Teenage defender Thia Eastman is set to make her starting debut as Perth Glory Women go in search of an early Christmas present against Canberra United at Percy Doyle Reserve tomorrow.
Eastman, 18, is one of several changes coach Jamie Harnwell has been forced to make in the absence of key players Collette McCallum, Sasha Andrews, Kate Gill and Bronwyn Studman.
Matildas co-captain Gill is recovering from illness and is set to return in the New Year, while Glory skipper McCallum has been ruled out for the rest of the season with a knee injury and vice-captain Andrews could be missing for at least a month with an ankle problem.
Studman is suspended after being sent off in last weekend’s defeat to Western Sydney Wanderers.
But Harnwell, who has signed Australian under-17 star Emily Henderson as an injury replacement, says the absence of the key players has opened up opportunities for some of the team’s younger players to shine.
“Thia did well when she came on against Melbourne and deserves her chance,” Harnwell said.
“It’s an opportunity for a few of those girls that have been on the fringes to step up and show they are capable of playing in the Westfield W-League.
“We’ve got Emily, whose joined us from the Football West NTC, Amy Knights will also come in and Jess Dillon is back in the squad.
“It’s going to be difficult. Canberra have got a lot of good players but we still want to go out and win the game.”
Harnwell also acknowledged the impact of losing some of the team’s leaders.
“It’s a huge blow,” he said. “You miss players of that sort of quality. It’s going to affect you but we’ve got to find solutions to work around it.”
McCallum will fly to Adelaide for surgery on Monday due to cartilage wear and a meniscus tear in her knee.
The extent of Andrews’ ankle injury will be known after an MRI scan on Tuesday.
Sorrento FC will have a bouncy castle on show for kids and Santa Claus is also expected to make an appearance. Saturday’s match kicks off at 5pm.