Australian and NZ Football

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NPL WA Women’s Wrap Round Seven

Ben Gilby provides his weekly round-up of all the action from the Western Australia NPL Women’s competition. As usual, there is a detailed report on one game and a wrap of all the other matches along with photos (16/5/22).

Above: Balcatta Etna goalkeeper Gabby Dal Busco punches clear under heavy pressure against Perth RedStar on Sunday. Photo: JASP Photography. 

MAIN REPORT OF THE WEEK:

Hyundai NTC 2-2 Fremantle City

Above: Hyundai NTC’s Tanika Lala, who put in a superb performance for the teenage side on Friday night. Photo: Kalgoorlie Miner.

Western Australia’s NTC side were denied at the death in heartbreaking fashion after producing an excellent performance against Fremantle City at E&D Litis Stadium on Friday night.

The teenagers had built a 2-0 lead after just 24 minutes thanks to goals from Tanika Lala and Olivia Trueman against a Freo side firmly ensconced in the top four.

It was not just the scoreboard lead that was impressive about the NTC, their style of play was hugely enjoyable to watch. They were continually looking to build quick passing moves which extended to switching play from flank to flank. Seeing players of such a young age looking so comfortable on the ball and highly skilled at maintaining such a game plan at pace was a major plus.

The NTC were not just good on the ball, but when Freo gained possession, they were immediately shut down by a rapid press.

The second half opened with the teenage side still controlling the play. Lala received the ball in the box with two Fremantle defenders tight to her, but she turned them both brilliantly and fired a rocket of a shot narrowly over the bar.

Above: Fremantle City prepare to take a freekick at E&D Litis Stadium on Friday night. Photo: NPL.

However, Freo got a foothold with 54 minutes on the clock. A free-kick on the right was played in by Mikayla Lyons and headed clear, but the ball fell immediately to Janice Kiama to slot home.

The goal did not bring about any shift of momentum as NTC continued to control the vast majority of the half. Trueman broke through at pace and slammed in a shot which Fremantle keeper Dayle Schroeder gathered up.

The visitors had an opportunity as Jamie-Lee Gale found Jessica Darmago. Her ball in was deflected off an NTC player and looped up in the air for Matilda Boyle to flick just over the top.

But the NTC were not finished in demonstrating their abilities on the ball. On the hour mark, Georgia Cassidy played a sumptuous cross-field ball, and both Lala and Grace Johnson were inter-linking well in the middle. Johnson was centimetres away from extending her team’s two goal advantage but Schroeder claimed the ball ahead of her as the NTC player slid in to connect with a low ball.

They came close once more with 20 minutes to go as Sophie Meaden crashed a shot that flew centimetres over Schroeder’s bar. Newly introduced Ava Richards got in on the act with 81 minutes played as she danced her way up the left and earned a throw right next to the corner flag which put huge pressure on the Fremantle defence before the clearance was made.

Above: NTC’s Georgia Cassidy. Photo: Football West.

Shortly afterwards, Trueman escaped through the midfield to hit an effort which Schroeder got down to at the right-hand post to push away for a corner.

Yet, when the game’s next goal came, it fell Fremantle’s way. With a minute of normal time left, Gale’s ball in found Lyons who was able to loop a shot into the net.

The NTC kept trying to create, and three minutes into storage time earned back-to-back free-kicks on the edge of the Fremantle box. Cassidy took both, and from the second, curled it in towards the top right-hand corner, but under huge pressure and amid a collision, Schroeder claimed the ball.

The Fremantle keeper was incredibly brave in making the save and required lengthy treatment before the game could resume.

Ultimately, records will show that this game was a draw and that Fremantle came from 2-0 down to do so. NTC will be absolutely devastated at not having won this match. They dominated from start to finish and played fast paced, highly skilled passing football throughout.

Fremantle deserve praise for keeping belief and desire in the face of incessant pressure. They also had the ability to take chances when they arrived. Comebacks like this, notably achieved with the presence of key player Tash Rigby, will be a confidence boost for the games ahead.

There are some excellent youngsters coming through in Western Australia. The challenge now for this competition is to keep them developing in their home state and for a pathway to open up with Perth Glory to play A-League Women rather than these players being lost to the east coast.

Squads: HYUNDAI NTC: Bailey, Adams, Anderson, Cassidy, Trueman, Johnson, Lala, Tana, Harnwell, Meaden, V.Longmore. Substitutes: Thodhlana, Richards, Vega Mena.

Scorers: Lala 12, Trueman 24.

FREMANTLE CITY: Schroeder, S.Longmore, Gale, Lyons, Darmago, McCulloch, Boyle, Leek, Buxey, Kiama, Osborne. Substitutes: Jukic, Poad, Zumerle, Siah.

Scorers: Kiama 54′, Lyons 89′.

Referee: Tom Glavovic.

ROUND SEVEN ROUND-UP:

Above: Balcatta Etna goalkeeper Gabby Dal Busco makes a superb save with her legs from Perth RedStar’s Sarah Carroll (2). Photo: JASP Photography.

Leaders Perth RedStar continued their perfect start to the season with a 3-0 win at Balcatta Etna. It was the first time that RedStar, or their previous guise of the Northern Redbacks, had ever won a match at Grindleford Reserve in the NPLW era.

RedStar went ahead with seven minutes on the clock. Shawn Bilham’s cross from the right was towards Larissa Walsh in the centre of the box. Walsh headed out to Jayna Ridley outside her, who beat the offside trap to lay a shot across Balcatta keeper Gabby dal Busco and into the net.

Mia Yeo continued her impressive run of form for Balcatta with a superb run which caused problems for RedStar along the left. The speedster escaped from both Bilham and Andreia Teixeira before getting in a shot which was saved by the visiting goalkeeper Maya Diederichsen.

However, the visitors are relentless and able to take chances when they come. They answered Yeo’s probing with a second goal moments later.

A sweeping move that started with Diederichsen’s subsequent goal kick saw Walsh find Sarah Carroll outside her in the middle of the park. The Perth Glory A-League Women defender played a superb eye of the needle pass in for Olivia Wood to lift over Dal Busco for 2-0 on 25 minutes.

Above: Balcatta Etna’s impressive left-sided star Mia Yeo (right) in action on Sunday. Photo: JASP Photography.

Balcatta had one further chance before the break when Monique Prinsloo got forward along the left and got a shot in which Diederichsen comfortably held.

RedStar had further chances in the second half, notably when Dal Busco made a superb save with her legs, to huge cheers from the Grindleford Reserve crowd. Shortly afterwards, they made it 3-0.

Sarah Carroll was released by Renee Leota along the right and pulled over a pacey cross for Walsh to slam home her tenth goal in six matches this season.

Balcatta were not without opportunities in the second 45. Yeo broke through but her shot lacked the power to worry Diederichsen. In stoppage time, the pacey home star provided a dangerous low cross from the left which Prinsloo slid towards, but Diederichsen held. The points were safe for RedStar who are now seven points clear.

Above: Curtin University (orange and black) go 2-1 up at Subiaco. Photo: NPL.

The weekend’s final game was full of drama and goals as Subiaco hosted Curtin University at Rosalie Park.

Curtin took the lead with just two minutes played. They dispossessed the hosts in midfield and breaking away. The original shot was parried by Zara Board with the ball rolling kindly for Dakota Van-Vugt to net from a tight angle.

Subiaco levelled matters with 20 minutes on the clock when Toni Walden’s corner from the right was deflected into her own net by Stephanie Waycott. Yet, the see-saw nature of this match continued as, just eight minutes later, Curtin went back in front. Ava Malata found Suria Varatharaja whose long ball forward caused no end of problems in the home defence with the ball eventually squirmed into the net from with the goalscorer not officially revealed at the time of writing.

Above: Celebrations for Subiaco after Ingrid Gomez Basallo makes it 2-2. Photo: NPL.

There was still time for another goal in stoppage time at the end of the first half and the “we score, you score” pattern continued as Subiaco got back to 2-2. Curtin keeper Stacey Cavill played the ball out to a defender who was rapidly dispossessed and the ball was played back across the box from the left for Ingrid Gomez Basallo to turn and fire home.

Two minutes into the second period, Subi took the lead for the first time. A move that started on their own by-line by Jade Paul eventually saw Frankie Murray release Ashlee Byrne to roll the ball into the net. The home side thought they had clinched the points when they took a 4-2 lead with eight minutes to go thanks to Murray. There was then a delay to the match whilst the lights at Rosalie Park were sorted out before the teams returned to complete the match.

Just a minute after the re-start, Van-Vugt grabbed her second of the afternoon to give Curtin hope. Then, amidst scenes of sheer joy, Taylor Reid scored an incredible equaliser three minutes into stoppage time at the end of the 90 to give the visitors a hard-earned point.

 PWDLFAPtsGD
Perth RedStar660029318+26
Fremantle City632113711+6
Perth SC531111310+8
Murdoch University Melville5122375-4
Hyundai NTC51226125-6
Subiaco61237225-15
Balcatta Etna4103473-3
Curtin University50136181-12

Round Four catch-up match: (18th May) Hyundai NTC v Balcatta Etna. Round Eight Fixtures: (This weekend): Curtin University v Fremantle City, Hyundai NTC v Perth RedStar, Balcatta Etna v Perth SC, Subiaco v Murdoch University Melville.

Kelly Stirton on Leading The ParaMatildas

ParaMatildas head coach Kelly Stirton answered Impetus’ Ben Gilby‘s questions ahead of the team’s opening World Cup match today (11/5/22).

Above: ParaMatildas head coach Kelly Stirton. Photo: Ann Odong – Football Australia.

We want to now show that the barrier is broken for women in this sport. Women who have CP, ABI, and have had strokes – nothing can stop them now, they are at a World Cup. The ParaMatildas are breaking down barriers.

Kelly Stirton, head coach, the ParaMatildas.

ParaMatildas head coach Kelly Stirton has been a part of the coaching scene in Australian women’s football for some time. It is something she has a huge enthusiasm for.

“My coaching journey started with Capital Football (based in Canberra) with the Powerchair team,” Stirton told us, “and from there to our CP (Cerebral Palsy) team and then I was involved with programmes such as All Abilities at Canberra United underneath the A-League – one of the first of in the country and now I am coaching the ParaMatildas. I absolutely love coaching. I see the happiness that coaching brings to people and bringing them new skills.”

However, the ParaMatildas’ head coach’s connection with football goes back further as a player. It was a career that saw her suffer and have to comeback from several major injuries.

“That’s the toughest challenge I’ve had in football. I had five knee reconstructions and four ankle reconstructions as well assome other surgery. Those reconstructions took me out of the sport and I don’t like playing anymore!”

With the ParaMatildas kicking off their first World Cup adventure today, Stirton outlined the fact that their backstory goes back three years.

Above: ParaMatildas head coach Kelly Stirton makes a point to her players in training. Photo: Ann Odong – Football Australia.

“The ParaMatildas story began in 2019 after the CP national tournament. We had three girls play in my ACT team and two in the New South Wales team. From there, we had an Oceania camp where we had four Japanese players come in and train with 20 Australian girls. From there, we decided to build an Australian team. From there COVID hit, but fundraising began and here we are playing in Spain at the World Cup.”

With the process in place, the ParaMatildas head coach emphasised just how groundbreaking the whole environment is.

“Everyone is so new, it is a learning experience for all of us,” Stirton admitted, “for all of the competing nations. No-one has played in a tournament like this before. We just need to make sure we are mentally, physically, and emotionally ready to take the field. We need to ensure we can overcome any injuries or anything else before we step onto the field for that first time.”

The ParaMatildas head coach highlighted what she knows about her team’s opposition and where she sees their threats.

“America probably look to be the strongest team. They are very solid, have great two-touch play. The Netherlands are the quiet achievers. They have a very young squad, similar to us. They have quick players and some with lethal shots. Japan are similar too, but have only brought six players to the tournament. The others have at least eight. Spain are the home country and have the advantage of the support behind them. They are young too. We need to be careful against them as quick, agile players are tough to defend against. However, I’m not too worried.”

Above: ParaMatildas head coach Kelly Stirton leads training. Photo: Ann Odong – Football Australia.

Whilst being aware of the opposition threat, Stirton is full of praise for her squad. She believes that every single one of the 10 players who are part of the ParaMatildas first World Cup squad have a lot to offer.

“Our whole team all have skills that we can utilise. Charlize Tran is the youngest player (aged 15). Lainee Harrison is super quick up-front. Georgia Beikhoff, one of our co-captains is nice and solid in that midfield and defensive line. Eloise Northam sits in the back-line – she is very agile and bubbly. She can also hit a cracker of a shot. Tahlia Blanshard is back from jaw surgery. We’ve been working to get her back on the pitch, she is there now and so solid, scoring goals in training which is awesome to see.

“Katelyn Smith in goal is great, really bubbly, and great with her feet. Nicole Christodoulou suffered two strokes when she was younger and has the passion, encouragement, and drive of the girls. Then there is Matilda Mason who is very quick and still learning football after coming to the game in 2019 from hockey. Being on the world stage will be different for her, but we have all the confidence in her. Holly Saunders is in goal too, still working on her touch, but she’s great too with her hands. There’s Rae Anderson too, a Paralympian, has played multiple sports and knows how to pick up the girls.”

In terms of what the ParaMatildas head coach wants to see from her team across the tournament, Stirton is aware of the deeper legacy that her team can lay down. “We’ve only been together for eight weeks as a team and are coming into this tournament. As I’ve said to the girls, yes, we’d love to win it, but I want us to learn and develop from this experience.

“We want to now show that the barrier is broken for women in this sport. Women who have CP, ABI, and have had strokes. Nothing can stop them now, they are at a World Cup. The ParaMatildas are breaking down barriers.”

NPL Victoria Women Round Six Wrap

Kieran Yap provides his weekly round-up of all the action from the Victoria NPL Women’s competition. As usual, there is a detailed report on one game and a wrap of all the other matches along with photos (11/5/22).

Above: Aerial action between Alamein (blue) and Bayside United. Photo: Gary Cook via Bayside United.

MAIN REPORT OF THE WEEK:

Alamein 3-0 Bayside United

Alamein secured fourth spot on the table with a 3-0 win over Bayside. Kat Smith’s side was on the attack throughout and although Bayside showed much improvement from the previous two weeks, they were unable to reverse the run of poor results.

Bayside came into this game having suffered heavy defeats to Calder United and Bulleen Lions over the past two rounds. Alamein were looking for their first win in three matches after a draw at Box Hill and a loss to Bulleen.

Alamein started on the attack almost immediately. Bayside were content to sit back and to try and counterattack. Katrina Nikpour was Alamein’s most enterprising player early on. She found some space in midfield and her long-range shot missed the target but issued a warning for young goalkeeper Elisa Chechelnitskiy.

Nikpour was the creator of Alamein’s first goal. After being released down the right flank, she crossed the ball in dangerously. Nia Stamatopoulos was on hand to meet it. Her side-footed finish was perfectly executed, high into the net to make it 1-0.

Alamein were enjoying plenty of space on both wings. Bayside attempted to play the ball out through midfield but were often cut off. On the stroke of half time, a turnover created Alamein’s second goal.

Kiara Bercelli ran onto the through ball and cut inside her marker for a composed finish. The assistant referee signalled for offside but the central official overruled the decision and play continued. To Bayside’s credit, they played to the whistle, but it made for momentary confusion among those watching. It was a well-crafted and executed goal and on the stroke of halftime, it was 2-0.

Above: A tackle goes in during the Bayside United v Alamein match. Photo: Gary Cook via Bayside United.

Alamein continued to attack in the second half. Adelyn Ayton almost scored a long-range screamer with a shot almost out of nothing. Chechelnitskiy scrambled but had it covered as it whizzed high and wide of the goal.

A third goal felt inevitable and Bercelli provided one on the hour mark. Nikpour won the ball in midfield and her sliced pass fell into the ball of Bercelli who leapt to get above the bouncing ball and hit it into the net on the half volley.

Sidney Allen almost scored a fourth for Alamein. She raced onto a long clearance and outpaced her the defenders. After winning the ball she looked up and tried to beast Chechelnitskiy from range but her shot flew over the bar.

Molly-May Ramsay had Bayside’s best opportunity to pull one back. After finding space on the edge of the 18-yard box, she lined up a shot but did not challenge Evelyn Goldsmith in the Alamein goal.

Alamein next face a huge challenge when they meet third-placed Calder United. Bayside have a tough test ahead, but a winnable game against FV Emerging.

Squads: ALAMEIN: Goldsmith, Paraskevas, Renehan, Heysen, Hull, Allen, Ayton, Anastasopoulos (Wilson) (Parrone), Nikpour (Giummarra), Stamatopoulos, Bercelli.

Scorers: Stamatopoulos 32′, Bercelli 45′, 61′.

BAYSIDE UNITED: Chechelnitskiy, Gaudry (Porter), Cain-Edwards, Fogarty, Baker, Shearing, Jowett, Ramsay, Parker (Budiongo).

Referee: Luke Vaira

ROUND SIX ROUND-UP:

Across the other grounds, Bulleen Lions drew 1-1 against an impressive FV Emerging side. Caitlin Karic opened to scoring for NTC and it took a 74th-minute own goal by Emma Olsen to rescue a point for Bulleen.

Above: Calder United’s wall jumps against South Melbourne. Photo: Jack Dilks 171819.

Calder United continued their strong season with a 5-0 win over South Melbourne. Alana Cerne, Raquel Deralas, Natasha Dakic, Belinda Stojcevski, and Alexis Rossi scored for Calder. They now have 11 goals in their last two games.

Box Hill United defeated Heidelberg United 2-1  to complete the round. Laura Pickett scored in the 10th minute for Box Hill, before Danielle Wise levelled the scores. Anais Josekski regained the lead for Box Hill United in the 65th minute and that’s the way things stayed.

Table From: NPLW Victoria

Matildas Announce Spain Challenge

10/5/22

Above: The Matildas will be gathering together once more next month and will face a major test in Spain. Photo supplied to Impetus by: Football Australia.

Australia will head to Huelva to take on Spain on Saturday 25th June 2022 in the first of two international friendly matches for the June FIFA Window. 

The Matildas will meet the Women’s Euros bound nation at Estadio Nuevo Colombino with kick-off at 9.30pm (local time). 

With the hosts qualifying for the World Cup last month, it will be the first meeting between the two nations in women’s football just 15 months out from the tournament. 

At the announcement of the friendly, Football Australia CEO, James Johnson, said: “To have an opponent of the calibre of Spain lined up for June is an enticing prospect for all fans of the Matildas.  When it comes to the women’s game right now, Spain is one of the leading nations in world, whether it’s club or national team football.

Above: Alexia Putellas – just one of Spain’s superstars who will face Australia next month. Photo: One Football.

“We have been fully committed over the past 13 months to ensuring the Matildas have the strongest preparation possible for the World Cup, and Spain adds to the roster of top ten nations since national team activity re-commenced in 2021.  

“We are appreciative of the co-operation of the Royal Spanish Football Federation in organising this important preparation match with the world’s biggest women’s sporting event fast approaching.”

Spain will be the seventh top 10 nation Australia would have faced during head coach Tony Gustavsson’s tenure and the tenth nation ranked in the world’s top 20.  Football Australia will announce the second international friendly for the window shortly.

NPL WA Women’s Round Six Wrap

Ben Gilby provides his weekly round-up of all the action from the Western Australia NPL Women’s competition. As usual, there is a detailed report on one game and a wrap of all the other matches along with photos (9/5/22).

Above: Perth SC’s Jaime Duncanson shows her delight at scoring against Subiaco on Sunday. Photo: Rob Lizzi.

MAIN REPORT OF THE WEEK:

Above: Perth RedStar in possession on Saturday evening against Murdoch University Melville. Photo: NPL.

Perth RedStar 3-0 Murdoch University Melville

Perth RedStar’s imperious start to the campaign continued with a comfortable win over Murdoch University Melville (MUM FC) at RedStar Arena on Saturday evening.

The hosts were back in action after last weekend’s scheduled game with Perth SC was postponed and they carried on where they left off in terms racking up another win. They also welcomed back key player Carla Bennett. As ever, Bennett would have a major influence on proceedings.

RedStar carved out their first chance of the game when, shortly after kick-off, Olivia Wood gathered up possession on the right-hand side and played a ball inside to Sarah Carroll who got a shot in at the right-hand post.

MUM FC goalkeeper Monique Todd was called into action once more with 10 minutes on the clock. Wood escaped again and hit an effort goalward which Todd claimed.

Above: Larissa Walsh (far right) celebrates with her team-mates after giving Perth RedStar the lead on Saturday evening. Photo: NPL.

On the quarter-hour mark, the home side were rewarded for their early efforts in a move which started deep inside their own half. Murdoch had a free kick on the right edge of the box. The danger was cleared and possession worked it way out to Larissa Walsh.

In a move that encapsulated exactly why Walsh is arguably the best player in the competition right now, she accelerated through from the midfield, used her strength to hold off the persistent challenge of MUM FC’s Molly Bolton and fire a shot high into the net at the near post.

Perth RedStar doubled their lead just six minutes later. Wood fed the ball to Bennett on the edge of the box and at the second attempt, she was able to play in Sarah Carroll who cooly finished.

Despite Murdoch’s best efforts to gain some momentum, the home side added a further goal four minutes before the interval.

Above: Sarah Carroll (2) watches as her shot hits the back of the net to put Perth RedStar 2-0 up. Photo: NPL

The visitors had a throw-in on the right-hand side in line with their own 18-yard box. Perth RedStar turned over possession tight on the touchline and showed great skill to keep the ball in play and advance. A low pass found Sarah Carroll on the edge of the box. The Perth Glory A-League player turned Bolton superbly and hit a low shot across Todd and into the net for 3-0.

From the re-start, Perth RedStar signalled that they were not going to sit back on their lead as substitute Renee Leota sent an effort narrowly over the bar.

The home side were comfortable on the ball, looking to pass and move at pace constantly. Former New Zealand international Leota was busy, and created her team’s next chance, offloading to Walsh to hit a shot from the edge of the box which Todd gathered.

Murdoch were showing character to compete in the second period. They had a half chance from a corner just after the hour mark when Poppie Hooks, a teenage A-League Women performer with Perth Glory last season, headed downwards from a corner, but the hosts cleared.

Above: Larissa Walsh (3) – left of goal, hits her second and Perth RedStar’s third goal against Murdoch University Melville. Photo: NPL.

Perth RedStar had another great chance with just under 20 minutes to go. A ball in from the right found Leota who turned and hit an instant, vicious shot that was destined for the top right-hand corner before it struck and momentarily pole-axed team-mate Sarah Carroll.

There was one final chance in the closing stages for the home side. Tessa De Leo floated in a free-kick from just outside the centre circle. Rosie Lehane managed to prevent the ball falling for the lurking Leota, but her block fell for Walsh, but dreams of a hat-trick evaporated as the shot flew over the bar.

Murdoch could never quite produce a final ball of quality to put RedStar under concerted pressure, but there were positives to take in the second-half fight. Poppie Hooks, a teenage A-League Women player with Perth Glory last season was industrious throughout. Her insightful running and burst of pace were impressive, as were the efforts of both Meghan Hulsman and Molly Bolton.

Whilst Perth RedStar couldn’t add to their tally in the second half, it was notable just how hard they were chasing down and winning apparent lost causes. That emphasises a ruthless, winning attitude. Right now, it is hard to see who can stop them – certainly before the top-four play-offs.

Squads: PERTH REDSTAR: Battaglia, S.Carroll, Walsh, Doan, Bennett, Bilham, Wood, Dunn, Cohen, Teixeira, Monteiro. Substitutes: De Leo, Ridley, Leota, Holt, Insch.

Scorers: Walsh 15′, 40′. S.Carroll 21′.

MURDOCH UNIVERSITY MELVILLE: Todd, Lehane, Gillies, Hooks, Hoarau, Wainwright, Shore, Mathers, Hulsman, Bolton, Strickling. Substitutes: Hayes, Hope, Mayoe, Meaden.

Referee: Andre Ferreira.

ROUND SIX ROUND-UP:

Above: Perth SC’s Abbey Meakins on the ball against Subiaco. Photo: Rob Lizzi.

In the weekend’s only other game, Perth SC hosted Subiaco FC at Dorrien Gardens. It was an important opportunity for the home side who knew that a win by more than three goals would put them above Fremantle City and into second spot.

The game, a personal success story for Jaime Duncanson, burst into life from the start. With just six minutes on the clock, Perth went ahead. Goalkeeper Rebecca Bennett released the ball and a move built up on the left wing. From the cross, a 1-2 involving Liana Cook and Sophia Papalia saw the ball fall for Duncanson to slot the Azzurri ahead.

Just two minutes later, both the Perth SC and Duncanson had their second. Subi lost possession which allowed Ella Lincoln to escape down the left and play in a teasing ball across the box for an unmarked Duncanson to sweep home.

The goal spree continued as a third arrived on 13 minutes. A patient build-up of in to out passing saw Perth SC move the ball from end to end. The icing on the cake was provided by Zoee Spadano who received the ball and cut inside the box and then across her defender to slot a lovely finish inside the near post.

Above: Perth SC hat-trick hero Jaime Duncanson shows her delight against Subiaco yesterday. Photo: Rob Lizzi.

Duncanson completed her hat-trick three minutes before the break as she finished another sweeping move. Faye Phillips set it in motion from inside her own half, and a delightful centimetre perfect through ball ran into Duncanson’s path. The Azzurri star had the room, pace, and skill to advance and smash home.

There was one further goal in the second half and it came not long after the hour mark. Subi goalkeeper Zara Board rolled the ball out, but a heavy touch by one of the visitors put Cook through. Board came out well to smother the shot, but the ball rebounded to Spadano who lifted the ball back over the Subi custodian and into the net.

Perth SC played some delightful football at times and took advantage of their creative players having time on the ball to work their magic. At their best, the Azzurri could test Perth RedStar – but they need to keep picking up points in the meantime.

The weekend’s other scheduled games – Curtin University Hyundai NTC, and Fremantle City Balcatta Etna were both postponed.

 PWDLFAPtsGD
Perth RedStar550026315+23
Perth SC531111310+8
Fremantle City531111510+6
Murdoch University Melville5122375-4
Hyundai NTC41124104-6
Subiaco51133181-15
Balcatta Etna3102443=
Curtin University40032140-12

Round Seven Fixtures: Murdoch University Melville v Perth SC, Hyundai NTC v Fremantle City, Balcatta Etna v Perth RedStar, Subiaco v Curtin University.

Busselton City: A Proud History And Building For A Big Future

As an extension of Impetus’ coverage of the Western Australian women’s football scene, Sharon Cowley from WA’s South-West Soccer Association Premier League club Busselton City spoke to Ben Gilby (4/5/22).

Above: Busselton City FC. Photo: Sharon Cowley.

Busselton City, located in the South-West of the state are celebrating their centenary this year. Whilst their women’s team has not been around for quite as long, their first female team was fielded over 70 years ago.

Sharon revealed: “Busselton have always been a huge advocate for woman’s football which dates back to as early as 1946. However, it did not last all those years. The club picked up on having a ladies team more permanently from 1997, who had nicknamed themselves ‘The Busselton Redbacks’. In coming years the club expanded to two ladies teams – a reserve side and a senior one playing in the South West Soccer Association (SWSA).”

With the 2022 season now underway, Sharon outlined how the SWSA is looking this year. “This competition has an amazing 14 ladies teams playing throughout the two divisions.

“While once the league used to be competitive in the local area, more opportunities have presented themselves to more talented players which see them stepping up to the ‘Southwest Phoenix’ ladies team. Others may head to Perth to bigger clubs, move overseas or play at university, which is fantastic to see.”

Busselton City have an established pathway for girls to develop with the aim that they will eventually move up to play senior SWSA football.

Above: Busselton City (red) challenge for possession. Photo: Sharon Cowley.

“Our club aims to have girls going from juniors to seniors to hopefully further on if they wish to follow that path,” said Sharon. “We have a very positive, supportive club. We recently joined up with our local Busselton Soccer Club to become one club for this to make an easier pathway for our juniors and we have lots of our senior players coaching to help.”

As such an established club, it should come as no surprise that Busselton City have produced some excellent players over the years, as Sharon highlighted.

“Asha McClurg grew up around the club from a child watching her Dad play, then joining herself. She has just joined Coastal Carolina University after spending the last two years at Sussex.

“We have had the amazing Baxter Thew who started playing seniors with us at 13 years old, she is currently playing for Bankstown City Lions FC in the New South Wales NPL competition after an a successful stint at Murdoch University Melville, who won last season’s Western Australian NPL.

“Arianna Dawson started playing for Busselton when she was in grade six at school, and by the time she reached senior level she already looked dangerous with her super-speed and ball skills. She moved on to America to play at Dodge City Community College in Kansas for two years then went to California State University Dominguez Hills for another two. At present she is captain of the ladies South West Phoenix team.

Above: In control – Busselton City. Photo: Sharon Cowley.

“Then, there is Siobhan Longmore who has more talent in her big toe than my whole body. She followed her big sisters, Arianna. Siobhan played for Dodge City in Kansas for two years before heading to Eckerd College, Florida for a further two years. At present, she is playing for Fremantle City Football Club in the Western Australia NPL.”

As Western Australia has finally opened up after two years of COVID restrictions, Sharon believes that the pandemic has not had an overly negative impact on the club.

“We were not able to host our annual Carnival, but other than that we have been able to carry on. Our aim is to continue to grow strength in our juniors to carry them on to the seniors.

“We had a few amazing years winning the league title and cups along the way, but also had rebuilding years where we struggled to win a game, but have always fought to make sure we have a Premier Ladies team.”

Busselton City’s season to date:

Table From: Football West Gameday.
Above: Busselton City look to breakthrough. Photo: Sharon Cowley.

NPL Victoria Women Round Five Wrap

Kieran Yap provides his weekly round-up of all the action from the Victoria NPL Women’s competition. As usual, there is a detailed report on one game and a wrap of all the other matches along with photos (3/5/22).

Above: Calder United (white) on the charge against Bayside United. Photo: Jack Dilks 171819.

Bayside United 0-6 Calder United

Calder United recorded another impressive result as they put Bayside to the sword in a 6-0 thrashing.

Bayside were looking for a response after losing 7-0 to Bulleen Lions in round four. But their task was made more difficult by injuries in the squad. Alisa Chechelnitskiy make her second appearance for the senior team

Despite the score, the Under 19’s goalkeeper was among her side’s best players and made some stunning saves throughout the afternoon.

Calder United started with Harriet Withers for the first time this season. The winger has returned to the club as an A-League Women’s champion after her first campaign with Melbourne Victory.

The visitors were on the attack early with Stacey Papadopoulos’ pace and intent causing issues early for Bayside.

Above: Calder United looking to create once more against Bayside Untied. Photo: Jack Dilks 171819.

The first goal arrived in the 30th minute, after the two Calder attackers combined. Withers received the ball at halfway and launched a long, direct pass to Papadopoulos.

Spotting Chechelnitskiy only slightly off her line, the Calder United forward produced an incredible chip from the edge of the box. It was the first goal of the season for Papadopoulos and she could have hardly done it in better style.

Montana Mathews sparked the next Calder attack. She embarked on a long, powerful run that began inside her own half.  Papadopoulos got on the end of the eventual pass and should have scored a second. Withers almost turned the ball in from the scramble but Bayside survived.

The second goal arrived just before halftime. A free-kick 20 yards from goal was played short by Adriana Taranto. Alana Cerne’s shot was directed through the defenders and into the bottom corner. It was well placed and powerfully hit. Chechelnitskiy was unsighted by the wall and crowded penalty area and had little chance of saving it.

Withers continued to test the home defence. Her cross fell to Elle Talevski, but Chechelnitskiy was able to dive, stretch and tip the ball onto the post.

Above: There was plenty to celebrate for Calder United at Bayside. Photo: Jack Dilks 171819.

Bayside defended well and counterattacked for much of the second half. They held out until the 76th minute before another well-worked free-kick added a third for Calder United.

With Bayside set up to defend a shot. Taranto slid the ball wide to her left. Papadopoulos crossed the ball in low into the six-yard box and Raquel Deralas forced the ball home to make it 3-0.

With 10 minutes left of regular time, Calder United could have been forgiven for taking the foot off the pedal. However, they were effectively just getting started.

Against a tiring Bayside, they embarked on a relentless series of attacks to end to game and added another goal after Papadopoulos and Julia Sardo combined to set up Tiarna Stella for her first goal of her NPLW career.

Her first touch took her around the defender and her second was a perfectly hit shot into the top left corner. It was a goal created through composure and she struck it venomously. It was a memorable way to open her account for the club.

Above: All action between Calder United and Bayside United. Photo: Jack Dilks 171819.

A fifth was added soon after when Withers and Stella set up Sardo to strike from distance. The shot flew past Chechelnitskiy and crashed off the underside of the bar before crossing the line.

Deralas was finding pockets of space in attack and pulled two brilliant saves from Bayside’s young goalkeeper. After a clever turn and dangerous strike, Chechelnitskiy dove spectacularly to tip it over the bar. The pair repeated the scene moments later, Deralas was somehow denied again.

Papadopoulos had started the scoring an hour earlier and in the 90th minute, she added her second and Calder’s sixth. After trying to dissect the defence with a probing pass, the ball deflected back to her. She raced through to finish from point-blank range.

The win took Calder United up to third on the table, they are playing with confidence and have multiple avenues to goal. They play bottom-placed South Melbourne in round six and will be confident of another win.

Bayside face Alamein next. After conceding 13 goals in two games, they will be eager to make amends and show improvement. Alamein were impressive against league leaders Bulleen on Monday night. Bayside will have to be at their best to get a result.  

Squads: BAYSIDE UNITED: Chechelnitskiy, Mclure (Gaudry 45+1) Shearing, Baker, Budiongo, Fogartry, Gilbert (Sata 89), Jowett, Parker, Ramsay (Anvari 45+1), Sousa (Porter 73)

CALDER UNITED: Dal Oste (GK) Matthews (Deralas), Sardo, Dakic, Robers (Eicke 52), A Taranto, (M Taranto) Cerne, Withers, Groba (Stella 69), Papadopoulos, Talevski (Cain 52).

Scorers: Papadopoulos 30′, 90′. Cerne 42′, Deralas 76′, Stella 86′, Sardo 88′.

Referee: Danielle Anderson

ROUND FIVE ROUND-UP:

Above: Heidelberg United celebrate a fine win against South Melbourne. Photo: Heidelberg United.

Elsewhere around the competition, Heidelberg United defeated South Melbourne 3-0 thanks to a brace from Stephanie Galea, including an incredible free-kick. Danielle Wise was the other scorer in a comfortable win.

FC Bulleen Lions and Alamein faced off on Monday night. Bulleen took a second-minute lead through Tiffany Eliadis before Emma Runnalls levelled the scores in the second half.

Bulleen looked set for their second draw of the season, but Alana Burn secured the points in the 82nd minute and return the Lions to the top of the table.

Box Hill United’s match against FV Emerging was postponed.

Table From: NPLW Victoria.

NPL WA Women’s Round Five Wrap

Ben Gilby provides his weekly round-up of all the action from the Western Australia NPL Women’s competition. As usual, there is a detailed report on one game and a wrap of all the other matches along with photos (2/5/22).

Above: Balcatta Etna take a throw-in at Grindleford Reserve, venue for their game with Curtin University. Photo: JASP Photography.

MAIN REPORT OF THE WEEK:

Balcatta Etna 4-1 Curtin University

Balcatta produced a strong performance to record their first win of the season at home to Curtin in a match that produced four of its five goals in a dramatic 10 minute spell at Grindleford Reserve.

The teams went into the match without a win and occupied the bottom two positions in the NPL table. However, as a slight caveat, they had also had tough fixtures to open the campaign. Balcatta were also still looking for their first goal of the season.

A warm day welcomed the teams to the pitch. It took both sides a while to settle with the opening quarter marked by promising build-ups which petered out around the box. Cass Harvey was busy for the home side and it was Balcatta who fashioned the first real chance. Monique Godding pulled an effort back across from the right which was brilliantly cleared off the line.

Shortly afterwards, the hosts came close once more as Godding found Monique Prinsloo outside the box. The ball was played into Alanah Veroni but Bolton Yangi cleared the danger at the last gasp for the visitors.

Above: Monique Prinsloo, scorer of two of Balcatta Etna’s four goals. Photo: JASP Photography.

Balcatta Etna were beginning to take charge with Carys Davis’ dancing feet a continual danger. Harvey combined with Prinsloo and the move progressed to allow Tayna Campos to try and force the ball home, but another sensational clearance at the last possible moment from Curtin, this time from Suria Varatharaja, denied Etna.

Campos was looking to get shots in all afternoon, and she let fly with a rocket from long-range a minute later, but Stacey Cavill in the Curtin goal managed to palm down and hold.

Whilst Varatharaja was continuing to impress defensively for the visitors, they still had chances coming forward. Dakota Van Vugt offered a threat and powerful outlet.

