Caspers on breakout season

Holly Caspers has enjoyed a breakout season in Red & Black, becoming one of the sides key attacking players and helping them to the cusp of a first finals campaign since 2020.

She leads the league in assists with seven, and also has five goals to her name, with her 12 combined goals and assists the sixth best in the competition this season.

They are stats that may have been considered hard to achieve for Caspers a year ago, after she finished what she admits was a difficult first year at the Wanderers.

“I was in the starting lineup, getting quite good game time. But then coaching decisions came in place, (I) probably wasn’t performing to my best, and then I did find myself on the bench or in the grandstands for quite a bit of that season, which was really disappointing.

“That was really hard to take as a player. It is the nature of the game, sometimes things will go your way, and sometimes they won’t. And that just was a season where things weren’t going my way.”

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – MARCH 13: Holly Caspers of the Wanderers controls the ball during the A-League Women round five match between Western Sydney Wanderers and Canberra United at Wanderers Football Park, on March 13, 2024, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

She started four games for the club in her debut year, and appeared in three more off the bench, but failed to register a goal or assist in that time, and was also out of the squad for the final five games of the season.

It was also an up and down season for the club; despite winning 12 more points than the previous season, they still finished in mid-table, 10 points off the finals positions.

So, Caspers put in the hard yards and admitted that the offseason was her biggest to date.

“In that offseason, I don’t think I’ve ever worked so hard for football, I was coming out to Wanderers every week, I was doing extras most days, being in the gym, doing NPL.

“A lot of my weeks were filled with doing one on ones or doing extra training, just because I wasn’t happy with my previous season.”

BATHURST, AUSTRALIA – FEBRUARY 09: Holly Caspers of the Wanderers controls the ball during the A-League Women round 16 match between Western Sydney Wanderers and Newcastle Jets at Carrington Park, on February 09, 2024, in Bathurst, Australia. (Photo by Mark Evans/Getty Images)

It’s clear the hard work has paid off, as she has played in all but two games this season, is averaging an assist every two games, and also has 2.6 progressive passes plus carries per game.

Her form has seen her rewarded with a two year contract extension, and she is effusive in her praise for coach Robbie Hooker, who she believes has helped unlock her full potential.

“I think he likes how I play and I’ve performed well, and he’s wanting to keep me on and I really enjoy working under him as a coach.

“I think he’s allowed a lot of my skill sets to shine; I’m not going to be the best player at everything, and knowing what your strengths are can be your biggest strength, and he’s just been able to recognise that.”

She says part of her improvement this season has been a change of perspective, where she tries to focus on smaller percentage gains rather than worrying about goals and assists.

“Putting expectations on yourself to score X number of goals, or lead assists again, I find that can be quite tough and really harsh expectations to put on yourself. I think, if more of your goal is to continue working on your first touch, continue getting a certain percentage shots on target, I think that is more encouraging to work towards.

“I think for the next two years, my goal is to just keep improving as a player in every aspect of my game, keep working on my speed, keep working on my touch, keep working on my pass and the final third, and wanting to hit those almost to 100% accuracy. And then I think that’s when the goals and the wins [will] come after that.