Adelaide United have recently completed their best ever W-League season which saw them win more games than ever before and smash the record attendance for a stand-alone match in the competition’s history. These successes were tempered by the club missing out on a first ever place in the Finals on goal difference. Ben Gilby reviewed the club’s season with head coach Adrian Stenta in our latest #DubWrap feature.
Going into the W-League season, Adrian Stenta stepped up to the head coaches role after serving as assistant to Ivan Karlovic, who was appointed as the club’s first ever head of women’s football.
“My aims for the season were to push hard for a spot in the Finals and for us to be a side who were not just competitive, but who consistently won matches by playing a good style of football,” the head coach said.
Adelaide started the season with an incredible game at Canberra United which saw the South Australians take a 2-0 lead within the first half hour thanks to goals from Cote Rojas and Isabel Hodgson before the side from the national capital hit back to draw level and then score a further two goals in two stoppage time minutes at the end of the game. There was still time for Mallory Weber to get a third for Adelaide in a 4-3 defeat.
“I learned a season’s worth of lessons from that game,” admitted Stenta.
“The first half told me that we could be a competitive side who play good football and can achieve good results. To concede four goals in the second half was disappointing. What it did teach me though was that kind of result in a first game had the potential to derail our season and dent our confidence. The way we responded to that result was really positive and it showed me that the side had a lot of fight, spirit and character.”
Stenta also highlighted several other massive positives that he saw from his team that bode well for the future. “Their work ethic – the players work extremely hard and never looked for or made excuses when things were not going their way.
“The way the players all came together was pleasing. We had a great environment and culture within the playing group. When you have that and a strong work ethic then you set yourself up for success. The players worked hard and professionally to achieve their goals.”
With the team missing Finals football by the narrowest possible margin, Stenta is already clear in his mind about what needs to happen next season to ensure that Adelaide United get over the line.
“We need to be going along a similar path to what we have been doing for the last few seasons which is stability among the core group of players. We need to keep as many players from this year’s squad if we possibly can and add some quality players where we need to.
“We just have to keep building on what occurred this season and the positives from before. We were really pleased with what we were able to achieve from a certain point, but we still fell a bit short from the goals that we set ourselves at the start of the season. Stability will be the key thing in the off season if that is possible.”
In terms of recruitment for the next W-League campaign, the Adelaide United head coach was positive due to the strong links that the Reds have to their state NPLW clubs. “Recruitment can be a challenge. There is a lot of technology and footage available these days to help with the process.
“We’re lucky in that we have very close links with Football SA and one of our coaches is involved with coaching the state NTC girls as well. That link and that pathway is strong.
“Then it’s a case of watching as many games and as many players across the local SA NPLW to see how players already attached to our club are performing and those we could be interested in. I like to engage in lots of dialogue with the NPLW coaches about how players are progressing within their own programs because that is the league that underpins our W-League. It’s really important to keep close tabs and see how players are performing in that competition. Our local coaches are a great source of information in regards to that.”
We also look at the national competitions plus any players abroad that we have our eyes on as well. The fact that we have a really long off season does help that recruitment process, but it’s a challenge when we don’t know many details about the next W-League season yet.”
These details include the timings of the season, something which impacted the last W-League season as players, including Adelaide United’s Dylan Holmes departed for Scandinavia with the Australian season still in progress. Charlotte Grant’s subsequent move to Sweden at the end of the W-League campaign also came with an announcement that could allow both stars to return for the new W-League season if the calendar’s line up correctly.
“There is potential there for Charli to return. Firstly, it was great for both Dylan and Charli to make their moves as it will be good for their careers. That’s a big positive.
“We do know that players can play across both leagues if they wish to, but there are some unknowns about the timing of the next W-League season which makes it hard to be sure at this stage. But the pleasing thing is that both Dylan and Charli have indicated that they are keen to return to us if they can and we’re certainly keen to have them back.”
The other massive positive for the club was the record breaking crowd for a stand-alone W-League match which Adelaide United achieved when 5,159 people attended their final home game with Western Sydney Wanderers at the club’s A-League regular venue, Coopers Stadium.
“That was a fantastic event,” said Stenta, “It was well promoted by the club and well attended by our fans. We’re hoping to be able to play at Coopers Stadium more often in the future, and it just goes to show that when sport is promoted properly and supported, people will come out to watch because the product is worth it. The players are worth it. I was so glad that the players were able to experience that for their final experience in the season just gone.”
Building on that crowd figure and the performances in the season just gone, Adrian Stenta’s goals for the club in the future are all about providing opportunities.
“We’d like to have some success, first and foremost within our program and that will come with making a Finals appearance for the first time in the club’s history. Yet, something we have taken away from this season is that we’re not just about trying to make Finals, we want to push for a Championship as well.
“Our broader focus as a club is about providing pathways for our young South Australian women to play at the highest possible level for them whether that be with us here, or opening up opportunities for South Australian footballers to play overseas potentially, that would also be part of our goals moving forwards.”
Look out for another #DubWrap feature with another W-League Head Coach/Player looking back at their season soon!
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