Above: Balcatta’s Monique Prinsloo goes in with Curtin University goalkeeper Stacey Cavill. Photo: NPL.

The final opportunity of the first half fell the way of Balcatta. Prinsloo broke through, with Cavill coming out to meet her but the striker managed to get the ball free from the keeper’s challenge which allowed Campos to get a shot away but again, Varatharaja dealt with the danger creditably.

Balcatta Etna continued on the front foot after the break with Prinsloo combining with Aaliyah Jorquera who stretched everything to get a header in which just went over the bar.

However, not taking chances when they come means there is always the threat of going behind, and that is exactly what happened just before the hour mark.

Taylor Reid put in a deep cross which found Preston at the far post. She had time to turn and play in Danielle Suckling who drove a superb effort into the top left-hand corner with 59 minutes played.

This was the start of an incredible ten-minute flurry of four goals. Less than a minute later, Balcatta were level. Georgia Cawley played in Harvey who in turn found Godding. The final ball to Prinsloo allowed the Etna striker to round the keeper and score her team’s first goal of the season.

Balcatta hit the front just two minutes later. Cawley’s free-kick bounced high in the box which allowed Monique D’Opera to slot the ball under Cavill and into the net.

Above: Balcatta Etna’s Mia Yeo, who had a superb cameo performance from the bench. Photo: JASP Photography.

It got even better for the hosts with 69 minutes on the clock as substitute Mia Yeo beat Yangi down the left before advancing towards the by-line where she got past Varatharaja to play in a low cross for Prinsloo to sweep home at the near post.

Curtin hit back with Van Vugt pushing forward with purpose once more along the left. She cut inside and forced Balcatta keeper Gabby Dal Busco to come out and deflect her shot away.

Yeo continued to create danger at every opportunity for the home side. Another rampage down the left supplied a great opportunity for Prinsloo, but Cavill pounced on the ball.

Into stoppage time at the end of the match, Hannah Seerden conceded a throw for Balcatta on the right, in line with the edge of the box. Substitute Tahlia D’Opera took and the ball floated in high. Emily Englebert got a touch and the ball ended up in the net off Yeo for the hosts’ fourth.

Curtin had a chance for a consolation at the death as Van Vugt got forward once more, but Dal Busco made a great save with her legs to the delight of the home fans.

Balcatta’s season is up and running. They face a stern test at Fremantle City next weekend in what looks to be a fascinating clash. Curtin have shown real improvements in their opening games from their performances of last season. They next face a home game with Hyundai NTC, and will feel it is a game they can get their first points out of.

Above: All smiles for Balcatta Etna. Photo: JASP Photography.

Teams: BALCATTA ETNA: Dal Busco, M.D’Opera, Harvey, Campos, Godding, Davis, Jorquera, Prinsloo, Doust, Veroni, Cawley. Substitutes: T.D’Opera, Continibali, Yeo, Englebert, Murray, Hayes.

Scorers: Prinsloo 60′, 69′. M.D’Opera 62′, Yeo 90′.

CURTIN UNIVERSITY (From): Cavill, Seerden, Connop, Preston, Boorman, Waycott, McLernon, Varatharaja, Reid, Hazledon, Riches, Downing, Van Vugt, Suckling, Yangi.

Scorer: Suckling 59′.

Referee: Stephen Knight.

ROUND FIVE ROUND-UP:

Fremantle City earned another three points on Friday night with a 3-1 win at defending champions Murdoch University Melville (MUM).

Freo imposed themselves on the game from the start to build an impressive early lead. They went ahead with four minutes on the clock as Laura Waltman took advantage of MUM losing possession. The move ended with a clinical finish by Jessica Darmago.

Fremantle doubled their lead from the penalty spot four minutes later. Darmago confidently dispatched the kick into the right-hand corner. The Fremantle City player has been in magnificent form in the early stages of the season – highlighting herself as one of the starts of the competition.

Above: Murdoch University Melville celebrate after Samantha Mathers scores against Fremantle City. Photo: NPL

With less than 15 minutes on the clock, Murdoch hit back. Charli Wainwright gained possession and found Elysse Shore on the left. Shore got free and crossed in for Samantha Mathers to slot home.

Yet, Freo restored their two-goal cushion just after the half-hour mark as Jamie-Lee Gale was played in and let fly with a powerful effort that MUM goalkeeper Monique Todd had no chance of stopping.

Whilst MUM’s new-look team went down to another loss, there remain positive signs that once they gel, their results will move in the right direction.

Above: Subiaco’s Frankie Murray shapes up to hit the free-kick that put her side ahead over the NTC yesterday. Photo: NPL.

Subiaco continued their impressive recovery from last year’s tough campaign after defeating Hyundai NTC 2-0 at Rosalie Park. But there was controversy over Subi’s second goal which was allowed to stand despite being aided by a bizarre set of circumstances.

The home side went ahead with 26 minutes played. Awarded a free-kick out on the left around 25 yards from goal, Frankie Murray stepped up to lift the shot high into the net.

The NTC hit back forcing a series of corners, but the moment that decided this match came in the 52nd minute and it was one of the most unfortunate goal concessions that you will see all season.

NTC lost possession and a ball through by Subiaco released Phoenix Brownlie who raced in on goal. However, visiting goalkeeper Lily Bailey was clearly distracted during the move by the presence of a stray dog on her goal line. Bailey frantically tried to attract the officials’ attention, but Brownlie continued to advance and then lift a shot into the net despite the dog still being in the goalmouth and impeding Bailey’s concentration. The goal was allowed to stand.

Above: The dog on the goal line (visible near right-hand post) which distracted NTC goalkeeper Lilly Bailey, as Subiaco’s second goal by Phoenix Brownlie flew in.. Photo: NPL.

The game between Perth RedStar and Perth SC was postponed.

 PWDLFAPtsGD
Perth RedStar440023312+20
Fremantle City531111510+6
Perth SC4211637+3
Murdoch University Melville4121345-1
Hyundai NTC41124104-6
Subiaco41123134-10
Balcatta Etna3102443=
Curtin University40042140-12

Round Six Fixtures: Curtin University v Hyundai NTC Women, Perth RedStar v Murdoch University Melville, Perth SC v Subiaco, Fremantle City v Balcatta Etna.

Tahlia D’Opera: Inspiring The Young And Aiming For Finals At Balcatta Etna

In the concluding second part of her chat with Impetus’ Ben Gilby, Balcatta Etna defender Tahlia D’Opera outlines why the Western Australian NPL club is so special to her, discusses coaching the next generation, and outlines her aims for this season.

Above: Tahlia D’Opera (3) celebrates with her team-mates after winning the 2021 NPL WA Women’s Night Series. Photo: Fotoenzo. Supplied by Tahlia D’Opera.

The sheer love and pride that Tahlia D’Opera has for Western Australian NPL club Balcatta Etna is infectious.

“Without a doubt, the chemistry and unity amongst the Balcatta Etna girls is indescribable and we share such a unique bond. Most of the girls there I have known for up to 10 years who I share such a special relationship with – Gabby Dal Busco, Monique Godding, Kim McCartney, Alanah Veroni, Epril Nossent, Cass Harvey – we have tackled the highs and lows together, created lifelong memories and celebrated life’s milestones. I’m not sure you could find this anywhere else.

I played my first ever game for the Red and Blue alongside Alanah Veroni, and I played my 100th in the same position. I’d do anything for the girls at Balcatta Etna and it is an honour to play and train alongside them each week.

“This year marks my tenth year at the club. I am honoured and grateful each time I get to play in the Red and Blue – This club will always be special to me.

“I’ve been brought up in a family that value community, inclusiveness, and relationships, and have always been generous in their support. My Mum’s family are from a small country town, so being active voluntary members of sporting clubs and giving back to the community through time and charity is indoctrinated in us. 

“Furthermore, in 2016 myself and my twin sister Monique played a role in establishing the Soccer Bambini Program at Balcatta Etna FC, a program designed to introduce children aged three to five years to football.

“What started with a handful of players, has grown to near 50 enrolments with a waitlist, being the most profitable element of the club. Completing this voluntarily for five years, Monique and myself officially handed over duties to focus on our careers as physiotherapists and tackle other projects.

“We were very fortunate to complete this with former Perth Glory W-League Assistant and NTC coach Jessine Bonzas who projected her knowledge and foundational coaching skills.

Above: Tahlia and Monique D’Opera with a young star from the Soccer Bambini program that they set up at Balcatta Etna. Photo via: Tahlia D’Opera.

“Balcatta reverting back to Balcatta Etna for this season has also been special in recognising the club’s founding Italian members. From an Italian culture and background myself, this piece of history is very strong in acknowledging those families who migrated and established such a club on the basis of loving the game and being together with friends and family.”

Balcatta went into last season on the back of winning the pre-season Night Series – a period which Tahlia describes as “simply phenomenal.”

“Tim Cash was appointed as Head Coach after Lisa Tana’s retirement, and we had only a short time frame to implement a new structure and tactic. The girls trained hard and responded really well, and we were rewarded for our efforts in the pre-season. Coming from behind to beat Fremantle City in the Semi-Final, and then to go 2-0 up in the opening 10 minutes and beat Murdoch University Melville in the Final was incredible.

“We had mixed results throughout the 2021 season and at times we struggled to find consistency. Looking back on the season, we were affected by injuries that impacted our depth on occasions. Having said this, we displayed some excellent execution of tactics and structure throughout the season.

“Kim McCartney was influential for us consistently all season and we had a few individual achievements, including Ash Panaia’s Goal of the Week recognitions. Despite finishing runner’s-upp in the State Cup, it was credit to the team for performing in another knock-out tournament.

“The appointment of Tim Cash has been important for the NPLW at Balcatta Etna. He has steered us in a promising direction with his philosophy, values, and pillars for female football and his expertise is invaluable.”

This year saw Balcatta Etna take their defence of the Night Series trophy all the way to the Grand Final where they took on the Northern Redbacks. It was a challenging few weeks for Tahlia and her teammates.

“We had a tough Night Series campaign, which opened with a 3-0 loss to the Northern Redbacks. We were quick to learn that this season was to be like no other, with players ruled out to due COVID-19 isolation requirements and having to quickly adapt our positioning and formation.

Above: Tahlia (right) pictured with Monique D’Opera (left) and Ashleigh Panaia (centre) after winning the NPL WA Women’s Night Series Cup in 2021. Photo via: Tahlia D’Opera.

“The final against Northern Redbacks was gruelling, lasting the duration of 120 minutes into extra time where we couldn’t hold on against a strong and experienced Redbacks side. We pressed well at the start, scoring two goals again in the opening 10 minutes, but I think we lacked the game management and experience to see out the match.

“As a team, we grew exponentially during the campaign and gelled really well together. We can’t forget the efforts displayed to get to the Final, such as the equaliser from substitute Angelique Alberts, and jaw-dropping freekick from Georgia Cawley in the Semi-Final against Fremantle City.

“We’ll take the lessons from the Final, both physically and mentally into the season and look to build in these areas, particularly as our young players mature and develop more experience in those situations. We know as a team the level we are capable of playing and it’ll be up to us to find that form and consistency during the season with the coaching staff.”

Tahlia believes that Balcatta Etna are in a good place to build on two successive Night Series Finals and aim for a place in the top four this season.

“As an NPLW Club, we are really pushing for a top-four finish, which I believe is certainly achievable with our playing group, coaching staff, and support from the club. 

“We have had a few coaching changes with the appointment of Steve Atkins and Yash Pratap, and the transition of Tim Cash into a Board Member role, which has been very positive in promoting women’s football at Balcatta Etna.

“Steve prioritises team culture, which we know is essential in any team’s success and Yash brings a wealth of world-class tactical and technical knowledge which he has gained from his own experiences playing at the highest level in several Premier Leagues worldwide. Together they complement each other well and I believe they can develop and bring out the best in our squad.

“We have recruited really well with several signings into the squad that all bring unique flare and different elements to the team. For example, Monique Prinsloo is an emerging young player with a spark and hunger for goals, Georgia Cawley brings such composure and experience to our defence line.

Above: Tahlia D’Opera believes that the top four is a realistic aim for Balcatta Etna this season. Photo: JASP Photography via Tahlia D’Opera.

“I think if we take each game in our stride, trust each other and work hard together, then the success and results will take care of themselves. 

“My personal aims are to improve my distribution capability, composure on the ball, and presence in defence, together will maintaining my health for the duration of the season.”

In terms of the wider WA NPLW competition this season, Tahlia believes that it could well be more wide open than ever.

“The Night Series proved, at times it will be unpredictable with clubs relying on their depth and player versatility to play different roles. Having said this, Perth RedStar (formerly Northern Redbacks) are looking strong, with Fremantle City and Perth SC also being the teams to beat.

“A lot of conversation has been around the departure of many skilled players from Murdoch Melville University, Baxter Thew and Ellie La Monte to name a couple. This calibre of players bring so much experience and class to the league so their departure to pursue their own football aspirations has certainly diluted some of the talent here in Western Australia. It definitely sparks conversation about the pathway of female football in WA. However, this leaves an opportunity for competitive young players to step up and play at the NPLW level.”

The first part of this interview can be read here: https://impetusfootball.org/2022/04/20/tahlia-dopera-balcatta-etna-through-and-through/

This week’s weekly round-up of all the NPL WA Women’s competition on Impetus can be read here: https://impetusfootball.org/2022/04/25/npl-wa-women-round-four-wrap/

NPL Victoria Round Four Wrap

Kieran Yap provides his weekly round-up of all the action from the Victoria NPL Women’s competition. As usual, there is a detailed report of one game and a wrap of all the other games along with photos (27/4/22).

Above: Bulleen United threaten the Bayside United goal. Photo: Bayside United.

MAIN REPORT OF THE WEEK:

Bulleen Lions 7-0 Bayside United

Bulleen Lions added another victory to their impressive start to the season. Bayside were the unfortunate side of the end of a 7-0 thrashing. Caitlin Friend’s side had to settle for a 1-1 draw with Calder United in Round Three but rebounded emphatically this week.

Paige Zois was the architect behind most of Bulleen’s best moves. In the opening minutes, she ran down the left wing then cut inside to deliver a dangerous through ball that Bayside struggled to clear.

Bulleen’s first goal came in the fourth minute. Rebekah Stott rose at the far post to meet a corner kick and the ball was bundled home by a pack of players with the final touch credited to Zois.

Minutes later, Zois tried her luck from long range. The shot whistled over the bar, but it was a warning of things to come.

Bulleen were missing Alex Natoli from the backline and Tiffany Eliadis from their attack, but were rarely worried by Bayside. Tyja-Jay Vlajnic was nominally a left-back but spent more time in the forward third. The Lions’ defence sat high and won the ball early at every opportunity.

With the field compressed, Zois was in her element, her movement and quick feet helped her find pockets of space, and it was her skill that unlocked Bayside for the second time.

A quick change of pace and a well-weighted through ball set Vlajnic through on goal and the Serbian international showed no hesitation in making it 2-0 with a first-time shot on the left side of the box.

Above: Bayside United in possession at Bulleen Lions. Photo: Bayside United.

Vlajnic should have made it three before the half was over. She was found unmarked at the back post but somehow her shot went over the crossbar from a yard out.

The floodgates were well and truly open and Bulleen were full of confidence. Stott slalomed around five Bayside players before feeding Vlajnic out wide. From the resulting corner, the ball remarkably bounced twice off the woodwork before being cleared.

Bulleen put the tie to bed before halftime. Aroha Little and Rosie Rodger combined to tee up Zois who was sitting behind the attacking play. This time she made no mistake from 30 yards out. Her shot flew into the top corner to make it 4-0 in spectacular style.

The goals kept flowing in the second half. Vlajnic cruised along the wing to set up Emily Dolzan for a tap in and a sixth goal arrived soon after when Zois’s free-kick bounced fortuitously around the area and into the net.

Natalie Govic raced through on goal from a long pass and committed the keeper before tucking it away for Bulleen’s sixth goal.

The seventh of the afternoon was probably the easiest for Bulleen and the most disappointing from Bayside’s perspective. The ball was turned over by Lauren Farriugia in the Bayside goal and Tessa Sernio intercepted it and finished into the bottom corner.

The emphatic win puts Bulleen on top of the ladder as the only undefeated team after four rounds. The tests get harder next week with Bayside facing an in-form Calder United who will look to recover from a loss to Heidelberg, while Bulleen are up against third-placed Alamein.

Squads: BULLEEN LIONS:  Dolzan, Fruscazlo, Govic, Griss, (O’Bryan 77), Little (Johnson 64), Muldeary,  Rodger, Sernio (Burn 66), Stott (Oruc 46), Vass, Vlajnic, ZoiS, Sheilds.

Scorers: Zois 4′, 42′. Vlajnic 26′. Govic 52′, 61′. Dolzan 45′. Sernio 89.  

BAYSIDE UNITED: Anvari, Baker, Budiongo, Fogarty, Gaudry, Jowett (Sousa 46), Kiousis, Parker, Quinn, Ramsay, Shearing, , Stevenson (Mclure 41), Walters (Porter 74)

Referee: Damir Kulas

Above: Calder United on the ball against Heidelberg United. Photo: Jack Dilks 171819.

Across the grounds, two goals from Heidelberg United ensure a win for them over Calder United to keep them in second place. Adriana Taranto continued her strong form with Calder’s only goal but strikes from Danielle Wise and Grace Jale won the day for the visitors. This capped off a big week for Heidelberg after winning a Nike Cup match 6-3 in extra time against Preston Lions. Jale has been a big hit for Heidelberg, her winning goal on the weekend was her third goal in as many days for the club.

Alamein and Box Hill United fought out a 1-1 draw after a dramatic end which saw the home side equalise in the dying moments thanks to Jamilla Hull after Sofia Sakalis put Box Hill into a 24th minute lead. The Perth Glory attacker has settled in instantly at her new club, her opening goal was her second in as many games. Sakalis’ goal can be viewed here: https://www.facebook.com/BoxHillUtd/videos/512521617117695

South Melbourne and FV Emerging’s match was postponed which keeps the traditional giant at the bottom of the table.

Table From: NPL Victoria Gameday.

NPL WA Women Round Four Wrap

Ben Gilby provides his weekly round-up of all the action from the Western Australia NPL Women’s competition. As usual, there is a detailed report on one game and a wrap of all the other matches along with photos (25/4/22).

Above: Abbey Meakins, who had another impressive game for Perth SC, in action against Fremantle City in a previous encounter. Photo: Rob Lizzi.

MAIN REPORT OF THE WEEK:

Fremantle City 0-0 Perth SC

The battle of the teams placed second and third respectively ended in a goalless draw which helped neither side in their aim of chasing down leaders Perth RedStar.

Both teams went into the encounter missing several key players, with Judy Connolly, Siobhan Longmore, and Mikayla Lyons all out for the home side. Perth SC were missing Jaime Duncanson and Zoe Spadano.

The encounter at Hilton Park was played in temperatures in the mid to high 20s which necessitated drinks breaks in both halves.

Freo were dominant from the off with Laura Waltman and Tash Rigby particularly prominent in marauding runs getting forward. The home side were forcing a high press and working hard to reduce the time on the ball that key Perth SC defender Alyssa van Heurck had, in a bid to force errors.

As the Azzurri gradually settled into the game and earned a greater percentage of the possession, they earned a first real chance on 10 minutes as Emma McMurdo’s free-kick on the right came to former Perth Glory W-League player Taneeshaa Baker to turn and shoot from the edge of the box, with her effort held by Dayle Shroeder in the Fremantle goal.

The home side were still looking dangerous with Jamie-Lee Gayle and Rigby combining with menace. This was the best avenue for Freo’s attacks as Perth SC were working hard defensively to get out quick to smother any attempt at creating down the central channel.

Above: Tash Rigby (black strip) challenging for the ball in a previous encounter with Perth SC. Photo: Rob Lizzi.

Such was the impact that Rigby was having along the right, it was a major blow for Fremantle when she went down with what initially looked to be a knee injury. After lengthy treatment, the Perth Glory A-League Women captain was forced to leave the pitch. Freo’s attack never quite had the same menace again.

The Azzurri picked the pace as Cameron Barreiro found Liana Cook who in turn played in Jaymee Gibbons to get a shot away which was blocked by Coral Buxey.

A key figure in Perth SC earning the momentum shift was Ella Lincoln who buzzed around making herself available and looking to get shots away. One such effort from outside the box called on Schroeder to palm away.

Freo fashioned one chance before the break when Matilda Boyle got free and fed Kat Nolan who had timed her run to perfection. Boyle’s pass may have forced Nolan slightly wider than was ideal, but it was a great move and real opportunity for the hosts.

Perth SC leapt on the offensive from the re-start and created three chances within the opening eight minutes of the second half.

Gibbons’ long ball through released Liana Cook. Lincoln was outside her on the left and when played in, hit a fierce shot into the side netting. The next opportunity fell Baker’s way, but her attempted drive was well blocked by the impressive Waltman, who was one of Fremantle’s stars on the day.

Above: Perth SC’s Liana Cook (Sky Blue) in action at Fremantle City in a previous encounter. Photo: Rob Lizzi.

Abbey Meakins, always a key threat for the Azzuri, was then denied after a fine sweeping move that started inside the Perth SC half. Barreiro played in Cook from the centre of the park. Cook advanced and found Meakins just outside the 18-yard box and Shroeder had to get down well at the left-hand post to deny her.

After this flurry of chances, the game somewhat fizzled out, not helped by the hot conditions. The remaining opportunities all went to the visitors, who also had to ride out a second yellow card for Gibbons.

Faye Phillips drove in a tempting low ball with pace from the right, but there was just a bit too much on it for Cook to make a connection. Then at the death, there was an almighty scramble on the goal-line as Meakins went in with Shroeder to try and force the ball in, but amidst the kerfuffle, a mixture of Fremantle bodies and their keeper ensured the score ended goalless.

Squads: FREMANTLE CITY: Schroeder, Rigby, Gayle, Waltman, Darmago, McCulloch, Boyle, Leek, Buxey, Kiama, Siah. Substitutes: Poad, Lush, Nolan.

PERTH SC: Bennett, Harvey, van Heurck, Barreiro, Phillips, Cook, Meakins, Lincoln, McMurdo, Gibbons, Baker. Substitutes: Papalia, Zampogna, Ritchie.

Referee: Kai Bartusch.

ROUND FOUR WRAP:

Above: Perth RedStar’s Larissa Walsh scorer of two of her team’s goals against Subiaco on Sunday. Photo supplied by: Perth RedStar,

Perth RedStar produced a ruthless performance in dismissing Subiaco 9-0 at RedStar Arena to extend their lead at the top of the table.

RedStar were utterly dominant, earning 15 corners to the visitors’ one. It took them just three minutes to go ahead from a long-range effort from Grace Monteiro.

It was 2-0 seven minutes later with a classy piece of interchange play which saw Larissa Walsh play a 1-2 before sidefooting home.

A spell of two goals in five minutes removed any doubt as to the outcome of this match. Andreia Teixeira’s third will be a goal of the season contender for sure. Subiaco lost possession in the centre of the pitch. Teixeira profited, took a touch, and then lifted a glorious shot over Zoe Board in the Subi goal. Sarah Carroll made it 4-0 after Walsh found her in space for an easy finish.

In stoppage time at the end of the half, Carroll grabbed her second after a perfectly threaded through pass allowed her to slot home.

A flurry of three goals within 13 minutes of the re-start completely put Subiaco to the sword. Walsh comfortably slotted home her second before Olivia Wood made it 7-0 after Board initially made a superb save only for the ball to come back across from the left. Sarah Carroll completed her hat-trick from the penalty spot.

The scoring was completed with five minutes remaining. A move on the left found former New Zealand international Renee Leota who turned her defender beautifully and sidefooted home.

This result, combined with the 0-0 draw between their closest rivals in the table Perth SC and Fremantle City, allowed RedStar to increase their lead to five points at the top. All eyes will be on RedStar Arena next weekend for the visit of third-placed Perth SC. The Azzurri need to get something from the game to keep the race for first place alive at this point in the campaign.

The other scheduled matches, Curtin University Murdoch University Melville and Hyundai NTC v Balcatta Etna were postponed with no new dates set at the time of writing.

 PWDLFAPtsGD
Perth RedStar440023312+20
Fremantle City4211847+4
Perth SC4211637+3
Murdoch University Melville3120325+1
Hyundai NTC3111484-4
Subiaco30121131-12
Balcatta Etna2002030-3
Curtin University30031100-9

Round Five Fixtures: Murdoch University Melville v Fremantle City, Balcatta Etna v Curtin University, Perth RedStar v Perth SC, Subiaco v Hyundai NTC.

Tahlia D’Opera: Balcatta Etna Through And Through

To enhance our coverage of the NPL WA Women’s competition this season, Impetus will be publishing regular interviews with players and coaches from across the league. To kick things off, in the first of a two-part feature, Tahlia D’Opera, defender at Balcatta Etna speaks to Impetus’ Ben Gilby. Part One focuses on the close links between the D’Opera family and the Balcatta Etna club. Tahlia also discusses her footballing journey and the importance of female role models in male-dominated sports (20/4/22).

Above: Tahlia D’Opera – an integral part of Balcatta Etna. Photo: JASP Photography, supplied by Tahlia D’Opera.

The D’Opera family form a major part of the Balcatta Etna set-up.

As well as Tahlia and her twin sister Monique being part of the playing squad, mother Anthea has been a key part of the club’s organisational and administrative group for nine years commencing with voluntary administrative duties and managerial responsibilities when Tahlia and Monique arrived at the club in 2013. Since then, all three members of the family have played an essential role at the club.

“Mum has played a pivotal administrative role in female football at Balcatta Etna Football Club and is a well-respected ambassador in the Western Australian Female Football PL Women (NPLW) and Junior Girls League”, Tahlia outlined. “She has willingly taken on Junior Girls and NPLW registration duties and co-ordinating and organising annual Gala Presentation Evenings to ensure the advocacy and recognition of female football at the club level.”

As for her own introduction to football, the Balcatta Etna defender revealed: “As a young girl, it used to be routine to attend my older brother Matthew’s training and games. He was a goalkeeper and often needed people to fire in shots or practice within the backyard and of course, this was myself and my twin sister Monique.

“Reflecting back to 2006, the Female Football Pathway was very novel with most young girls who wanted to play competitively joining the Junior Boys Leagues. After begging my parents to play, I commenced my junior playing years at Wembley Down’s Soccer Club, playing in the Junior Boys’ Leagues until 2013. At the time, of course, my family was concerned about myself and my sister being pushed around by the boys but like most passionate young girls at the time, we used to get knocked and stood straight back up. I reflect back on these junior years and I was very fortunate to be surrounded by such a supportive young group of boys and coaches.

“In 2013, I transferred to Balcatta Soccer Club under Lisa Tana where I played U15s Girls for one season, before quickly transitioning into the Senior Women’s Team (Bankwest Women’s State League at the time) at the age of 15.

“Whilst still playing for Balcatta FC, I was selected as an associate for the National Training Centre (NTC) with coach Jessine Bonzas in 2014 for two years, where I was able to participate in elite training and camps, and learn from so many high-quality players, who I still play either alongside at Balcatta or for other clubs in the NPLW.

“Since 2014, my time as a member of the Senior Women’s side has been filled with many highlights and memories that I’ll cherish for a lifetime. These include winning the Top Four Championship in its inaugural year in 2018, winning the Night Series in 2021, playing my 100th First Team game in 2021, and picking up a couple of awards along the way, including 2021 Club Player of the Year.

“I’ve learnt many lessons as a footballer, particularly at Balcatta Etna FC under Lisa Tana. She has taught me how to be loyal, how to win graciously and how to learn in defeat. I think back to my first Premier League game at the age of 15 when she reminded me to be brave, and even if I wasn’t, pretend to be, because no one can tell the difference.”

Tahlia D’Opera, Balcatta Etna FC.

“Most importantly, through the people I’ve met and coaches I’ve had throughout my football journey, I have been taught to leave everything better than I found it, and this has driven my passion for coaching young players, mentoring others, and fostering relationships with my team-mates.

“Someone once told me, you won’t always remember what someone has said, but you will remember how they made you feel. I am very grateful for all the older and experienced players that lead me to where I am now and who have inspired me to help others as they did for me.”

Above: Tahlia (right) with the 2018 Top Four Cup with sister Monique (left) and Tessa De Leo (centre). Photo: via Tahlia D’Opera.

With so many great football achievements and memories behind her already, I wondered how Tahlia would now describe herself as a player.

“Ooh! That’s a tough question! I like to think I’m dynamic, so I can either play a full 90 minutes or substitute in depending on what the match demands.

“I’m continually looking to combine with the midfield or threaten the opposing defence where possible, but I’m pretty disciplined with the coaches tactics, so will try to keep the ball in possession.

“I’m a lifelong learner so I’m always looking for ways to develop or improve my skills and confidence on the ball. I’ve recently focused more on my functional strength and fitness which has proven positive so far so I’m hoping for this to transition into my game. I also don’t mind a conversation with the referees as well!”

It is often said these days in relation to the importance of providing young girls with sporting role models that “you can’t be who you can’t see”. Tahlia admits that she had few female sporting idols growing up, but she is thrilled to see the situation changing for the current generation.

“With the women’s game still evolving, female footballers didn’t really have a place in the spotlight during the early years of my football journey.

“My first football jersey was a David Beckham number seven England 2003-2005 home jersey. Being such as household name at the time, it was inevitable to watch his incredible class, passing ability, and freekicks. 

“However growing up and playing in a more defensive role, I’ve always loved watching Sergio Ramos at Real Madrid – his aggression, his leadership, his technique, and his success. I’d be lying if I said I did have one of his famous kits.

“Having said this, female athletes in male-dominated sports inspire me on each occasion. To note, athletes such as Ronda Rowsey (UFC Athlete) and Sam Kerr’s demonstrations of persistence is truly inspirational.

“With the overall growth of the female football over the past few years, the success of the Matildas, and hosting the 2023 World Cup, young female players are surrounded by many role models and leaders to look up to at the club, state, and national team level which is inspiring. Watching the Matildas play together, with their comradery and ‘Never Say Die’ attitude, it’s hard not get goosebumps.”

Don’t miss Part Two of our chat with Tahlia D’Opera next Wednesday when the Balcatta Etna defender reviews the club’s 2021 campaign and considers the new season of the NPL WA Women’s competition.

Impetus’ weekly round-ups of all the NPL WA Women’s matches are published on the site every Monday. This week’s can be read here: https://impetusfootball.org/2022/04/18/npl-wa-women-round-three-wrap/

NPL Victoria Round Three Wrap

Kieran Yap provides his weekly round-up of all the action from the Victoria NPL Women’s competition. As usual, there is a detailed report of one game and a wrap of all the other games along with photos (19/4/22).

Above: Celebrations for Box Hill United after Candela Ferreyra Bas‘ late leveller against Bayside United. Photo: Joaotam.

MAIN REPORT OF THE WEEK:

FC Bulleen Lions 1-1 Calder United

This week we were all waiting for Easter Monday. Two recent powerhouses of Victoria’s NPLW faced off with first placed Bulleen hosting the resurgent and undefeated Calder United.

FC Bulleen Lions were without A-League pair Tiffany Eliadis and Lia Privitelli but went into the game after two encouraging wins. Calder United arrived at the Veneto Club confident after a 4-0 defeat of FV Emerging in round two.

The match was frenetic from the kick-off, and the home side had the first opportunity with Alyssa Dall`Oste being forced into a good early save in the Calder goals.

Bulleen were more patient in the build-up and in possession early. Rebekah Stott had been dominant in the Melbourne City midfield this season but returned to her traditional centre-back role for Bulleen. She was composed and helped them build from the back.

Calder gradually grew into the match as the half developed. Emma Rober’s chased down a long ball and her first-time cross almost landed inside the far post. Emily Shields looked unbothered in the Bulleen goal and watched it sail wide for a goal kick.

Robers had the next good chance for Calder United. Ava Groba was dangerous and energetic upfront for the visitors and played in the midfielder with only Shields to beat. Her shot was well hit but fizzed wide of the post in another warning for Bulleen’s defence.

Both teams looked to attack, although Calder were quicker to move the ball forward than the hosts. A dangerous Stacey Papadopoulos flicked on Rober’s shot but it again missed the target.

The final chance of the half fell to Bulleen. Claudia Fruscalzo’s header looked destined for the net but bounced off the woodwork and the teams went in to the break on level terms.

The second half was as frenetic as the first. Emma Shields has been officially credited as conceding an own goal in the 59th minute. However, Natasha’s Dakic’s header looked on target and she might feel aggrieved not to be listed as the scorer.

In any case, Adriana Taranto’s free-kick was perfectly hit and caused chaos in the Bulleen defence. There was no room for error when dealing with it and Calder United had a somewhat surprising but not undeserved lead.

It would not last long. Paige Zois pulled one back for the Lions just four minutes later. There was little that Dall`Oste could do to stop her from point-blank range, but the tricky midfielder stayed composed to tap the ball home.

Neither team was satisfied with a draw. But clear-cut chances were hard to come by. The ever-creative Adriana Taranto came closest in the late stages. Her long-range effort was on target but Shields saved well as she did for most of the night.

The 1-1 draw was not the worst result for either team. Bulleen maintain their spot in first place, one point clear of Heidelberg United. Calder jumped up to third on the ladder although Alamein might have a game in hand at the time of writing.

Squads: FC BULLEEN LIONS: Shields, Natoli (Govic 65′), Friuscalzo, Zois (Lettieri 87′), Burn, Little, Stott, Johnson, Vlajnic (Sernio 87′), Rodger (Dolzan 65′), Zarkos.

Scorer: Zois 63′.

CALDER UNITED: Dall`Oste, Cain (Cerne 56′), Groba, Robers, Eike, Dakic, A.Taranto, Papadopoulos (Stella 86′), Sardo, Talevski, M.Taranto

Scorer: Sheilds (OG) 59′.

Referee: Caitlin Williams

NPLW Vic Wrap:

Elsewhere in the league, there were only two other games played. Heidelberg United continued their strong start to the season with a 1-0 win over the improving FV Emerging. Emily Roach scored in the 15th minute to secure Heidelberg’s second win of the season.

Above: Bayside United on the attack at Box Hill United. Photo: Bayside United.

Box Hill United FC and Bayside United Seniors played out a 2-2 draw across town. Amanda Stevenson took only three minutes to open the scoring for Bayside before Sofia Sakalis pulled one back for Box Hill on 34 minutes. It was the Perth Glory and former South Melbourne attacker’s first goal for her new club after returning from Young Matildas duty.

Sienna Fogarty put Bayside ahead again in the 51st minute, but with only minutes remaining, Candela Ferreyra Bas rescued a point for Box Hill.

The draw left both sides without a win so far this season, but the return of Sakalis to the squad and the scoresheet signal for better days ahead for Box Hill.

Table From: NPL Victoria Gameday.

NPL WA Women Round Three Wrap

Ben Gilby provides his weekly round-up of all the action from the Western Australia NPL Women’s competition. As usual, there is a detailed report on one game and a wrap of all the other matches along with photos (18/4/22).

Above: An aerial challenge at Dorrien Gardens where Perth SC (blue) hosted Curtin University. Photo: Rob Lizzi.

MAIN REPORT OF THE WEEK:

Perth RedStar 3-2 Fremantle City

Above: Jacinta Coleman (middle) celebrates putting Perth RedStar 3-1 up over Fremantle City. Photo: NPL

Perth RedStar ran out winners against a Fremantle City side who battled for over an hour with only 10 players.

This was the battle of the only teams in the competition that had won their opening two games. Freo produced an excellent backs to the wall performance in the face of a second-half RedStar onslaught which saw goalkeeper Dayle Schroeder make a number of superb saves, and her teammates reduced the deficit back to just a single goal with five minutes remaining.

The second yellow card for Fremantle’s Siobhan Longmore after 27 minutes was a big setback for the visitors who were gradually growing into the game after RedStar, fielding A-League Women and former Matildas star Kim Carroll for the first time this season, started strong.

The initial momentum for Perth RedStar saw them take the lead with seven minutes played. Longmore lost possession to Olivia Wood who got away before the visitors initially looked to have snuffed out the danger, only for Kayla McCulloch to then cough up the ball again which allowed Larissa Walsh to hit a rising shot into the net off the underside of the bar. It was a superb way for Walsh to mark her 230th game for the club.

It took until the 15-minute mark for Freo to settle, and build a possession-based game around triangular passing moves, but they were still finding it challenging to get out of their own half.

A microcosm of the game in this spell came when the visitors passed the ball around inside their own half before losing possession which allowed Jacinta Coleman to feed Andrea Teixeira. She in turn fed Wood who broke clean through, but was denied by the legs of Schroeder in the Freo goal. Teixeira was involved once more shortly afterwards as Ruby Cohen profited from loose Fremantle play on the right to play the ball across, but the finish was too high.

Above: Jessica Darmago (facing camera arm raised) celebrates after putting Fremantle City level. Photo: NPL.

