Aussie football stars forging ahead in London

Getty Images

Arsenal Women defender Steph Catley and Wembley-bound Sutton United ‘keeper Dean Bouzanis are writing their own football fairytale - on and off the pitch.

Romance bloomed between the pair in 2017 when both were on Melbourne City’s books.

Dean subsequently joined Steph in the UK three months after the Matildas star signed for Women’s Super League club Arsenal in 2020, each nudging the other to fresh heights ever since.

There’s no escaping the football banter, analysis and sage advice in the Catley-Bouzanis household in the picturesque Hertfordshire town of St Albans, a short drive from Arsenal’s training base.

After matches, they often pick apart each other’s performances with the football narrative unrelenting.

Providing a glimpse into the dynamic of their relationship, Catley told beIN SPORTS: “I think there’s a really nice balance, whilst obviously football is there 24/7.

“We try and switch off and relax when we can, but it’s nice when he’s watching my games I’ll get a truthful expert opinion from him when I come off the field.

“It’s similar with him with me, although I’m not much of a goalkeeper expert, so I try and keep my mouth shut.

“Either way, it works really well and it’s really nice to have his constant support to come home to every day. We have a nice little life here in the UK.

“Football wise things are great and off the field things are great.”

After an injury riddled first season at WSL leader Arsenal, Catley, 28, is soaring. Arsenal faced Wolfsburg in the first leg of the Champions League quarter-finals  overnight and are also in the FA Cup semi-final against Sam Kerr’s Chelsea.

Not to be outdone, Bouzanis, 31, was newly promoted Sutton’s penalty shootout saviour - with two key saves and a goal himself  - as the south London minnow overcame Wigan to book an EFL Trophy final spot against League One leader Rotherham at Wembley.

The U’s are flying in the league, just four points off an automatic promotion place in their debut season in the EFL.

It isn’t Bouzanis’s first rodeo in the UK. He was once a hot prospect in Liverpool’s junior ranks under Gerrard Houllier.

But the breakthrough never came and he went on to bounce around the lower divisions with spells also in Greece and the Netherlands.

He returned to Australia with Western Sydney Wanderers and on to Melbourne City before non-league Sutton came calling in career move many thought was quirky.

Bouzanis knew better.

His consistency between the sticks was crucial to Sutton’s elevation to the EFL for the first time in its history. 

He has 13 clean sheets in 36 games this season, underscoring what an inspired signing he’s been by coach Matt Gray.

“It means a hell a lot to us to have Wembley on the horizon (for the first time in 41 years) and we fancy ourselves for sure,” Bouzanis said. “It’s a credit to everyone at the club where we’re at right now.

“We’re also in with a shout of automatic promotion, and there’s a real good buzz around the place.”

Catley can’t conceal her delight at her other half’s success.

“I’m very proud of what he’s achieved,” she said. “When he came to the UK he took a risk in terms of leaving the A-League and joining a lower league club here.

“He didn’t really know what to expect - so he took a gamble in us being together over in Europe and it’s more than paid off for him.

“He’s played so many matches and he’s done so well, and now he has Wembley to look forward to. I’m so happy for him.”

Dean reciprocates, praising Catley for delving deep to overcome the calf issues and then hamstring surgery which turned her first season at Arsenal into a lingering nightmare.

“Steph is enjoying her football now after working really hard to get fit after those setbacks, and deserves all the accolades she’s getting at the moment,” he said.

“We’re always there for each other and feed off each other. Being together was always a massive priority for us, to play our football and be settled off the pitch.”