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Anna Harrington

Victory's Nash ready for Sydney showdown in ALW prelim

Jessika Nash (right) hopes to bring down her former club as Victory face Sydney in the ALW prelim. (Jeremy Ng/AAP PHOTOS) (AAP)

If beating Sydney FC is always sweet for Melbourne Victory, for young defender Jessika Nash knocking out her former club would be particularly rewarding.

Nash enjoyed a stellar debut season as a 16-year-old central defender at Canberra United in 2020-21 before moving to Sydney with the aim of kicking on.

Instead, she had limited minutes last season and was predominantly used off the bench.

Nash, 18, escaped to Victory over the off-season and has developed throughout the year as Jeff Hopkins' first-choice right-back.

"The moment I stepped foot into this environment, Jeff took me under his wing and has guided me through the season," Nash told AAP.

"I really feel I'm stepping into the footballer I want to become.

"With his backing and the minutes being played, I can truly play the football I want to play with these amazing girls.

"There's definitely an unspoken point to prove but at the end of the day, my football is going to do the talking and we'll see what happens."

Nash has bounced back from an unnerving Matildas debut, her only cap to date, last November.

The then 17-year-old and fellow youngster Courtney Nevin were thrown in at the deep end against world No.1 the United States, conceding inside the opening 30 seconds.

"Honestly, it's just such a learning curve," she said.

"It's football - you're going to have your highs and your lows.

"Going into that camp was really eye-opening, and seeing where I need to be at and what growth I need to step into that Matildas spot."

Nash's familiarity with Sydney wingers Princess Ibini and Cortnee Vine should hold her in good stead for Saturday's preliminary final at Allianz Stadium, with a spot in the season's showpiece against Western United on the line.

"It's recognising they have incredible strengths with their wide players and nullifying those will be key," she said.

"They've got some great players and as soon as we step out onto the pitch we need to show them that we're there."

Victory won the past two grand finals against the Sky Blues in Sydney and are hoping to again crash the party on the road to a third consecutive championship.

"The past two years, the history there with just us and them, it's so big," the Melbourne club's 17-year-old midfield sensation Alana Murphy told AAP.

"They have so much anger towards us. Fair enough, I would too.

"If we can beat them again, that would be unreal."

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