With 25 minutes played Freo were level. Longmore was wide on the left well inside her own half and beat two RedStars before playing a superb long ball across for Jessica Darmago who turned and beat Sarah Carroll before looping a shot into the far corner of the net. A goal that may well have deflected off of the Perth Glory A-League Women defender, but Darmago’s skill after superb play from Longmore in the build-up was worthy of a reward.

However, just two minutes later, Fremantle joy turned to misery as Longmore was shown a second yellow card for what could be described as a “tasty” challenge on Wood.

Perth RedStar looked to focus their attacks immediately along Freo’s left where Longmore had been prominent. Coleman created a chance, pulling back to Walsh, but Perth Glory A-League Women captain Tash Rigby got back well to block.

To their credit, the visitors rallied in adversity with Laura Waltman looking calm and cultured on the ball. Before the break, she fed Mikayla Lyons who was denied by RedStar keeper Shivani Battaglia.

The home team came out for the second half on the front foot and dominated. Within six minutes of the restart, Kim Carroll’s free-kick on the far right-hand side was lifted high towards Coleman at the back post where her shot was blocked by Schroeder. The rebound fell to substitute Renee Leota, but the shot was wide of the right-hand post.

Four minutes later, Schroeder was called into action once more and made a superb save to deny Leota at the left-hand post. The pressure continued to rise on the visitors. As Leota broke clean through, Schroeder repelled the shot brilliantly with Walsh putting the follow-up over the bar.

Walsh had another opportunity shortly afterwards, as she broke through, but Rigby chased back and forced the RedStar sharpshooter to rush a shot wide.

Above: Larissa Walsh hits hers and Perth Redstar’s second goal against Fremantle City. Photo: NPL.

However, with 67 minutes on the clock, Walsh had better luck. Shawn Bilham’s long ball for Leota saw the former Football Ferns star feed Wood in space. Walsh got away from Rigby to score her fifth goal of the season.

Four minutes later, it was 3-1 as a poor clearance from Schroeder went straight to Leota. The sub was able to feed Coleman who advanced and fired into the bottom corner.

Perth RedStar continued to press but were unable to add to their tally. With five minutes remaining, Freo gained some reward for their hugely creditable efforts. Former W-League player Jamie-Lee Gale’s corner was played inside for Dormago and back for Rigby on the right to lift a high ball in. Kate Nolan leapt highest of all at the back post to head in and reduce the arrears to a single goal.

Perth RedStar undoubtedly deserved their third win from three games this season to move clear at the top of the table, scoring a total of 14 goals in the process. For Fremantle City, there will be thoughts of what might have been had Longmore stayed on the field. They face a tough run of fixtures in the coming weeks when they will take on both Perth SC and Murdoch University Melville.

Squads: PERTH REDSTAR: Battaglia, S.Carroll, Walsh, K.Carroll, Walsh, Bilham, Wood, Dunn, Cohen, Teixeira, Monteiro, Coleman. Substitutes: Larsen, De Leo, Doan, Leota, Mogridge, Inch, Diederichsen.

Scorers: Walsh 7′, 67′. Coleman 71′.

FREMANTLE CITY: Schroeder, Boyle, Waltman, Lyons, Longmore, McCulloch, Leek, Darmago, Rigby, Gale, Poad. Substitutes: Buxey, Lush, Nolan, Casilli.

Scorers: Darmago 25′, Nolan 85′.

Referee: Peter Kaiser.

ROUND THREE WRAP:

Round Three opened on Good Friday as Hyundai NTC hosted defending champions Murdoch University Melville (MUM) at E&D Litis Stadium.

Above: Hyundai NTC about to take the lead against Murdoch University Melville from the penalty spot. Photo: NPL.

MUM were strong on the offensive from the start, forcing three corners in the opening 16 minutes along with five shots on target. Yet it was the NTC who took the lead with half an hour on the clock from the penalty spot.

The youngsters held their lead until the 74th minute when Clara Hoarau gained possession and played a 1-2 with Elysse Shore who crossed in from the left. NTC had two opportunities to clear, but Murdoch earned the ball back allowing Nikita Strickling to turn and side foot the ball home from around 15 yards.

Above: Scenes of joy as Perth SC saw off Curtin University at Dorrien Gardens. Photo: Rob Lizzi.

Perth SC moved up to third place with a 2-0 win over a winless Curtin University side at Dorrien Gardens.

The home side went ahead five minutes before the break when an attempt to play out from the back by captain Stephanie Waycott went straight to a sky blue shirt on the left and a ball in found Abbey Meakins who laid off a perfect pass to Ella Lincoln to sweep home.

It took Perth SC until the 80th minute to double their lead. A ball out to the left found Jaime Duncanson who squared for Meakins to smash home a superb shot from an acute angle. It was a deserved goal for a player who had been impressive during the game.

The match between Subiaco and Balcatta Etna was postponed, and will now be played on 24th July at Rosalie Park.

 PWDLFAPtsGD
Perth RedStar33001439+11
Fremantle City3201846+4
Perth SC3201636+3
Murdoch University Melville3120325+1
Hyundai NTC3111484-4
Subiaco2011141-3
Balcatta Etna2002030-3
Curtin University30031100-9

Round Four Fixtures: Curtin University v Murdoch University Melville, Hyundai NTC v Balcatta Etna, Fremantle City v Perth SC, Perth RedStar v Subiaco.

Above: Curtin University and Perth SC battle it out earlier today. Photo: Rob Lizzi.

Perth Glory: Riding The Storm And Thriving

Impetus’ Ben Gilby has followed Perth Glory’s women’s team since they were formed in 2008 and now covers the team throughout the A-League Women season. He reflects on the toughest season in the club’s history and reveals the inside story of how the team overcame the challenges to experience one of the greatest campaigns they have ever had (14/4/22).

Above: Two of Perth Glory’s young stars Deborah-Ann de la Harpe and Hana Lowry celebrate a defining moment in a game this season against Western Sydney Wanderers. Photo: Provided to author by Perth Glory.

Perth Glory were the club that gave locally raised Sam Kerr her first taste of senior football. She was part of a Perth side that made Grand Final appearances in 2015, 2017, and 2019. So why is this season when the team didn’t make Finals, arguably even more incredible than those years?

How about this. Perth Glory only played one home game all season. Due to the closure of the Western Australia state border, they were forced to spend almost three months based in North Sydney, almost 2,500 miles from home. That’s a five-hour flight away. To put this into perspective, a five-hour flight from London could take you to Iraq, Saudi Arabia, or Mauritania.

Then throw into the mix that Perth Glory’s team (as with most A-League Women clubs) consists of players with full-time jobs or those studying at university or in some cases still at school (the minimum school leaving age in Western Australia is 17 years and six months).

These players had the choice – try and get (unpaid) leave from work, university, or school for three months, or don’t play in the country’s top competition this year. In the end, all of the squad came for the duration except for two of their youngest members Tijan McKenna and Poppie Hooks who returned to Perth before the end of the campaign to commence their HSC year at school.

In early January, as the club settled into their temporary base on the other side of the country, a COVID outbreak ravaged the team, but they were still expected to keep playing. Then key players were lost to injury. But they kept playing. And winning.

Here is the story of Perth Glory’s remarkable 2021/22 A-League Women season through the eyes of those closely involved.

Above: The Perth Glory team that spent three months 2,500 miles from home. Photo: provided to author by Perth Glory.

This was a season that started with a quiet confidence about the club’s prospects. Perth head coach Alex Epakis set about building a team for the medium term by not only securing players within a month of the end of the season but also on multi-year deals.

Speaking to me ahead of the season, Epakis highlighted that process: “It was about identifying the type of character and person that we wanted in terms of a profile and what that looked like. The women’s game is a very transitional one with the capacity to run at high intensity vital. So, with all those things we came up with a matrix system that ensured that whatever player we looked to sign met enough of those metrics into what we wanted on and off the field.

That matrix system brought in some of Australia’s brightest young talent with Young/Junior Matildas such as Morgan Aquino, Susan Phonsongkham, Alana Jancevski, Sofia Sakalis, and Claudia Mihocic arriving along with the retention of local teenage star Hana Lowry.

Crucially, there was an experienced spine added to provide ballast to the Glory as locally born Matildas superstar Lisa De Vanna returned to the club along with Kim Carroll who played in all those Grand Finals before moving to Brisbane Roar. International talent in American Cyera Hintzen and Danish international Mie Leth Jans also arrived. The latter pair would have a major influence on the campaign.

For the first time in several years, there was a degree of positivity in Perth. This was represented in the carnival atmosphere at the team’s Macedonia Park home for their opening game of the season against Brisbane Roar.

Above: Perth Glory fans support their team at what turned out to be their only home game during the 2021/22 season. Photo provided to author by: Perth Glory.

Over 1,000 purple and orange-clad fans were in attendance creating a typically partisan Western Australian atmosphere. The team achieved the incredible after going into the game without a win in almost 20 months.

When Anna Margraf gave Brisbane the lead after 23 minutes, the Glory fans could have feared the worst. But the noise cranked up and they were rewarded with something that moved seasoned fans to tears of joy. New signing Susan Phonsongkham levelled the scores with two minutes to play. Then in stoppage time at the end of 90 minutes, Perth’s English striker Gemma Craine pressured a back pass which rolled into the net in the confusion to seal Glory’s win. Perth had won for the first time since 22nd February 2020.

It turned out that this would be the only home game that Perth would play as shortly afterwards the state border closed once more meaning all the other teams in the A-League Women would no longer be allowed in. If Perth Glory wanted to play out the season, they would have to do it from the other side of the country.

The club were moved out to North Sydney and were based in self-serviced apartments for three months from just after Christmas for the next three months.

It would have been all too easy for the positivity that surrounded the team pre-season to fall apart. Captain Tash Rigby had told me at the end of the 2020/21 season that she was seriously weighing up whether or not to commit to another campaign due to the time pressures of the A-League Women season. She now had to take three months out of work to play for the club.  

Perth and Australian football icon Lisa De Vanna spoke for most when she said in January: “The whole thing sucks. I came back to the club to play a final season in front of my hometown supporters. That’s now gone.”

Yet something remarkable happened in that three-month period on the road. Alex Epakis fostered an environment that was supportive of his players’ mental, physical and social needs. I spoke to nine different players during the period the club were based on the road and all without prompting identified Epakis’ work and ethos as the key to keeping a hugely positive mindset around the place.

Above: Alana Jancevski, one of the team’s talented youngsters pictured against Canberra United. Photo: Kris Goman.

19-year-old attacking star Alana Jancevski told me: “Having a coach that continually wants to grow individual players highlights his commitments to make each and every player the best versions of themselves. It brings together their unique qualities to the greater good of the squad.

“He (Epakis) has pushed me like no other coach has; he has made me not only physically a better footballer but has allowed me to become mentally stronger in tough moments which is something that I needed to develop in order to take the next step in my footballing journey. I look forward to continually working with Alex to take more leaps in the near future.”

Those leaps included some unique bonding sessions as midfielder Sarah Cain told me in February. “We’ve had four birthdays in the last month among the team. We’re sticking together and taking every opportunity to be together. We added up the collective age of the birthdays in February and it came to 115 so we all went out to op shops (charity shops), got old person clothes, and had an old people’s fancy dress party!”

Four players then went down with COVID, but the desire, positivity, and belief that Epakis instilled in his squad saw the Glory maintain their run of outstanding performances and positive results. This was seen been best when a COVID and injury-ridden Perth side earned a 1-0 win over Western Sydney Wanderers, courtesy of a sensational free-kick from another young star – Deborah-Ann de la Harpe.

The 22-year-old left-back who can also play in midfield was another to note the influence of Alex Epakis on her development. She told me how her head coach goes out of his way to get to know his players better to find out what makes them tick as people and how to develop them further.

Above: The career-best form of Deborah-Ann de la Harpe coincided with both a COVID and injury outbreak at the club in late January. Photo: Kris Goman.

As the regular season ticked towards its conclusion, Perth were well in the race for a place in the Finals. It all came down to the last day of the season when the Western Australians needed to defeat Wellington Phoenix and hope Canberra United defeated Melbourne Victory.

In Wollongong, 53 miles north of Sydney, Perth kept their side of the bargain with a 3-1 win over the New Zealanders. Canberra did everything they could at Melbourne Victory to defeat the defending champions, but the game ended 0-0 and Perth missed out on the Finals by just goal difference. The Glory had overcome so many hurdles and become a stronger and tighter team for it.

“Everyone is really sad that the season is over,” captain Tash Rigby told me after that final game. “We became so close and really made the most of our time together.”

If there was an air of positivity around the club before this season, there is now massive excitement about the 2022/23 campaign. Despite all the difficulties of the campaign, Perth Glory only lost four matches all season. The year before they lost 11. The 2019/20 season saw seven losses.

The best possible news was delivered in February when Alex Epakis extended his contract as head coach for another year. He told me that it was one of the easiest decisions he’s ever had to make.

“I’m really invested in the players and what we are trying to achieve. It was an easy decision and one I’m delighted about. “In my mind, we have an unlimited amount of potential, both individually and collectively. As a group, we have a great balance of players who are all contributing towards success. It’s exciting to be part of and I’m proud of it. I get to work with these players and staff every day and I’m proud of that.”

The original, longer version of this article was published by https://since-71.com/ and appears at https://since-71.com/perth-glory-the-team-that-was-forced-2500-miles-from-home/

Artwork: Graphics by PW.

Junior Matildas Announce Squad For Training Camp

14/4/22

Above: Junior Matildas head coach Rae Dower making a point during a previous camp. Photo: Football Australia.

Junior Matildas Head Coach Rae Dower has announced a squad of 30 players for their next training camp later this month in South Australia. 

The second Training Camp of 2022 sees players from across the nation, including WA-based players for the first time in two years, called in as the national team selectors continue to cast their eye across the next generation of Australian footballers. 

Running from 20 – 26 April, the training camp sees the selection of 2005 and 2006-born players with a mix of new and returning players into the U17 environment. 

“On the back of a successful camp for 2005 born players recently in Canberra, the upcoming camp in Adelaide gives the staff and I an opportunity to see another 30 players from the playing cohort,” said Dower. 

“The message will be consistent as it was for the last camp, to come and soak up as much as they can and take as much as possible away from the experience. They will be encouraged to train and play with freedom and bring their individuality and creativity to the camp, and to enjoy the experience.

Above: Rae Dower, Junior Matildas Head Coach. Photo: Football Australia.

“The players will get an opportunity to see where their own game is at, take some feedback away to their training environments, put that into practice daily and work hard to improve themselves, on and off the pitch. Every day is an opportunity to be better than we were yesterday, and that process never ends.”

The Training Camp will culminate in a ‘Green v Gold’ public match at 3pm (ACST) between the players on ANZAC Day at the new Football South Australia State Centre for Football at Gepps Cross.

The match will be live-streamed around the country and provide another coach education opportunity around Talent Identification.

“There are so many exciting players in this cohort already, some of the best players I have seen at their age, bar none. It’s our responsibility now to nurture that talent and provide them with the opportunities to continue to grow and develop, on and off the pitch.

“We’ll also be providing some professional development opportunities for the Football South Australia staff who are doing some really great work with these young players, with Adelaide United reaping the rewards in the Liberty A-League Women’s this year by making the finals for the first time.

“We want to continue to send a message to all players that we are looking to unearth talented players who we think can go on and become professionals and Matildas of the future,” she said.

Junior Matildas Training Squad

Isabella ACCARDODefenderFootball Victoria NTC / Football Victoria
Ella ABDUL MASSIHDefenderFootball NSW Institute / Football NSW
Alexia APOSTOLAKISDefenderFootball NSW Institute / Football NSW
Lily BARBERMidfielderSA NTC / Football South Australia
Margaret BARRETTForwardFootball Queensland-QAS / Football Queensland
Tegan BERTOLISSIODefenderFootball NSW Institute / Football NSW
Zara BOARDGoalkeeperSubiaco AFC / Football West
India BREIERForwardFootball NSW Institute / Football NSW
Ava BRIEDISMidfielderFootball Victoria NTC / Football Victoria
Daisy BROWNForwardFootball Queensland-QAS / Football Queensland
Mila BULICDefenderFootball Victoria NTC / Football Victoria
Georgia CASSIDYMidfielderHyundai NTC / Football West
Layne CHAPMANGoalkeeperBrothers Townsville FC / Football Queensland
Sasha COOREYMidfielderSA NTC / Football South Australia
Jonti FISHERForwardFootball Queensland-QAS / Football Queensland
Tahlia FRANCOGoalkeeperFootball NSW Institute / Football NSW
Charlie GIBSONDefenderFootball Queensland-QAS / Football Queensland
Anabelle GHABACHMidfielderFootball NSW Institute / Football NSW
Lara GOOCHMidfielderNewcastle Jets / Northern NSW Football
Zoe KARIPIDISDefenderNewcastle Jets / Northern NSW Football
Amali KINSELLADefenderFootball Queensland-QAS / Football Queensland
Zara KRUGERMidfielderLions FC / Football Queensland
Camila MADRIZ FIGUEROAForwardSA NTC / Football South Australia
Maia MARINKOVICForwardFootball Victoria NTC / Football Victoria
Avaani PRAKASHMidfielderFootball NSW Institute / Football NSW
Mary STANIC-FLOODYMidfielderFootball NSW Institute / Football NSW
Peta TRIMISForwardFootball NSW Institute / Football NSW
Chloe WALANDOUWDefenderNewcastle Jets / Northern NSW Football
Hayley WELLINGTONDefenderSA NTC / Football South Australia
Grace WILSONGoalkeeperSA NTC / Football South Australia

NPL WA Women Round Two Wrap

Ben Gilby provides his weekly round-up of all the action from the Western Australia NPL Women’s competition. As usual, there is a detailed report on one game and a wrap of all the other games along with photos (11/4/22).

Above: Balcatta Etna (blue) tussle for possession at home to Murdoch University Melville. Photo: JASP Photography.

MAIN REPORT OF THE WEEK:

Balcatta Etna 0-1 Murdoch University Melville

Last year’s top side Murdoch University Melville came out winners in a fiercely fought encounter of few real chances at a wet Grindleford Park.

It was a real test of the new look Murdoch side who came into the game on the back of an opening day draw with last year’s bottom team Subiaco. Balcatta had a tough baptism to the new campaign away at Perth SC which saw them go down 2-0.

MUM started the strongest and forces the opening corner with just over 60 seconds played. They also called home goalkeeper Gaby Dal Busco into action early on when Rachel Gillies’ free-kick from the left was met by the head of Poppie Hooks, who played A-League Women football for Perth Glory this season at the age of 16. Dal Busco gathered comfortably.

The early torrential rain subdued after 10 minutes and Balcatta settled, beginning to assert some assertive play. Cass Harvey put in a long cross for Tayna Campos whose effort deflected out for a corner. Monique D’Opera, who looked composed and tidy on the ball throughout also came close with a free-kick that went into the side-netting.

However, despite the home side’s growth, it was Murdoch University Melville who took the lead just before the break. Gillies took a throw on the half way line which led to Molly Bolton playing a crossfield ball out to the right. The ball came in and was met by a flick header by Hooks to put the visitors ahead.

Above: Poppie Hooks (on ground) is mobbed by her team-mates after putting Murdoch University Melville ahead at Balcatta Etna. Photo: JASP Photography

The second half saw the return of the intense bursts of rain. Balcatta needed to grab the momentum, but real chances remained at a premium.

With an hour gone, Monique Prinsloo was rewarded for her efforts in the build-up to receive a return pass which put the Balcatta player in with Murdoch keeper Monique Todd, but the latter gathered.

As the half developed, the influence of MUM’s Meghan Hulsman grew along the right. Hulsman was dangerous with her runs, but also with deft footwork, passes and crosses. The wide player also created an opportunity for herself when cutting in from the right, but was denied by a superb diving save from Dal Busco.

For the home side, Tahlia D’Opera was an absolute workhorse, busy, battling hard and putting herself about both defensively but also on occasion coming forward along the left.

Above: Eyes on the ball – Murdoch University Melville advance against Balcatta Etna. Photo: JASP Photography,

With a quarter of an hour remaining, Balcatta won a corner. Campos rose and the ball was recycled by substitute Mia Yeo for Tahlia D’Opera on the edge of the box whose shot was well handled by Todd in the face of the onrushing hoards.

Each side had one remaining opportunity, both in the dying stages. Samantha Mathers broke clean through for Murdoch but Dal Busco came out to meet her and slid the ball away expertly.

Balcatta’s was a golden opportunity three minutes into stoppage time when a ball in from the right by Prinsloo went over Todd and found Yeo at the back post who chested the ball down, but it was somehow swept away on the goal-line by Murdoch University Melville to clinch the win.

Balcatta has had a tough two fixtures to open the campaign and although yet to win or score, will certainly come good very soon. They will also hope that what at the time looked like a painful hit on Lauren Continibali won’t prove to be too serious ahead of next week’s trip to Subiaco.

Teams: BALCATTA ETNA: Dal Busco, M. D’Opera, T. D’Opera, Harvey, Campos, Godding, Jorquera, Prinsloo, Doust, Continibali, Veroni. Substitutes: Davis, Hayes, Yeo, Murray, Alberts.

MURDOCH UNIVERSITY MELVILLE: Todd, Lehane, Gillies, Hooks, Hoarau, Wainwright, Shore, Mathers, Hulsman, Bolton, Strickling. Substitutes: Townsend, Hope, Blankendaal, Mayoe.

Referee: David Avison.

Round Two Round-Up:

Above: Hyundai NTC (yellow) battle it out with Perth SC on Friday night. Photo: Rob Lizzi.

Hyundai NTC came from behind with less than 15 minutes to go to defeat Perth SC 3-2 at E&D Litis Stadium on Friday night. Perth went ahead with just two minutes on the clock when Jaime Duncanson volleyed in. The scores were level before the half-hour when Olivia Trueman charged down Perth goalkeeper Rebecca Bennett’s attempted clearance to equalize.

Perth SC re-established their lead just after the hour mark as a missed attempted clearance from the NTC keeper allowed Duncanson in to pounce again.

But the NTC, who had most of the offensive play, mounted a dramatic late comeback. With 13 minutes left, Louise Tana hit a 20-yard sensation into the net. On 83 minutes, Grace Johnstone curled in the winner directly from a corner on the left.

Perth RedStar ran out comfortable 6-1 winners at Curtin University also on Friday night. Hannah Insch gave them the lead with 12 minutes played when she rolled an effort into the net with ease. Yet, just before the break, Curtin levelled after winning a challenge with RedStar keeper Shivani Battaglia to slide the ball in.

That was as good as it got for the home side as RedStar ran riot in the second half along the right and Larissa Walsh benefitted by putting her team back in front. It was 3-1 shortly afterwards as Jacinta Coleman’s effort came back off the bar and eventually was worked for Renee Leota to volley home.

In the closing stages, Perth RedStar added another two as Akira Mogridga fired high into the net and Coleman rolled in the fifth easily at the far post.

Above: There was plenty to celebrate for Fremantle City at Subiaco yesterday. Photo: NPL.

Fremantle City came back from Subiaco with the points after a 4-1 victory at Rosalie Park to maintain their 100% start to the campaign.

Freo took the lead with 13 minutes gone when Matilda Boyle headed home. But Subi showed their mettle and levelled just after the half-hours when Frankie Murray’s free-kick on the right was touched in by Chelsie Whinchcombe.

Two goals in three minutes in the second half put the game firmly in Fremantle’s favour with Lyons hitting both low into the net. Kayla McCulloch sealed the deal four minutes from time.

 PWDLFAPtsGD
Perth RedStar22001116+10
Fremantle City2200616+5
Murdoch University Melville2110104+1
Perth SC2101433+1
Hyundai NTC2101373-4
Subiaco2011141-3
Balcatta Etna2002030-3
Curtin University2002180-7

Round Three Fixtures: Hyundai NTC v Murdoch University Melville, Perth RedStar v Fremantle City, Perth SC v Curtin University, Subiaco v Balcatta Etna.

NPL Victoria Women Round Two Wrap

Kieran Yap provides his weekly round-up of all the action from the Victoria NPL Women’s competition. As usual, there is a detailed report on one game and a wrap of all the other games along with photos (11/4/22).

Above: Action from Calder United (white) v Football Victoria Emerging. Photo: Jack Dilks (171819).

MAIN REPORT OF THE WEEK:

Calder United 4-0 Football Victoria Emerging

The game of the week in round two was Calder United’s return to form. Calder are one of the most successful women’s only clubs in Victoria. They are never easybeats but are missing some big names from previous seasons.

Polly Doran, Catherine Zimmerman, Harriet Withers, and Laura Spiranovic are not currently with the squad. Doran made her name with Calder before enhancing it at Victory. She has continued her career in the New South Wales NPL for this season at least.

FV Emerging were one of the most impressive sides last season. As a development squad, it is inevitable that they will lose players each season. Two of last year’s stars, Alana Murphy and Caitlin Karic are currently in the Young Matildas camp.

After a goalless draw in round one, Calder came out of the blocks firing this week. Ava Groba opened the scoring in the sixth minute. FV Emerging had controlled possession in the opening minutes but a Calder counterattack resulted in Groba cutting in past two defenders and finishing in the top corner.

It was another counterattack and another long ball to Groba that doubled Calder’s lead. This time, she slowed down, then quickly changed pace to beat the defender on the outside. Her first goal was on her right foot, this one on the left. They both found the same corner of the net.

Above: An aerial battle between Calder United and Football Victoria Emerging. Photo: Jack Dilks (171819).

Isabella Accardo seemed to have done everything right. She kept Groba on her left foot, and did not lunge in, but the quick acceleration and finish were perfect.

The FV Emerging defender almost made amends straight away. A defence-splitting pass from deep created a chance in front of goal, but it could not be turned in.

Calder continued to pile on the goals in the second half. Adriana Taranto raced in on goal and eventually, the ball fell to Stacy Papadopoulos who was bundled over in the box.

Taranto made no mistake from the second opportunity in a minute and buries the penalty kick to make it 3-0 with half an hour left to play.

In a day full of memorable goals, the fourth might have been the best. Again Papadopoulos was involved. The attacker had been dangerous since coming off the bench and she teased the defender on the wing before laying the ball back to Alanna Cerne.

Above: Calder United on the front foot against Football Victoria Emerging. Photo: Jack Dilks (171819).

Cerne took a tough and a few strides forward from deep. She lined up her shot and fired it into the net from 30 yards with enough power to beat Hrehoresin with an early goal of the season contender.

The game ended 4-0 with Calder the much more clinical of the two sides. FV Emerging were attacking and industrious but were caught out by quick attacks by Mark Torcaso’s side.

Sarah Cain was one of Emerging’s best. In a central midfield role, she broke up play and continued to move the ball forward. The young team was only missing some composure in the final third. It was the only thing missing from their performance in an attacking sense. Either the final pass or the finish went astray.

Calder United were not dominant for the entire game but had control of the play even without the ball. Emma Rober’s was composed in midfield and Cori Cain’s long passing was the key to many attacks.

The 4-0 scoreline might seem unfair to FV Emerging, but Calder took their chances and the home side might be disappointed they did not add to the tally.

The confidence that this win provides will come in handy next week when they face the undefeated and untied Bulleen Lions.

Squads: CALDER UNITED: Dall’Oste, Cain, Cerne, Stojevski (Stella 50′), Talevski (Robers 50′), Groba (Papadopoulos 59′), Eike, Dakic. A. Taranto, Mathews, Sardo.

Scorers: Groba 6′, 34′. Taranto 64′. Cerne 81′.

FOOTBALL VICTORIA EMERGING: Hrehoresin, Lohrey, Varley(Beidis 74′), Richards, Sewards, Vlaeminck (Bulic 56′), Curtis, Kilderry, Brown (Liacopoulos 90′), Cain, Accardo, Cortellino.

Referee: Shab Roshan.

Round Two Round-Up:

The second round of the NPLW saw Bulleen Lions continue on their winning ways. Tiffany Eliadis scored first to set them on their way to a 2-0 victory over Box Hill United to put them at the top of the table with Rosie Rodger adding the clincher.

Above: Action from Heidelberg United (yellow) against Alamein. Photo: Sally Tsalikidis.

After a big opening round win, Heidelberg United fell 2-1 to Alamein and a Kat Nikpour brace. Danielle Wise scored for Heidelberg.

Above: Tijan McKenna (blue), scorer of South Melbourne’s second goal in action at Bayside United this weekend. Photo: Bayside United.

Across town, Bayside United drew with South Melbourne 2-2. Julia Budiongo put Bayside ahead before the half hour, but Akeisha Sandhu levelled with half-time in sight. It is an unusually slow start to the season by the traditional power club South Melbourne, but Tijan McKenna added another moment to her growing highlight reel with a goal to put them ahead five minutes into the second half. Amanda Stevenson levelled matters just before the hour mark.

Table Round Two:

From Football Victoria NPL Women’s.

The Pride of the Nix

Wellington Phoenix had a heroic first season as an A-League Women side. Despite being unable to play a home game and with by some distance the youngest squad in the competition, the New Zealanders defied the challenges to pick up wins and creditable performances.

Supporters group Flight of the Nix members Denise Duffy (DD)Holly Eades (HE)Blair Campbell (BC)Liam Symes-Wells (LS-W)Blake Forbes-Gentle (BF-G), and Jonathan Haggar (JH) spoke to Impetus’ Ben Gilby (BG) about their team’s maiden season (7/4/22).

Above: Wellington Phoenix celebrate their first-ever A-League Women victory over Canberra UnitedPhoto: Brett Hemmings/Getty Images.

BG: When we spoke at the beginning of the season, there were hopes of the Nix A-League Women side playing home matches in February. That never happened. What methods did you use to continue supporting/watching the Nix A-League Women team?         

DD: One cool thing we did was before each match was that I would put up a post asking our group members to send a sentence or two of encouragement to the women’s team. I then flip them to assistant coach Natalie Lawrence. Hopefully, those cheers made it to the athletes.

The reality though was that in New Zealand, we all watched on Sky Sports. Sometimes I would watch at my home with my fellow Flight of the Nix member Tabitha DeSalis. Tabitha also coached with Natalie Lawrence and was targeted by New Zealand as part of their future coaches program. Other times I would watch with my American neighbour across the street, a former referee. Honestly though, the matches were late at night here. Often it was just me in a dark room on the couch cheering for the Nix. And then there was that Western Sydney Wanderers match. We all just followed the admin on Twitter. It was dubbed in our group by David Lim ‘the best match none of us watched’. We were into it through our Facebook group community. I’ve been conditioned over the years to just get women’s football in whatever form I can.

Above: Tabitha DeSalis, Denise Duffy’s match-watching mate. Photo supplied by: Tabitha DeSalis.

BG: Ahead of the campaign what were your most positive hopes for the team’s achievements this season? 

BC: Being a team that was put together at the last minute and filled mainly with very young promising players from both sides of the Tasman, most pundits and supporters, including myself, were optimistic they would show some form of competitiveness in their matches.

To get close in some matches and perhaps steal a point or two were some of the hopes for the team. It was also hoped that players would gain valuable experience and exposure playing in a professional league and be better players for it the following season.

BG: So, how would you sum up what actually happened?                    

BC: The team really did exceed all expectations across a number of fronts. Straight from the first game, it could be seen the team played with good structure and showed a lot of fight on the pitch.  They were up for the physical challenge and won a lot of turnover ball and interceptions.

It became apparent the team had worked first and foremost on their defensive side and their attacking play got better and better as the season went on.  They were very competitive in most games and unlucky not to pick up more points during the season. After getting through the first half of the season, I’m sure a lot of supporters would have started to back the team to pick up points against the lower to mid placed teams, which I’m sure would not have been the case at the start of the season.

The players will have gained a lot from playing together in their first season and should feel very satisfied with how they conducted themselves on the field.

BG: In a season of huge positives, what were the biggest plusses for you?   

BC: The first win of the season over Canberra United was a real highlight.  The reactions from the players after the final whistle told it all.  They had toiled very hard over the season for a win, coming very close in some earlier games.

Individual player development was very pleasing, with a number showing considerable improvement. The way the team developed was also evident, with improved passing, positioning, and ability to get forward. This was a team that had hardly any preseason, hadn’t really played together before, together with a number of players still at development level.  A full pre-season along with the addition of some more experienced players bodes well for next season. 

The coach Gemma Lewis was a real positive too – she has to take a lot of the credit for how she got the team to play and perform.

Above: Flight of the Nix member Blair Campbell. Photo supplied by: Denise Duffy.

BG: Which player(s) impressed you most this season? Why?

BC: Lily Alfeld was a giant in goal and a commanding presence as captain. She really did direct the younger players well (as captain) and played really well herself.

There were big wraps on Grace Jale ahead of the campaign, having previously been in the Football Ferns environment. We saw some glimpses of that potential in the first game, however, whilst she was working her way back to full fitness she suffered an injury that delayed her initial involvement.

Once we got 90-minute performances from her, we started to see her real quality and potential and she quickly became a goal-scoring threat with the lethal pace she possesses. She also started to become more prominent on the ball with some nice touches.

“It was fitting that she was the top goal scorer for the side this season and she has been well rewarded with selection back in the Football Ferns team for the series against Australia. “

The expectations on Chloe Knott were very high, being one of the very few experienced players in the team.  After a few games, her quality became apparent, coinciding with a move into the strikers’ role. Her work rate is first class and she surely must be the leading contender for the amount of km’s covered this season on the field. 

A very fit player who was always running strong at the 90-minute mark.  Other noticeable attributes were her strength on the ball and lay-off passing.  A key player moving forward who is also adept playing in the midfield.

I’m sure the general consensus would be that Alyssa Whinham was the find of the season, certainly the surprise packet amongst the team.  It’s true, there must really be something in that Canterbury water, which is Whinham’s home province.  There have been a number of young players come through the ranks there.

It has to be said there is no player like her in the team. Her composure on the ball, ability to maintain possession when under pressure, and real capacity to beat players with the ball set her apart.  Some of her passing and through balls were top-notch at times.

The challenge for Whinham will be that a lot of players will now see her as a threat and strategize to close her down. Her potential, however, remains untapped and if she can continue to work on other areas of her game she will be seen as even more of a threat moving forward.  The Football Ferns coach will keenly be watching her development.

Kate Taylor’s ability and skill became quickly evident during and after the first game of the season.  This was a name that the commentators started to repeat over and over.  Another Canterbury product that surely is knocking on the doors of the Football Ferns. A very physical courageous defender that partnered well with Mackenzie Barry at the back, winning a number of battles with composure that belied her age.  Also very good at taking the ball up, driving the play forward, and a nice passer of the ball. She could potentially move a position forward one day on the pitch and play as a damaging destroyer in a holding midfield role.

One of the standout players of the season and another that will be under the microscope for the Ferns.

Along with Taylor, Mackenzie Barry was an absolute colossus in defence and one of the real reasons the team remained competitive over a number of games. A very strong physical player who disrupted a lot of the opposition’s attack and fought hard every game to stop the ball from going in the back of the net.  Duly rewarded with the captaincy on a game towards the end of the season.  Higher honours beckon.

Talitha Kramer was another standout player in the team, surely being one of the first picked on the team sheet once she settled in after being a later addition. Her experience was needed at the back and I’m sure we can all remember some of her great driving runs forward down the flanks. A very strong physical player who never backed down to a challenge and no doubt well respected by her team members.  I’m sure all Nix supporters are hoping to see her back in Nix colours next season.  A very worthy addition to the squad indeed.

Other players deserving special mention include Grace Wisnewski who was very prominent as a box-to-box midfielder and a real team player.

Ava Pritchard who after a quiet start to the season really started to shine, becoming more and more involved in the attacks with some lovely runs through and an increasing threat on goal. Zoe McMeeken, the youngest player in the team who was a regular starter.  Just think how good she may become after a few more years playing at this level.

HE:  I want to add Lily Alfeld, who was player of the season for me. She was not just a fantastic goalkeeper and captain, but also a fan favourite. Lily always came over to the fans after each match to have a chat, and would contact us before every match to see if we needed tickets. She also just seems like a genuinely amazing person.

Above: Flight of the Nix member Holly Eades. Photo provided by: Holly Eades.

BG: Tell us what you all make of head coach Gemma Lewis?  

DD: The coaching duo, of Gemma Lewis and assistant Natalie Lawrence were the Nix’s best hires. They are young, they know these athletes, and their brand of football was exciting. The type of coach that does their job by out of control yelling and generally emotionally abusing athletes is becoming a thing of the past. You see that this style of coach was purged in the NWSL in America last season.

Our athletes were definitely feeling the pressure of having to perform at their top level week after week and live abroad. The coaches did well acknowledging these pressures and supported their athletes’ mental health. As a fan, that was awesome to see.

I will say, there is sometimes a misconception that because it’s a women’s side that mentally they have each other backs and everything will be OK. The men’s side has a chaplain to help with this. The women’s side needs access to mental health professionals during the season, and actually year-round. These days they can even be via online access. It’s a cost that needs to be funded either by the league, players union, or each team.

