New Matildas boss Tony Gustavsson promises 'blank paper' for Tokyo Olympics aspirants

He's officially been in the job for just two weeks, but in amongst paperwork and staff introductions, new Matildas head coach Tony Gustavsson has already set about trying to watch as many W-League games as he can.

With the 2020-21 season already one-third completed, many contracted and fringe Matildas are using the league as a shop window for this year's Tokyo Olympics which -- coronavirus depending--- is slated to begin less than four months after the conclusion of the season.

And while camps may be difficult to organise in the three international windows between now and July, Gustavsson is confident Football Australia and the players will be able to adapt to the circumstances and prepare as well as they can.

"We are all experiencing challenging times now, and not just from a football perspective," Gustavsson said on Tuesday.

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"As a national team coach, you always think you don't have enough time, right? You want to have more days and more games and it's challenging already under normal circumstances, but then with a pandemic going on, it's difficult to get together and obviously you get less time.

"But I've tried to look at it this way -- and that's how I'm wired as a person -- I'm always trying to look at the possibilities. So instead of looking at 'we lose time,' we need to make use of time, meaning we need to think differently now, maybe think outside of the box a little bit.

"So if we can't get together physically, is there anything else we can do to gel and connect? I'm looking at it as 'can we make the best use of time possible with the challenging circumstances around us?'"

This could mean organising two separate camps -- one in Europe, where Gustavsson and most senior Matildas are based, and one in Australia -- leading into full-team friendlies against world-class opposition, borders and safety protocols permitting.

In the meantime, both Gustavsson and his Australia-based assistants including Mel Andreatta, Leah Blayney and Rae Dower are keeping a close eye on the W-League and noting any particular stand-out players who could book their ticket to Tokyo.

"I've watched a lot [of W-League], but as a coach, you want to watch everything," he said. "What I can say with the W-League, I think it's, first of all, all the ones that are working in and around the league, we have to really show respect [to] what the league has done for the Matildas.

"Let's look at the Matildas today -- who represents the Matildas -- and what the W-League has meant to all those people, all those players. In that sense, the W-League is very, very, very important to us.

"Right now, I think it's a fantastic platform for all of the young players to get exposed to games, because one of the things that has stood out in the [performance gap] report that the federation have released is obviously the pathway for the young players.

"I also see their enthusiasm and I can see that -- not that I can look them in the eyes -- but I can see the body language, and all these players are really trying to take this opportunity to heart and showcase themselves at their best."

Like most in the game, Gustavsson believes more games and a longer W-League season is necessary not just for the current crop of Matildas, but to also guarantee that future generations continue to develop.

"In the future, looking at the [performance gap] report and what they said, if we can get even more games and get a longer season, that would obviously be an improvement in getting better," he said.

"But right now, we need to make the most out of what we have as of today. In general, a quote could be: We want to play as many matches as possible at as high a level as possible and increase the number of games.

"What the report says, which I do agree on and that I think is important, is that if you look at Principle Five [of FA's XI Principles], they state the importance of getting match minutes. That's not just because they've seen what we do in Australia but also compared to some other competitive nations, that we need more match minutes both on a club level but also in an international aspect, especially for the youth players.

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"In that sense, I think the W-League is playing a huge part in making sure that we grow the game but also develop the players."

And although the Olympics are mere months away, Gustavsson insists that every Australian player currently in the W-League (and elsewhere in the world) has an opportunity to be on that plane to Tokyo.

"What I've said to everyone, including the players, is I want everyone to feel that when a new coach comes in, it's important that it's a blank paper; that the coach looks with fresh eyes and gives everyone an opportunity to showcase themselves," he said.

"I've seen the report from the World Cup, I've seen some of the things [journalists] have done, I've seen what the federation have done, I've seen what the previous coaches have done in terms of reports and presentations.

"But [...] I don't have enough information. I don't want to lock in, either, because if I put those glasses on and I kind of lock in and say, 'Hey, we're short here, we need to look for [this position],' I might be blinded when watching. I want to really open up and see, from my end, what I think about the roster. And that's why I'm so keen on starting to watch [more] games.

"There might be players there. Who knows? There might be someone there that really covers that depth but haven't got the opportunity to showcase that."