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Kicking goals – how one Western graduate is helping The Matildas achieve world football domination

When The Matildas began their AFC Women’s Asian Cup, a Western Sydney University PhD student had a keener interest....

When The Matildas began their AFC Women’s Asian Cup campaign by hammering 18 goals past Indonesia on the first day, one Western Sydney University PhD student had a keener – and closer – interest than most.

 

 

Tim Massard, a Bachelor of Health Science (Sport and Exercise Science) graduate and current PhD student, is the Strength and Conditioning Assistant for the Matildas. Having played football from the age of five, Tim’s love for sport, combined with his interest in science, led him to pursue a Bachelor of Health Science, with a major in Sport and Exercise Science at Western. “It seemed like the natural merge of those two interests,” said Tim who truly relishes his role with the Matildas, further adding, “and it just seemed like a good career to try and work in.”

But Tim’s academic success wasn’t instantaneous. “In high school you have someone constantly demanding work from you,” said Tim, “but then as soon as you’re at university it’s a bit more self-driven and it takes some time to get used to that, you really have to be on top of your own work you don’t really have anyone to chase you up. That was probably the trickiest transition for me.”

The Bachelor of Health Sciences degree starts with core subjects, before students choose a Major and branch off to more specialised learning. On being asked if the core subjects have been relevant to his career, he said, “Looking back on my degree, the way that this profession works, it’s so multidisciplinary and being able to have a better understanding of the fundamentals of other health professions, at least having a grounding in it, is super important.”

Alongside working with the Matildas, Tim is also employed as a strength and conditioning coach at the Westfield Sports High School, a public school at Fairfield in NSW that is a centre for excellence in sport. “My PhD was a placed scholarship at Westfield Sports High,” Tim said. “I was placed there for two years as part of my PhD, and in 2021 I was employed by the School.” Tim has been impressed by the School’s professionalism. “The level of quality at Westfield Sports High is really, really high,” he told us. “The facilities – especially the gym facilities, would be the envy of professional sporting teams.”

It was through Westfield Sports High that Tim’s opportunity with The Matildas presented itself. Westfield’s Head of Physical Performance, Tony Wignell, is also the Head of Strength and Conditioning for The Matildas. “I developed a good working relationship with Tony,” said Tim, “and he would ask for my opinion, we would work away at stuff or he would have certain data and he would talk to me about how best to visualise it or present that. We did that informally for a couple of years, and then The Matildas said they wanted him to hire an assistant and he told them, ‘I have pretty much already got one’!”

Although Tim seems to be a natural for both his current roles, his path wasn’t immediately laid out after he finished his Bachelor’s degree. “I connected with Associate Professor Ric Lovell at Western, and I ended up doing postgraduate degrees with him as my main supervisor,” said Tim. “I was unsure which pathway would be the one that I wanted to pursue, but Ric’s advice was that if I did a masters by research I would get academic experience, but if I was clever about what research question I focused on and how I set up my research it would give me practical experience as well.”

It was a strategy that paid off for Tim. “I worked with state league football teams as their sports scientist, and then when I finished that I was still on the fence about which way I wanted to go, henceforth, I extended the experience and did a PhD program with Western and Westfield Sports High School, so I’m continuing to get experience in both the professional and academic realms.”

Tim was part of the Matildas’ support team for the Tokyo Olympics, an experience that was unforgettable. “It was disappointing to know we could have won a medal; we were so close but at the same time it was one of the first times we’ve really shown in a global tournament that we’re contenders,” said Tim. “In the past Australian footballers have been stereotyped as being really hard working but not being tactically very good. It’s much harder to teach work ethic, and I think now we’re starting to lift the technical and tactical side, and matching it to the level of physical prowess that we have.” Tim believes this bodes well for the Matildas’ chances in the coming years. “The fact that we’re constantly improving technically and tactically and we’ve already had a history of high physical capacity, it’s all starting to combine into hopefully peaking in the 2023 World Cup.”

The Matilda’s began their AFC Women’s Asian Cup campaign on Friday, 21nd January at 9.00 p.m. AEDT. Click here to have a look at their remaining fixtures. All games will be broadcast in Australia live and free via Network Ten and 10 Play.

Editor’s note: The Matildas’ journey in the AFC concluded with a quarter-final finish after a 0-1 loss to Korea Republic on 30 January, 2021.