Above: Denise Duffy (right) with fellow Flight of the Nix member Blake Forbes-Gentle. Photo supplied by: Denise Duffy.

LS-W: I think Gemma has done a really awesome job this season. Looking at how quickly the team was announced, meaning such a short time frame to find players, coaching staff, and all the important things to get the team up and running. I feel she really adapted to this and looking at the success we had, it was a job well done.

Alongside her was Assistant Coach Natalie Lawrence and she also did an awesome job, What made this even better was a few days before each match everyone in the group would send messages for the team and Denise sent these off to Natalie. This really showed we are connected to the team even if we are 4000ks away. The way Gemma dealt with Grace Wisnewski by offering her the help she needed and supporting her the whole time really showed she cared for her players and they were like family.

Even seeing messages of support on the Phoenix’s Facebook really showed how much everyone watched and supported the team, and I am proud to be one of them. To sum it all up in one sentence. Gemma did an amazing job with such a young team and shattered all expectations put in front of her, onto next season and more wins. Hopefully, she sticks around with the team for many more years and we can have plenty more success in the future.

Above: Flight of the Nix member Liam Symes-Wells. Photo supplied by: Liam Symes-Wells.

BG: With the Nix having secured funding for two seasons of A-League Women football, do you know if there is any more news about any longer-term funding for the team?   

DD: Gut instinct, I think the Nix are here to stay. General Manager David Dome even spoke of that in the future the A-League men’s sides will all have a women’s side. Honestly, dollar for dollar, I think the Wellington Phoenix organization will find the women’s side to be profitable. These women are stars, market them as such. New Zealand has changed over the last five years. Women’s sports are now all over the news. With the World Cup coming, we will find more and more football fans in New Zealand and they will find the Nix.

BG: Other than being able to play home matches in New Zealand next season, what would you like to see from the team next time round?         

BF-G: No nothing more because having the club home is the greatest gift that we could have especially for the woman so we can finally show them all the gratitude and how grateful we are for all the sacrifices they have made over the pandemic and finally be able to repay them with the home crowd is the greatest gift of all.

I am proud to support a club that is so inclusive. Especially because of the story that David Dome shared with us about a blind man who would go to the matches and listen to the radio call. The audio was always behind the actual run of play because of transmission time. To solve this they allowed him to sit in the actual commentary booth. I love how the club tries its best to accommodate its supporters however they can no matter what background of disability, religion, and sexuality.

BG: Is it realistic to assume that more experienced New Zealand players would join the Nix for next season or would you be happy for another season of the talented kids?

JH: A lot of the appeal of the Nix women this season was watching a very young squad showing the entire A-League their ability to be competitive against well-established teams. Discovering the talent of Whinham, Barry, McMeekan and many others was magic!

However, the reopening of the borders for travel will have a big impact on player availability next season. It is possible that Kiwi women who played in other teams this season might switch to the Nix. So many up-and-coming players got an incredible amount of positive exposure by playing in a professional league.

For the Nix women to have a shot at making the Finals, the team needs to recruit a couple of more experienced players to guide the team through the tense moments. This season’s team would have benefited from having players with more experience in the hard-fought matches with super close scorelines resulting in losses or draws. Recruiting a couple of experienced players into the team will help secure more wins when the score lines are tight and calm is needed.

If the Nix can add two or three experienced players while keeping the bulk of the squad from this season, then fans will be happy.

Visit Flight of the Nix Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/829834380984076

Artwork: Graphics by PW.

Matildas Series Planned By Disney+

Above: The Matildas will be featured in a new Disney+ documentary. Photo supplied to Impetus by: Football Australia.

6/4/22

The Walt Disney Company and Football Australia today announced a new Australian-commissioned Disney+ Original which will tell the story of the Australian women’s national football team, the Matildas, as they prepare for the World Cup on home soil alongside co-host New Zealand.

The six-part docu-series – yet to have its title revealed – will go behind-the-scenes of the Matildas, and will chronicle the highs and lows as well as as the squad looks to create history and leave a legacy for the sport in Australia and abroad.

Off the field, the series will highlight how the Matildas are pioneering change, as well as covering their experiences during the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and the 2022 AFC Women’s Asian Cup. The series will also explore the influence of head coach Tony Gustavsson, and the special connection the Matildas have with their fans.

Above: The Matildas celebrate a goal against the USA last year. Photo supplied to Impetus by: Football Australia.

Production of the series is underway and the series will launch on Disney+ locally in 2023 and be available on Disney+ globally at a later date.

Kylie Watson-Wheeler, Senior Vice President and Managing Director of The Walt Disney Company in Australia and New Zealand said, “The Matildas are game-changers for women’s sport in Australia and around the world. This Australian narrative details the impressive skill, determination, commitment, and stamina it takes in the lead-up to the World Cup in 2023. The series transcends football and celebrates the true Australian spirit of the Matildas.”

James Johnson, Chief Executive Officer of Football Australia said, “The Matildas represent Australia on the world stage as global ambassadors and are an inspiration to many, both young and old. This docu-series is an incredible opportunity to share their story not just locally, but globally, and at a time of rapid evolution in women’s football, we are proud to be working with the world’s best story-telling company to bring the Matildas spirit to life.”

Above: Inside the Matildas huddle against the Philippines at the Asian Cup. Photo supplied to Impetus by: Football Australia.

Director, Katie Bender Wynn said, “The Matildas have broken through massive barriers for women in sport, yet their story has never properly been told. I’m thrilled that Disney+ is shining a light on this inspiring group of women whose stories are worthy of the biggest platform. On its surface, this is a classic tale about a team of women preparing for the greatest tournament of their lives; but at its core, it’s an intimate portrait of a sisterhood that transcends the game.”

Executive Producer, Steve Bibb said, “As a documentary maker and an inquisitive football fan, it’s a privilege to be given the opportunity to tell the Matildas’ story in this special moment in time. The behind-the-scenes access allows us to bring this story to the world as we chart the journey of these inspiring women writing the next chapter in their story on the road to the 2023 World Cup.” 

Executive Producer, Christopher G. Cowen said, “Disney+ and Football Australia have given us the opportunity to tell the inspiring story of the Matildas to the millions of young female and male football players around the globe, and that is a responsibility that our entire team takes on with great zeal.”

Dawber Heads To The USA

6/4/22

Above: Chelsie Dawber in training with Adelaide United. Photo: Adelaide United.

Adelaide United forward Chelsie Dawber has signed for National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) outfit Chicago Red Stars.

The 22-year-old enjoyed a fantastic A-League 2021/22 campaign, scoring 10 goals in 15 matches, and helped the Reds secure its maiden finals appearance.

Dawber joined the Club in 2017 and in five seasons scored 17 goals in 42 games. The striker becomes the fourth Adelaide player over the last two campaigns to secure a move overseas, following in the footsteps of Dylan Holmes, Charlotte Grant, and most recently Fiona Worts.

Speaking about the move to Chicago, Dawber said: “It’s a new adventure for me and one that I’m really excited about.

“I want to thank Adelaide United and all the coaching staff I’ve worked with for believing in me and giving me the opportunity to play for this amazing club.

“My goal has always been to play for the Matildas and I believe playing overseas in a tough league will give me a better chance of a call-up to the national team.”

Dawber also remained optimistic about the possibility of returning to the Reds for next season. “I’m definitely not ruling out coming back to Adelaide after the NWSL season. Approaching a World Cup year, it’s vital to be playing as many games as possible and give myself the best path for success.”

Adelaide United’s Liberty A-League Head Coach, Adrian Stenta, said: “Chelsie was brilliant for us last season and this opportunity abroad in a top competition is reward for her hard work and dedication.

“Spending her off-season playing at a higher level will only improve Chelsie as a footballer and gives her the best possible chance to represent the Matildas at next year’s World Cup.

“As a Club, we pride ourselves on providing the opportunity for our players to play overseas and we’ve now had four members leave our shores in recent times. We certainly hope to have Chelsie back in our squad for next season and wish her all the best in America.”

NPL Victoria Women Round One Wrap

Impetus’ Kieran Yap begins his new weekly round-up of all the action from the women’s NPL competition in Victoria. Each week there will be a detailed report of the match of the week plus a summary of the other games (5/4/22).

Above: Bulleen Lions’ crop of Melbourne Victory A-League Women champions pictured before the game at South MelbournePhoto: Bulleen Lions.

MATCH OF THE WEEK REPORT

South Melbourne 0-3 Bulleen Lions

Although this was the first game of the 2022 season, much was expected. Both of these sides were impressive before the 2021 season was cancelled. South Melbourne had embarked on a winning run of nine games, while Bulleen had an 11 match unbeaten run.

At the time the season prematurely ended, these two clubs boasted some of the best A-League Women’s players in the state league. Much has changed since and the rosters of many clubs are still incomplete until after round two, but there was significant representation from the national competition on display.

South Melbourne were without many of last season’s big guns, but welcomed Perth Glory youngster Tijan McKenna into the team and Melbourne Victory’s Francesco Iermano.

Bulleen boasted Rebekah Stott, Paige Zois, Tyla-Jay Vlajnic, and Tiffany Eliadis in the starting line up with Alana Jancevski in reserve.

With that considered, it should not have been a surprise that Bulleen were ahead at the final whistle. Not many would have predicted the final score.

All of the damage was done in the first half. South Melbourne controlled much of the possession but were unable to seriously test the Bulleen defence. Eliadis sent the competition a reminder of what she can do in the final third after an A-League season being used in deeper roles.

Rebekah Stott confidently switched play out to Claudia Fruscalzo on the opposite flank. Her quick ball forward was left by Paige Zois and Eliadis hit the accelerator to burst into space and shoot across goal to open the scoring.

Bulleen’s second goal looked even simpler, but was another example of Eliadis at her best. she received the ball wide and outside of the area but ran at the South Melbourne defence and hit a low ball across goal.

Vlajnic stayed onside and met the cross at the back post for the easiest of finishes. It was not a counterattack but the move had the pace of one. South Melbourne had no answer for Eliadis’ running. Bulleen were 2-0 up with 23 minutes played.

Above: Tijan McKenna – newly arrived at South Melbourne from Western Australia ahead of the new NPL season. Photo: Gold Leaf Creative.

Eliadis almost had her second when Vlajnic’s trademark play on the wing found her unmarked and six yards from goal. Somehow her header missed the target, but it was the only blemish on a match-winning performance.

Alex Natoli added a third before halftime after a corner kick caused a goalmouth scramble. The celebrations were delayed but not muted as Bulleen established what turned out to be an unassailable lead.

Not that South Melbourne did not keep trying. This is a club accustomed to success and they pressed for a breakthrough. It was not to be their day and that was obvious when a succession of shots could not find the net.

The most frustrating moment for South Melbourne came in the second half when the ball bounced around the penalty box but nobody could hit the target.

Although South Melbourne finished with 10 shots on goal to Bulleen’s six, they did not look as dangerous. The visitors were far more clinical and slightly more creative in attack.

The result put Bulleen back where they ended the last season, pushing for top spot.

Caitlin Friend’s side will likely again be a chance for honours again and with Victory championship skipper Lia Privitelli to come into the squad and Jancevski returning to fitness they may still grow in strength.

South Melbourne were without one of their star recruits in Claudia Mihocic. The central defender and former FV Emerging captain was away with the Young Matildas. Her performance against Melbourne Victory for Perth Glory suggests that she would have made a difference in this game.

Only 90 minutes have passed, so it is obviously too early to write off South Melbourne. But it is not too early to get excited about Bulleen.

Squads: SOUTH MELBOURNE: Farrow, Murray, Young, Bramley, Lawson, Sandhu, Pickett, McKenna, Papatsanis, Goff, Iermano. Substitutes: Picak, Kandilas, Hronopoulos, Stringfellow, Carman.

BULLEEN LIONS: Shields, Natoli, Fruscalzo, Zois, Burn, Eliadis, O’Bryan, Stott, Muldeary, Vlajnic, Dolzan. Substitutes: Sernio, Lettieri, Little, Johnson, Rodger, Jancevski.

Scorers: Eliadis, Vlajnic, Natoli.

Referee: Senko Rastocic.

Elsewhere, Victoria’s NPLW provided some interesting results. Heidelberg United got off to a brilliant start with a 5-1 thrashing of Bayside United. Steph Galea hit four goals with Eve Tiktikakis adding the other. Maryam Anvari was on target for Bayside. Box Hill United and Calder United drew 0-0 on Friday night. FV Emerging defeated Alamein 2-0 with a goal either side of halftime from Candice Kilderry and Ellie Vlaeminck.

Each week Impetus will bring you the best of the action from the NPL Women’s competitions with Kieran Yap reporting on the Victoria competition and Ben Gilby on Western Australia.

NPL WA Women Round One Wrap

Each week during the NPL Western Australia Women season, Ben Gilby will provide a detailed report on one game and round up all the action from the others as Impetus begins its coverage of the women’s game in Western Australia (3/4/22).

Above: Action from this weekend’s NPL WA Women game between Perth SC (sky blue) and Balcatta Etna. Photo provided by: Rob Lizzi.

MAIN REPORT OF THE WEEK

Above: Jamie-Lee fires Fremantle City ahead against Curtin University. Photo: NPL

Fremantle City 2-0 Curtin University

Fremantle opened their NPL WA Women’s campaign with a comfortable win against Curtin in a match they dominated at Hilton Park.

Playing in white shirts, Freo were comfortable throughout as they look to go better than their fourth-place finish last season. Whilst Curtin Uni produced a better showing after the break, they rarely troubled Kaylin Geelhoed in the City goal.

Fremantle City named three players with Perth Glory connections in their starting 11 with last season’s A-League Women captain Tash Rigby fielded along with former Glory players Kat Jukic and Jamie-Lee Gale.

Rigby had a hugely influential game on the right side of defence and got forward at every opportunity, linking well with Annabelle Leek and Kayla McCulloch.

Freo bossed from the start and carefully maintained possession. They earned their first corner with just five minutes on the clock, but Curtin dealt with it comfortably. The hosts continued to look to spread the play wide as well as penetrate through the centre of the visitors.

Above: Fremantle City celebrate after going ahead through Jamie-Lee Gale. Photo: NPL.

Despite the continued pressure, it took until the 22nd minute for Fremantle to make it pay. Rigby played a beautiful 1-2 with Siobhan Longmore outside her before playing a ball across from the right. Mikayla Lyons missed her shot, but it rolled further to Gale who sidefooted calmly into the right-hand corner of the net.

There were some positives for Curtin in the first half. Hannah Seerden having a busy afternoon for Curtin, trying to stem Rigby’s creativity along the right as well as looking to build rare counters for her team. Taylor Reid also broke clear but was denied further progress from the offside flag. Both would become increasingly influential after the break.

Freo had one further opportunity before half-time when Rigby had acres of space on the right to lay off for Leek whose effort sailed narrowly over. For the home side to only score one goal after racking up six shots to nil on target was frustrating.

Curtin started the second half showing more from an offensive perspective. Jacqueline McLernon combined well with Jennifer Hazledon before possession was lost. Fremantle had a chance of their own when Jessica Darmago got a shot away which Stacey Cavill in the Curtin goal pushed away into the path of Longmore who hit the rebound over.

The lively Reid became more of a threat for the visitors and she was played in by Hazledon and Geelhoed needed to show fancy footwork to clear the danger.

Above: Jamie-Lee Gale (white shirt) dispatches her and Fremantle’s second goal. Photo: NPL

Fremantle responded by doubling their lead with 54 minutes played. Geelhoed started the move in the Freo goal by playing out to McCulloch. She in turn found Jukic. The former Perth Glory W-League player played a glorious ball into the path of Gale who skipped through and calmly shot under Cavill to make it 2-0.

The home side had a great opportunity to add a third when Rigby released Lyons. Freo’s captain was clean through, but her shot hit the side netting.

Curtin continued to work hard with Taylor at the heart of everything positive they did. Despite this, they couldn’t really create sufficient chances to alter the scoreboard. In the end, Fremantle saw out the remainder of the game comfortably to record the three points on opening weekend.

Teams: FREMANTLE CITY: Geelhoed, Gale, Waltman, Lyons, Longmore, McCulloch, Leek, Darmago, Rigby, Kiama, Poad. Substitutes: Siah, Jukic, Nolan, Kiama.

Scorers: Gale 22′, 54′.

CURTIN UNIVERSITY: Cavitt, Brown, Preston, Waycott, Smith, Van-Vugt, Reid, Hazledon, Suckling, Seerden, Yangi. Substitutes: Connop, McLernon, Varatharaja, Riches.

Referee: Josh Mannella.

Round One Round-Up:

The 2022 NPL WA Women’s season kicked off on Friday night as Murdoch University Melville hosted last year’s bottom side Subiaco. The outcome was a 0-0 draw with Subi having the best chance when Kezia Burgess crossed for Murray who was denied by MUM keeper Mathers.

Above: Action from Perth SC’s win over Balcatta Etna. Photo supplied by: Rob Lizzi.

Perth SC hosted Night Series runners-up Balcatta Etna at Dorrien Gardens on Saturday and came away with a 2-0 win. Abbey Meakins’ penalty on the hour mark put them ahead before Taneesha Baker made the game safe in stoppage time at the end of 90 minutes.

Perth RedStar ended the first game under their new banner with a 5-0 success under Hyundai NTC. The Reds were 2-0 up with 18 minutes played thanks to goals from Jacinta Coleman and Larissa Walsh. The NTC were reduced to ten with just over 20 minutes to play and succumbed to three further goals in a 12-minute spell as Coleman, Jayna Ridley and Hannah Insch settled matters in RedStar’s favour.

Above: High-flying action between Perth RedStar and Hyundai NTC. Photo: FotoEnzo.

Round Two Fixtures: Hyundai NTC v Perth SC, Curtin University v Perth RedStar, Balcatta Etna v Murdoch University Melville, Subiaco v Fremantle City.

ParaMatildas Announce First Ever Training Squad

Impetus’ Ben Gilby hears all about the ParaMatildas’ first squad gathering in Canberra (1/4/22).

Above: The ParaMatildas players gather today for a historic training camp. Photo: Football Australia.

Head coach Kelly Stirton has selected an 11-player squad as the ParaMatildas today commence their first-ever national team training camp.

Held at the Australian Institute of Sport alongside their national team compatriots, the Commonwealth Bank Junior Matildas, and Commonwealth Bank Young Matildas, the three-day camp marks the official commencement of the ParaMatildas preparation for the historic 2022 IPCPF Women’s World Cup.

Stirton expressed her anticipation for the first assembly of the ParaMatildas players and staff.

“It’s an exciting time and it’s the first time we have been together as a team under the ParaMatildas name,” Stirton said. 

“This camp is about connecting as a squad, developing the team culture, and building a solid platform to take to the World Cup.  The coaching staff and team are on a high and can’t wait to get on the field.”

Above: Getting ready for the World Cup – The ParaMatildas. Photo: Football Australia.

Ranked number four in the world, earlier this week the ParaMatildas’ IFCPF Women’s World Cup pool opponents were revealed with Australia taking on Japan, the United States, Spain, and the Netherlands.  The tournament will take place from 8th-18th May 2022.

Australia’s national team for footballers with cerebral palsy, acquired brain injury, and symptoms of stroke,  CP football is a seven-a-side sport with smaller goals, 30-minute halves, and no offside. 

Players are classed as FT1, FT2, and FT3 depending on how their disability affects a player, with at least one FT1 player and a maximum of one FT3 player required at all times. 

With a clear goal in sight, Stirton and her coaching staff will enter the training camp with full focus. 

“Our goal is to build a strong world-class team. It’s a tight turnaround but I believe we can certainly push for that top spot.  Our goal in the World Cup is to play our best football and for the players to finish the tournament proud of their accomplishments.”

ParaMatildas Squad Selection:

NO.NAMEAGECITY/ STATECLASSIFICATION
1Holly SAUNDERS19Sydney, NSWFT1
2Georgia BEIKOFF29Newcastle, NSWFT2
3Nicole CHRISODOULOU30Sydney, NSWFT2
4Taylor DOYLE30Sydney, NSWFT2
5Lainee HARRISON18Newcastle, NSWTBC
6Matilda MASON30Canberra, ACTFT2
7Emily O’SULLIVAN28Adelaide, SAFT2
8Katelyn SMITH26Perth, WATBC
9Rachel TOLSON22Shearwater, TASTBC
10Eloise NORTHAM19Sydney, NSWTBC
11Rae ANDERSON25Wamberal, NSWTBC

Supporters can follow the journey of the ParaMatildas to the IFCPF Women’s World Cup through their website and on FacebookInstagram and Twitter

You can also donate to support the ParaMatildas team with all donations of $2 or more tax deductible. The funds go directly to supporting ParaMatildas national team training camps, coaching, sports science, and tournament costs to ensure that the ParaMatildas have the best possible chance to represent Australia on the world stage. In return, sponsors will get a “Virtual seat” to show their support of the team. Click here for more details: https://asf.org.au/projects/football-federation-australia-limited/paramatildas-virtual-seats?Token=a1H5j0000011oqJ&Status=preview

Charli Grant: Reflecting on the Asian Cup & Damallsvenskan

Australian international Charli Grant spoke to Ben Gilby about her experiences at the Asia Cup at the start of the year and how she sees the new Damallsvenskan season with defending champions Rosengård (30/3/22).

Above: Charli Grant in action for Rosengård in the Svenska Cupen a fortnight ago. Photo: Rosengård.

20-year-old defender Charli Grant is one of Australia’s most talented young stars. Whilst 2021 was her break-out year with a sensational series of performances for Adelaide United in what was then the W-League earning a move to top Swedish side Rosengård. Add in her first call-ups for the national side and a trip to the Olympic Games with The Matildas and it was the stuff of dreams.

This year has the potential to be even better. Grant made her first start for Australia during the Asia Cup in January, and she has been a regular starter for Rosengård in their Swedish Cup matches and opening match in the Damallsvenskan which kicked off last weekend.

The Adelaide-born defender opened our conversation by describing what her off-season looked like after the previous Damallsvenskan campaign ended in November when her club lifted the title.

“Fortunately, I was able to come home for all of December and the beginning of January. I visited Townsville for a week with most of my family, where my cousin got married. We hadn’t seen my Aunty, Uncle, and cousins that live there for some time so it was a very special moment for the whole family.

“I’m thankful to have trained with Adelaide United women’s team for a short time before COVID heightened. For the remainder of the time, I continued to train hard on my own to be as best prepared for the Asian Cup. I’m so grateful to have managed to catch up with all my closest friends and family, especially during such an unprecedented time.”

Above: Charli (second from the right) at pre-Asian Cup training in the UAE with (left to right): Cortnee Vine, Kyra Cooney-Cross, Courtney Nevin, and Remy Siemsen. Photo: Football Australia,

Australia went into the Asia Cup as arguably the favourites for the competition this year. Prior to the tournament, the team gathered in the UAE for a training camp that was full of detailed preparation.

“Due to the different timings of everyone’s season and travel from all different parts of the world, training was focused on getting everyone at the same physical level,” Grant explained.

“Additionally, the teams we were facing in the Asian Cup had very different style of play compared to what we had faced recently, so we went through lots of tactics to be prepared for these styles.”

The tournament, held in India, was played behind closed doors due to COVID restrictions. The Matildas defender therefore had a different experience compared to her teammates from past Asia Cups, but she left with strong memories of the country nonetheless.

“Being in India was very eye-opening and a great cultural experience. The poverty was prevalent in the area we were staying in. It made me appreciate everything I have and the opportunities I have been given. I cherish every experience I have when representing my country and playing the sport I love.”

The tournament got underway for Australia in some style as they recorded an 18-0 win over Indonesia. It was a performance that Grant was proud of.

Above: Charli Grant battles against Thailand in the Asian Cup on her full Matildas debut. Photo: Football Australia via Charli Grant.

“It was very important to hit off with a big win and give us confidence going into future matches. To see what we had worked on during pre-camp into our game was really exciting and promising.”

In many ways that result was the high point of the competition for Australia as the remaining group matches saw the team find it hard to transfer large amounts of possession into scoreboard leads. The South Australian defender reflected on those matches.

“The Philippines was a tough contest but we remained patient and disciplined to the game plan to get a good result (4-0 win through second-half goals). Next up was Thailand. This was a great opportunity for us less experienced players to get time under the belt and experience playing in a tournament. At times we struggled to connect with each other but I think there were lots of promising moments and hopefully, we are able to fight for more game time in the future.”

Then came the Quarter-Final with South Korea. It was a match that Australia dominated once more in terms of possession, territory, and chances. Yet they were knocked out after a stunning strike from Chelsea’s magician Ji So-Yun. Grant remains frustrated by the outcome of that match.

“I thought in the Korea match we were disciplined with the game plan, but unlucky in some moments. As much as we are all gutted about this result, it is a great learning opportunity and is only going to add to the fire leading into World Cup to prove that we are a top team. I do think we were unlucky. Sometimes that can be football.”

Whilst the outcome of the tournament was extremely disappointing from a team perspective, it enabled Grant to make her first start for the Matildas in their final group game with Indonesia.

Above: Charli Grant on her full debut for Australia at the Asian Cup against Thailand. Photo: Football Australia via Charli Grant.

“To earn my first start and 90 minutes for my country was a dream come true. It was a good chance to gain confidence and put into practice what I’ve been working on. I’m very grateful to have been given that opportunity and will continue to work hard to improve from this.”

With the Asia Cup behind her, the defender returned to Sweden for the new Damallsvenskan campaign. Grant’s Rosengård team goes in as defending champions and have a UEFA Women’s Champions League campaign to look forward to. The South Australian asserts that she expects it to be an even tougher campaign as the rest of the league will be all out to bring down last year’s champions.

“It’s so exciting to finally have the season come up. It’s been a long pre-season and we just can’t wait to put into practice what we’ve trained on. I think it’s definitely going to be a tough season. We are prepared to step up to the challenge like last year and will do whatever it takes to win.”

Grant goes into the new season, which kicked off last weekend having had several starts in their Svenska Cupen campaign. The Matilda sees this as a reward for her growth in certain areas of the game.

“I feel that both my decision-making and composure on the ball have improved. If I continue to develop in these areas of my game and keep working hard hopefully more game time will come.” 

Above: Charli Grant during training with Rosengård. Photo: Urzula Striner via Charli Grant.

The young defender has already been a part of her team making the Svenska Cupen Final in May and she sees this as just the start of a big season of opportunity for her.

“At an individual level, the goals for the upcoming season are to start regular and contribute to as many scoring opportunities whilst also preventing the opposition’s attacks. As a team, we are aiming to win the Swedish Cup, win the league back to back, and progress to the group stage and beyond in the UEFA Champions League.”

The campaign ahead sees a growing number of Australians in the Damallsvenskan and with COVID restrictions easing, Grant is looking forward to being able to catch up with them in person during the season.

“It’s really exciting to have more Aussies join the league. It will be great to catch up with them all. Kyra (Cooney-Cross) and Nev (Courtney Nevin, who have just joined Hammarby) are two of my closest friends and I’m so happy and proud of them to see them make the move overseas. Hopefully, they will take me around Stockholm at some stage!”

Grand Final Analysis: The Influence Of Amy Jackson

Kieran Yap analyzes yesterday’s A-League Women Grand Final and the influential role that Amy Jackson has on her Melbourne Victory team (28/3/22).

Above: Melbourne Victory celebrate after winning the A-League Women Grand Final. Photo: Kris Goman for Impetus.

There are some things that are more noticeable when you watch Melbourne Victory up close. The way that Casey Dumont commands her area and positions herself before any danger arrives, the moments Alex Chidiac throws in little stepovers and shimmies to make fractions more time, and the influence that Amy Jackson has on the team.

The Victory active support have a song dedicated to Jackson. Sung to the tune of Dolly Parton’s “Joeline” the faithful have anointed her as “The heart of the team.” When she scored the opening goal in the Grand Final against Sydney FC they looked like they celebrated just that little bit harder because it was her.

Amy Jackson has been essential to the last two championship-winning sides. She was not a starter last season but stepped in when Nat Tatham was injured in round one. The Victory midfield required no adjustment. She kept the side functioning with minimal fuss but maximum class.

This season has seen slightly more fuss. Few players have had a more dramatic campaign than Amy  Jackson. When Kayla Morrison succumbed to a knee injury in round one, Jackson, the veteran midfielder, had to drop back into defence.

It was not her favoured role and one she took some time to adjust to. Melbourne City tried to exploit that in the first derby of the year. Long balls over the top to Hannah Wilkinson caused instant problems for the makeshift defence. Jackson looked uncomfortable faced with what would turn into an elite strike force.

However, with Victory 2-1 and City with the momentum, she slid desperately to stop Holly McNamara as the young star was goal bound.

Jackson received a red card but had rescued the win. It turned out to be a crucial three points for Victory in a season where every result, every contest counted on the road to another trophy.

Jeff Hopkins was in no hurry to sign any centre-back. He waited until the right one became available. Brooke Hendrix was a godsend and for one glorious half against Western Sydney, Jackson was released into her natural midfield habitat.

She looked re-energized and unshackled as Victory galloped to a 5-0 win in a commanding performance. Jackson’s presence freed up Kyra Cooney-Cross to have her most dominant match of the season.

Above: Celebratory scenes after the final whistle in the A-League Women’s Grand Final yesterday. Photo: Kris Goman for Impetus.

That was not to last, but it was a taste of what Victory’s best football looked like. A few days later, Victory faced Sydney FC, and Jackson was shifted back to defence with Claudia Bunge called up to the Football Ferns.

Victory escaped with a late draw in the 2-2 contest. But Jackson injured her calf muscle, a symptom of the unforgiving schedule perhaps.

Victory made it to the finals on goal difference. It was four winless games without Amy Jackson on the field.

When she returned, it was to complete a full-strength Victory side. Hendrix and Bunge were in defence, Jackson was back where she does her best work, as a central midfielder. Against Adelaide United in the elimination final, she screened the back four and kept the ball moving.

In the preliminary final against Melbourne City, she was again excellent as Victory cruised to a 3-1 against a side that beat them 5-1 earlier in the season.

In the final, she scored the first goal to set Victory on their way to a second consecutive championship. Her season was one of compromise, suspension, injury, and recovery. But on the big day, she was able to seize the moment.

There are no passengers in a championship-winning squad, but Jackson this season has been a midfielder, a defender, and finally a goal scorer for her club. Few players have been more instrumental or selfless.

Jackson’s presence could have benefits in years to come, the mentorship of Victory’s young midfielders like Alana Murphy will certainly pay dividends for Jeff Hopkins. He has the master and the apprentice in the line-up.

Football chants are hyperbolic by nature, but in this case, it could not be more fitting. Amy Jackson is the heart of the team.

Artwork: Graphics by PW.

Glorious End To Redbacks’ History

Balcatta Etna 2-4 Northern Redbacks

By Ben Gilby (28/3/22)

Above: Northern Redbacks celebrate with the NPL WA Women’s Night Series Cup after coming from 2-0 down after 14 minutes to defeat Balcatta Etna. Photo: Fotoenzo.

In their final game as a standalone club, Northern Redbacks came from 2-0 down to holders Balcatta Etna to win their fifth Night Series Cup at A&D Litis Stadium in Leederville.

On her 270th appearance, Carla Bennett put in a superb personal performance for the Redbacks to deservedly win the Tracy Wheeler Medal for Player of the Match – but with a quarter of an hour gone it looked anything but a likely win for Carlos Vega Mena’s team.

Balcatta took an early lead with barely three minutes on the clock when Monique Prinsloo was found on the right. The ball came back for Kimberley McCartney who lifted a cross in from the far right-hand side which looped into the far corner of the net.

Redbacks responded well with Bennett finding Olivia Wood who sidefooted an effort goalwards which came off the left-hand post.

The cup holders looked threatening on the counter-attack and doubled their lead with 14 minutes played when Shivani Battaglia’s short goal kick went towards McCartney who headed forward. Andrea Teixeira played a low pass back which was too wide to find Battaglia and agonizingly rolled into her own goal.

Despite being 2-0 on the scoreboard, it was the Redbacks who were having the best of the possession and territory. Bennett was a constant thorn in the Balcatta side.

Redbacks got back into the encounter with 28 minutes played. Wood found the ever-dangerous Larissa Walsh on the left, the ball was eventually recycled to Shawn Bilham who hit a low effort from outside the box. Balcatta keeper Gabby Dal Busco appeared to have dived too early and the ball bounced over her into the net. It remained 2-1 at the break.

The second half was all Redbacks. Renee Leota, who represented New Zealand in the 2008 Olympic Games, was becoming increasingly influential. Her pass to Wood ten minutes into the second half was well saved by Balcatta custodian Dal Busco.

Redbacks began to rack up the corners. From one ball in from the right, Walsh narrowly missed making contact with Dal Busco beaten. There were further opportunities with Jacinta Coleman and Bennett consistently linking up well.

It took until the 68th minute for Balcatta to get a shot on goal through Cass Harvey, but it only served to inspire the Redbacks who won a free-kick out on the left. Bennett played a ball in low for Walsh but Dal Busco gathered.

With just under 15 minutes left, Redbacks finally got the equalizer they richly deserved. Bilham found Leota who let fly with a long-range effort which Dal Busco did well to push away for a corner. The resulting set-piece found Leota who hit a volley which again was pushed away for a corner. This time the flag-kick came into the mix and after a pinball scramble in the six-yard box, Quyen Done looked to have had the final touch to force the ball over the line.

Balcatta were holding on for dear life now. They had one major scare to survive four minutes into stoppage time at the end of 90 minutes when Bennett’s free-kick 15 metres into their half was headed on by Wood for Leota to hit a shot which Dal Busco pushed out for a corner.

Redbacks started extra-time on the front foot, and within three minutes hit the front for the first time all evening. Leota’s through ball found Walsh beautifully who rolled the ball home comfortably to put her team 3-2 up.

The remaining play was largely an even arm-wrestle with both sides creating half-chances, but matters were finally decided with two minutes left. After a period of Balcatta pressure, Walsh gained possession to the left of centre and found Bennett who lifted a shot from outside the box and bounced into the net. Fittingly, it was the club’s all-time record appearance holder who scored the final goal in the club’s standalone history and secured their last trophy under the Redbacks banner.

Above: Northern Redbacks’ Carla Bennett being presented with the Tracy Wheeler Medal as Player of the Match. Photo: Fotoenzo.

It was just reward for a dominant performance over the 120 minutes by Northern Redbacks and a fitting end to Western Australia’s most successful ever all-female club’s history.

They will kick-off the new NPL WA Women’s season under the merged banner of Perth RedStar. With more talent coming into their side including Kim Carroll, they will be going all out to take out silverware from the very start of their new era.

Balcatta Etna have assembled a strong squad ahead of the NPL WA Women’s big kick-off next weekend and will be looking to make up for this disappointment over the coming months.

BALCATTA ETNA:

Scorers: McCartney 3′, Teixeira (OG) 14′.

NORTHERN REDBACKS:

Scorers: Bilham 28′, Done 74′, Walsh 93′, Bennett 118′.

Referee: Caleigh Ormerod.

Attendance: 500 (Maximum allowed under WA COVID rules).

Junior Matildas and Para Matildas News

Earlier today, both the Junior Matildas and ParaMatildas released important news ahead of training camps and World Cups (28/3/22).

Above: Action from a previous Junior Matildas training camp from March 2021. Photo: Football Australia.

Junior Matildas Head Coach Rae Dower has called up 22 promising young footballers as the Commonwealth Bank Junior Matildas return to action with their first training camp of 2022. 

Held at the Australian Institute of Sport, the camp also marks the first activity of the junior national team in 12 months following the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and signifies the continued return of Australia’s youth national teams. 

While Dower and her team have remained connected with the next cycle of players through a comprehensive online program, she expressed her delight in finally coming together as a group. 

“It’s been a very long two years and I am proud of how we have engaged with the players over that timeframe.  However, there is nothing like connecting in person, and we are excited to return to the pitch with these players,” said Dower. 

“We have some incredibly talented up-and-coming players and the staff and I are really looking forward to seeing what they can produce this week.  This training camp and the ones to follow in 2022 are vital for our youth programs.  The ongoing development of this next generation of players and our ability to scout, guide, and nurture them is crucial to building depth in our National Team program.”  

“I am extremely grateful to the hardworking coaches, program staff, and Technical Directors across the country who have kept the players motivated and assisted in their continued development over these last two years.”

Consisting of players born in 2005 only, the 22-player squad will involve players from ACT, NSW, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, and Victoria. 

Above: A previous Junior Matildas camp. Photo: Football Australia

Due to the strict COVID-19 protocols, this camp will not feature any players from Western Australia; however, they will be in contention for subsequent training camps. 

“For a lot of players this week, it will be their first National Team assembly.  So, my message to them will be to come and soak up as much as they can and take as much as possible away from the experience.” 

“If it can ignite a spark within them to go back and consistently work hard in their own environments, then opportunities like this will continue to come their way.”

