For this week’s WA On Wednesday NPLW WA feature, Subiaco head coach Greg Farrell speaks to Ben Gilby about last season’s historic campaign, and his determination to continue the development of the club to ensure a sustainable upward trajectory (19/4/23).
Above: Subiaco head coach Greg Farrell. Photo: Subiaco AFC.
Last season, Greg Farrell led Subiaco to the best campaign in their short NPLW history with six wins and 21 points from their 21 matches which saw them finish 19 points clear of bottom side Curtin University.
Whilst the mid-season signing of Matildas Ella Mastrantonio and Lisa De Vanna, plus former Perth Glory star Marianna Tabain took the headlines, as Farrell reflected, the achievements were down to more than just the arrival of three players.
“The club had put a great deal of time and effort into its previous two campaigns, but there was a definite lack of a philosophy or mentality other than to be physically competitive with teams. To progress and encourage the players to develop positive habits and confidence in playing football, with the ball, that mentality and confidence had to become habit.
“That’s what last season was, the players who were at the club and still are, are the ones who took the messaging on board and were able to adapt and improve. It also helped that after equalling the most points the club had ever had in an NPL season before we got two-thirds of the way through the season, we were then able to recruit (those three players). Our TD Adi Juric played a big part in bringing Lisa, Ella, and Marianna in, and they contributed a great deal in training and games to help the players that we had, to see what the next levels looked like.
Farrell was keen not to rest on his laurels and is passionate about driving continual improvement at the club. In terms of his priorities in recruitment, the Subiaco head coach said: “We had assessed who we wanted to keep from last season and we gave some players the first six weeks of pre-season to potentially earn themselves a spot this season.
“The emphasis was definitely on young players who can be further developed and moulded into future NPLW or A-League players, are confident with the ball, and have a desire to prove themselves capable of doing well in the NPLW or further.
“We also wanted to continue to promote the progress of the 21s who had their best-ever season last season, while they too were adapting to the new style of play and philosophies. And finally, it was to make sure coaching staff were brought in who could improve us, and give us a better holistic approach with strength and conditioning and analysis being more of a focus as we moved to the senior teams training three times a week for both pre-season and the season proper.
“(In terms of players coming in) We identified players who I’d coached previously at Northern Redbacks in Siena Crevacore, Rachel Larsen and Steph Waycott, and then others who had stood out at other clubs, such as Danielle Suckling, Dakota Van Vugt and Taylor Reid from Curtin and Ava Richards from the NTC amongst others.
“Steph adds guile and understanding while the others add youthful exuberance and that intention and desire to develop and to prove themselves. At the moment Lisa De Vanna isn’t coming back for this season but who knows what will happen as the season progresses.”
Subiaco opened with the Night Series before starting their NPLW WA campaign with a comfortable win over Curtin University and losses to Perth SC and Hyundai NTC – the latter match saw Farrell’s side come back from 4-0 down to just a single goal behind with three minutes to go before conceding a late fifth.
“We started the night series brightly against Perth, going 1-0 up within the first 10 minutes. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to replicate that in the first league game of the season, but hopefully with a few players back who missed that game, as we move forward we’ll continue to improve.”
In terms of his aims for this season, Farrell wants to build on the firm foundations of last season’s achievements and ensure the club’s fortunes continue to improve year-on-year.
“We want to challenge for the top four. When I came to Subiaco, I said that by 2024 we should be pushing to finish in the top two or three in the league. 2023 is about continuing to improve the style of football the club is known for, and as the players improve, so too will the results.
“We’ve got a talented group, but they need time and experience at this level and that only comes through playing games together. If we are close come the end of the season and can nick fourth place, then finals are up to who gets things right on one day, and we’d go for broke if we were to earn that opportunity. But there’s a lot of hard work between now and then and no doubt there’ll be some hiccoughs along the way.”
However, success at Subiaco is not just about improved fortunes for the senior side. Sustainable long-term achievement in the NPLW comes through the development of young players coming through the ranks at the club.
“For the seniors, we’ve had a large turnover of players in the off-season with more than 30 players coming into our NPLW program (first team, 21s, and 18s), hopefully, we’ve got the core of our senior squads for the next several years now. The club have recently announced I will be the female football coordinator for this season to try to provide more of a philosophical link from the grassroots female players, all the way to the first team.
“The messaging about technical proficiency and decision-making development and love of the ball will be key so that we are getting players coming up to the seniors with a good understanding of the game and confidence to express themselves.
“Last season in the first team we beat the NTC and Curtin twice and drew them both once, and we beat Balcatta twice. If the first team and 21s can improve their performance levels from last season, the 18s can get more and more competitive as the Women’s League One season goes on, and the junior girls’ teams begin to focus on that philosophical message of the style of play being the most important thing to allow individuals to improve, then we will have progressed in 2023.”
Finally looking more widely at the NPLW WA this season, the Subiaco head coach admitted he sees a tighter competition ahead in 2023.
“The league is definitely evening out with more talented players going in search of first-team football if they aren’t getting it regularly at the clubs like RedStar, Fremantle, and Perth.
“The NTC will always compete because they have some of the best under 17 – 20-year-old players in the state. Balcatta and Murdoch University Melville have historically been strong and have the development pathways in place so they can replace players when there has been turnover for them since the inception of the NPLW.”