and been consistent. Finals games are always good games, and they’re the games we really look forward to.”
“We’re really happy to have another game, and hopefully it’s another two games.”
While results for his own side are always a welcome positive, Coveny sees his main motivation in sending his players to the Senior side if they deserve the opportunity.
“With the likes of Oli Lavale, Obi (Eze), there’s three or four in there that are now playing in the (Under) 23’s which is great to see,” he said.
“The results have been good, but it’s more about how some players are moving in the right direction and ultimately playing for the senior NPL team.
“Greg Siamoa, Abel Walatee, even Jake Najdovski started out with me in the Under 21’s and his progression has been huge. It’s nice to see them developing and getting the opportunities that they deserve.”
Looking ahead to the match itself on Saturday, Coveny will look to overcome a City side that his team lost to in both meetings this season.
Despite those two previous results, the former A-League Men striker believes in the improvement and learnings that his players have undergone and is eager for them to rise to the occasion.
“We’ve improved as a team throughout the year. The first game (against City) we were very competitive, we got our goalkeeper sent off and they scored three goals in the second half,” he said.
“The second game was just mainly down to individual errors and some decision making we didn’t quite get right.
“We respect City highly, they’re a formidable outfit and a lot of those players have been in the academy for a number of years. Ultimately, we have to rise to the pressure and perform.”
It could be an historic day for Western United’s Academy just two years into its existence with Anthony Frost’s Senior’s fighting for promotion to NPL 2 in a play-off against Goulburn Valley Suns.
The Under 21’s would also benefit with a rise in division if the Senior’s can earn promotion.
Coveny pointed to the early success of the Club’s Academy environment and says everyone is excited at the prospect of competing at a higher level.
“It speaks volumes for our Academy and the staff that we have led by Anthony Frost,” he said.
“We get along, we’re on the same page, we have a passion for youth development which is a big key, and it’s proven we’ve identified some talented players and really helped them progress quickly over the two years.”
“We’ve worked hard – the players, staff, everyone – throughout the season, and it’d be a really good result if we could get promoted. To play at a higher level, it would be very beneficial to our players.”
Whatever the results in the two games on Saturday, Coveny is buoyant about the path the Academy finds itself on and is looking forward to an exciting future.
Melbourne City vs Western United
Saturday, 27 August
Kick-off: 2:30pm AEST
Parade College, Bundoora