“We want them to bring the best version of themself to the camp and put their own ‘flavour’ into trainings and matches, that’s what has given them this opportunity in the first place.   I really urge them to play with that authenticity and to play without fear.”

The players arrived in Canberra today with the training camp scheduled to run until this Friday, 1 April. 

Young Matildas Training Squad

NamePositionMember Federation/Club
Kate BONERTZ-BENNDefenderFootball Tas / FQ-Queensland Academy of Sport
Holly BONERTZ-BENNMidfielderFootball Tas / FQ-Queensland Academy of Sport
Libby DAVYGoalkeeperFootball SA /SA National Training Centre
Jynaya DOS SANTOSForwardFootball NSW / FNSW Institute
Anabelle GHABACHMidfielderFootball NSW / FNSW Institute
Charlie GIBSONDefenderFootball QLD / FQ-Queensland Academy of Sport
Lara GOOCHMidfielderNorthern NSW / Newcastle Jets
Erin GORDONDefenderFootball NSW / FNSW Institute
Aimee HALLGoalkeeperFootball NSW / FNSW Institute
Madeline HOWARDForwardNorthern NSW / Adamstown Rosebuds
Caitlin KARICForwardFootball Victoria / Melbourne City FC
Zoe KARIPIDISDefenderNorthern NSW / Newcastle Jets
Aimee LONGHURSTForwardFootball NSW / Sydney University
Megan MIFSUDDefenderFootball NSW / FNSW Institute
Mackenzie NIELSENDefenderFootball QLD / FQ-Queensland Academy of Sport
Sarah O’DONOGHUEMidfielderFootball QLD / FQ-Queensland Academy of Sport
Ella O’GRADYForwardFootball QLD / FQ-Queensland Academy of Sport
Nikita PERRYForwardCapital Football / Canberra United Academy
Bessie RIETHMULLERForwardCapital Football / Sydney University
Harriet SHUTTLEWORTHGoalkeeperNorthern NSW / UNSW
Chloe WALANDOUWDefenderNorthern NSW / Newcastle Jets
Hayley WELLINGTONDefenderFootball SA / SA National Training Centre
Above: Members of the ParaMatildas squad pictured earlier this month. Photo supplied to Impetus by: Football Australia

Meanwhile, the ParaMatildas have discovered their opponents in the first-ever IFCPF Women’s World Cup which takes place between 7th-18th May in Barcelona.

They have been placed in a pool that features Japan, Spain, the Netherlands, and the United States. 

Recently appointed ParaMatildas head coach, Kelly Stirton is aware of the historic moment coming for the ParaMatildas in May. 

“It is going to be a very competitive World Cup with five nations competing for the historic first world title,” Stirton said.  “We will be coming up against some world-class athletes, but I know our players can match it with the rest of the world and that’s my job to ensure they are mentally, emotionally, and physically prepared.”

“Now the World Cup teams have been finalised and positions have been secured, we can shift our attention to how we will play our game and how we can break down the other four teams.  It is important that our players are not just physically fit but mentally as well.  The World Cup is the biggest event in the football calendar, and we are there to represent Australia to the best of our abilities.” 

The ParaMatildas are Australia’s national team for footballers with cerebral palsy, acquired brain injury, and symptoms of stroke and are ranked number four in the world.

They will commence their next phase of preparations for the world championships with camps at the Australian Institute of Sport later this week. 

Melbourne’s Victory Leaves Sydney Heartbroken Again

Sydney FC 1-2 Melbourne Victory

Report By Ben Gilby – EXCLUSIVE photos from pitchside at Netstrata Jubilee Oval from Kris Goman (27/3/22)

Above: Melbourne Victory celebrate their Grand Final win over Sydney FC today. Photo: Kris Goman for Impetus

Despite Sydney FC dominating the vast majority of the Grand Final, it was Melbourne Victory who crucially took their chances to retain their A-League Women’s Champions crown in front of a vocal crowd of over 5,000 at Kogarah.

Melbourne Victory have now become only the second team to win back-to-back Grand Finals in the competition’s history, following their cross-city rivals Melbourne City, who won three in a row from 2016 to 2018. Victory’s win also means that only Sydney’s Grand Final victory of 2019 breaks the Melbourne pair’s stranglehold on Grand Final wins which goes back to 2014.

Both teams went into the decider with the same squad as played in their previous Finals match, but Sydney made two changes to their starting line-up from last week’s Preliminary Final win over Melbourne City. Cortnee Vine came in to start for Paige Satchell with teenager Sarah Hunter also stepping up for Rachel Lowe who joined Satchell on the bench.

Above: Princess Ibini (left) – who had a hugely influential Grand Final. Photo: Kris Goman for Impetus.

Sydney were on top from the start. With just 40 seconds on the clock, Victory goalkeeper Casey Dumont’s attempted clearance only found Princess Ibini on the left. Her effort was deflected narrowly wide of the near post for a corner. Hawkesby’s flag-kick went to the back post towards Hunter who earned a second consecutive corner. This time, Dumont had to backpedal furiously, with a clearance only going as far as Nat Tobin who headed narrowly over.

Victory mounted their first cohesive attack with 11 minutes on the clock and earned a corner on the right. Alex Chidiac’s set-piece swung in viciously towards the back post and needed Ally Green to volley it away first time on the line with goalkeeper Jada Whyman left clutching at thin air under heavy traffic.

The thrilling start continued as Sydney responded instantly. Ibini found Remy Siemsen on the right outside her who cut in and fired in an effort which Dumont pushed away for a corner. Cortnee Vine was available slightly to Siemsen’s right, but whether Impetus‘ A-League Women Player of the Year would have had any better luck is now a moot point.

Above: Remy Siemsen fires in an effort for Sydney FC in the Grand Final. Photo: Kris Goman for Impetus.

Just after the half-hour mark, Ibini showed her the threat again as the forward broke through before playing a one-two with Hawkesby but it was saved by Dumont’s feet with the ball rebounding back towards the line before finally being cleared by Brooke Hendrix at the cost of a corner.

Ibini was involved once more afterwards when a disastrous clearance from Dumont went straight to her just outside the box. The 22-year-old found Siemsen who was offside when slotting the ball into the net.

There was one final chance for Sydney as the clock ticked towards 45 minutes. A long ball from the right found Hawkesby unmarked in the middle of the box and her goalbound header was superbly tipped over by Dumont. The midfielder took the resulting corner which curled over everyone and came off the base of the far post before being scrambled away.

Above: The smiling assassin – Sydney FC’s Mackenzie Hawkesby. Photo: Kris Goman for Impetus.

Whilst Sydney ended the opening half significantly ahead on the possession and territory count, they were unable to translate it to a scoreboard lead. With the star-studded attack that Melbourne Victory possessed, the home team knew in the back of their minds that their opponents would have a spell at some point. It would come down to the team that took the chances that came their way.

Within three minutes of the re-start, Victory made the hosts pay. Melina Ayres won a corner from Nat Tobin. Courtney Nevin played it outside the box to Kyra Cooney-Cross who floated in an effort that was deflected back to her. The second attempt was a lofted ball towards the back post that was headed in by Amy Jackson.

Above: Melbourne Victory celebrate going ahead. Photo: Kris Goman for Impetus.

Sydney responded strongly with Ibini and Hawkesby threatening and forcing crucial saves from Dumont.

The game which had always had a physical edge to it from the moment of Hunter’s death stare early on, became increasingly hard-fought as frustrations began to show in terms of reactions.

Try as Sydney might, it was Victory who had the ability to turn a rare offensive sortie into a goal once more as they doubled their advantage with 64 minutes played. Lia Privitelli fired in a low cross from the right which was sliced by Tobin and fell perfectly Ayres whose effort came off Charlize Rule’s arm and bounced into the path of Catherine Zimmerman to fire under Jada Whyman for 2-0.

Yet within moments, Sydney finally had the ball in the net. Hawkesby’s corner on the left was met by the head of Rule. Dumont parried into the path of Vine who fired home.

Above: Eyes on the prize. The Melbourne Victory defence look on. Photo: Kris Goman for Impetus.

Melina Ayres then caused a major heart palpitation for Sydney keeper Whyman when she lifted a cross in which bounced high and needed to be palmed away for a corner. The resulting flag-kick from Nevin curled in and came cannoning back off of the crossbar.

Victory had another opportunity when they closed in on Whyman from Nevin’s latest corner. Under pressure, the Sydney goalkeeper punched the ball into her own net, but a free-kick was awarded.

Into the last ten minutes, the rain began to pour down and Sydney continued to push for an equalizer that would be the least they deserved on the balance of play. They could not find one. The Harbour City side had seven shots on target to Victory’s two, but it was the Melbourne side’s greater ability to turn those into goals that decided this encounter.

Above: Scenes of joy at the final whistle for Melbourne Victory. Photo: Kris Goman for Impetus.

Victory captain Lia Privitelli spoke after the game, said: “I couldn’t be prouder. We’ve had a tough season, but we did it. Sydney were out here for revenge but we were out to retain it. I couldn’t be prouder of this team,

Her Sydney counterpart Nat Tobin was devastated: “One word – disappointing. We remained calm the whole time. We had the experience of coming from behind in the semi and when Cortnee (Vine) scored the goal to come back I thought ‘here we go’, but it didn’t work out. There’s not much more we can do better than win a Grand Final, and we need to do that now.”

Sydney FC head coach Ante Juric said: “It’s heart-breaking, the girls are devastated. They always pick themselves up. If you put everything into something and you lose, that’s still winning, and I truly believe that, because sometimes the score-line doesn’t reflect what actually happened. But that’s just life. They (our players) know they put everything into it and deserved to win, but we didn’t.”

Above: The sheer joy shows on Melbourne Victory faces. Photo: Kris Goman for Impetus.

Those with only a passing interest in the competition will look at the same two teams meeting in the Grand Final for the second season with the same outcome. Yet this season’s A-League Women has been far more than “same old”. It ignores the outstanding development at both Adelaide United and Perth Glory – two teams who are only going to get even better next season.

It’s important to remember that Melbourne Victory only qualified for the Finals due to having a superior goal difference from Perth Glory. They had to do it the hard way, winning three straight games away from home. It’s reward for a tough campaign that saw Jeff Hopkins’ side have to overcome injury issues and a spell of seven games in 23 days. They got their full-strength team back at the right time and gained the ultimate prize as a result.

Sydney FC had an outstanding season. For much of it, they were completely unplayable and easily the best team in the competition. They will need to channel the pain of another heartbreaking loss in the Grand Final. If they can keep the bulk of the squad together again and work closely on lessons learned from three consecutive defeats in the deciding game of the season, they will come back even more powerfully.

Kris Goman’s EXCLUSIVE photo gallery can be seen here: https://impetusfootball.org/2022/03/27/melbournes-victory-leaves-sydney-heartbroken-again/?fbclid=IwAR3HsbcyWDge3EVC_AELC3j_1wL1dZYMmDSKrJZ0LSkqueeekGQRRVBdY4k

Teams: SYDNEY FC (4-3-3): Whyman, Rule, Mclean, Tobin, Green, Hunter, Ray, Hawkesby, Vine, Siemsen, Ibini. Substitutes: Offer (GK), Nash, Lowe, Rojas, Satchell.

Scorers: Vine 66′.

MELBOURNE VICTORY (4-3-3): Dumont, Doran, Bunge, Hendrix, Nevin, Cooney-Cross, Jackson, Chidiac, Zimmerman, Ayres, Privitelli. Substitutes: Maizels (GK), Eliadis, Murphy, Withers, Markovski.

Scorers: Jackson 49′, Zimmerman 64′.

Referee: Lara Lee.

Attendance: 5,027.

Sydney FC: Incredible Form & Camaraderie Are The X-Factor

Impetus’ Kris Goman, who has been watching Sydney FC for us regularly during the A-League Women season reviews their superb season and outlines why, for her, they will win tomorrow’s A-League Women Grand Final (26/3/22).

Above: Sydney FC celebrate in their incrediblSemi-Final match with Melbourne City – they will be hoping to be doing so again on Sunday. Photo: Kris Goman for Impetus.

Well, here we are, a day before the last match of the season and it’s ending the same way it did last year. Hopefully not exactly the same way but the same two teams at the same oval. I honestly thought it would be Sydney and Melbourne City so credit where it’s due to Victory for making it back here.

This season Sydney have been a force to be reckoned with. Absolutely dominating. One loss for the season, two draws, and eleven wins from 14 hard-fought matches. They also broke the shut-out record along the way. Only six goals conceded and 36 scored for a goal difference of 30. The next closest was Melbourne City with 18. The stats speak for themselves.

But what they don’t describe is the incredible camaraderie of the team. This team has gelled like no other. The bulk of the team have been playing together for a long time now. They are young, they are well-drilled, they know what they are capable of and where they are going to be. They can rely on each other and the coach and understand what’s expected.

Despite long-time stalwart, Teresa Polias taking the season off to have a baby and losing Ellie Brush to an ACL injury before the season even started, Sydney have incredible depth. When you’ve got forwards the calibre of Cote Rojas, Paige Satchell, and Cortnee Vine coming off the bench, you know there’s going to be goals.

There are goal-scoring machines in Vine, Siemsen, and Rojas. Princess Ibini and Mackenzie Hawkesby will have a crack given any opportunity and even defenders like Ally Green and Sarah Hunter will get in there and score when you’re least expecting it.

Above: Cortnee Vine (left) taking on Emma Checker of Melbourne City in the Semi-Final. Photo: Kris Goman for Impetus.

The midfielders are providing both assists and goals. Impetus’ A-League Women Player of the Year Cortnee Vine has the most goals in the team with eight but the goal-scoring has been shared around and there have been ten different goal scorers during the season. Everyone is dangerous in the box and outside it.

While a lot of the attacking focus has been on Vine, who can seemingly split the opposition’s defence apart at will, Rojas has many tricks up her sleeve and can dazzle with her footwork and ball management skills. At the same time, Satchell is a bit overlooked and is as tenacious as they come and while she hasn’t been prolific in her goal-scoring, her runs to the box have been a thing of joy to watch.

As well as having arguably the best attack, Sydney also has the arguably best defence. Jada Whyman had eight consecutive shutouts this season. A record-breaking run for the A-League Women. In front of her are great defenders in Ally Green, Nat Tobin, Charlize Rule, and Charlotte Mclean, with backups of Jessika Nash and Sarah Hunter. These women don’t give up. They get in front of their players and they fight for the ball. They work seamlessly with the midfielders to drive forward and they are all pacey and can get back and recover ground quickly when required.

The midfield of Mackenzie Hawkesby, Taylor Ray, and Rachel Lowe is probably the most solid and versatile in the competition. They link the defence and attack, capable of doing both, capable of assists, capable of goals, capable of running their hearts out – just very capable.

The x-factor here though is that Sydney want this. Obviously, Victory want it too but Sydney have a point to prove after losing to Victory last year in the closest grand final ever. Kyra Cooney-Cross scoring an Olympico in the dying seconds of the injury time of the extra time was one for the ages. The match was literally seconds from a penalty shoot-out and that loss is a powerful driver.

Sydney and Victory have only played each other once this season and that was a 2-2 draw. Sydney certainly won’t be taking Victory for granted but revenge is a very powerful emotion. Sydney don’t want to watch Victory hoist the silverware in front of their home supporters. Sarah Hunter alone has invited 150 of her family and friends to watch this spectacular.

Sydney have the home ground advantage and the advantage of a week off to rest, recover, train, and strategize. Sydney won the double in 2009 and will be making sure they do it again this season. With four premierships to their name and three Championships, a win on Sunday would make it four and four which has never been done before. If I bet, which I don’t and don’t condone, I’d be putting my money on Sydney FC.

For Kieran Yap’s Melbourne Victory Grand Final preview article, click here: https://impetusfootball.org/2022/03/24/melbourne-victory-one-win-from-a-legendary-season/

This is the third article in our six days of Grand Final coverage on Impetus. Kieran Yap and Kris Goman have spotlighted both finalists, Ben Gilby will report on the Grand Final, with Kris Goman pitchside providing EXCLUSIVE photos from the game. Next week, don’t miss Kieran Yap’s Grand Final analysis. On Wednesday, we brought you the pre-Grand Final media events from both clubs – it can be read here: https://impetusfootball.org/2022/03/23/a-league-grand-final-the-view-from-sydney-fc-melbourne-victory/

Artwork: Graphics by PW.

Sermanni To Be WSW Inaugural Head of Women’s Football

25/3/22

Above: The hugely respected figure of Tom Sermanni unveiled as Western Sydney Wanderers’ first Head of Women’s Football. Photo: Western Sydney Wanderers.

Western Sydney Wanderers today made the significant announcement that the hugely respected Tom Sermanni has been appointed as the club’s inaugural Head of Women’s Football.

Sermanni will oversee the Wanderers’ Liberty A-League Women side, development programs such as the Future Wander Women program, and develop the club’s recruitment strategy.

Sermanni’s career has spanned the globe having coached women’s football at all levels including the national teams of Australia, United States, Canada, and New Zealand.

Sermanni has had two stints coaching the Matildas, from 1994-97 and again from 2005-2012, leading the side to a maiden continental title when he coached the Matildas to claim the 2010 AFC Women’s Asian Cup. 

At a club level, Sermanni was head coach at National Women’s Soccer league sides New York Power and Orlando Pride, as well as being the assistant at San Jose CyberRays and Japanese side Sanfrecce Hiroshima.

Sermanni has been awarded a number of accolades, leading his side to be crowned with the OFC Women’s Championship in 1994, AFF Women’s Championship in 2008, AFC Women’s Asian Cup in 2010, The Algarve Cup in 2013, OFC Women’s Nations Cup in 2018.

Above: Tom Sermanni, pictured in 2011 when he was head coach of the Matildas. Photo: Robert Cianflone – FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images.

Individually, he was named the AFC Coach of the Year in 2007 and the ACT Sport Hall of Fame in 2012.

Western Sydney Wanderers General Manager Scott Hudson praised the appointment of Sermanni.

“We are proud to have Tom at the helm, overseeing our women’s programs at the Western Sydney Wanderers,” said Hudson.

“Tom has an extensive resume working with some of the giants of women’s football both internationally and domestically, and we welcome his knowledge, experience, and passion as we lead into our next decade of football. We look forward to seeing Tom help build the foundations for our future.”

Sermanni himself said he was delighted to help contribute to the Wanderers women’s football program.

“I’m excited, I look forward to being back involved in the game again. This is a great opportunity to try and build up and contribute to the women’s element of the club. Western Sydney is a hotbed for football and hopefully, we can really build a strong women’s space here. 

“I’ve been talking to people at the club for a while and the club is very ambitious. It is very ambitious to build its women’s program from the A-League Women all the way down and it really wants to make the women’s program a significant part of the club.”

Above: Tom Sermanni pictured today at Western Sydney Wanderers. Photo: Western Sydney Wanderers.

The role will mark the Wanderers’ very first appointment of a Head of Women’s Football with Sermanni hoping to lay the foundations for generations to come.

“That’s what appeals to me. A project where you can actually start things out, start to build things. This is something that I really enjoy doing and the club is very ambitious in this space and hopefully, I can help contribute to that,” explained Sermanni.

“I want to work on lots of things. If I put a list together, I’m very hands-on and a very practical person. I want to get in there and get things done, it goes all way from helping strengthen and develop A-League Women’s team to actually looking at the future of the club.

“Hopefully, we get our club set-up in the women’s space the same as the men’s space where there is an Academy and pathway for young girls in Western Sydney to come all the way through from a young age, to actually then play in the A-League Women’s team and hopefully then go on to play for the Matildas.”

Sermanni also said he was looking forward to creating a new culture and environment leading into the new decade of the club.

“Players ultimately want to play somewhere where they feel that they belong, a culture of a club is all about people,” said Sermanni.

“Culture is about the people that work within the club and what your expectations are for the people that run the club, filtering that down to the expectations of the players that are coming through.

“We need to create an environment where players and staff want to be here, and that’s ultimately it.

“If you create that environment, then you start to build on that and that’s really critical.”

Artwork: Graphics by PW.

Historic NPL WA Women’s Night Series Final Ahead

Sunday is not just the A-League Women Grand Final. In Western Australia, the pre-season Night Series Cup Final takes place between the Northern Redbacks and Balcatta Etna and there will be two pieces of history made (25/3/22).

Above: Balcatta Etna lift last year’s NPL WA Women’s Night Series Final after beating Murdoch University Melville. Photo: Football West.

Sunday’s NPL WA Women’s Night Series Final at the E&D Litis Stadium between the Northern Redbacks and Balcatta Etna will see Western Australia’s most famous female-only club play their last match in their current guise.

After the game, the Redbacks will play under the merged banner of Perth RedStar which consists of themselves and the men’s ECU Joondalup club.

The club, formed in 1991 as Morley Windmills were the inaugural WANPL WA Grand Final winners in 2020. Prior to the establishment of the Women’s NPL in the state, Northern Redbacks had won 15 Premier League Championships. Nine state league cups were also held aloft. The Redbacks also had the outstanding achievement of winning the Inter-State Challenge Cup in 2013 by defeating Adelaide City.

Above: Action from the group stage clash between Northern Redbacks and Balcatta Etna on the opening night of this year’s NPL WA Night Series competition. Photo: Fotoenzo.

The club have also produced three Matildas, countless Perth Glory players, and international players for Wales, Northern Ireland, and Zambia.

However, the Redbacks have always been about far more than its senior team. They fielded a total of seven teams down to U14s and have experienced huge success. Age group league championships were won and a U16 side represented the club at the World Youth Cup in Sweden – the first WA-based team to ever do so.

With facilities and finances becoming an issue for Northern Redbacks they accepted the offer of the merger under the new banner of Perth RedStar.

Redbacks will be aiming to conclude their stand-alone history with another piece of silverware, but they will face a tough battle against defending cup holders Balcatta Etna.

Balcatta, part of the WA Women’s State Premier since 2007 and were champions of the state Women’s Premier League in 2018. Inaugural members of the WA NPL Women’s, the club have a history of providing tough opposition to the Redbacks in what is likely to be a close and high-quality final.

Above: Chloe Smith (left), Caleigh Ormerod (centre), and Libby Caldwell (right) will form the first all-female officiating team for a First XI Football West final on Sunday. Photo: Football West.

The other piece of history will come in the form of the officials selected for the game. For the first time in a first XI Football West competition final, all three officials on duty will be female.

Caleigh Ormerod will be the referee, with Libby Caldwell and Chloe Smith as her assistants.

Football West Referee Coorinator Dave Avison said the appointments were on merit and the result of a concentrated effort to bring through more female referees.

“Congratulations to the three officials who have performed excellently and have earned being given a high-profile match like this,” Avison said.

“Football West has made a conscious effort to attract more females to the ranks of referees over the past five or so years and this is reflected in the larger pool of female officials that we are seeing.

“There has been greater investment and we are starting to see the results. Female-only referee courses also help.

“Another factor has been the launch of the NPLWA – Women’s competition. Not only does this mean more games but it has increased greatly the profile of the women’s game and made it more appealing. The same goes for refereeing these matches.”

Football West’s next female-only referee course is on Saturday 21 May at Gibbney Reserve, Maylands. The course will run from 8.45am to 4.30pm. To register CLICK HERE

Balcatta Etna v Northern Redbacks will be available to watch live and on-demand on NPL TV this Sunday – click here: https://npl.tv/

Melbourne Victory: One Win From A Legendary Season

Impetus’ Kieran Yap has closely followed Melbourne Victory’s fortunes this season. Ahead of their Grand Final against Sydney FC on Sunday, he reviews a challenging campaign that now looks to have all come good at the right time (24/3/22).

Above: Melbourne Victory celebrate after clinching their Grand Final place with a win over cross-city rivals Melbourne City in last weekend’s Preliminary Final. Photo: Melbourne Victory.

This is exactly where I expected this team to be, but not how I thought the season would go.

As people often remind me, before Round One of the A-League Women, I predicted that Melbourne Victory would navigate the season undefeated.

The great Casey Dumont was back, American superstar Lynn Williams was here for a short time and Courtney Nevin had signed for the season. Victory had strengthened from the previous championship-winning campaign. Melina Ayres was following from a breakout season and there were whispers that Alex Chidiac was possibly signing.

When you put all these facts together, can you blame me for thinking Jeff Hopkins had assembled a team that could manage 14 games without a loss?

Above: Lynn Williams – an important presence in the early stages of the season for the club. Photo: Melbourne Victory.

Of course, my Melbourne Victory (Women’s team) fandom blinded me to any frailties in the squad. But in my defence on paper, this line-up inspired confidence.

My bold prediction came undone in the first half of the first game. I was standing behind the goal when Kayla Morrison went down. The popular captain and PFA team of the season centre-back was chasing down her own clearance from a corner. The fans were still applauding her perfectly timed leap when she fell while running in a straight line and under no contact.

We all tried to talk ourselves into believing the best-case scenario. She didn’t twist, she walked off without a stretcher, and she was wandering around after the match. To paraphrase the Victory Viking’s mascot, “She’s still good, she’s still good.”

But she wasn’t. The championship-winning defender had torn her ACL, and suddenly Victory had a problem. There was no clear backup centre-back in the squad.

Hopkins had the option of moving Nevin to centre-back. She had excelled there for the Matildas against the USA in a 1-1 draw and it looked the easiest solution. Instead, he opted to keep Nevin wide, not switch formation and shift Amy Jackson to defence.

16-year-old Alana Murphy was trusted with midfield duties, and she became one of the finds of the season. Jackson showed with a matchwinning foul against City that she had the determination and sacrificial nature that could hold the fort even if she was played well out of position.

Above: Kyra Cooney-Cross – her natural desire to attack was modified during Victory’s injury-enforced reshuffle. Photo: Football Australia.

Kyra Cooney-Cross was shackled into a more disciplined role as an almost defensive midfielder. Her natural, showstopping game was put on hold for the sake of the team for now.

Lynn Williams justified her short contract with essential contributions against Melbourne City and Brisbane Roar. Without her, it is unlikely that Victory would have made the top four in the end.

New captain Lia Privitelli played wherever she was needed, left-back, midfield, or forward. She was in career-best form. Chidiac adjusted instantly and was pivotal in keeping Victory moving forward during games.

Victory had adjusted. Hopes of an undefeated season were dashed by Melbourne City and Brisbane Roar but they had lost against the same opponents in an almost identical sequence last season. They were still going well.

Then COVID hit. Victory had an enforced mid-season break. The whole league did at some point, but when the powers that be made the decision to cram as many matches into February as possible, Victory found themselves playing seven games in 23 days.

They were exhausted. You could tell what they wanted to do, the first 20 minutes of each game showed that they were well drilled and had the talent. But fatigue started to quickly set in as the games piled up. They looked visibly aching as they walked off the field. A 3-0 loss to an Adelaide United side that needed the win to guarantee Finals was the point where they looked physically spent.

Above: The hugely influential Lia Privitelli pictured celebrating at the start of the season against Adelaide United. Photo: Melbourne Victory.

Still, they got the points. A new defender has been signed in the form of American Brooke Hendrix, and she made an instant impression. It is to Jeff Hopkins’ and the clubs’ eternal credit that they did not panic without Morrison. They did not rush to replace her with any centre-back. They waited, scouted, and held on until the right option became available.

Personally, I would have loaned a COVID-stranded Claudia Mihocic from Perth Glory. But once she got on the field for them it was obvious that Perth would have been mad to give up the impressive defender to a finals rival, it was simply my dream.

Hendrix was the right choice. She immediately improved the shape of the team and was essential when Claudia Bunge was called away to the New Zealand squad.

Victory entered the Finals with a near full-strength side, with a proper week of recovery and planning for the first time in over a month, and they were about to welcome back Melina Ayres to the starting line-up.

We as fans have been waiting for Ayres return like it was some sort of Biblical fable, “Things will be OK when Melina gets here… just wait and see, when Melina returns everything will change!”

The faithful were not disappointed. Two goals in two finals have justified the reverence the striker is held in behind the AAMI Park goals.

Above: Melina Ayres’ return was a huge boost for the club. Photo: A-League Women.

Ayres is back and firing, Jackson is once again roaming her natural habitat and the defence is once again looking pretty solid.

Chidiac has just played the game of her life against City in the preliminary final. They have knocked off many pundits’ and my favourite for the title, Adelaide United and everybody is fit.

They have done things the hard way, but they are ready for this moment. Sydney are a frightening outfit with ridiculous depth. Arguably their fifth choice attacker is Paige Satchell, an Olympian and New Zealand international. In Sarah Hunter and Maria Rojas they have genuine game-changers on the bench.

They are in a better position than they were when they lost to Melbourne Victory in last season’s Grand Final. Courtney Vine did not play that day and Princess Ibini went off injured. They have also had a full weekend to rest and strategize.

Sydney FC has the best defensive record, a dominant midfield, and a killer strike force, but Victory is not here by fluke.

Despite one of the most challenging seasons in their history as a club or individuals, they are right where they planned to be at this moment.

One more win will turn this remarkable season into a legendary success.

Artwork: Graphics by PW.

Reds Secure Two More Key Players

The week started with Adelaide United announcing the retention of A-League Women’s top scorer Fiona Worts. It’s ending with the South Australians securing another two key players for next season (24/3/22).

Adelaide United announced today that both Nanako Sasaki and Ella Tonkin have signed two-year contract extensions with the Club until the end of the Liberty A-League 2023/24 season.

Sasaki was a revelation for the Reds in 2021/22, making a seamless transition to the Liberty A-League after years dominating the local Women’s National Premier League (WNPL) with Adelaide City and Adelaide Comets.  

The 23-year-old Japanese midfielder made 13 starts in a total of 14 appearances while scoring two goals and registering two assists. She also received three votes in the Impetus Weekly Player of the Week Awards this season.

After putting pen-to-paper on her two-year deal, Sasaki, said: “I’m very happy to know my future lies with Adelaide United.

Above: Nanako Sasaki in action for Adelaide United this season – she’s just extended her contract by another two years. Photo: Adelaide United.

“It was an amazing season from an individual and team perspective and it’s a great group of people to be around.

“Adrian (Stenta) is a fantastic coach and hopefully next season, we can build on the progress we made this year.”

Meanwhile, Tonkin, who played for Football SA NTC in the state Women’s NPL, also experienced a breakout season, starting five times in a total of nine appearances.

The 19-year-old defender completed her third campaign as a Red having made her debut during the 2019/20 season.

Speaking on committing her future to Adelaide for the next two years, Tonkin, said: “It’s a fantastic feeling to be re-signing with the club I’ve grown up supporting my whole life.

“After getting more minutes under my belt this season it has really instilled a lot of belief in myself.

Above: Local talent Ella Tonkin has signed on at Adelaide United for another two seasons. Photo: Adelaide Untied.

“Despite making finals for the first time, it was a frustrating end to the season and hopefully we can learn from the setback and come back stronger.”

Adelaide United’s Liberty A-League Head Coach, Adrian Stenta, said: “Re-signing both Nano and Ella for the next two seasons is excellent as they’re both important players for us.

“Nano was instrumental in our midfield and showed she clearly belongs at this level. She was brilliant in her debut season and I’m confident she will only continue to improve.

“Ella also made impressive strides forward this year and demonstrated she is more than capable of playing in this competition. Her versatility in defence and sometimes as a holding midfielder provides the team with not only depth but flexibility.”

Artwork: Graphics by PW.

A-League Grand Final: The View From Sydney FC & Melbourne Victory

Sunday sees the A-League Women Grand Final between Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory. Impetus’ Ben Gilby heard from the Sydney FC pair of Sarah Hunter and Charlize Rule along with Melbourne Victory’s Courtney NevinAlex Chidiac, and head coach Jeff Hopkins (23/3/22).

Sydney FC’s 18-year-old star Sarah Hunter is just days away from playing in her first Grand Final and spoke of her emotions in the build-up.

“We’re all pumped. I’m very excited and want to get the win but I also want to enjoy the moment too. The atmosphere and build-up is amazing, but I just want to help the team. This experience helps my confidence as it makes me realize that I can contribute to the team and to the Premiership and making this team better. An individual’s confidence can help lift a whole team.”

Above: Sydney FC’s Sarah Hunter speaking to the media yesterday. Photo: Sydney FC.

Hunter revealed that her team has been zeroing in on Sunday’s game from the very start of pre-season.

“We’ve been preparing for the whole season. From the very first day, Ante (Juric, head coach) said that our Final game will be the Grand Final this season. We’ve looked at every little thing and in reflection we’ve worked on putting things right for a Grand Final. These last few weeks we’ve been de-loading our bodies in order to prepare. There’s been lots of light gym work and tactical tweaking.”

Sydney’s teenager emphasized how focused her team are on getting revenge for last season’s heartbreaking Grand Final loss to Melbourne Victory.

“I think the Sydney team were hard done by in the Grand Final last year after the great season they had, losing and the way they did was tough. Coming into it this year, I am focussed on helping the team right the wrongs of last season.”

Above: Sydney FC’s Charlize Rule speaking to the media ahead of Sunday’s Grand Final. Photo: Sydney FC.

Sydney FC midfielder Charlize Rule highlighted the importance of the game against Victory in February for providing her side with additional motivation on Sunday.

“We dominated pretty much 88 minutes of the match (leading 2-0) but they scored an equalizer right at the end. After that match, Ante said to us, ‘We’ll see them in the Grand Final and get revenge!’ “

Rule outlined how she believes that her teammates can use the experience of last year’s Grand Final to help them go one better. “Our group has been together for a couple of years now and we are excited for this. Last year we stood off a bit in the Grand Final and we were nervous. This season we’ve been focussed on it from the very start to put things right.”

“The Semi-Final (against Melbourne City) was the most exciting match I’ve ever been involved in and the Grand Final will be even better. Everyone needs to come down and watch!”

Above: Melbourne Victory’s Courtney Nevin. Photo: Melbourne Victory.

Melbourne Victory defender Courtney Nevin outlined the importance of her team’s lighter load in recent weeks in putting them in the best possible place ahead of Sunday’s showdown.

“We’ve got good experience – as have Sydney – we’ve both played lots of Finals footy. We’ve had a chance to have a bit more of a rest going into this game after that spell of playing two or three games a week for a few weeks. It’s allowed us to get over the injuries and Jeff (Hopkins, head coach) has had a hard job selecting a starting eleven as we’re all doing our job.”

After a spell of defensive difficulties after the injury of captain Kayla Morrison, Nevin emphasized the importance of Brooke Hendrix’s arrival at the club.

“Having Brooke (Hendrix) come in alongside me and done a really good job. She allows us to have AJ (Amy Jackson) in front of us as well, which really helps.”

“We know that at times this season our football hasn’t been the best, but we’ve overcome that now. Lia (Privitelli) has really stepped up for us and scored some vital goals.”

Victory have had to do it the hard way to make the Grand Final – travelling to Adelaide United for an Elimination Final a fortnight ago before taking on cross-city rivals Melbourne City last weekend. Nevin feels that these tough tests could stand them in good stead.

“The last two games have been massive for us, especially coming up against City last week, but Sunday will be the biggest all season and the toughest. We know how Sydney are going to play. They are a strong team, but if we play at the same intensity that we played in the semi-final, we’ll be fine.”

Above: Alex Chidiac – focussed on another successful Grand Final. Photo: AyressPhotog

Melbourne Victory midfielder Alex Chidiac was in outstanding form in Sunday’s Preliminary Final win over Melbourne City, and admits the experience of last year’s Grand Final against Sydney FC is a major plus for her and her team.

“It’s massive. You can’t compare a Grand Final to any other game. It all comes down to who shows up on the day. Having played in one last year, I know what to expect, the nerves, and how to deal with it. We have a lot of girls who have the experience and they can help those who haven’t.”

Focussing on their opponents Sydney FC, Chidiac outlined what she believes Victory need to do to thwart the Harbour City side’s threat on Sunday.

“We know that their players thrive on confidence, so we know me just must not let them get too far forward. We have to shut them down early to prevent them from getting on the front foot and getting ahead early.”

The 17-cap Matilda reflected on the greater defensive organization that the team have now and how it can provide a foundation to a win in the Grand Final as well.

“Losing Kayla (Morrison) so early (through injury) was a massive loss. It took us quite a while to get some structure back. We spent a lot of time in training working on organization but we’ve got it together at the right time.”

“After last year, we came back focussed on wanting to do the same again. We’re so keen for that.”

Above: Jeff Hopkins – The Melbourne Victory head coach is proud of his side’s defensive structure and efforts in recent weeks. Photo: Melbourne Victory.

Melbourne Victory head coach Jeff Hopkins praised the quality that his players have shown in recent weeks, particularly defensively. “I would not swap any of our players at the moment, they’re all in such good form. The back four are so solid and have Casey (Dumont) playing well behind them.”

“Casey says it as she sees it on the pitch. She will hold people accountable around her, and I really like that in a goalkeeper. She’s come off an injury with her Achilles tendon that kept her out for a while and then got COVID. She hasn’t had much time to prepare and play. As the weeks have gone by she’s got better and better – training session after training session, game after game. The save she made on Sunday from Stotty (Rebekah Stott of Melbourne City), how she got to it, I just don’t know.

