Rue settling into Western Sydney

The 2023/24 season to date has been an enjoyable one for 20-year-old wingback Cushla Rue.

In her third A-League Women’s season, she is playing the most football in her career so far, and is a key cog in a Western Sydney Wanderers side on a hot run of form and fighting for finals football.

Football is always better when you are winning, and Rue believes the change in fortunes come from having a settled core group of players backing up from a competitive 2022/23 season.

“This season we came in (and) we knew each other’s faces, we were already friends , and we had some newcomers, so we were welcoming to them. And they’ve really gelled into the team as well.

“I think it was a bit easier, we knew how each other played coming into preseason.”

One of the newcomers who has become a leader already in the side is American defender Vicky Bruce; as well as scoring twice already this season despite being a centre back, her outgoing personality has had a positive impact on the team.

“I think we all love Vicky, she’s good fun! When I first met her I was taken aback – she’s quite a confident girl – but she’s so much fun. I think she brings so much character and energy to the team.

“I’ve never played with someone like that, I’ve never met a girl like that, but she’s so much fun.”

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – MARCH 12: Hayley Taylor-Young of Canberra United and Cushla Rue of the Wanderers compete for the ball during the round 17 A-League Women’s match between Western Sydney Wanderers and Canberra United at Wanderers Park on March 12, 2023 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)

Despite the tight bond of the group, a development towards the end of season threatened to derail all the promise as a late coaching change saw Robbie Hooker named the new head coach just days out from the start of the season.

It was always going to be difficult for the team after such a big shift, and despite showing promise in their opening matches they went winless in their first four games, though Rue did pick up an assist in a loss against Melbourne City.

That all changed against last season’s grand finalists Western United in late November, as the Wander Women put on a late show away from home to steal a 2-0 win, with Rue getting her first goal for the club to seal the game in stoppage time.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – NOVEMBER 25: Cushla Rue of Western Sydney in action during the A-League Women round six match between Western United and Western Sydney Wanderers at City Vista Recreation Reserve Pitch 1, on November 25, 2023, in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Jonathan DiMaggio/Getty Images)

Holly Caspers sent a through ball to the onrushing Rue, who had acres of space after United committed players forward, and under pressure from the defender finished wonderfully into the top of the net like a seasoned veteran.

She has been an ever present figure in the side as they have gone on a fantastic run of just one loss in their last eight games which has seen them climb from the bottom of the table to the top four, with Rue playing 11 games so far this season and claiming two assists on top of her goal.

It represents a huge step in her development after just two games for Wellington in her first season of A-League football, and eight games in Red and Black last season, of which only one was a spot in the starting side.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – NOVEMBER 12: Leticia McKenna of Melbourne City and Cushla Rue of the Wanderers compete for the ball during the A-League Women round four match between Melbourne City and Western Sydney Wanderers at AAMI Park, on November 12, 2023, in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Rue is looking to make the most of the opportunity she has been given, and feels the team is well on the right path after the turbulent end to the pre-season.

“I think day by day, I’ve just improved, especially under Robbie (Hooker). I think he’s got the best out of us and we’ve all improved. I think getting game time has also helped, like, My confidence has grown and I’m really enjoying my time out in the field.

“It was just a situation that none of us players could do anything about, we just had to look at it as a fresh start. At the start we just had to take it with both hands and you take it as it comes, and I think the club made it as smooth for us as they could.

“I think us as a team, we really came together and overcame that hurdle, and I think we’ve come out of it well, and we’re performing well.”