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Paralympics 2020 – A peak into the lives of two WSU students post-Paralympic glory

The life of two WSU students who represented Australia at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics....

Paralympics 2020 – A peak into the lives of Two WSU Students post Paralympic Glory

Tim Hodge (left) & Gordon Allan (right)

Months after the Paralympic Games ended, W’SUP had contacted Tim Hodge and Gordon Allan, two students of WSU who represented Australia at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics, to check in with their life after representing the country.

Hodge responded that while he feels good to be finally back home after a long campaign, his life has become chaotic with the many media and public appearance opportunities, whilst juggling his university studies and resuming training for Commonwealth Games and World Championships post the Paralympic Games.

Allan, on the other hand, mentioned the experience of his first-ever Paralympic Games has been great and he has been overwhelmed talking about it at the various media opportunities and podcasts which all feels new to him so he has just taken his time to soak it all in.

After being delayed by a year and only able to view it through screens, the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics saw massive participation with about 4,403 athletes from 162 nations competing for the medals.

Western Sydney University (WSU) was fortunate enough to have two students participate in the renowned games, cyclist Gordon Allan and swimmer Timothy Hodge, who were also part of the 174 Paralympics contingent of Australia.

It was a matter of immense pride for Western Sydney University as Hodge, coached by Clinton Camilleri, an alumnus of Western Sydney University, won three medals – a bronze in 100m backstroke and a silver in 4x100m medley and 200m individual medley, respectively at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.

Hodge and Allan are current Western Sydney University students studying Bachelor of Engineering and Bachelor of Sports and Exercise Science, respectively. Hodge’s coach, Clinton Camilleri, is a former student of WSU who has recently graduated with a Bachelor of Business (Sports Management) degree. Hodge had previously represented Australia at the Rio 2016 Olympics and had won two bronze medals at the World Para Swimming Championships, London in 2019 and a silver medal at the 2018 Commonwealth Games at Gold Coast.

Tokyo 2020 was Allan’s debut at the Paralympic Games, where he finished fifth and ninth in the Men’s time trial C1-3 classification and Mixed team sprint C1-5 classification, respectively. He had previously won a bronze at the 2019 Apeldoorn and silver at the 2020 Milton UCI Para-cycling Track World Championships.

All three athletes spoke with W’SUP’s editor, Ayush about their time at the games. The trio spoke candidly during the interaction as they talked about their experience at the games, swapping kits with other nations, receiving souvenirs like badges and pins, cheat meals and their lives outside of sport.

Hodge had begun swimming as a method of recovery at the age of nine after his right foot was amputated.

“I learnt to swim and would swim regularly in the backyard pool,” Hodge said.

“As a 9-year-old, participated in a swimming carnival, then moved up to state competitions where I finished 5th, came back year after year and get kept on improving and getting better than the previous years.”

Allan attributes his interest to cycling after accepting a challenge from a friend of his as a young child.

“I started cycling as a really young kid but had shelved the bike for a few years and then got back into it again as an 11-year-old kid who was dared by a mate to ride the bike down a hill,” Allan said.

Camilleri’s journey to becoming a coach came after retiring as a professional swimmer and moving up from a casual lifeguard position.

“I was a swimmer myself and after retiring I became a casual lifeguard on the weekends and later moved into a coaching role with ‘Learn to Swim’ squads and just went on and on,” Camilleri said.

Due to the global pandemic, the Japanese government required all international athletes to undergo the necessary 14-day quarantine. While this could be stifling and boring for some, the three Australians managed to find different ways to pass the time. Ranging from Allan’s stationary bike delivered to his room to playing video games, the three men were well looked after.

Hodge has resumed his training and is aiming to return to the international stage in Paris 2024, where he hopes to improve on his results and timings from Tokyo.

Hodge also took the opportunity to express his gratitude to the University for all the support he received from the University community via social media messages and publications, adding that the sports culture at Western Sydney University is great and it was this support during his Paralympic journey that helped him get through the long period of training, preparations till he finally stood at the blocks to compete at the Tokyo Paralympics.

 

 

Ayush is an editor for W’SUP.

Tileah Dobson is an editor for W’SUP and the news and queer editor for the Sydney Sentinel.