“We lost our captain (Kayla Morrison) in the first game this season. She has been around the place all season, but you do need a leader out on the field. Lia (Privitelli) has been that person and she has really taken the role on with open arms. I’m not sure if she realizes how important she has been and the way she has encouraged the players. She is very much team first and puts everyone else before her. I really admire that trait in a leader and the girls all look up to her. She’ll be vital for us.”

In terms of preparations for the Grand Final, Hopkins said: “The players have had light sessions at the start of the week and get some tactical work done later in the week. We’ll travel in the same way and at the same time, just add one or two things in terms of making the week and the game a bit more special. We want to enjoy this week, remembering what we do and how we do it.”

The former Crystal Palace and Fulham defender recognized that, despite facing a hard task on Sunday, his team has every right to be confident.

“We’re really looking forward to the game. We understand it will be a tough ask for us. Sydney are a very, very good side. I have a lot of respect for their coach and their side. If you go back a few weeks to the game against them here, it gives us a lot of confidence from the way we came back from 2-0 down and the Grand Final last year, it is something to hold onto and get a boost from.”

He also had some positive news about player availability for the game. “We came out of a very difficult and heavy period on our bodies and over the past three weeks we’ve come out with no injuries and the same again ahead of the Grand Final. There’s some stiffness as the performance last weekend against City saw them have to go to another level.

“To beat Sydney we will now have to go to a place we’ve never been before. We have a great group of players though and we’re doing it for each other.”

This is the start of six days of Grand Final coverage on Impetus. Kieran Yap and Kris Goman will be spotlighting both finalists, Ben Gilby will be reporting on the Grand Final, with Kris Goman pitchside providing EXCLUSIVE photos from the game. Next week, don’t miss Kieran Yap’s Grand Final analysis.

Artwork: Graphics by PW.

Worts Signs Up For Another Year

(21/2/22).

Above: Fiona Worts applauds the Adelaide United fans at the end of their best ever W-/A-League Women season. Photo: Adelaide United.

In a major boost for the South Australian club, Adelaide United announced this morning that English forward, Fiona Worts, the A-League Women’s top scorer for 2021/22 has signed a new deal for next season.

In the meantime, Worts will join Norwegian top-flight club LSK Kvinner FK before returning for her third campaign with Adelaide.

The 26-year-old was in sensational form for the Reds this season, scoring 13 goals in 14 regular season matches, on her way to claiming the competition’s Golden Boot as United experienced the most successful season in its history.

Speaking about committing to Adelaide and her impending move to the Toppserien, Worts said: “The season just gone was the best of my career so far and I hope I can build on that.

“While we did get eliminated in the first week of the finals, we still had a really good season and one that we’re proud of.

Above: Fiona Worts in action against Canberra United this season. Photo: Adelaide United.

“I still feel there is unfinished business in the A-League and I will return to Adelaide with this incredible squad and have another go at competing for a title.

“I’m also looking forward to challenging myself and spending time in Norway during the offseason in a tough league which will only help improve my game and make me a better player when I return to Adelaide.”

Adelaide United Head Coach, Adrian Stenta, said: “Retaining Fiona for next season was a high priority of ours because she is a very important player for us.

“Fiona had a fantastic year not just from a scoring perspective, but she was an excellent attacking outlet with her hold-up play allowing her to combine superbly with her fellow teammates.

“The opportunity to play abroad in Norway is also exciting for her and one that I’m sure will be extremely beneficial for her continued development.”

In two seasons with Adelaide United, Worts has accumulated 24 appearances, notching 15 goals and seven assists.

Artwork: Graphics by PW.

Victory Set Up Grand Final Re-Match

Melbourne City 1-3 Melbourne Victory

By Kieran Yap (20/3/22)

Above: Melbourne Victory celebrate reaching another Grand Final after defeating their cross-city rivals Melbourne City in today’s Preliminary Final. Photo: Melbourne Victory.

Melbourne Victory have secured a Grand Final appearance against Premiers Sydney FC after a 3-1 win over Melbourne City in the Preliminary Final.

The last time that these teams met, City dealt out a 5-1 thrashing to their local rivals. Hannah Wilkinson scored a record-equalling five goals that day, and stopping the in-form striker would be a priority for Victory.

After one of the most challenging seasons in his tenure, Jeff Hopkins had his team on the precipice of another decider. Victory has had to deal with significant injuries, COVID outbreaks, and a schedule that had them playing seven games in 23 days leading up to finals.

For the first time since round one, he had a full squad to choose from. With Amy Jackson returning to her favoured midfield position and Melina Ayres starting for the second week in a row, Victory had a familiar structure about them.

City had given up a two-goal lead against Sydney FC in the first semi-final. Crucially, they were missing Tyla-Jay Vlajnic and Melissa Barbieri. Both players were among City’s best this season, Vlajnic is both creative and experienced as a left-back, while Barbieri must be a contender as player of the season for the whole competition.

Above: Melbourne City’s Leah Davidson in possession. Photo: Melbourne City.

The opening stages of the match saw both sides attacking quickly, scoring first would be vital for either side. Melina Ayres had the first chance of the game. The ball bounced awkwardly on the recently watered pitch and fell beyond the City defence.

Ayres took an extra touch for control and tried to find the back post with her stabbed shot on goal. Sally James was beaten but it skidded wide of the goal. Rebekah Stott fired back for City with a long range effort that Casey Dumont saved in spectacular fashion.

Alex Chidiac was busy early, late, and all of the minutes in between. She seemed as surprised as the City defenders when she received the ball behind them and somehow onside.

James was quick to react and close down the space, what looked like a certain goal was another missed opportunity for Victory.

While City were able to move the ball forward, the back four of Victory were able to repel the attacks fairly consistently. They do not play a high line or flirt with off-side traps very often. Jeff Hopkins’ side plays a good, disciplined back four. They get goal side of the attackers and close to them. Rhianna Pollicina was unable to turn and face goal as often as normal and Wilkinson struggled to find space with international teammate Claudia Bunge paying close attention.

Ayres opened the scoring for Victory on the half-hour mark. She intercepted an Emma Checker pass and acted quickly, bursting into the area and sweeping her shot past James to make it 1-0.

Above: Melina Ayres (centre) celebrates after putting Melbourne Victory ahead. Photo: Melbourne Victory.

Victory fans have waited all season for Ayres to return to the squad. She had a breakout season last year and after dominating with South Melbourne in the NPLW there was real anticipation about what she could produce in 2021/22.

A persistent hamstring injury has kept her out of the side until the final round of the regular season. She scored what turned out to be the winning goal against Adelaide United in the semi-final and her goal in the Preliminary Final proved that it was worth the wait.

Catherine Zimmerman almost doubled the lead after Lia Privitelli found her with a perfect low cross. City could consider themselves fortunate when the ball flew over the bar.

The second goal arrived at the worst time for City but the best time for Victory. In the closing moments of the first half, Courtney Nevin’s corner fell invitingly at the back post and Bunge was on hand to finish from close range.

Victory continued to attack in the second half. Chidiac was tireless and creative and had the City players under pressure in possession and back pedalling when she was on the attack.

She was predictably involved in Victory’s third goal. She got the ball to Ayres in the penalty area who turned it into the path of Privitelli. The captain shot over James to make it 3-0 and give City a mountain to climb with the clock ticking towards the hour mark.

Above: Contested possession between Victory’s Kyra Cooney-Cross (left) and the City duo of Leah Davidson and Winonah Heatley. Photo: Melbourne City.

City had to attack and left themselves open to the counter-attack. Privitelli had the chance to make it four after a swift counter-attack but James saved well in the one-on-one situation.

Minutes later, City had a lifeline. Leticia McKenna sent in an excellent corner kick and Tori Tumeth headed well past Dumont. There were 10 minutes left on the clock, but crazier things have happened in the Dub.

Victory fans were still reluctant to celebrate early, and Hannah Wilkinson reminded them why when she got on the end of a Pollicina free kick in the 85th minute. She had found space, was well-positioned but her effort narrowly missed the target.

That was the last clear chance of the game. Melbourne City’s season was over and although they slumped to the turf after the whistle they should be proud of their season. After finishing seventh in 2020/21 they had climbed to second. They played some spectacular football and introduced some new stars to the game.

Tori Tumeth and Kaitlyn Torpey in particular announced themselves as exciting new talents, while Winonah Heatley and Holly McNamara received Matildas call ups. Rhianna Pollicina is a much-improved player, adding frightening consistency to her considerable talent.

Above: Melbourne Victory players celebrate with their fans at AAMI Park after the match today. Photo: Melbourne Victory.

But the day belonged to Victory and they have a chance to retain the Championship. Jeff Hopkins’ side has overcome every challenge thrown their way this season and will have no fear of facing the Premiers. Sydney will be undoubtedly looking for revenge after last year’s dramatic last gasp extra-time defeat from the right foot of Kyra Cooney-Cross.

Both of these teams boast significant depth and brilliant talent in their squads. Neither has made the Grand Final by chance. Everything has led to next week’s match. Like last season’s decider, it is almost certain to be another classic.

Teams: MELBOURNE CITY (3-4-3): James, Tumeth, Checker, Heatley, Davidson, Stott, Torpey, Blissett, McKenna, Wilkinson, Pollicina. Substitutes: Karic, Majstorovic (GK), Malone, Thomas-Chinnama, van der Meer.

Scorer: Tumeth 80′.

MELBOURNE VICTORY (4-3-3): Dumont, Nevin, Hendrix, Bunge, Doran, Chidiac, Jackson, Cooney-Cross, Zimmerman, Ayres, Privitelli. Substitutes: Eliadis, Maizels (GK), Markovski, Murphy, Withers.

Scorers: Ayres 30′, Bunge 45+2′, Privitelli 53′.

Referee: Casey Reibelt.

Attendance: 1,306.

Artwork: Graphics by PW.

WA Night Series Semi-Final Wrap

This weekend, the semi-finals of Western Australia’s NPL Women’s Night Series took place. Ben Gilby rounds up the action (20/3/22).

Above: Balcatta Etna celebrate their semi-final win over Fremantle City. Photo: JASP Photography.

Next weekend, Balcatta Etna will take on the Northern Redbacks in the WANPL Women’s Night Series Cup Final after both sides celebrated semi-final wins.

Cup holders Balcatta Etna came from behind to claim a 2-1 win against Fremantle City at E&D Litis Stadium.

Balcatta replied to Freo taking the lead in style. Angelique Alberts levelled matters and a sensational winner from Cawley which now gives the side a chance to retain the trophy – a perfect boost going into the new WANPL Women’s season.

They will now face Northern Redbacks who defeated Perth SC 2-1. After a goalless first half, Jayna Ridley and Larissa Walsh were on target for the Redbacks. Perth had an opportunity at the death to level matters, but to no avail.

Above: Balcatta Etna celebrate a goal against Fremantle City in the WANPL Women’s Night Series Cup Semi-Final. Photo: Jasp Photography.

Preliminary Final Preview: Melbourne City v Melbourne Victory

Ahead of Sunday’s Preliminary Final where Melbourne City host cross-city rivals Melbourne Victory for the right to travel to Sydney FC for the Grand Final, Impetus’ Ben Gilby heard from City striker Hannah Wilkinson and head coach Rado Vidosic (19/3/22).

Above: Melbourne City striker Hannah Wilkinson speaking to the media on Friday. Photo: Melbourne City.

Melbourne City striker Hannah Wilkinson opened her media conference by reflecting on the frustrations of last week’s defeat to Sydney FC in the semi-final.

“We were pretty deflated after the match, it was a pretty wild game. We were inches away from getting into the Grand Final. It sucked, it really did. That’s football though, and we have a chance still and we’re fully focussed.”

City go into Sunday’s Preliminary Final with Melbourne Victory without the suspended pair of Tyla-Jay (TJ) Vlajnic and Melissa Barbieri. Wilkinson admitted that those players will be a big loss, but she knows their replacements are more than good enough to step-up.

“It’s an extra bummer losing two key players and we do have depth in the squad. Sally (James) is an excellent keeper. She’s ready and has been pushing ‘Bubs’ (Barbieri) in training anyway and she’s confident. In terms of TJ, we have Chelsea Blissett available. As a squad, we have players ready. We’re ready to bounce back from last week’s war of a game!”

The last time Wilkinson faced Melbourne Victory, she put in an incredible personal performance scoring all of City’s goals in a 5-1 win. The New Zealand international admits that she dreaming of a re-run.

“It was very satisfying for sure. I’d love to see that repeated. It was an ideal team performance. I was there to put away all of the hard work that the team put together. I hope we put together that performance again.”

“Victory are certainly not a team not to be taken for granted. They’ve got some extremely talented players. It will be another fight, they have been in lots of Finals before. It will be different from last time that’s for sure.”

“We need to want it more than them and play the kind of football that we know wins games and scores goals. We’re capable of playing nice football and it is so beautiful to play. We have the players to do it and now just want to go on to the Grand Final and win it.”

Above: Melbourne City head coach Rado Vidosic at yesterday’s media conference. Photo: Melbourne City.

Melbourne City head coach Rado Vidosic dismissed thoughts that his side will go into Sunday’s Preliminary Final on the back foot after defeat at Sydney FC in last week’s Semi-Final.

“No, not at all. We’ve been through the footage of the game and went through a few things. It is not hard to re-motivate the players for a Derby and we are very much still in the competitions. Training has been very good, so we are looking ahead to Sunday.”

Despite last week’s semi-final defeat in Sydney, City’s head coach saw plenty of positives to take out of the game. “We made progress between the last time we played Sydney FC away (a 3-0 loss). We came so close last week to going through and hosting the Grand Final. We can take that progress out of that game. We want another chance to play them in Sydney by winning on Sunday.”

The Sky Blues will go into Sunday’s Preliminary Final without both Tyla-Jay (TJ) Vlajnic and Melissa Barbieri due to suspension. Vidosic outlined the reshuffle he will perform. “Chelsea Blissett will come in for TJ and Sally James for Bubs (Barbieri). It’s player for player and gloves for gloves. A straight swop. Now is not the time to try things out.”

There may be a need for further changes to City’s squad ahead of the match. “We have a couple of niggling injuries. Someone was also sick, but they came back yesterday. We just need to see how those injuries clear up on Saturday before making final decisions. We are happy and ready. Last time we played them, we did well (a 5-1 win on Boxing Day).”

This time though, City will face a very different Victory team to the one they faced previously as the Sky Blues head coach recognized.

“Maybe their current group of players has more experience than our current group. Yet some of us have won before. Melissa Barbieri has been there and done it for 20 years. One thing that we do have is a good lead-up to the Finals. We had good performances and good results. We will show that on Sunday.”

Artwork: Graphics by PW.

Young Matildas Heading To The World Cup

Above: Young Matildas eligible players Hana Lowry of Perth Glory (left) and Western Sydney Wanderers’ Bryleeh Henry (right) pictured with head coach Leah Blayney. Photo supplied to Impetus by: Football Australia.

(16/3/22)

The Young Matildas have been confirmed as one of the Asian Football Confederation’s (AFC) three representatives at this year’s FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup which Costa Rica will host.   

This will be the first time since 2006 that Australia will participate in a FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup, and their third overall appearance at the youth championships. 

Originally planned for 2020, the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and will run from 10th-28th August 2022 across the two host cities of San José and Alajuela. 

With the cancellation of the 2022 AFC U-20 Women’s Asian Cup, the standings of the 2019 AFC U-19 Women’s Championship were used to determine the representatives from Asia.  Following the withdrawal of North Korea from the nomination process, Australia received an invitation courtesy of being the next highest-ranked Member Association from the 2019 edition.  

A participant the last time Australia took their place in the U-20 World Championship, head coach Leah Blayney expressed her delight at the news and the importance of the opening presented to her young charges.  

“The opportunity for our Young Matildas to show the world their abilities as individuals, and as a group, will be a game-changer for women’s football moving forward,” Blayney said. 

“Very few youth players get the opportunity to play on the world stage and this is a tournament that has introduced us to global superstars like Marta, Christine Sinclair, Alex Morgan, Dzsenifer Marozsán, and Asisat Oshoala.” 

Above: The Young Matildas in training. Photo provided to Impetus by: Football Australia.

“The last time we qualified in 2006, I was a player, and to now have the chance to lead these young women to the tournament, it fills me with great pride but also determination to ensure we maximise the opportunity.  This has come at a fortuitous moment where we as a nation are actively seeking higher-level match minutes for our youth players at all levels.”

“This class of players have demonstrated through their performances in the A-League Women’s competition that they have enormous potential, and this could accelerate their football education.  The impact this will have moving forward for the 2024 Paris Olympics, 2027 FIFA Women’s World Cup and the 2032 Brisbane Olympics is phenomenal.”

Football Australia CEO, James Johnson, welcomed the inclusion of the Young Matildas said: “The participation of the team in this year’s FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup, will be a significant moment for the next generation of players. 

“Under the guidance of Leah Blayney, over the past 12 months, we have seen several players from this cycle transition into the senior team.  Now many more of the U-20 players will have the invaluable experience of preparing for a major tournament that will provide critical experiences of high-level international minutes against a diverse range of opponents.” 

The 2022 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Costa Rica will be the 10th edition of the tournament and features 16 nations from six confederations with players born on or after 1 January 2002 eligible to compete. 

The participating teams will be divided into four groups of four teams with the Official Draw scheduled to take place in San José, Costa Rica on 5 May 2022. 

Michelle Heyman On The Need For Change

Above: Canberra United’s Michelle Heyman (left) captured in full flow against Brisbane Roar earlier this season. Photo: Canberra United.

Canberra United captain and the A-League Women’s all-time record scorer Michelle Heyman spoke to the media this week highlighting the need for the competition’s players to be seen as professionals and the need for a fairer league. The striker also reviewed the club’s season. Impetus’ Ben Gilby heard from The Matildas and Canberra United legend (16/3/22).

Michelle Heyman is a legend of Australian football. When she speaks, players and fans listen. After hearing a series statements from the striker expressing her frustration with those running the A-League Women, one can only hope that the powers that be take note as well.

“This was the most stressful season I’ve ever been part of. Games and kick-off times changed every single week, which produced a whole lot of stress. I felt sorry for Melbourne Victory for playing so many games close together and Newcastle Jets who just ran out of players in the end.”

Whilst no-one could have predicted the COVID outbreaks that impacted both Victory and the Jets (along with many other clubs), Heyman highlighted the fact that the inability to extend the season to avoid such a huge backlog of games demonstrated a failure to understand women’s football.

“It’s about time we changed and were seen as professionals. We’ve become the A-Leagues – football is one and we need to be treated as one. The women need to get together and push for this. Most of us have to work during the season, so having to try and get time off for midweek rearranged games (particularly for long-distance ones) is an additional stress on us. Some of the standards haven’t been up to it. It’s our time. We need to speak up for where we are at. I’ll continue to be as loud as possible because we deserve it. It’s taking too long to get what the players want.”

Heyman was asked if she hopes that all the additional challenges put on players this season across the competition could end up being the final driver for the sort of change that players and fans have been calling for.

Above: Showing frustration – Michelle Heyman (right) – pictured against Melbourne City. Photo: Canberra United.

“I bloody hope so,” the striker smiled, “I’ve been here since 2008/09 season and it’s been a long time for myself. You would think that by now we would have had a full home and away season to play each other twice. Some teams only play the top teams once, others twice. The competition isn’t fair from the get-go.”

Canberra United’s captain then turned her focus on her team’s 2021/22 campaign. “Frustrating is the word that sums the season up. Having so many draws (seven of the club’s 14 games) – if we had got one or two wins from those draws could have made such a difference. Looking at the season and how we turned it round over the last four games makes it frustrating.

“We dominated teams in that period. We lost the same number of games as Adelaide (five) all season and they made the Finals. Looking ahead for next season, we have to take all our chances and make sure you do come out with the wins. We need to work on the last 15 minutes and not conceding. Teams came back to get draws or wins against us during that period.”

Heyman took huge pride about the development of her club’s younger generation of players across the campaign. “I look at Sasha Grove from last season to this and she’s come on the field and took players on and now she has that experience. She’s had two years now, she’ll be 18 now and these young players are getting that bit older and more experience.

“With Chloe Lincoln (who only turned 17 in January), she is a goalkeeper and has so much pressure. She took it with both hands and was our Rising Star this season. It’s a great thing for Canberra, but also for the league to showcase and show everyone what is to come. If this is what we’ve got, it’s nice to see the growth within our game.”

The media conference closed with potentially the best possible news for all lovers of Australian women’s football as Heyman outlined her future plans.

“Most definitely I will be back next season. I’m loving the game. I feel fit, I’m still scoring goals and doing my job. No-one can stop me yet. There’s a few more players who are 34 and even older than me. I don’t want to give up. Don’t let it go until you can’t. So I’m continuing until people tell me I’m not good enough. I’ve still got it, so they’re not taking it away from me yet!”

Artwork: Graphics by PW.

Canberra United Awards Night

Above: Canberra United’s Chloe Lincoln (left) and Keeley Richards with their awards. Photo: Canberra United.

From Aggie Bradshaw (14/3/22)

Canberra United goalkeepers Keeley Richards and Chloe Lincoln, as well as star U.S. defender Allyson Haran claimed top honours at the 2021/22 Canberra United Awards Night at the weekend.

Ally Haran was recognized by both the coaches and players; named Player of the Year and Players’ Player. Haran is a respected and well-liked team member but also performed incredibly well in her first Liberty A-Leagues season.

The 25-year-old flew back home to the U.S., after Canberra’s final game of the season but accepted both awards while in Brisbane, saying it was a huge surprise.

Above: Canberra United’s squad at the end of season awards. Photo: Canberra United.

“We have so many great players and everyone played their own part in games and each and every game everyone went out there and gave it their all so I was just happy to show up for the team every game and I’m so happy that the team was happy with my performance,” she said.

“I really enjoyed my time here. The girls were awesome, the coaching staff was nice. While it wasn’t the season we wanted, we really pulled it together and were able to show we’re a good team and were able to play some good football.

“The fans were awesome, the girls were awesome, I’m really happy I was able to spend my season here with Canberra United.”

Above: Canberra United’s Volunteer of the Year Liam O’Donnell pictured with captain Michelle Heyman. Photo: Canberra United.

Despite missing half of the season due to injury, Keeley Richards was overwhelmingly voted in by Members as the 2021/22 Supporters’ Player of the Year. Standing tall at every game, Richards made an average of four saves per match with one clean sheet. After her season ended due to injury, Richards maintained a consistent and supportive presence around the team, always providing encouragement and words of advice to those around her.

The University of Canberra Rising Star Awards went to goalkeeper Chloe Lincoln, who stepped in when Richards suffered her injury. Elevated to the playing squad in January, the 17-year-old made her debut at Viking Park against Perth Glory and went on to help keep the opposition scoreless on three occasions.

Volunteer Liam O’Donnell was recognized for his years of work at Canberra United home games, named Volunteer of the Year. Liam has been one of the senior volunteers for years, working as an usher and ticket scanner.

Artwork: Graphics by PW.

Victory End Adelaide’s Historic Season

Adelaide United 1-2 Melbourne Victory

Above: Lia Privitelli puts Melbourne Victory ahead at Coopers Stadium today. Photo: Melbourne Victory.

By Kieran Yap (13/3/22)

After one of the toughest months of scheduling in A-League history, Melbourne Victory have emerged with their best performance of the season to beat Adelaide United 2-1 in the semi final.

Victory played every three days for most of February, they had players missing through injury, suspension, and international call-ups. Jeff Hopkins has been constantly re-fashioning and re-fixturing his side almost since round one.

When they travelled to Adelaide to face the in-form team of the competition, they had not won in five games while Adelaide had been outstanding in that same time.

In 32 degree heat on a near cloudless day, both sides began cautiously. They were able to pass the ball around the back unhurried. The pressure only came if either side tried to move through midfield.

Adelaide United almost took the lead early. A miscommunication between Courtney Nevin and Casey Dumont allowed Dylan Holmes to sneak in and get a shot on target.

Above: Combative midfield action at Coopers Stadium in today’s semi-final. Photo: Melbourne Victory.

Unfortunately for the Reds, Dumont was able to recover and block the shot. Up the other end, Victory took the lead through captain Lia Privitelli.

The winger was back in her preferred position as an attacker in this game. She has been used to fill gaps in the squads in a variety of roles. In the semi-final, she started wide on the right. She had scored a brace against Adelaide United in round one this season.

Catherine Zimmerman’s first time curling pass cut out the entire Adelaide United defence. Privitelli had ghosted in at the back post. Her finish was composed and well placed. Victory were 1-0 up in the opening half-hour.

Minutes later, Adelaide United hit back in incredible fashion. Nanako Sasaki stepped up to take a free-kick. With the Melbourne defence and goalkeeper all expecting a cross, the Japanese midfielder took everybody in the stadium by surprise.

Her shot curled and dipped and sailed beyond Dumont as she scrambled to get a hand to the ball. It bounced in off the underside of the bar and Adelaide was level.

Above: Joy unconfined for Adelaide United after Nanako Sasaki levelled the scores. Photo: Adelaide United.

The match became much more tactical from that point on. Melbourne Victory’s back four were doing an excellent job of keeping the lethal duo of Fiona Worts and Chelsie Dawber quiet.

The pair have 23 goals between them this season, but their movement as much as their finishing has torn teams apart. All four of Victory’s defenders had to be on the highest level of concentration to keep them from getting chances to score.

Dawber did well to create an opening in the second half. She shuffled her feet to make some time and shifted onto her right foot, but her shot sailed narrowly high.

It was a missed chance, created from nothing, but It would also be Adelaide’s last real shot on goal for the match.

Victory went up the other end and Privitelli turned provider as they re-took the lead.

Above: Melina Ayres wheels away in delight after restoring Melbourne Victory’s lead. Photo: Melbourne Victory.

Melina Ayres was unmarked and untracked as she cruised into the penalty area. Her volley was low, hard, and perfectly timed. Annalee Grove could do nothing to stop Victory going 2-1 up.

Victory’s experience in knockout games began to show. Even players in the squad who did not win the championship last season like Nevin or Chidiac have played in tournaments at senior international level. From the time they took the lead, it became about getting the job done.

Victory brought on Harriet Withers, the plan looked to be to use her pace to stretch Adelaide and prevent them attacking too much as they chased an equalizer.

Victory continued to move the ball aggressively with quick long passes to relieve pressure on the midfield and reduce the chance of a turnover.

Adelaide struggled to create much. When they did regain possession, they were hurried by Victory’s press. The equalizer would not come. Their remarkable season was over.

Above: The disappointment is clear for Adelaide United’s players after the game, but they have had another season to be proud of. Photo: Adelaide United.

Victory now has another Melbourne Derby to look forward to in next weekend’s Preliminary Final for the right to meet Sydney FC in the Grand Final. City are wounded, tired, and will be missing key players Tyla-Jay Vljanic and Melissa Barbieri. Victory should be able to bring Kyra Cooney-Cross back into the side that now is at full strength for the first time all season.

Adelaide United will have to reset. They have built this side over multiple seasons and although they had the best season in the club’s history, there is still room to improve and if they keep the majority of the squad together, that looks likely.

Their trajectory has been upward and there is no reason it should not continue. This should be the first of multiple finals campaigns for Adrian Stenta’s entertaining squad.

In the end, experience mattered more than exuberance. Adelaide will be back, but Victory march onward.

Above: Melbourne Victory celebrate after setting up a Preliminary Final with cross-city rivals Melbourne City next weekend. Photo: Melbourne Victory.

Teams: ADELAIDE UNITED (4-2-3-1): Grove, I.Hodgson, McNamara, Sharples, E.Hodgson, Sasaki, Omiya, Dawber, Holmes, Worts, Condon. Substitutes: Evans, Mullan, Stanbury, Templeman (GK), Tonkin.

Scorer: Sasaki 32′.

MELBOURNE VICTORY (4-3-3): Dumont, Nevin, Hendrix, Bunge, Doran, Chidiac, Jackson, Eliadis, Zimmerman, Ayres, Privitelli. Substitutes: Maizels (GK), Murphy, Markovski, Withers, Zois.

Scorers: Privitelli 29′, Ayres 57′.

Referee: Lara Lee.

Attendance: 2,607.

Artwork: Graphics by PW.

Finals Preview: Adelaide United v Melbourne Victory

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.”

Above: Adelaide United Dylan Holmes speaks to the media on Wednesday ahead of her team’s first-ever W-/A-League Women Finals match. Photo supplied to Impetus by: Adelaide United.

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.”

Above: Adelaide United’s Fiona Worts at her media conference on Friday. Photo supplied to Impetus by: Adelaide United.

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.”

Above: Melbourne Victory head coach Jeff Hopkins talking to the media on Friday. Photo: Melbourne Victory.

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.”

Artwork: Graphics by PW.

Sydney Seal Sensational Grand Final Return

Sydney FC 4-2 Melbourne City

After Extra-Time

Above: Sydney FC players and fans go wild after Cote Rojas’ equalizer one minute into stoppage time at the end of 90 minutes. Photo: Kris Goman for Impetus.

Report and EXCLUSIVE pitch side photos from Kris Goman at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium (12/3/22).

What. A. Match. Seriously, just go and watch it.

It’s hard to even describe this match and do it justice, there was so much going on. Sydney FC v Melbourne City, arguably the two best teams in the comp by a stretch. Semi-Final. Winner goes straight to the grand final and gets to host the Grand Final. Loser plays the winner of the other semi for a second chance. There’s a lot at stake.

Before we even start, Sydney get presented the Premier’s Plate and plenty of fans got in early to enjoy that triumph. The plate was presented, the plate was hoisted, the fireworks went off and the streamers fell. A nice start to the evening for the Sydney fans.

Sydney started well and really dominated the first half with possession, territory, and shots however City got the first runs on the board on a transition play. Leticia McKenna sent a ball from midfield out to Tyla-Jay Vlajnic on the left. She ran onto it and with one touch, put it to the centre of the box just into reach of Nat Tobin who tapped it right into the path of Hannah Wilkinson coming around from behind her.

One movement with her left foot and the Kiwi striker had it into the bottom right corner of the box despite Jana Whyman’s best efforts and outstretched foot. Against the run of play, City take the lead and that’s the way it stayed going into halftime.

Above: Melbourne City’s Hannah Wilkinson (17) celebrates with Tyla-Jay Vlajnic after putting City 1-0 up. Photo: Kris Goman for Impetus.

Into the second half and once again Sydney are dominating play but City are biding their time and at 58 minutes Rebekah Stott does a bit of nifty footwork to avoid Charlotte Mclean on the left and passes to an onrushing McKenna. She brings the ball into the box and down to the byline and cuts it back to Wilkinson who has timed her run beautifully and smashes it into the back of the net with Whyman unable to do anything about it. Melbourne have taken a 2-0 lead and have quietened the Sydney crowd. At this stage it looks like we’re going to Melbourne for the Grand Final.

However, Sydney don’t give up that easily and now it gets really interesting. Cortnee Vine came on at halftime for Paige Satchell and Maria Jose Rojas was subbed in at 64 minutes for Remy Siemsen and this partnership defines the term Game Changers.

With seventeen minutes left, Ally Green makes a gang busting run through the entire City defence on the left into the box and right down to the byline to then lob the ball back to the middle of the goal as Vine rushes through and leaps into the air to connect and put the ball past Melissa Barbieri who hasn’t missed a beat yet but is caught flat footed and dejectedly watches it sail past her. It’s a glorious goal and Sydney are back in the match. Green really did all the work on that and deserves the assist.

Things tighten up as Hawkesby lobs a ball from the far side of the centre circle to Vine who’s in the clear with only Barbieri to beat who rushes out from the box. Vine taps it past the City keeper and Vlajnic who is in hot pursuit catches her foot and sends both of them sprawling.

As the last defender, there’s only one result and the ref pulls out the red card. Unfortunately, Vlajnic has hurt herself quite badly in the process and would have been subbed off anyway but now there’s no sub and City are down to ten players which is the last thing they needed.

Above: Sydney FC star and inaugural Impetus A-League Women Player of the Year Cortnee Vine captured in a familiar pose during yesterday’s semi-final. Photo: Kris Goman for Impetus.

Shortly after, almost exactly the same thing occurs with Green sending the long ball to Vine who finds herself in wide-open spaces with just her and the City keeper. She chests to the left creating a tight angle before shooting high. It looks like Barbieri gets a hand to it before it slams into the woodwork and over the goal.  

Due to a few injuries, we go past 90 minutes and Sydney keep pressing. Mackenzie Hawkesby punts into the box. Nat Tobin runs onto it and is tackled by Tori Tunmeth in the middle of the box and both go down. It’s play on as the ball is cleared by Marisa Van der Meer but it goes straight to Ally Green.

She kicks it straight back to almost where Tobin is still lying in the box and Hawkesby’s outstretched foot brings it down and under control and puts it in front of Rojas. She swivels past Tobin who’s still lying on the field and shoots and the little master makes no mistake as it avoids a diving Barbieri and hits the back of the net. The crowd goes wild. It’s even at 2-2 with minutes to go. The game must be decided so there’s be an extra 15 minutes each way.

At 96 minutes Sydney get a corner and Hawkesby steps up to take it as she usually does. She’s placed it perfectly to the back post and Sarah Hunter finds herself in a bit of space, jumps up, and heads the ball straight in across the goal to the top right. What a time to score your first goal for Sydney! She’s ecstatic and the team goes wild with congratulations and celebrations. As do the crowd.

With eight minutes left on the clock, after a shot on goal by City, Whyman catches and quickly boots the ball upfield, releasing Rojas. She’s not alone but splits Meisha Westland and Kaitlyn Torpey with a pass through to Vine who’s sprinted to catch up with play. She runs on to the ball and slots it past Barbieri. It seals the match at 4-2 and secures the home grand final for Sydney FC.

Above: Sydney FC celebrate their place in the Grand Final after coming from behind to beat Melbourne City in some style. Photo: Kris Goman for Impetus

However, there’s one final piece of drama to unfold. Vine once again finds herself in the clear with just Bubs to beat. Barbieri isn’t having another goal though and comes out of the box and jumps with all arms and legs out as Vine shoots. It catches her hand and she knows it. The ref also knows it and brings out a red. The City keeper is off along with Vlajnic and both will miss the next game in a sensational finish.

There’s so much that’s not detailed in this report. The coaches got yellows too, there was drama, aggression, injury, heroes, and some incredible play. 27 shots by Sydney. The full game needs watching. Seek it out.

Speaking after the game, Sydney FC attacker Cortnee Vine said: “I wanted to be a game-changer when I came on. I know our team is the fittest in the league and I knew we’d run over them and that’s what we ended up doing. I just wanted to get on and score and change the game and I think I ended up doing that.”

The Premier’s head coach Ante Juric was delighted and showed his pride in his team’s achievement. “It was an epic encounter. I wasn’t surprised because City are excellent and it went back and forth and we came back from 2-0 which was nice. I’m real happy and proud of everyone. I just want these girls to win the Grand Final so much and I’ll try and do everything I can to get them there.”

Teams: SYDNEY FC: Whyman, Green, Tobin, McLean, Rule, Ray, Hawkesby, Lowe, Ibini, Siemsen, Satchell Substitutes: Offer, Nash, Hunter, Rojas, Vine.

Scorers: Vine 73′, 113. Rojas 90+1, Hunter 96’.

MELBOURNE CITY: Barbieri, Torpey, Tunmeth, Checker, Heatley, Vlajnic, Davidson, Stott, McKenna, Pollicina, Wilkinson Substitutes: James (GK), Van der Meer, Blissett, Westland, Karic.

Scorers: Wilkinson 21′, 58′.

Referee: Georgia Ghirardello

Attendance: 942

Artwork: Graphics by PW.

A-League Women Awards For 2021/22

This season, our writing team covering the competition – Ben GilbyKris Goman, and Kieran Yap have been voting for their Player and Coach of the Week from Round One onwards. With the regular campaign now over, it is time to tally up all the votes and reveal the inaugural Impetus A-League Women Player of the Year and Coach of the Year (11/3/22).

Every Monday during this season, we announced our votes for the one player and head coach that we felt was the standout for each of the 14 rounds of the A-League Women campaign. With the regular season now over, we tallied up all the votes.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR:

How the votes tallied up: Cortnee Vine 6, Chelsie Dawber 5, Fiona Worts 5, Mackenzie Hawkesby 3, Nanako Sasaki 3, Hannah Wilkinson 3, Kyra Cooney-Cross 2, Cote Rojas 2, Lynn Williams 2, Jada Whyman 2, Ash Brodigan 1, Larissa Crummer 1, Deborah-Ann de la Harpe 1, Annalee Grove 1, Cyera Hintzen 1, Sarah Langman 1, Rachel Lowe 1, Hana Lowry 1, Rhianna Pollicina 1.

