From growing up near the Sky Blues’ Macquarie University training grounds to claiming back-to-back Premierships with her hometown club, young gun Charlotte Mclean reflects on her rapid rise to the top at Sydney FC.
The 22-year-old defender has proven to be a rock at the back and kept a record nine consecutive clean sheets in the Liberty A-League last season – the longest clean sheet run in league history.
And since joining the Sky Blues in 2020, Mclean is relishing her time in the top tier of Australian women’s football.
“Growing up I went to a lot of W-League games,” Mclean explained. “I can remember watching Sydney FC at Leichhardt Oval back when I was younger and actually I grew up across the street from the Sydney FC training ground on Talavera Road, so my journey has been very cyclical!
“But it was tough making it professionally because if you’re not from the Young Matildas, to get a pathway into the W-League was very difficult, especially back then when there was a lot of internationals.
“But I got the chance to play two internal games at Sydney FC and I thought this may be my only opportunity, so I took my chance and Ante [Juric] called me a couple weeks later and it was pretty crazy because all of a sudden I was playing for Sydney FC!”
Since her Sky Blues debut against the Western Sydney Wanderers in 2020, Mclean has gone on to win two Premiership titles under Head Coach Ante Juric.
The pacey defender has also been an integral part of Sydney’s resolute defence which has only conceded 17 goals in the last two A-League Women campaigns – boasting the best defensive record over both seasons.
“It’s the best team environment I’ve ever been in, we obviously all get on so well and seeing everyone every day is so much fun and I’ve loved being back ahead of the new season,” said Mclean.
“You can see that when we play on the field we play for each other and not just ourselves, it’s been the best experience.
“I’ve improved out of sight under Ante and he really knows how to read players – which players need more constructive criticism, which players need a bit more positive reinforcement. He knows how to get the best out of every player.”
Once a winner of the NPL Women’s Challenge Cup with Sydney University in 2019, Mclean has stepped-up to become one of the best defenders in the Liberty A-League – making the third most interceptions (42) last campaign.
The young centre-half played every minute for the Sky Blues last season and has also made zero defensive errors which led to an opposition shot throughout her entire Sydney career.
“Our team has had the best defence for two years and I think that’s a massive reflection of Ante as a coach because he needs to make the calls,” Mclean said.
“Tactically he’s unbelievable, when you think about winning Premierships … the way you can often judge a coach is with their defence because defence is a lot more decisional and involves more communicating roles.
“Ante is the one who tells you where you need to go and how we’re going to set up and he also drives into us that we need to work hard which in itself reflects on how good a coach he is.”
The Epping-born defender is looking to continue her tight centre-back partnership with Sydney FC captain Nat Tobin in the new Liberty A-League season as the Sky Blues look to win a third consecutive Premiership title.
And with aspirations to play in the English Women’s Super League and for the Matildas at next year’s Women’s World Cup, Mclean is fully focused on delivering for Sydney FC.
“Obviously if you’re playing in Australia you want to be part of that World Cup,” Mclean said.
“I definitely would love to be there but I’m more focused on having a good season and trying to do my job for Sydney FC.
“If I do it well hopefully I get recognised but I try to not let it be the defining factor of my career because there’s only twenty people that get picked.”
Raring to go for the new campaign, Mclean is eager to add the Liberty A-League Women’s Championship title to her growing silverware cabinet after narrowly missing out on the trophy in the last two Grand Finals.
In the off-season the Sky Blues have signed New Zealand international Anna Green, former Stanford University striker Madison Haley and Young Matildas forward Shay Evans.
And Mclean believes the new recruits will improve the team’s Championship credentials.
“The new players have been great, obviously we lost Ally [Green] but Anna has slotted into that fullback position really well, she’s got a great cross,” said Mclean.
“Maddy is also excellent, she’s so strong, she’s so technical and she’s so good personally for me as a defender to mark at training because she’s really tough and a great player.
“And Shay as well brings a new sense of aggression to the sessions which has really raised the standard so I think they’re all great signings and they’ll really help us this season.”
See Mclean and the Sky Blues in action on Saturday afternoon at Cromer Park as the Sydney FC Women play their first home match of the new campaign in a Grand Final rematch against Melbourne Victory – kick-off 3:00pm.