Melbourne Victory coach Jeff Hopkins has called on his younger players to fill the void as they aim to halt their stuttering form.
Melbourne Victory coach Jeff Hopkins has laid down the gauntlet to the younger members of his squad as they aim to arrest their A-League Women form slump and deal with a raft of departures.
After beginning the season with three straight wins, Victory were thumped 5-1 by Melbourne City and then threw away a 2-1 lead to lose 4-2 to the Brisbane Roar last time out.
As they prepare to face the Western Sydney Wanderers on Sunday, Hopkins will be without Kyra Cooney-Cross and Courtney Nevin who have both been called into the Matildas' Asian Cup squad.
The loan deal for American import Lynn Williams has also ended and the Victory boss has called on his younger players - singling out Alana Murphy and Maja Markovski - to help stop a nosedive in form.
"I think the way that we're looking at it is that it is an opportunity for other players to step up now," he said.
"We need other players to step up and if players can't see that this is a fantastic opportunity for them to cement a place in the side for themselves (then) I don't know what they're doing at the club."
The Wanderers will be boosted by securing their first win of the season last week and have re-signed Alexandra Hunyh after she left the club in 2020 for spells in Europe with Napoli and Danish side Fortuna Hjorring.
A win is crucial for Victory's hopes of keeping pace with Sydney FC and City at the top of the table.
But Hopkins must also balance how he brings back a trio of players hit by COVID-19, with goalkeeper Casey Dumont, Alex Chidiac and Tiffany Eliadis having all spent time on the sideline with varying degrees of symptoms.
"Chids (Chidiac), it hit her quite hard. She's eased back into things quite gradually this week," he said.
"But she also did a conditioning session on Wednesday and she actually asked to do more than we had her down to do.
"We've eased them in nicely and whether they'll be able to last the full game, I'm not sure but they're all keen to play and I'm keen to play them as well."