BEN’S VIEW Cortnee Vine was by far the best player in the first half of the season and the Sydney FC attacker quickly piled up a lot of votes during this period. Whilst she wasn’t quite in the same form after the Asia Cup, her lead was big enough to see off the challenge of Chelsie Dawber and Fiona Worts who were the stars of the last few months. Vine’s influence both on the wing and cutting in to deliver either pin-point crosses or powerful efforts on goal rendered her unplayable for much of the early part of the campaign. Coming back after a devastating injury at the end of last season, the Sydney star looked better than ever. If she can reproduce that form in the Finals, then it will be hard for anyone to defeat the Harbour City side.

Chelsie Dawber and Fiona Worts who were second and third in the standings respectively, have both had the best seasons of their careers. Crucially, the pair were outstanding in the South Australia NPL Women’s prior to this A-League Women campaign. Dawber’s Adelaide City and Worts’ Fulham United were not challenging for titles in that competition in 2021, but that didn’t stop these players dominating matches and scoring sackfulls of goals. Worts’ efforts were particularly impressive for a Fulham side who went months without a win. Adelaide will likely receive offers from overseas clubs for both.

KRIS’ VIEW: When it comes to Cortnee Vine, I have to admit I’m a total fan girl here. I can’t get enough of her penetrating runs and superb crosses. She reminds me of Lauren Hemp with a little more control and a little less aggro but just as effective.  I could not have been more thrilled that she made the Matildas team. To win this award after missing a few matches being away with the Matildas is testament to how dominating she was this season. A very worthy winner from a very worthy team.

It was kind of fitting that Chelsie Dawber and Fiona Worts came in on equal points in joint second place. They have been a force up front for Adelaide United and a goal-scoring phenomenon. Worts took the golden boot for the season with 13 goals but Dawber wasn’t far behind with 10 of her own. Both exceptional performances in anyone’s books. But combined it took Adelaide to the finals for the first time ever. The team and both these players got better as the season went on which bodes well for their finals campaign.

Above: Cortnee Vine’s superb form in the first half of the A-League Women season earned her a first call up to the Matildas – and enough points to become our inaugeral Player of the Year award winner. Photo supplied to Impetus by: Football Australia.

KIERAN’S VIEW: Any of the top three players in our voting charts this season could have won it. I think in hindsight I would have liked to have given Barbieri and Pollicina more votes because they were both excellent in every game. But Cortnee Vine is a deserved winner. She was far and away the best player in the early stages of the season to help set up Sydney’s premiership charge. At her best she is unstoppable with her pace and finishing.

Fiona Worts and Chelsie Dawber both reached double figures and helped Adelaide United to third. Worts caught fire late as Vine did early. It is a signal of Adelaide’s strength as a team that both players possibly took votes from each other. Three amazing players in career-best form lit up the league this season. Congratulations Cortnee Vine for taking out the Impetus Award for best player.

COACH OF THE YEAR:

How the votes tallied up: Alex Epakis 9, Gemma Lewis 8, Adrian Stenta 8, Ante Juric 6, Jeff Hopkins 3, Rado Vidosic 3, Catherine Cannuli 2, Garrath McPherson 2, Sergio Malfara 1, Ash Wilson 1.

BEN’S VIEW: There will no doubt be those who believe that a coach whose team didn’t make Finals perhaps shouldn’t be winning this award – but this was not a normal season – and Perth Glory’s experiences and performances were far from normal. Their achievements, led by Alex Epakis were nothing short of sensational. A carefully constucted major re-build which brought together a number of young talent along with some much needed experience led to an exciting looking team on paper pre-season. However, only being able to play one home game and spending three months 4,000 miles from Western Australia could have led to a tough season. Yet, Perth chalked up a number of superb results and excellent performances. Having spoken to nine of Glory’s players during the season, they were unanimous in stating the importance of Epakis in bringing the team together, creating a unique bond and giving them the belief to go out and achieve no matter what hurdles were placed in front of them. With much of his squad tied down for another year, you can’t help but feel this is just the beginning for Epakis’ Perth side.

Adrian Stenta‘s work with Adelaide United has been consistently impressive. After missing out on Finals by a single goal last time round and losing some key players, it could have been tough to lift the side this season. However, Stenta helped to foster a sense of determination to go one better. Adelaide peaked at the right time as the campaign reached its pointy end and they go into their first A-League Women Finals as the in-form team. Gemma Lewis‘ achievements with Wellington Phoenix are remarkable and worthy of recognition. Building an exceptionally young team at the eleveth hour and developing their belief, ability and determination as the season went on, despite being based away from New Zealand for the whole of the campaign was nothing short of outstanding.

KRIS’ VIEW: It’s interesting that these coaching awards haven’t gone to the winners but to the most improved teams. Perth Glory did not win a match last season. This season they nearly made the finals. The turnaround was incredible to watch in an extremely difficult session for this team that included being locked out of their home state, away from family and friends, with only one home game in front of their fans, littered with Covid, isolations, and injuries. It felt like Alex Epakis hand-picked the team, molded them to his plans, instilled his game tactics, kept morale at its peak, and got all the wins – well most of them. It was a joy to watch.

Above: Perth Glory head coach Alex Epakis – the first-ever Impetus A-League Women Coach of the Year. Photo: Perth Glory.

Starting from a higher baseline, Adrian Stenta took the next step this year. The season built as the team gelled and the wins got better, the goals piled up and they beat harder teams above them on the table. They looked good and turned into a formidable team.

Another team facing an absolute uphill battle due to circumstances out of their control, Wellington Phoenix’s Gemma Lewis had limited time to even find a team. On top of this, they had no real home games, being locked out of their whole country and extra regulations to work within. Lewis pulled the team together and made them very competitive. Despite being the wooden spooners, they were no easy beats. Every match was hard-fought and most, particularly towards the end of the season, were very close. It was admirable work, especially their first win.

KIERAN’S VIEW: Alex Epakis improved Perth Glory beyond what many thought possible this season. He recruited strongly and targeted players for specific purposes to rebound from Glory’s winless 2020/21. With the team living away from home for most of season, they overcame every obstacle except goal difference to finish marginally outside of the finals. Perth was compelling to follow and enjoyable to watch. This young side and their Impetus Award winning coach will ones to watch again next season.

Adrian Stenta made history as the first coach to make the finals with Adelaide United. It was the culmination of many years of planning as an assistant and first-team manager at the club and thoroughly deserved. Gemma Lewis created a team from scratch and despite their inexperience, they never took a backwards step. She uncovered some absolute stars of the competition, names like Kate Taylor and Alyssa Whinham are now familiar to us as key players in everybody’s second favourite team.

Artwork: Graphics by PW.

Finals Preview: Sydney FC v Melbourne City

Ahead of Sydney FC’s Finals game against Melbourne City, Impetus’ Ben Gilby heard from Sydney FC striker Remy Siemsen and the City duo of Emma Checker and head coach Rado Vidosic (10/3/22).

This season sees an additional week of Finals. On Friday night, the top two, Sydney FC and Melbourne City go head to head for a place in the Grand Final at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium. The losing team will get a second chance the following weekend against the winner of Sunday’s Adelaide United v Melbourne Victory Final.

Sydney FC‘s Matildas striker Remy Siemsen highlighted how focussed she is on getting over the line tomorrow night. “Melbourne City were the one team that has beaten us this season, so we’re all out for revenge. We have fire in our bellies for a big win. I have faith and confidence in the squad that they will get the job done tomorrow.

Whilst the losing team will have another opportunity to make the Grand Final, Siemsen is going all out to beat City to qualify at the first attempt. “A semi-final is super-important and we don’t want to be overwhelmed, we just want to focus on ourselves and our game plan and book ourselves a ticket into the Grand Final. That’s super important for us. We want redemption after losing to Victory at the death last year. It is nice to have a second chance if we lose, but we are out to do everything possible to book that ticket tomorrow.”

Above: Sydney FC’s Remy Siemsen (left), pictured battling with Wellington Phoenix’s Kate Taylor, is firmly focused on defeating Melbourne City tomorrow to make the Grand Final at their first attempt. Photo: Matt King/Getty Images

“Melbourne City are a quality team with quality players throughout their squad. We have met them a lot over the years in Finals series and in Grand Finals. We know though that we have quality all through our squad too to overcome them.

“Winning the Premiership is a huge achievement. At the outset this season we said we wanted to win both trophies this year. We did celebrate in the changing room after last weekend’s game, but any more celebrations are waiting until after the Grand Final which is what we want now.”

The striker feels that the special bond between players at the club, who have been together for so many years now could be the decisive factor in their favour against City.

“Winning the Grand Final is something I’ve wanted to achieve. I love this club more than anything, they are my home away from home. We are all best friends on and off the pitch, which would make it even more special. We are doing anything mentally and physically to make sure we are working to win.

“I love big games and Finals. It’s a position I’ve been in plenty of times before, so I just want to do my job and help the team tick off the goal of winning the Grand Final.”

Above: Melbourne City’s Emma Checker speaking to the media today. Photo: Melbourne City.

Melbourne City‘s Emma Checker spoke of the pride she feels in the way the team has hit back this season from the disappointments of 2020/21 to finish second this time round.

“I’m absolutely stoked about our season. We believed we were capable of this, but we’ve proved it to everyone. The new Finals format is a positive and we are in it to win it. The positive of winning the one v two Final guarantees you a home Grand Final.

“We are going to play it like it is a knockout as we really want a week off and have that home Grand Final.”

Checker tried to put her finger on why the club had experienced such a tough time last season, but also saw those challenges as a major aid to their performances this time round.

“It’s harder to stay at the top, it’s not an easy place to be. We’ve had a lot of success since we came into the league, but we had a lot of learning opportunities, and Rado and his staff worked really hard to get good players, good people. Maybe we needed that tough season last time round to help us drive us for something special this season.”

The Australian international spoke of what her own personal goals were for this campaign and how she feels she has done so far in achieving those aims.

“I have been focusing on becoming a better leader and I wanted to focus on being the best person I can be. There was a big turnover of players and I needed to see how I could help bring everyone together. I like to think I’ve done everything I can to make sure that happened.”

Looking specifically at the challenges that Sydney will post City this weekend, Checker knows the threat of her opponents’ strikeforce.

“We respect the quality of Sydney’s front line. They have shown that they are a powerhouse. We are very confident that we can play at that level and match that quality. It will be a good challenge for us. They are coming in full strength. We are missing Holly McNamara, but we are looking really strong too.

“As a squad we don’t just learn our own position, but a wider understanding of other roles too, so there is an awareness of what we might need to do should someone come off and we need to change positions. That’s a massive plus for us. Adelaide were able to rattle them last week, we are wanting to do the same this time.”

Above: Melbourne City head coach Rado Vidosic at today’s media conference. Photo: Melbourne City.

Melbourne City head coach Rado Vidosic opened his media conference by highlighting player availability this week.

“Stotty (Rebekah Stott) will be back. We used last weekend to rest a couple of players, but we have no concerns apart from Holly (McNamara) who is out for the rest of the season.”

City has played Sydney twice this season, the second occasion saw them become the only side to defeat the Harbour City team during 2021/22.

“We have analyzed both games against Sydney, and we will be using things from those matches, but a lot of things have changed since then. We need to remember that we are playing away against them and we lost that. They were excellent against us that day.

“Our players know their responsibilities and have adhered to our principles so we are confident. Obviously, there is always a chance of a mistake. Whoever makes less mistakes will win the game.”

Melbourne City have come a long way since the disappointments of last season. A strong recruitment pre-season has built a hugely talented squad. Vidocic pointed out that the key to their campaign has been the number of players at the top of their form for so much of the campaign.

“Our progression has been very good. If we had everyone available for matches, I think we would have been the league winners and at home this weekend. We have helped Stotty come back. Tori (Tunmeth), ‘Mini’ (Rhianna Pollicina), Hannah Wilkinson have all had their best-ever season. Holly McNamara has been amazing. We haven’t seen much of Leticia McKenna after injury, but she is wonderful player.”

As good as City’s season have been, their head coach recognizes that Sydney are full of top-quality players.

“Sydney have been the best team in the league. They have arguably the best coach in the league. They have so much power and attacking threat. They even have (Paige) Satchell and (Cote) Rojas on the bench! There is a solid backline and goalkeeper in the team of the year. Their midfield is better than most as well. They are a very good team.”

Asked whether he sees his team as underdogs this weekend, Vidosic said: “I don’t want us to be underdogs, I want us to be big dogs! We have adjusted this year. A lot of the girls who came into us this year have not been part of a big team. They have been in teams in the middle of the table. We have helped them to progress and it is fantastic.”

In terms of how he views the game being played, City’s head coach outlined a match on three levels. “First, I see a macro game which is the 11 v 11 game. Then there is a mini-game which takes place around the ball which is often a 4 v 4 or 5 v 5. The final level is the micro game which is the 1 v 1 situations.

“For me, it is irrelevant what system Sydney play, we need to outnumber them in the micro game. We have developed this throughout the season. Regardless of what formation Sydney have we will adapt.”

Artwork: Graphics by PW.

Roar + Canberra = Late Drama Again

Brisbane Roar 3-3 Canberra United

Above: Canberra United’s Michelle Heyman celebrates at Brisbane today. Her hat-trick extended her record-breaking tally of A-League Women goals. Photo: Canberra United.

By Kieran Yap (10/3/22)

Brisbane and Canberra faced off in the final game of the season for both sides and played out a classic to match the incredible 3-3 draw in round three.

Both clubs had started the season slowly but had gained cohesion, confidence, and form in the recent rounds. Finals were out of reach but a competitive first half meant that any suggestion of it being a dead rubber were put to rest.

Mariel Hecher had the first chance of the game. The Brazilian forced Chloe Lincoln into a good early save. Brisbane’s next attack would score the only goal of the first half.

It was no surprise that Katrina Gorry was the architect. The Roar playmaker has been at her best in recent games with assists in both games against Newcastle. The Matildas’ midfielder only needed a flick with the outside of her foot to bisect the Canberra defence. Larissa Crummer raced onto the through ball and finished well beyond Lincoln.

Crummer is another player that has found her feet in the second half of the season. Five of her eight goals have come in the last fortnight of football, and this finish was as good as any.

The former Golden Boot winner has the pace to trouble any defenders and soon found herself in on goal again. Unfortunately for Brisbane, her shot was around Lincoln but also wide of the goal.

Canberra’s best opportunity of the first half came through the combination of Michelle Heyman and Allira Toby. The chance could not be turned in and it was cleared for a corner kick.

Above: Celebration time for Brisbane Roar against Canberra United. Photo: Brisbane Roar.

Brisbane maintained control as the second half kicked off. Crummer and Shea Connors both almost turned the ball in but it somehow crawled past goal and Canberra survived the scare.

Hollie Palmer tried her luck from range, but it was a comfortable save for Lincoln. Palmer was being played in a deeper role alongside Ayesha Norrie. It gave Brisbane control over the middle of the park and allowed Gorry a free reign to weave her magic.

Her eventual replacement by Rie Kitano only underlined the depth that Brisbane have in the team but has been missing on matchday for much of the season.

Brisbane were on the attack for much of the second half. Connors did very well to outpace and then turn Lauren Keir, but her shot did not trouble Lincoln after some excellent footwork created the opening.

Canberra were holding on, but a second goal looked likely. Connors stole possession in the forward third and released Hecher out wide. She cut inside and the ball moved through Gorry until Norrie received possession in space.

The Roar captain launched a left-foot shot that flew past Lincoln and nestled in the back of the net. It was the second goal that Brisbane had deserved and was scored in nice style.

Canberra answered quickly. Barely 10 minutes later, Heyman stepped up to score her 80th career goal in the A-League Women.

Toby carried the ball through the middle and played it out in front of the star striker. Heyman kept her body between the ball and Jessie Rasschaert and held her off while finishing calmly to beat Shuttleworth in the Brisbane goal.

Above: Michelle Heyman (far right) celebrating after one of her three goals against Brisbane today. Photo: Canberra United.

The goal spared Canberra. Grace Maher almost equalized with a trademark effort from long range. Shuttleworth was back pedalling and managed to get a fingertip to the ball as it bounced on the crossbar. Margot Robbine was well placed underneath it but perhaps unaware of the time she had, the French midfielder tried an overhead kick that bounced harmlessly wide.

Robbine made up for that slight error when she created the chance for Heyman to equalize. There are few surer things in Australian football than Michelle Heyman scoring when one-on-one with the keeper and she pulled Canberra level with a well-taken finish.

Both sides were eager to end the season on a high, and although they were providing a spectacle for neutrals, they wanted a win. Connors showed tenacity to win the ball wide and get the ball to Gorry who slipped another ball into Crummer. Lincoln was quick off her line to smother the chance.

Much of Brisbane’s season has been defined by late drama, and this game was no different.

Heyman looked to have scored the winner when she nodded in Grace Maher’s free kick in the 88th minute. The delivery was curled in perfectly, Shuttleworth was well positioned but the swerve and pace on the ball evaded her and Heyman needed only to direct it in.

It looked like Canberra had snatched a dramatic win, but Brisbane had other ideas.

Without Gorry and with injury time looming, The Roar went on the attack. Megan McElligot received the ball from Crummer’s pass and kept her cool to slot home a late equalizer to make it 3-3.

There was still room for one more piece of late drama. Heyman’s volley was blocked by what looked to be a Brisbane defenders’ hand. It was from point-blank range but the hand was away from the body. It may have been a lucky escape for the Roar but it was in keeping with the hectic nature of the afternoon.

Above: Katrina Gorry (left) of Brisbane Roar takes on Canberra United’s Emma Ilijoski.

And so the season ends for both of these clubs, and probably too soon. Canberra United brought in a lot of new players this season and took some time to adjust. They were just hitting form as the season ended much too quickly as it always does.

Vicki Linton’s side uncovered a few gems though and some slight tinkering could see them improve quickly in the next campaign. Sasha Grove is a young player with a lot of skill and swagger. She is one to watch going forward. Chloe Lincoln is another impressive young goalkeeper following in the footsteps of Sally James, another teenager who made an impact between the sticks last year.

Emma Ilijoski enhanced her burgeoning reputation, while Chloe Middleton and Mikayla Vidmar impressed in the later rounds.

Michelle Heyman is likely to return, there are still more chapters left in her iconic career and many more goals to score. Nikki Flannery may return from injury by round one and suddenly Canberra United are looking very good when things kick off again.

Brisbane had a funny season. Like Canberra, they hit form late. Garrath McPherson recruited almost entirely from the Queensland NPLW and with the exception of one match, they were always competitive and usually dangerous.

Their strike force of Shea Connors and Larissa Crummer came into some criticism for missed chances, but 15 goals between them is a good return over 14 games.

Brisbane Roar were mostly undone by conceding late goals throughout the year. As with Canberra United, some minor changes could improve the side significantly.

Jamilla Rankin’s emergence as a quality central defender is a bonus for the club and they have brought through two very promising young goalkeepers in Isabella Shuttleworth and Mia Bailey.

Above: Brisbane Roar players and fans together post-match to farewell Katrina Gorry. Photo: Brisbane Roar.

Brisbane Roar were always worth watching this season, this last game was another example of that. It was not a successful season, but it was a memorable one and they have more than earned a rest after three games in the last week and half.

Teams: BRISBANE ROAR (4-3-3): Shuttleworth, Rasschaert, Haffenden, Rankin, Tathem, Palmer, Norrie, Gorry, Hecher, Crummer, Connors. Substitutes: Bailey (GK), Kitano, Margraf, McElligott, Stamatopoulos.

Scorers: Crummer 13′, Norrie 64′, McElligott 90′.

CANBERRA UNITED (4-3-3): Lincoln, Ilijoski, Keir, Haran, Vidmar, Hughes, Robinne, Maher, Toby, Heyman, Middleton. Substitutes: Caspers, Espositio (GK), Grove, Karrys-Stahl.

Scorers: Heyman 67′, 72′, 88.

Referee: Rebecca Mackie.

Attendance: 875.

Artwork: Graphics by PW.

Victory Vikings: Bringing People Together (With Homer)

Above: The Victory Vikings’ famous mascot Homer is taught to play the drums by Melbourne Victory players. Photo: Victory Vikings.

For this week’s #MidweekDub feature, Simon from Melbourne Victory’s A-League Women fans group, Victory Vikings spoke to Impetus’ Ben Gilby about the club’s season, crazy schedule, and thoughts ahead of the Finals (9/3/22).

Melbourne Victory’s Active Support Group, the Victory Vikings have their roots in a discussion in France during the 2019 Women’s World Cup as Simon explains.

“We were formed as a direct result of our experience at the World Cup in France in 2019. Some of us met over there and had huge fun being part of the Matildas Active Support at Matildas games.

“The night before the England v Norway quarter-final in Le Havre, we got chatting to some Portland Thorns fans who were part of the Rose City Riveters and over the course of a few beers decided it’d be fun to form a group when we got back to Australia. So shortly before the new season started in 2019/20, we put a call out on Facebook for any Victory fans wanting to join us.”

The Victory Vikings have also fostered a positive relationship with the club, which has ensured special access and dialogue.

“They help us out with ensuring we can get our drum and banners into the ground each week,” Simon revealed. “They also help us out when we go to away games by letting opposition clubs know we’re coming so again we don’t have any issues getting our drum etc into the ground.

“They’re also happy to meet with us and discuss any concerns or thoughts we have about the future direction of support at home games etc. and in return, we help them out with things like volunteering our time to appear in the membership advertisement that was made for this season.”

Active Support Groups in many clubs in the A-League Women are a key part of driving the atmosphere at stadiums around Australia. Simon highlights what a typical matchday is like at a Victory match.

“First, we have to make sure Homer isn’t too hungover from the night before and if he is, trying to fix this (see below!) Then it’s about going through our checklist to make sure we have everything we need ahead of the game – megaphone, banners, drum, camera etc.

“We’ll be messaging each other all morning to gauge our confidence levels/mood before the game. We’ll also be busy keeping an eye on social media for any news and of course posting things ourselves to build the hype. As we’re playing home games at AAMI Park this season we usually meet up at the pub a couple of hours before the game starts for a couple of quiet nerve settlers and then head to the ground just in time for when the gates open.

“Once inside it’s all systems go in setting up our banners and the drum, having a chat to others as they come along about what their predictions are.”

Victory Vikings’ Homer ‘mascot’ is a famous part of the A-League Women scene. Simon takes up the story of how it all began.

Above: Fans, Players and Staff – The Victory Vikings aim to bring everyone together. Photo: Victory Vikings.

One of our Homers was a gift to one of the members of our group from their nephew as they knew what a massive Simpsons fan they were. The other Homer belongs to another member of our group. Prior to the first game of last season as a spur-of-the-moment decision, they decided to take Homer with them for a laugh as we’re all huge Simpsons fans.

“Initially, we decided it’d be fun to have a photo taken with Homer and the player of the match. Last season we flew up to the Gold Coast for the game against Brisbane and after the game, player Amy Jackson asked us where Homer was as we hadn’t brought him with us. We assured her he’d be back for our trip to Adelaide the following week as we were driving so she asked us to post updates on Instagram of his journey along the way and it just grew from there.

“The photos we do of him and the players is because we’re all Simpsons obsessives and it’s something that brings us a lot of joy. It’s also an easy way of generating engagement which in turn will help us grow. As for anyone we regret not getting a photo of him with yet, it’s a tie between Kayla Morrison and Angie Beard.”

Not surprisingly, the players warmly welcome and recognize all the efforts that the Victory Vikings put in.

“Our relationship with the players is really strong,” Simon said. “They’ve really embraced us and especially love all the Homer content we do. They’re always happy to stop and have a chat with us after the game, pose for photos win lose or draw. The coaching staff are also great at engaging with us, Jeff (Hopkins, head coach) is really great at coming over to us after a bad loss (especially at an away game) to say thanks for coming which is really good as if that was us we’d probably be wanting to go and bury our head in the sand.”

With the Finals campaign about to start and Victory facing an eliminator at in-form Adelaide United this weekend, Simon outlined how he’s seen things this season.

“This season has been its usual chaotic self. Sydney being top is no surprise as they always have quality squads and consistency in the playing group as well. We’re still trying to figure out how good Melbourne City is, but it’s massively annoying that they’re strong again this season after only a one-season blip.

“We’ve been decimated by injuries – it started when Melina Ayres injured her hamstring during the pre-season and carried on into the first game when Kayla Morrison went down with an ACL. Also because of Covid, the draw didn’t do us any favours as we had to play City and Brisbane twice in the first five rounds. It’s always really hard when that happens as you don’t get much chance to analyse what worked/what didn’t before you play them again.”

Into the New Year, Melbourne Victory were impacted by Covid which led to a number of games being postponed. The consequence was a spell of playing seven games in 21 days to ensure they completed all their scheduled matches before the Finals. The consequences of an already injury-hit side were far-reaching.

“The schedule in second half of season was ridiculous,” Simon reflects. “Players were coming off exhausted and then having to do it again in a few days. As fans, we care deeply about players’ welfare so was hard to watch. It seemed like we could never catch a break with injuries which made it worse.”

In the end, Melbourne Victory’s hopes of a place in the Finals came down to a straight fight with Perth Glory for fourth place which went right down to the wire on the final day of the season. Perth needed to defeat Wellington Phoenix and hope Canberra United defeated Victory at AAMI Park. Glory were comfortably ahead against Wellington. In Melbourne it was far from comfortable as Simon explains.

“The battle with Perth was a slow burn but then became increasingly stressful in the final round, we’d be panicking every time Canberra got the ball.”

With the Finals getting underway this weekend, Melbourne Victory travel to Adelaide United for the right to take on Sydney FC or cross-city rivals Melbourne City for a place in the Grand Final.

Simon is not sure what to expect. “It’s hard to get a read on Finals as injuries mean we’ve not been able to build much momentum. Our best is good enough to beat anyone and our key players are Claudia Bunge, Amy Jackson Alex Chidiac, and Melina Ayres. The last time we played away against Adelaide wasn’t a great day (Victory lost 3-0 a fortnight ago) so avenge that and anything else is a bonus.”

Artwork: Graphics by PW.

Holly Caspers Reviews Her Season At Canberra

Above: Canberra United’s Holly Caspers (left) in action against Melbourne City at Viking Park. Photo: Canberra United.

Impetus’ Ben Gilby heard Canberra United’s Holly Caspers review her first season in the A-League Women with the club, and how her team’s long search for a win has helped to develop her resilience (8/3/22).

Canberra United’s 22-year-old forward Holly Caspers is about to complete her first season in the national capital.

Coming to the club in pre-season after a successful NPL campaign with Sydney University, Caspers has been up close and personal with two of the competition’s most experienced strikers in Ash Sykes and Michelle Heyman. It’s safe to say she has learned a lot.

“It’s amazing playing with Ash and Michelle. They all have different qualifies. Ash’s ability to get in behind is incredible. Michelle’s touch and vision on the ball is insane. Learning off of them and Allira (Toby) has been amazing.”

Another major area of learning for Caspers came with having to ride the storm of Canberra’s long wait for their first win this season. Whilst it was not an enjoyable experience, it was one that the striker feels will stand her in good stead in the future.

“Not getting a win for a long time was really disheartening. It’s not something I’ve been used to. At Sydney Uni in the NPL, we had a strong team and won a lot. That losing streak was different and it tested resilience.

“The team came together well to fight. You have to rely on the experienced players to drive the team in that situation. Michelle, Grace (Maher), and Laura Hughes have really driven us this campaign. Now finishing the campaign strong has been positive now. It’s important to finish on a high point.”

Canberra’s clash with Brisbane is long-delayed after being postponed due to the recent horrendous weather conditions in Queensland. Caspers has fond memories from the previous time the teams played just before Christmas.

“When we last played Brisbane, it was a tough game, being 3-1 down in the last 10 minutes before getting a draw (Caspers’ stoppage-time goal made it 3-3). It will be interesting to see how better we are now and how we do.”

The striker reflected how quickly the season has passed and what she wants to take out of the last four months.

“Honestly, the time has flown by. Time flies when you are having fun. Pre-season lasted for ever, but now the last game against Brisbane on Thursday has come round so quick. I’ve really enjoyed it.

“My soccer has really improved. It has been a new experience moving down to Canberra. I especially enjoyed that game at Melbourne Victory last week, getting a draw, playing at AAMI Park was amazing and I played my socks off!”

“I want to play A-League Women again and I’ve found what happens when I push myself. When you are the most experienced player in the room you never learn anything, so I’ve learned a lot from Michelle and Ash that I can take back to Sydney Uni in the NPL now.”

Artwork: Graphics by PW.

Impetus Achievers Awards

With the final full round of matches for the regular season, our A-League Women writing team of Kieran YapBen Gilby, and Kris Goman outline their player, coach, and event of the week (7/3/22).

PLAYER OF THE WEEK:

Kieran: For me, it’s Rhianna Pollicina. She’s been one of the league’s best players all season and when City absolutely had to win, she was dominant. They fell short of top spot, but Pollicina is surely one of the signings of the season and this game was a perfect example of why.

Ben: It had been an incredibly difficult period for Brisbane Roar – with the Queensland floods impacting players and staff greatly in all sorts of different ways. Larissa Crummer‘s hat-trick was the catalyst for their win over Newcastle Jets on Friday. That they overcame all these challenges to achieve this needs to be recognized.

Above: Melbourne City’s Rihanna Pollicina (left) – Kieran Yap’s choice as Player of the Week. Photo: Melbourne City.

Kris: It is tempting to go for Paige Satchell for her Premiers Plate-winning goal and some other great attempts, but Annalee Grove made some extraordinary saves and really minimized the scoreline against Sydney.

COACH OF THE WEEK:

Kieran: Garrath McPherson. Brisbane have basically been unable to train properly due to the floods and one player lost their house in the disaster. It was a miracle they were even able to play. A win would have been great. A 5-1 win was amazing given the circumstances. It’s a team that clearly is there for each other despite a tough year. 

Ben: Ante Juric. Sydney FC had to travel to the competition’s most in-form side needing a win to take a second straight Premier’s Plate. They were successful, as they have been for much of this season.

Above: Sydney FC head coach Ante Juric – Kris and Ben’s choice for Coach of the Week. Photo: Kris Goman.

Kris: Ante Juric. He’s played the long game with Sydney and come up trumps. The team has been well drilled, disciplined, agile, and just always seems to know what they are doing. Juric has their respect and has adapted over the season to get the premiership. He gets the nod this week.

EVENT OF THE WEEK:

Kieran: Hollie Palmer’s amazing goal being dedicated to her recently passed grandfather.

Ben: Sydney FC’s celebrations after defeating Adelaide United 1-0 at Coopers Stadium to lift the Premier’s Plate again.

Kris: Obviously can’t go past Sydney winning the premiership this week. And I do love some crazy champagne in the dressing room scenes.

We’re now tallying up all the votes over the season. On Friday we’ll be announcing our A-League Women Player and Coach of the Season based on all the weekly votes.

During the Finals, we’ll be naming a Player of the Week.

Artwork: Graphics by PW.

Brisbane Roaring Home As Depleted Jets Crash

Brisbane Roar 4-0 Newcastle Jets

Above: Brisbane Roar’s two-goal Shea Connors takes on Newcastle Jets’ Tiana Jaber. Photo: Brisbane Roar.

By Kris Goman (7/3/22)

Brisbane are coming home strong as they play out their catch-up matches, unfortunately, too late to have any impact on the Finals, but at least restoring some pride to the team.

This was your proverbial match of two halves with Brisbane in control, despite less possession, and seemingly scoring at will in the first half. Newcastle tightened up the defence in the second half as well as stepping up on the attacking. This resulted in a lot of near misses but very little on target.

Brisbane opened their account very early, in just the fourth minute, when Katrina Gorry did what Gorry does best and took a pot shot at goal. She found herself in a bit of space and had a crack from the top of the box. The rocket launched to the left of goal and Claire Coelho had no chance of stopping it. Brisbane take the early lead at 1-0.

Not long after, Shea Connors broke clear and chanced another long shot. This wasn’t as well directed and went out to the left.

Holly Palmer got a similar opportunity shortly after and took quite a considered shot to the top right but Coelho anticipated it beautifully and glided across to capture it.

The continued pressure found the cracks eventually. Gorry set this up with a pass for Mariel Hecher to run onto in the box. She rounded Coelho after drawing her out, headed for the byline, and cut back to Larissa Crummer who had the easy tap in for Roar’s second goal, scored in the 13th minute.

Newcastle instigated a fightback when Sophie Harding took the ball down the right and centred it to Elizabeth Eddy. She turned and flipped it into the right-hand side of the goal but was called offside and the goal was disallowed leaving the score at 2-0.

Once again, Gorry found some space, performed some magic, and passed out to Connors who was unmarked on the left. She got a clear shot as she touched it into the box and Coelho had it covered with a jump but didn’t quite catch the ball and it bounced out of her hands, rolled behind her, and limped into goal as Coelho scampered towards it but not before it crosses the line. At 29 minutes Roar suddenly have a commanding lead of 3-0.

Above: Katrina Gorry (left) of Brisbane Roar takes on Bethany Gordon today. Photo: Brisbane Roar.

Gorry tried another long-range shot that was caught safely by Coelho. Then it feels like the floodgates opened as Gorry started off another movement that ended in a goal when she sent the perfect pass through to Connors. Coelho came out again and was rounded again. Tiana Jaber got back to defend the goal but she was easily sidestepped too and the ball went past and into the right side of goal. We’re at 4-0 to Brisbane with just over five minutes left in the half.

Bethany Gordon tried to retaliate with a long shot but it flew just a little high and over the crossbar. The shots are 11-2 to Brisbane despite the Jets having slightly more possession.

Coming back from halftime, Brisbane are straight back onto the attack. A Gorry corner gets cleared by the Jets and Lauren Allen, who’s just come on to replace Lucy Johnson, took a little breakaway run up the field. The defence recovered to swamp her and it went nowhere.

Connors was found offside three times in front of a virtually open goal each time. Some poorly timed runs which probably cost some extra goals.

The rest of the second half is marked by the Jets stepping up the attack but just being off-target constantly. At half time the shots are 11-2 in favour of Brisbane but on target shots are 8-0, By full time the shots are equal at 14 all but on-target shots are 9-1 in favour of Brisbane. Never has the much-used term, “Need to be more clinical in front of goal” been more apt.

Harding was in the clear and got a shot from the top of the box but sent it just over the crossbar.

A bad clearance by Isabella Shuttleworth went straight to Eddy who was also in open space but she was closed down quite quickly by the defence and her shot sailed over the crossbar.

Hannah Brewer took a long shot that was cleared by Hecher on the edge of the goal. Harding later found Kirsty Fenton and her shot is just high again. Gooch tried a very ambitious shot from 30 meters out that’s easily gathered by Shuttleworth.

Above: Brisbane Roar’s Jamilla Rankin is held off. Photo: Brisbane Roar.

Jaber sent a lovely cross over to Eddy but her header isn’t quite directed to the right spot and goes just wide of the goal.

A Fenton header from an Eddy corner went close to goal but once more, it’s just to the right and does not require a save from Shuttleworth who’s had a light shift today.

A Harding cross went begging as it flew past the far post. She was involved again with a shot from the left that required a dive from Shuttleworth but she’s wrapped it all up safely and the Jets can’t crack the defence.

In the final play of the match, Gooch skips through the midfield and executes a nice pass to Allen who entangles with Shuttleworth and got a shot away but it’s also wide.

In the post-match interview, Gorry mentions that she’s proud of the girls and that it was so good to get some wins on the board. The season is not too long and they got there in the end and will come back bigger and stronger.

Cass Davis said that Newcastle had been struggling with numbers and it was a disappointing way to end the season. It was tough on the girls with so many injured.

Connors was awarded player of the match.  She said they wanted to make the most of the match and the last game. It means everything to them and Queensland has had it rough and they wanted to bring some joy to QLD and northern NSW post the floods.

Garrath McPherson said the win was down to the adaptability of the team. Their mindset and positivity. What’s changed is a real attitude of the players to work for each other. Together is better. They are trying to help others on the field and wanted to see Mini off with a big win.

Brisbane play Canberra in their final match of the season at 7.05 on Thursday night. The finals have been decided and Sydney will play Melbourne City and Adelaide will be playing Melbourne Victory over the weekend.

Teams: BRISBANE ROAR: Shuttleworth, Margraf, Rasschaert, Rankin, Norrie, Hecher, Crummer, Gorry, Connors, Haffenden, Palmer. Substitutes: Symes, Stamatopoulos, Kitano, McDougall, McElligott

Scorers: Gorry 4′, Crummer 13′, Connors 29′, 38’.

NEWCASTLE JETS: Coelho, Jaber, Davis, Brewer, Fenton, Morley, Gordon, Johnson, Brodigan, Harding, Eddy. Substitutes: Magus (GK), Allan, Gooch.

Referee: Caitlin Williams

Attendance: 1,000.

Artwork: Graphics by PW.

ParaMatildas Launched

Above: The ParaMatildas players and coaching staff today. Photo supplied to Impetus by: Football Australia (Getty Images).

Football Australia today announced the launch of the ParaMatildas, Australia’s first national team for women and girls with cerebral palsy (CP), acquired brain injury (ABI), and symptoms of stroke.

