Peninsula Power is undertaking a significant rebuild of its women’s football program. The man tasked with this challenge is former Wellington Phoenix midfielder and W-League assistant coach Alex Smith.
When Smith became the women’s head coach and Head of Women’s Football for the club in June of 2021, he was under no illusions of the task that lay ahead.
“When I arrived…we had 11 to 12 players at training and no Under-23’s team,” says Smith to Kick360.
“Our Under-14’s team was getting beaten seven or eight nil every game and the top team was getting beaten by big margins.
“It was basically a bare skeleton for me to run it the way I wanted to run it.
“It was a no brainer for me, there was a lot of people around the club who were willing to back me and help me as much as they can.
“The improvements we’ve made in the last nine months have been really pleasing and makes me extremely proud to see the improvement we’ve made so far.”
Smith’s recruitment to the role is a huge off field win for Peninsula Power. Following a decade long professional playing career, he became an assistant to Mel Andreatta at Brisbane Roar before moving to Melbourne City and working under Rado Vidosic.
His time at City resulted with City winning the premiership and championship while they fielded one of the most impressive and entertaining sides in A-League women’s history.
“I spent every day for two years under him (Vidosic), learning and developing as a coach. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
“The first year we had five or six Matildas in our squad…, it was a joy and a real eye opener. It definitely made it my passion and my goal to make it as far as I can in the women’s game.
He regards Vidosic as a mentor and one of his biggest coaching influences. One of the most valuable lesson’s Smuth learned as an assistant was how to communicate his ideas in a training session.
“I consider by football knowledge to be fairly solid,” he says reflecting on a playing career that spanned three countries at the top level.
“As as midfielder, you’re going to learn a lot of stuff about attacking, about defending. You play in different countries and different levels you’re going to learn about managing.
“But in terms how how you structure a sessions to get whatever you’ve got to focus on for that particular practice, How you get that to come out in a training session, how you link all that over the course of a week how and how you want to prepare for a game…I don’t know where I’d be without all that knowledge.”
“The formation can change…but the principles remains the same”
Smith also coached the Under-14’s and Under-16’s Academy at the club and describes it as “probably the most well-run club in Australia.”
He plans to transfer the experiences and lessons learned at City to Peninsula Power.
“Obviously we don’t have the resources that City do, but one of the big things is a club wide methodology.
“We have our under nine’s, 10’s and 11’s trying to learn the same things we do in the first team albeit at a less complex level.
“Those foundations are being set.
“Most importantly for me the coaching language is the same so by the time they work their way up they know exactly what we’re talking about, and you don’t have to spend months introducing new language, new football principles.”
The principles of how to play the game are crucial to what Smith is building. Tactics and oppositional analysis come later, the fundamentals set the foundation for the program he is building.
“One of the things that we teach is that the forward run comes before the pass comes. It’s a very simple principle that could apply to a winger, a 10, a fullback, a wingback but the principle stays the same.
“The formation can change, the areas that we’re trying to exploit in a game may change but the principle remains the same.
“That’s been a really big focus point for us as a club and program.
“I’m hoping in four five years times we’ve got girls coming through that can slot right into the first team.”
The improvements at the club have been swift and tangible. The hard work has been put in recruiting coaches and players. In the space of nine months Peninsula Power has gone from having barely enough players for training to a squad of 35.
“We’ve brought in an U23’s coach, (Former South Melbourne senior NPLW head coach) Mick Gallo,” says Smith.
“We’ve put together an entire 23’s team and not just making up the numbers.
“It’s a really good tool for our club to develop these girls for a senior competition.
“We’ve put in the work and gone around and recruited some of the best young talent in qld.
“Now we can do tactical sessions at training. Going from having 11-12 players at training to having a squad of 35 it’s amazing how quickly things improve.
“There’s a really good vibe around the club.”
Something that Smith is particularly excited about is the club’s new drive to recruit indigenous footballers. It’s an effort that has resulted in four new recruits including Indigenous Koalas star Kirrily Phillips.
“Theres a lot of untapped talent in the country,” says Smith of the initiative.
“That’s something else that we’ve implemented in the last few months, really exciting times.”
“My goal is to stay in women’s football”
Peninsula Power and Alex Smith have committed to this project. After moving back up to Queensland and signing with the club, the deal was extended for a further three years.
His playing career took saw him take the field in the MLS, A-League, NPL and Malaysia, but he is now firmly committed and excited by a future in women’s football.
“My goal is to stay in the women’s game,” Smith said.
“My daughter’s five years old, I would love the game to be in a state where she can play in a full time pro league. that’s something that’s a big passion of mine.
“I spent a few days at Arsenal with Joe Montemurro. For an Aussie to be coaching Arsenal and Juventus its inspiring for all the young coaches over here and it shows it can be done.
“That’s one of my aspirations, to one day get to Europe.”
In the immediate future there are encouraging signs at the club. Smith is setting the foundations for the future but is confident for the coming season.
“I’m not going to sit back and rest on it happening three years from now, that’s not who I am that’s not football.
“I came in mid-season (in 2021), and the club were mathematically relegated.
“In the off season we’ve made about six signings and every single one will improve our team substantially.
“To give you an idea how much we’ve improved, we played (Brisbane) Olympic last weekend, they beat us 10-0 last year. We beat then 3-1 on the weekend.
“It’s only pre-season and we’re not getting too carried away but it’s a really good sign for our program that shows just how far they’ve come in a short space of time.
“I won’t say promotion is the be all and end all, but we’ll be pushing to get through to the top league.”