2023 Newsfeed

“It’s going to be hard to top last year”: a chat with Canberra Olympic’s Nicole Begg

League champions Canberra Olympic facing off against Canberra Croatia in the annual Charity Shield
League champions Canberra Olympic facing off against Canberra Croatia in the annual Charity Shield

Canberra Olympic’s women’s National Premier League (NPL) team head into the 2023 season, brewing with confidence after an unprecedented season in 2022. Olympic won the Fed Cup and the NPL Grand Final in what was a historic year for the club, claiming their first-ever piece of silverware for the senior women’s side. 

Olympic are looking to carry over the momentum from last year into their preparation for the upcoming season. Head coach Nicole Begg believes there is enough depth within the club for Olympic to continue their winning ways. However, she believes that she has the squad that is capable of taking the fight to the top teams.

I sat down with Begg to reflect on last year’s historic campaign as well as seeing how preparations are going for the upcoming NPL season. 

Q. Nicole, last year was an amazing season for the club. Not only did you win the Fed Cup and the Grand Final, but also you took home the first piece of silverware for the women’s senior side. You guys must be buzzing after such a historic year.

A. Yeah, we were. It was nice to see a few years of hard work paying off last year. I think going into the season, we didn’t expect to pick up silverware straight away with a whole new squad. Being able to win the Fed Cup and then the Grand Final was special, and it was well-deserved by the girls. They worked super hard in some of those massive games that we had last year.

Q. It hasn’t always been easy, you have experienced some pretty challenging times at the club both as a player and as a coach. How did you get through those challenging times to make sure last year was all the more special?

A. Having a vision from the start was very important for us, even when I was an Assistant Coach and playing for Olympic. The vision was always the same; to create something that people wanted to be a part of something that people were motivated to turn up to two days a week and then for the game on the weekend. Consistency is very important in retaining players and in attracting talent. I don’t think you can sustainably recruit players without first creating an environment that they want a part of year-in year out. That was where we started, trying to build that culture around the squad and then throughout the other pathways.

Each year since I’ve been playing and coaching, we have gotten incrementally better in attracting better players in reserve grade as well as first grade. Last year was a culmination of a lot if hard work, where the girls have seen what we can do as part of a team, even if that was getting smashed six or seven nil. They still thought that this was an environment I want to be a part of because they are building something special and want to go further.

Q. What are your hopes and ambitions for the team coming into this season? I know it will be tough to top last year, but are you confident that with the squad that you have, you have enough talent to compete with the top teams in the competition?

A. It’s definitely going to be difficult to top last year, winning a couple of pieces of silverware was massive, plus there are a lot of things we will have to do to break our way through the year for that to become a reality. I still think we have an excellent squad with a lot of talent and a lot of talent that went unrecognised in our team last year. Those girls now have a chance to step up and prove themselves to show what they are capable of playing at this level.

We also have a lot of young girls coming through the different age groups and the different pathways, and it’s going to take some time for them to settle in. We have to recognise where we are as a whole. I’d still love for us to succeed during some of the big moments throughout the year, and I do believe they are capable of doing that, but it’s going to take a little bit of time and patience and trying to aim for that consistency week-by-week to see where we end up. 

Canberra Croatia vs Canberra Olympic. Photo: Dion Stergiopoulos
Canberra Croatia vs Canberra Olympic. Photo: Dion Stergiopoulos
Q. How is pre-season going for the team both on and off the field? Are you happy with where things stand at the moment?

A: We have been trying to build up our fitness base over the pre-season. It was important for everyone to have some real time off where they didn’t have to think about football. Our base has yet to be where we wanted it to be to start the pre-season, but the girls have put in a lot of effort so far, and we are in a good place.

Another point is that over the last couple of years, there has been a big emphasis on getting many women involved in the coaching set-up throughout the club. Last year we had five women on the coaching staff last year: Myself and my assistant in first grade, the head coach of the reserves, and two assistants in the girl’s programs. This year we have increased that to seven. Our main goal has been encouraging current and ex-female players at the club to get involved on the coaching staff, which has been invaluable. This sets us apart from other clubs in the league.

Canberra Olympic will begin their NPL title defense when they face off against former champions Canberra Croatia FC on Sunday 2 April at Woden Park Enclosed. You can catch every game of the NPLW season live on BarTV Sports.

Photos by Dion Stergiopoulos