Ahead of Sunday’s second A-League Women semi-final, Impetus’ Ben Gilby heard from Adelaide United‘s Dylan Holmes and Fiona Worts along with Melbourne Victory head coach Jeff Hopkins (12/3/22).
Sunday’s semi-final at Coopers Stadium between Adelaide United and Melbourne Victory will see the winner face Melbourne City next weekend for the right to face Sydney FC in this season’s Grand Final in the Harbour City.
Adelaide United star Dylan Holmes looked ahead to their first-ever W-/A-League Women Finals match by admitting that she still isn’t sure if she really believes that it’s happening.
“I don’t know if it has fully sunk in yet. I’m so excited and it’s been a long time coming. I think that the fact that we have so many South Australian girls in the squad makes it even more special.
“We’re going to go into the game with a lot of confidence and with the crowd supporting us. We’re in a totally new situation. I don’t think any of us have ever played a Finals game before, but luckily, we’ve played Melbourne Victory twice this season so we know what to expect and that’s a good thing.”
“It’s Finals, so everything gets thrown out of the window. What happened a couple of weeks ago is not relevant now.”
Whilst some might just be delighted to actually have made their maiden A-League Women Finals campaign, Holmes is positive that her team aren’t just there to make up the numbers.
“There is a feeling that we can now go all the way. We’ve had a great run to the end of the season and scored a lot of goals. We’re clicking at the right time and there is so much belief that things won’t end here. We’re going to fight for it (a Grand Final win).”
“This is the biggest game for the club’s women’s team. It’s at Coopers Stadium, so we really hope lots of fans will turn out to support us.”
“We’ve grown a lot between when we played them the first time (Adelaide lost 5-1) and the second time (Adelaide won 3-0). We have a lot of belief that we will beat them.”
Adelaide United striker Fiona Worts, the A-League Women’s leading scorer is all out to top what she described as “the best season of her career” by recording her team’s first-ever W-/A-League Women Finals win tomorrow.
“It’s exciting, (but) it’s going to be a very different game against Victory this time as we know they won’t have liked the result when they last played here (a 3-0 Adelaide win).”
Whilst unlike a number of her team-mates, Worts wasn’t in South Australia for the club’s difficult days, she recognizes the incredible progress her side have made in recent years.
“For me I’ve only known a strong Adelaide United – almost making Finals last year and qualifying this year. We deserve to be here. Towards the end of the season we have been really strong.
“A lot of these girls have been here for a long time. It’s credit to them the progress that has been made here and where we are now. We’re hoping that it will be a big crowd tomorrow and with it being a double-header, it would be great if the fans turn up in numbers early for our game rather than coming in late second half for the men’s game after ours.”
This may be the first post-season A-League Women match for the club’s players, Worts points out that there is big match experience in the Adelaide United side.
“I’ve played in cup finals and that before for other teams and some of the other girls have too, so there is experience of these big games here. This has definitely been the best season of my career. I’m happy here and enjoying things, so that’s a big part of me doing what I’ve done this season.
“I feel confident on the ball now whether it is laying off to team-mates who I know can take it on well, or me going on to shoot.”
Worts hinted that she has been approached by clubs overseas as a result of her outstanding form this season, but insisted that right now her focus is solely on Adelaide United.
“For me, I want to play at the highest level I can for as long as I can. I’m not thinking about what happens after the next few weeks, it’s all about the Finals with Adelaide. When you have a good season, doors open elsewhere, but that’s for the future.”
Melbourne Victory head coach Jeff Hopkins knows that his team will have to do it the hard way if they want to retain their title after finishing fourth going into the new Finals system.
“The new Finals format means it’s harder for us, meaning we’ll have to win three games now and will have to play away three weeks in a row. I really like the format though. Last season we lost to Sydney near the end of the campaign and then had to go away to Brisbane to win the semi.”
After a heavy fixture schedule in recent weeks, Hopkins’ squad have had time to rest and recharge, and have generally positive selections news ahead of the game. “Kyra (Cooney-Cross) is not available, but everyone else is. It’s a nice position for me to be in as a coach. Melina Ayres could start if called upon. She played 20 minutes last week and came back really well. She has good game understanding and really looked after her body whilst she was injured. I pretty much know who I’m selecting. Kyra is out, but we have a good squad, it is not fazing us.
Victory are Finals regulars, but they travel to an Adelaide United side on Sunday who are preparing for their first-ever W-League/A-League Finals campaign.
“I think we have an advantage on Adelaide as we have lots of Finals experience,” Victory’s head coach asserted. “Having said that, it could go the other way with Adelaide really buzzing having made it for the first time. We can’t do anything about them though. I’m impressed with the quality of our training and energy.
“Last time we went there, just a couple of weeks ago, we lost 3-0, but we are in a very different place now. Different personnel and we were in the middle of a lot of fixtures in a short turnaround. There are a couple of areas, particularly midfield duels that we lost badly out there and I wasn’t happy about that and the team have recognized that they want to put that right. The attitude will be completely different.
“Bungey (Claudia Bunge) will be back and as far as I know, we haven’t conceded a goal when Bunge and Brooke Hendrix have played together. Melina (Ayres) will play a big park and so will AJ (Amy Jackson). Our form coming into the game isn’t fantastic, but there are definite reasons for that and we understand why. Fatigue crept in. We’ve been through it and come out of it.
“Physically we are a lot better now, but mentally as well, knowing we came through it unscathed. We know what we’ve got to do and it is down to us to go there and to show we are capable of putting in a performance that we are capable of. If we can do that I am confident that we can go to Adelaide and win.”