A first in the Asia-Pacific region, the ParaMatildas become the 10th member of Australia’s national teams’ family and the first new senior national team in 22 years.

Football Australia CEO, James Johnson, is delighted to welcome the ParaMatildas to the fold.

“Today is a momentous occasion for Football Australia as we celebrate the inclusion of the ParaMatildas in the Australian football family,” he said. 

“With the launch of the ParaMatildas we are closing the gap in Australian football and ensuring that women and girls have the same pathways as men and boys in our game. This announcement is the result of years of incredible commitment, hard work and belief from many people in our football community, and it will be transformative for our All Abilities programs.”

“With Australia co-hosting the Women’s World Cup 2023 in 500 days, and as a global leader in women’s football, we now plan to leverage this milestone event to develop a sustainable, world-class ParaMatildas program.  This will demonstrate to women and girls with cerebral palsy, acquired brain injury or symptoms of stroke that football is a game which they can enjoy and excel, and that their achievements will be celebrated by an Australia that embraces diversity.”

More than 2.2 million women and girls live with disability, with 700,000 Australians living with an ABI and one in six Australians set to have a stroke in their lifetime. 

Above: Members of the inaugural ParaMatildas squad pictured today at their launch in Sydney. Photo provided to Impetus by: Football Australia (Getty Images)

CP football is a seven-a-side sport with smaller goals, 30-minute halves, and no offside. Players are classed as FT1, FT2, and FT3 depending on how their disability affects a player, with at least one FT1 player and a maximum of one FT3 player required to be on the pitch at all times. 

A long-standing All Abilities coach and program coordinator, ACT’s Kelly Stirton will be the ParaMatildas inaugural Head Coach. Stirton expressed her pride at being named Head Coach and how the potential impact of the ParaMatildas cannot be understated. 

“As a Head Coach in the All Abilities space, this has been a dream of mine to be able to take a team at the national level,” Stirton said. “Being able to say I’ve coached an Australian team has been a dream because we now have a pathway created from young children to adults and the ability to say to players that they can represent their country.”

“This team will stand proudly alongside their Commonwealth Bank Matildas teammates as iconic female footballers and that is an incredible visual that we are portraying as a sport.”

ParaMatilda and London 2012 Paralympian, Georgia Beikoff, said: “This will be an absolute dream come true for all of us. Knowing this will create opportunities to break barriers around the stigma of disability is something that we are all ecstatic about.”

“The girls and I have all faced all sorts of challenges growing up, living with a disability that has been incredibly tough. To platform what we bring as women with CP, ABI, or with symptoms of stroke as a national football team, I believe will help pave the way for young girls and boys living with a disability in Australia to face life with a determined and fierce spirit.”

“We are so stoked to be able to don the green and gold and join that national team family at Football Australia. In launching a team like the ParaMatildas, I truly believe we will represent and further contribute to the values of diversity, inclusion and a sense of belonging that our sport upholds.”

The ParaMatildas will hold their first camp in April as they prepare to compete in the inaugural IFCPF Women’s World Cup in Spain. The tournament will take place from 8-18 May 2022.

Australians can get behind the ParaMatildas’ World Cup campaign by making a tax-deductible donation to the team here. Every donation over $2 made to the squad is tax-deductible and will go directly to supporting national team training camps, coaching, sports science, and tournament costs to ensure that the ParaMatildas have the best possible chance to represent Australia on the world stage.

Another way to support the ParaMatildas, while also supporting the Commonwealth Bank Matildas, is to purchase a ticket to Australia’s upcoming international friendly against New Zealand at Canberra’s GIO Stadium. $1 from every ticket sold will be donated to the ParaMatildas. Tickets to CommBank Matildas v New Zealand are on sale

Sydney Success As Premier’s Plate Is Retained

Adelaide United 0-1 Sydney FC

Above: Sydney FC celebrate winning the Premier’s Plate after defeating Adelaide United at Coopers Stadium today. Photo: Sydney FC.

By Kieran Yap (6/3/22)

The title would be decided in Adelaide. Sydney FC travelled south in need of a draw to finish top of the table. A chaotic first half yielded few clear-cut chances and neither team could impose themselves on the contest.

Reona Omiya had a chance that she should have buried in the opening minutes. Fiona Worts’ high, looping cross was not cleared and the ball fell to Omiya.

She hit her shot well but directly at Jada Whyman who got down low to block it and hold onto the bobbling rebound.

Worts almost got in on goal again and appealed for a penalty as Charlize Rule looked to have fouled the striker. The referee did not consider the contact to be enough and waved play on.

Sydney FC are normally a team that dominates in midfield. Although all of their midfield trio were involved heavily they were unable to control the pace of the game. Adelaide prefer the match played at a frenetic pace and turnovers for both sides were common.

With final passes often cut off by Kayla Sharples and Matilda McNamara, Rachel Lowe decided to skip that and go direct for goal from long range. Annalee Grove scrambled back to stop it but it over overhit and sailed beyond the goal.

Above: Adelaide United’s Ella Tonkin (right) keeps her eyes on the ball under pressure from Sydney FC’s Rachel Lowe. Photo: Adelaide United.

Mackenzie Hawkesby was dynamic in midfield and attempted to knit play together but the Adelaide back four played with a low-risk mentality, clearing any first-half attacks with either a solid boot to safety or running the ball out individually.

Chelsie Dawber almost added to her 10 goals for the season with an attempt to hook the ball over her shoulder. The shot was on target but Whyman was well placed and held onto it firmly.

The half ended with a rare passing move involving Princess Ibini, Hawesby, and Paige Satchell. The New Zealand winger shot well at the near post but Grove was equal to it

Remy Siemsen had the first opportunity after the break, her half-volley from a tight angle swung wide but it was the first sign that Adelaide’s defence could be penetrated.

A slick passing move by Sydney FC involving Ally Green and Siemsen put Ibini in space and within range. Her curling effort looked good off the boot but did not dip in time to trouble Grove.

Mackenzie Hawkesby continued to threaten with long-range shots as Sydney started to find some momentum. Adelaide United remained dangerous on the counterattack but could not find any easy openings in attack.

Above: Sydney FC’s Ally Green in possession (right) under the watchful eye of Adelaide United’s Isabel Hodgson. Photo: Sydney FC.

On the hour mark, the deadlock was finally broken. Paige Satchell teed up Siemsen for a shot that Grove did well to block. The resulting corner kick fell to Satchell who clipped it up and over Grove with a terrific finish.

That goal put Sydney FC in a strong position to retain to the Premiership. Adelaide would need to score twice to hand the title to Melbourne City.

Fiona Worts lined up a shot from 20 yards out, it was blocked at close quarters by Nat Tobin who took the pain to save a goal.

As the game wore on Adelaide started to rest players with an eye on finals. Matilda McNamara had already been withdrawn and skipper Isabel Hodgson joined her on the bench.

The Reds could go neither up nor down on the ladder, but they continued to attack. A classy flick by Dawber put Amelia Murray through on goal but she scuffed the shot.

Above: Sydney FC’s Remy Siemsen (left) competes with Adelaide United’s Ella Tonkin for possession. Photo: Sydney FC.

Grace Taranto on for her second appearance of the season almost levelled the scores but her shot was deflected wide. From the corner kick, Emma Stanbury looked to have been fouled from behind by the referee was unable to see it clearly from her angle.

Satchell went right up the other end and rocketed a shot toward goal. Grove stretched athletically to tip it over.

Adelaide looked suddenly energized by the missed penalty shout and lifted in injury time, the game opened up momentarily but Sydney FC held out to win and be crowned Premiers for another consecutive year.

Adelaide would not be too troubled by the loss. They have finished third, their best ever position, and will play finals with players rested and returning from injury or suspension. They should add Nanako Sasaki and Emily Condon to this side with Paige Hayward possibly joining them too.

Sydney FC are the 2021/22 A-League Women’s Premiers. They have only lost one game and been held to a draw only twice. They have dominated most games and broken defensive records. Two of their attackers became capped Matildas and they have a young, talented squad that deserve to be crowned premiers once again.

Speaking after the game, Sydney FC’s Nat Tobin spoke of her initial reaction to claiming the Premier’s Plate. “I almost cried there, it’s just so exciting, we’ve had the best season and to be rewarded for it is incredible and I’m so, so proud of the girls.

“We’ve got a young team and we lost some really good players last season and I think we had that expectation to win because we did so well, so it’s really overwhelming.”

Head coach Ante Juric was a proud man after the game: “It’s been a fantastic season by the squad. We have worked hard and deserve this Premiership.

“We have been consistent in our levels of performance, which is a credit to the attitude of these girls. It is hard to continually be successful and always be at the top, as everyone steps up against us and wants to beat us. We embrace this and know it’s a privilege to be in this situation.

“For the club to win the Premiership for a second straight year is a great achievement and a rare achievement. We know there is more to do and more to achieve as we prepare for Finals, but we are focussed and driven to keep working hard to succeed.”

Teams: ADELAIDE UNITED (4-3-3): Grove, I.Hodgson, McNamara, Sharples, E.Hodgson, Tonkin, Holmes, Omiya, Dawber, Stanbury, Worts. Substitutes: Beaumont (GK), Mullan, Murray, Taranto, Templeman.

SYDNEY FC (4-2-3-1): Whyman, Green, Tobin, Mclean, Rule, Hawkesby, Lowe, Ibini, Ray, Satchell, Siemsen. Substitutes: Hunter, Johnson, Nash, Offer (GK), Rojas.

Scorer: Satchell 61′.

Referee: Casey Reibelt.

Attendance: 1,173.

Artwork: Graphics by PW.

City Get The Win But Will It Be Enough?

Western Sydney Wanderers 0-2 Melbourne City

Above: Flying high – Melbourne City’s Hannah Wilkinson (right). Photo: Melbourne City.

By Kieran Yap (6/3/22)

Melbourne City travelled to play the Wanderers with a chance to jump into first place place in the league. A win against Western Sydney would mean that Sydney FC would need at least a draw against the in-form Adelaide United to retain the title.

Although the hosts were out on finals contention and still without Byrleeh Henry or Sarah Gallagher, they had pride to play for. A loss to City could potentially result in them finishing bottom of the ladder, an unthinkable result for the club in a season that began in optimism.

Melbourne City began with Caitlin Karic upfront. The 16-year-old NPLW star was playing as the centre-forward with Rhianna Pollicina in support and Hannah Wilkinson roaming the flanks for much of the game.

The Wanderers welcomed back Alex Huynh to the bench and began with Ashlie Crofts up front who was looking for score for the third game running.

City were in a precarious position. They needed to win, but also had to rest players as the “Football Frenzy” came to a conclusion.

Tyla-Jay Vlajnic and Rebekah Stott began on the bench but Rado Vidosic’s team has developed significant depth during the campaign and were solid favourites to take out the three points.

The first real chance of the game came in the 20th minute. Rhianna Pollicina took possession outside of the area and cleverly created space with a shift of her feet and a slight change of direction. Her shot from outside the box was low, hard, and beat Sarah Langman. It was the playmakers’ seventh goal of the season and as usual, it was done in some style.

Above: Melbourne City celebrate Rhianna Pollicina’s goal. Photo: Melbourne City.

Crofts almost pulled one back for Western Sydney but her shot crashed off the woodwork. She has been one of the good news stories to come out of a tough season. Crofts is a confident, unpredictable, and powerful forward and has given the Wanderers fans something to cheer for.

The goal aside, the first half was relatively even. City were in control at the break but Wanderers were not out of the contest. Crofts had a second half chance to level the scores again after some good team build-up play, but uncharacteristically mistimed her effort from directly in front of goal.

For all of City’s dominance, clear chances on goal were hard to come by. Tori Tunmeth had the best effort when she met a corner kick at full pace but her header flew over the bar.

Hannah Wilkinson entered the match two goals behind Fiona Worts in the race for the Golden Boot. In the 73rd minute, she took a step closer to catching the Adelaide star with she received the ball wide with only Caitlin Cooper to beat.

Wilkinson sized up her options, knocked the ball ahead, and surged past Cooper to finish beyond Langman and bring her season tally up to 12 goals.

With the result seemingly secured, the mission to catch Worts became the focus of neutral and City fans. Wilkinson was played in on goal by Pollicina but she unselfishly returned the pass instead of shooting. Pollicina’s curling shot glanced agonizingly off the bar when it looked likely to bounce in.

Above: Melbourne City’s Chelsie Blissett (left) battles with Western Sydney Wanderers’ Alexia Apostolakis. Photo: Western Sydney Wanderers.

The New Zealand striker had another chance to score a second when she headed well toward an empty net. Somehow the woodwork denied her again and it looked it like it was not meant to be.

The match ended 2-0. It was an unfussy, expected win by City. They took the opportunity to not only rest some players but to give others some much-needed minutes.

Sally James was brought on for Melissa Barbieri and responded with an encouraging display. Her close-range stop from Rosie Galea’s effort was a highlight of the second half.

Leticia McKenna entered in place of Karic and did well to forge an opportunity to score but Sarah Langman responded with what is likely the save of the round. The Wanderers keeper dove the wrong way but managed to stick a foot out to prevent a third goal.

With Adelaide United and hosting Sydney FC a few hours later, City’s players had done all they could, not they could watch the next match in support of The Reds who had every chance of beating the reigning premiers at home.

Teams: WESTERN SYDNEY WANDERERS (4-4-2): Langman, Matos, Cooper, Ralston, Apostolakis, Collister, Galic, Price, Halloway, Copus-Brown, Crofts. Substitutes: Abdul-Massih, Galea, Huynh, Khamis (GK), Steinmetz.

MELBOURNE CITY (3-5-2): Barbieri, Heatley, Checker, Tunmeth, Blissett, Westland, Pollicina, Davidson, Torpey, Katic, Wilkinson. Substitutes: James, McKenna, Malone, Vlajnic, van der Meer.

Scorers: Pollicina 21′, Wilkinson 73′.

Referee: Georgia Ghirardello.

Attendance: 220.

Artwork: Graphics by PW.

Sunday A-League Women Preview

Sunday sees two huge matches which will decide the destination of the Premier’s Plate. Impetus’ Ben Gilby heard the pre-match views of Melbourne City head coach Rado Vidosic whose team face Western Sydney Wanderers, along with Adelaide United head coach Adrian Stenta and defender Kayla Sharples ahead of their game with leaders Sydney FC (5/3/22).

Above: Melbourne City head coach Rado Vidosic at today’s pre-game media conference. Photo: Melbourne City.

Melbourne City go into their game at Western Sydney Wanderers knowing that if they can win and third-placed Adelaide United defeat Sydney, then his team will win the Premier’s plate.

Preparations for the game have been impacted by the match in Parramatta being pushed back to Sunday to aid with pitch drainage after heavy rain in the area. Vidosic believes that extra day will benefit his team.

“We’ve had an extra day to rest. We had a day off on Friday. That is good for us. Physically we are ready. They could have played our game and the Sydney one simultaneously as that was good when Melbourne Victory and Perth Glory’s ones were (on Friday when both sides were contesting the final spot in the top four), but I’m not privy to the decisions of the APL, Paramount and Channel 10. They make decisions for the good of the game.”

In terms of injuries and availability, City’s head coach had good news to report. “There are no major concerns going into the game. We will finalize our squad and starting 11 when we arrive. We want to give the girls as long as possible, it’s been a disrupted build-up and we need to ensure no one is exposed to risk, but we are needing to win.”

In terms of how his team perform tomorrow, Vidosic does not see any danger of complacency taking on a struggling team in Wanderers. For him, it will be all about mental attitude having played a game on Tuesday night.

“We have tried to refresh them as much as we could over these past few days. If we can play to our best, we expect to win the game. Our we play will depend on how mentally focussed we are. If we get that right, we will have a good performance and every chance to win the game.”

Above: Kayla Sharples speaking to the media this week at Marden. Photo: Adelaide United.

Adelaide United defender Kayla Sharples spoke of her excitement at the team’s achievement of making their first W-/A-League Women’s Finals berth. She also warned the other teams in the top four – including Saturday’s opponents Sydney FC – that Adelaide United want to do some serious damage in the Finals.

“Last week’s game was crucial, to get that win (over Melbourne Victory) and lock in Finals. It’s my first season, but I know how much it means to the team and the club. I just wanted to make an impact and I’m loving my time here. But, we’re not done yet!”

Reflecting on game with Victory last weekend, Sharples was pleased with how the team grew into the match. “We did have a slow start, but we knew they would press high, so we just had to ride that wave, which we did.

“Scoring three goals against them was massive. We also wanted redemption after losing a lot of goals against them. We’re really connecting and being relentless right now. There are no limits to what we can do. After the final whistle, we were so excited, but there was an element of relief. For us, this year to lock in the Finals with a game ahead was important.

“We’re very hungry. We’re not content with where we are. I don’t think we’ve hit our peak yet. When we play our best, there are no limits. We can definitely make it to the last game and win a championship for the first time.”

Whilst Adelaide United’s goal-scoring prowess has taken the headlines this season, Sharples was keen to shine a light on their backline, which she has been a crucial part of.

“I’ve loved working with the girls at the back with me – Matilda (McNamara), Izzy (Hodgson). We’re a relentless unit. We put our bodies on the line and will do everything we can to prevent the ball going into the net. We have a crucial relationship and it’s part of our success.”

The American believes that the time is right to be facing league leaders Sydney FC. “I’m happy to play Sydney last as we’re hitting our stride. It’s the best time to play them. They are a great team with a lot of talent, they are well-coached. But we’re getting better and better. At the end of the day, we want to win and get more goals so we’re in good form going into Finals.”

Above: Adelaide United head coach Adrian Stenta speaking to the media on Friday. Photo: Adelaide United.

Adelaide United head coach Adrian Stenta opened his discussion with the media on Thursday by placing his team’s Finals qualification in context.

“Its significant because of our club’s history. It’s been a long time to play in a competition without making Finals. We’re really proud to represent the club in the Finals and everyone who has played for and represented the club down the years on the journey.”

Stenta knows that his team are playing consistently well at present, and as such he feels that they are capable of going a long way in the Finals.

“I’m extremely confident and the players’ confidence is growing. We are in good form coming into Finals and it’s good to play Sydney on Sunday as it is a good indicator as to where we are coming into the Finals.”

Looking back at the win over Melbourne Victory last weekend that clinched his team’s place in the top four with a game to spare, Adelaide’s head coach was pleased about his team’s ruthlessness when chances came their way.

“It was an interesting game. There were times when we didn’t have a lot of the ball, so Victory probably shaded us in terms of possession, but I thought we were clinical with the ball and did well with the ball in possession. We scored goals. The goal at the start of the second half was important.

“We’ve got multiple avenues to goal. It doesn’t bother me who scores them, it’s about just scoring. It does though make it difficult for the opposition knowing we have so many avenues to scoring. I’ve been so pleased with Chelsie (Dawber) and Fiona (Worts)’ contributions all year.”

Stenta also highlighted the importance of his team’s defence and pointed to continual improvements throughout the campaign.

“Keeping clean sheets is something that we focussed on after we conceded quite a few at the start of the season. I thought our structure was positive last weekend against Victory. They had a fair bit of the ball, so to defend as well as we did and deny them goalscoring opportunities was very pleasing.”

Looking ahead to Sunday’s game, Adelaide’s head coach knows his team will have their hands full, but is confident that they can win.

“Playing Sydney is always a difficult game. They are a side that has kept their playing staff and coaching staff very consistent. We know what to expect. One of the quirks of the draw this season is that we’ve played some teams twice and yet we haven’t met Sydney until the last day of the season. We’ll see how it stacks up and we’re keen to have a go at them.”

When it comes to team selection, Stenta was clear – there will be no resting players ahead of Finals. It’s all about going for the win.

“I’m a simple guy. I don’t look at ‘what ifs’ or resting players. I’ve made it clear to the players that I want to win whether it’s games in training or actual matches. We’ll go into the game putting out the strongest team we can possibly field.”

Artwork: Graphics by PW.

Pride For Glory Despite Missing Finals By Narrowest Margin

Wellington Phoenix 1-3 Perth Glory

Above: Perth Glory’s New Zealand international Liz Anton (left) competes in the air. Photo: Perth Glory.

By Ben Gilby (5/3/22)

Perth Glory’s superb season ended with a mixture of disappointment and pride as they missed out on Finals football on just goal difference from Melbourne Victory.

Virtually no one unconnected to the Western Australian club expected Alex Epakis’ side to perform so well this season. Add in the fact that this is a team that only played one home game and have been forced to spend the last two and a half months based in New South Wales, it just adds to their outstanding achievement.

Glory made several changes in their matchday squad with key player Mie Leth Jans missing due to a fractured left wrist with Sadie Lawrence coming in. Liz Anton returned from international duty from New Zealand, and Aideen Keane, who scored off of the bench against Sydney FC in Launceston last week, made her first start of the season. Morgan Aquino replaced Courtney Newbon in goal.

A lively opening saw both Susan Phonsongkham and Hana Lowry prominent for Glory. The latter was popping up in central midfield and on both flanks and driving the game from all areas for her side.

Phoenix’s 18-year-old Alyssa Whinham has had a meteoric rise this season, and she came the closest for her side in the opening quarter of an hour with a low effort going narrowly wide of the left-hand post.

With 22 minutes gone, Perth were awarded a free-kick after Sarah Cain was fouled by Hannah Jones centrally, around 40 yards from goal. Glory set-piece specialist Deborah-Ann de la Harpe lifted a ball in towards Hintzen on the left of the box. The American used her strength and guile to win a corner from Te Reremoana Walker.

The flag-kick was a vicious inswinger from de la Harpe and was met with a back flick header from captain Tash Rigby which was turned into her own net by Isabel Gomez who couldn’t get her feet sorted to clear properly.

Above: Perth Glory’s Hana Lowry, who had a particularly influential first half. Photo: Perth Glory.

Wellington responded well with Grace Jale, who had been in good goalscoring form, trying to create via the left-hand side.

Perth continued to be dangerous from set-pieces with Lowry bending a succession of corners from the right under the Phoenix crossbar. Her former team-mate Lily Alfeld, though under heavy pressure from the corners, managed to deal with them without the concession of any further goals.

It was the Western Australians who had the best of the second period as they looked to add further goals to boost their chances of making Finals.

Just after the hour mark, another set piece led to their second. de la Harpe curled in a free kick on the left just outside the box. Rigby got up for the header, Phoenix cleared, but only as far as a Glory shirt. Anton got away down the right and fired a ball across for Hintzen at the near post to volley first time into the top of the net. It was her fifth goal in nine games.

Less than two minutes later, Phoenix gifted Perth another goal. Gomez conceded a free kick in her own half for pushing Lowry in the back. Phonsongkham took the set-piece quickly looking to release Keane, but Kate Taylor looked to have everything under control. However, the Phoenix vice captain got her body in completely the wrong position which allowed the Glory striker to race through unmarked and she fire home past Alfeld.

Two minutes later, Lowry almost made it four when she escaped through the middle and let fly from outside the box which went narrowly over the bar.

Perth continued to push, but could not add to their tally. On the other side of the ledger, as they have done significantly in recent weeks, Phoenix kept fighting. Whinham continued to pose problems.

Above: Perth Glory captain Tash Rigby (left) challenges for the ball. Photo: Wellington Phoenix.

With seven minutes remaining, Lisa De Vanna came on for what could be her final A-League appearance – although there will be many in Perth hoping that they will actually be able to watch their home town hero play in front of them next season – something that only happened once this campaign.

Wellington threatened in the closing six minutes and got a reward. Initially, a shot from just outside the left hand edge of the box cannoned back off the bar. As it bounced down, Abbey Green was adjudged to have fouled Cushla Rue. Referee Rachael Mitchenson pointed to the spot. Grace Jale stepped up to dispatch the spot kick for her sixth goal of the season despite Morgan Aquino getting a hand to the effort as it squeezed into the bottom left hand corner.

That was as close as Phoenix got – but they have so much to be proud of this season. If the season was just a week or two longer they would have been likely to avoid the wooden spoon. They have come a long way, and the league is a better place for their presence.

After the game, Perth Glory head coach Alex Epakis reflected on a superb season for his team.

“First and foremost, we need to take a step back and look at the broader picture. Look where we were twelve months ago, look at all the challenges we’ve had this season and the hurdles we’ve had to clear. We’ve achieved so much by overcoming those hurdles and that is even before we think about what we achieved on the field.

“Those challenges have been immense. To be able to overcome them as well as have the success we had on the field, despite not making Finals, we have won something.

“The performance today, we wanted to go out with a bang and we certainly achieved that. I was aware of the scenario in the other fixture (Melbourne Victory v Canberra United), we were trying to block it out. It’s unfortunate, but we have to take stock of what we’ve done. We’re definitely disappointed.

Above: Sign of togetherness – Perth Glory’s pre-game huddle. Photo: Perth Glory.

“There is a huge sentiment of being proud but there was a disappointment knowing we wanted to compete with the best all year, and to do that in the Finals would have been magnificent.”

Epakis spoke of the mixed emotions in the group after the final whistle when he addressed the huddle.

“There was a level of emptiness, but I made sure that we were clear. I said from the start I didn’t want to put a cap on what success would look like for this season, and I think it has been a success this season.”

With Glory being forced on the road for so long this season, their head coach reflected on the close bond that has been formed and how hard it will now be to part for seven or eight months.

“When you live together for close to two and a half months every day, you do form that family bond. When any family separates, it’s always hard. I will certainly feel empty when we all go our separate ways. We’ve all put so much into this season. For it all to just stop is a bit of a shock to the system.”

Epakis knows that this season’s results and performances are just the start in a bright future for his side longer-term. A big part of that is keeping the squad together.

“We did a big recruit last season and signed a lot of players to a longer-term commitment. We want to maintain and retain the core of this group. We all know the trajectory that we are going in. I believe that a lot of the players are invested in this. I would love to work with these players again next year and beyond”.

Above: Despite Grace Jale’s late penalty, Wellington Phoenix head coach Gemma Lewis felt that her team were well beaten. Photo: Wellington Phoenix.

Conversely, Phoenix head coach Gemma Lewis told media post-game that it “wasn’t our greatest performance” and the scoreline “was probably a fair reflection of the game”.

“We knew the two-day turnaround was going to be hard and to get an own goal in the first half wasn’t really something that set us on the greatest path,” Lewis said.

“As soon as it went two-nil the girls went quite flat. I think it’s hard when you have a two-day turnaround to find that second gear when you’re two-nil down to drive and get three goals.

“I was hoping they could do it with the adrenaline and the emotional charge of it being the last game, but they’ve given so much for us throughout the season that it didn’t really surprise me that they didn’t have much left in the tank at that point.”

Teams: WELLINGTON PHOENIX (4-3-3): Alfeld, Barry, Walker, Taylor, Vosper, Gomez, Jones, Whinham, Pritchard, Jale, Knott. Substitutes: Jasnos, Brown, Rue, Lancaster, Edwards (GK).

Scorer: Jale (pen) 86′.

PERTH GLORY (4-3-3): Aquino, Rigby, Anton, K.Carroll, de la Harpe, Lawrence, Cain, Lowry, Keane, Hintzen, Phonsongkham. Substitutes: Koulizakis, De Vanna, Green, Khamis, Newbon (GK).

Scorers: Gomez (OG) 23′, Hintzen 61′, Keane 63′.

Referee: Rachael Mitchenson

Attendance: 100 (est).

Artwork: Graphics by PW.

Draw Enough For Victory

Melbourne Victory 0-0 Canberra United

Above: Melbourne Victory goalkeeper Casey Dumont comes out to claim ahead of Canberra United’s Michelle Heyman. Photo: Melbourne Victory.

By Kieran Yap (5/3/22)

Melbourne Victory hosted Canberra United with their finals hopes in the balance. It had been just over a week since the sides last met in a dramatic 2-2 draw and a similar result would likely be enough for Victory to finish fourth.

Despite the precarious position, Jeff Hopkins did not start with anything that could be mistaken for a defensive side. Canberra arrived with nothing to play for but pride, and what resulted was an end-to-end game that had both coaches and the AAMI Park crowd on edge.

Victory’s first chance arrived from the artistry of Kyra Cooney-Cross. Deployed in a more attacking role, she had free reign alongside Alex Chidiac. She twisted and turned on the edge of the box before threading a ball through to Catherine Zimmerman. Chloe Lincoln did very well to come out and save at her feet.

Allira Toby fired Canberra United’s first shot. She raced in on goal and cut inside, but her shot was not enough to test Casey Dumont. The Victory keeper was a surprise inclusion after leaving the field on a stretcher against Adelaide United, and showed her value on multiple occasions this afternoon.

Alex Chidiac thought she had scored with a spectacular effort. Her corner kick swung inward and dipped under the bar. It bounced off the far post and both her and Lia Privitelli were in half-celebration before they realized it did not cross the line.

Chidiac tried again after combining with Cooney-Cross. She twisted one way, then the other but her Lincoln was positioned well to claim it.

Above: Harriet Withers shields the ball against Canberra United. Photo: Melbourne Victory.

It was an enthralling, thrilling contest that did nothing to sooth the nerves of Victory fans. There was plenty of space but both sides’ defenders were playing well individually. Lauren Keir has been essential to Canberra United’s late-season resurgence and was on hand on multiple occasions to make life difficult for the talented attack.

For Victory, Cooney-Cross was tormenting the Canberra defence. The visitors had their own weapon in Michelle Heyman. The captain received the ball wide on the right in a crossing position. Instead, she cut inside, then changed direction despite having no obvious space to do so. Dumont got down to deny her a potential goal of the week.

Victory introduced Harriet Withers and the long-awaited Melina Ayres in the second half. Ayres’ impact was almost instant, she nearly turned a cross in but her half-volleyed through ball to Withers was a reminder of her considerable talent. Withers raced in to goal but Lincoln saved very well from a position where scoring looked certain.

Heyman had fired up for the visitors. She took the direct route and burs through Canberra’s defence. Her shot was right at Dumont and Victory fans were able to pick their hearts up off the floor.

Victory had two more chances to take the lead. Cooney-Cross hit the woodwork after making space in midfield. Her long-range shot beat Lincoln but crashed off the post.

Ayres was almost the hero late but just missed Withers’ cross with a diving effort. The game ended in a draw and Victory’s players did not celebrate immediately.

Above: Melina Ayres’ return was a big boost for Melbourne Victory. Photo: Melbourne Victory.

Either they were unaware it was enough to get them through to the finals or they were exhausted after one of the most gruelling schedules in domestic football history.

With Ayres back, and two central defenders they suddenly look a much more functional team with depth and tactical options on the bench. That Melinda Barbieri was not included in a very strong matchday squad is a signal of what Hopkins has at his disposal.

It has been a rough season on the Victory players and they can now hopefully have a few days off to unwind and recover properly.

Canberra lost no admirers in this game. They were exciting and adventurous. The defence has finally settled after early-season difficulties and Vicki Linton has clearly worked out the best mix in attack. Heyman did was she always does, which is paradoxically something we haven’t seen before.

This is not their last game scheduled this season, but she must go on another year on the strength of her recent performances. Canberra suddenly look a very good side and are victims of the short season.

Teams: MELBOURNE VICTORY (4-3-3): Dumont, Nevin, Hendrix, Bunge, Doran, Chidiac, Eliadis, Murphy, Cooney-Cross, Zimmerman, Privitelli. Substitutes: Ayres, Maizels (GK), Markovski, Withers, Zois.

CANBERRA UNITED (4-2-3-1): Lincoln, Ilijoski, Keir, Haran, Vidmar, Hughes, Maher, Grove, Washington, Toby, Heyman. Substitutes: Caspers, Esposito (GK), Karrys-Stahl, Middleton, Robinne.

Referee: Rebecca Mackie.

Attendance: 1,091.

Artwork: Graphics by PW.

Jets Limp On As Visitors Roar Ahead

Newcastle Jets 1-5 Brisbane Roar

Above: Brisbane Roar’s hat-trick hero Larissa Crummer (left) celebrates with Mariel Hecher. Photo: Brisbane Roar.

By Kieran Yap (5/3/22)

Newcastle renamed the Number Two Sportsground after the record-breaking Cass Davis for their match against Brisbane Roar.

The stands were packed and the atmosphere celebratory as the club and community acknowledged her run of 110 consecutive league games.

Brisbane Roar arrived after suffering one of the most difficult lead-ups to a game imaginable.

The city had been damaged by torrential rain and dangerous floods. The team had been unable to travel safely to training and Holly McQueen’s house was submerged in the devastating week for Queensland.

They were also without the suspended Shea Connors. The winger was Brisbane’s leading scorer coming into the game and had set up the winning goal against Melbourne City.

Newcastle had their own squad problems and could only name a bench of two outfield players.

A scrappy start from both sides was typified by a bizarre passage of play. Brisbane attacked and the ball from Katrina Gorry bounced off the crossbar before it appeared to have been handled twice.

Above: Newcastle Jets legend Cassidy Davis is welcomed onto the Number Two Sportsground pitch last night. Photo: Newcastle Jets.

The referee did not see it amid the chaos and it was cleared but soon after The Roar made no mistake.

Gorry knitted play together in midfield with a combination of passes before splitting the Jets defence to find the running Anna Margraf.

She used one touch to go around Claire Coelho and the second tucked it away to put Roar up 1-0

Margraf has been one of Brisbane’s better players this season and has perhaps been a victim of her own versatility. She started off the season as an attacking midfielder, then shifted into defence, on this occasion she was playing upfront in place of Connors.

Getting the best out of her next season should one of Brisbane’s priorities. This was her third goal of the year.

The Jets almost levelled the score as the game opened up. Sophie Harding raced beyond the Roar defence but delayed her shot slightly too long. Jamilla Rankin raced back to snuff out the danger with a perfect sliding block.

The potential Matilda has developed from an exciting full-back to a very quick and committed central defender this season. It is a move that has increased the potential for the player, her club, and possibly the national team in future.

Brisbane added a second after Gorry played Rie Kitano into space. She squared the ball to Larissa Crummer who had no trouble tapping into an open goal to double the lead.

Ash Brodigan responded for the home side. Her turn on the edge of the box was excellent and created space. Her shot was hit hard and too high. Isabella Shuttleworth in the Brisbane goal was untroubled by the effort despite the impressive build-up.

In a move that summed up the game, Crummer immediately scored again, Brisbane went straight up the other end and the former Golden Boot winner sped beyond the Jets backline. She composed herself and finished well to make it 4-0.

She brought up her hattrick soon after with a well-headed goal following a corner kick. Crummer has been guilty of some near misses this season, but rediscovered her touch in front of goal with three very good finishes.

Above: It was a profitable night in front of goal for Brisbane Roar’s Larissa Crummer. Photo: Brisbane Roar.

Newcastle finally pulled one back when Brodigan found Lauren Allen. The winger showed her usual balance and composure to make it 4-1 and temporarily give Newcastle a lifeline. Allen is always dangerous running toward goal and showed her class to beat Shuttleworth for the first time in two games.

Any hopes of a comeback were quickly extinguished when Hollie Palmer intercepted the ball in midfield. Her dipping, curling, and very deliberate shot was the best goal of a game that featured six.

Palmer has been limited by injuries this season but this stunning goal was a reminder of what the young playmaker can do with a ball.

Fewer teams will have had a tougher preparation than Brisbane Roar and this was a fantastic, emphatic win under difficult circumstances.

Above: Brisbane Roar’s togetherness in overcoming adversity was the key to their big win at Newcastle Jets. Photo: Brisbane Roar.

Newcastle Jets are limping toward to end of the season with a depleted squad and constantly shifting schedule.

Nevertheless, despite the circumstances, it was an entertaining game of football to end off a dramatic and drama-filled Friday night of Dub.

Teams: NEWCASTLE JETS (4-2-3-1): Coelho, Eddy, Brewer, Fenton, Jaber, Davis, Gordon, Brodigan, Johnson, Allan, Harding. Substitutes: Gooch, Magus (GK), Morley.

Scorer: Allan 63′.

BRISBANE ROAR (4-3-3): Shuttleworth, Clough, Rankin, Haffenden, Tatum, Kitano, Norrie, Gorry, Margraf, Crummer, Hecher. Substitutes: Davern, Foletta, Palmer, Rasschaert, Symes (GK).

Scorers: Margraf 17′, Crummer 29′, 55′, 57′. Palmer 71′.

Referee: Kelly Jones.

Attendance: 1,156.

Artwork: Graphics by PW.

Friday A-League Women Preview

Tomorrow night sees three A-League Women matches as the season reaches its last regular round. Impetus’ Ben Gilby heard from four head coaches – Melbourne Victory’s Jeff Hopkins, Newcastle Jets’ Ash Wilson, Perth Glory’s Alex Epakis, and Wellington Phoenix’s Gemma Lewis. Additionally, there are the views of Perth captain Tash Rigby, Victory defender Brooke Hendrix, and Jets record-breaking midfielder Cass Davis (3/3/22).

Perth Glory captain Tash Rigby emphasized that despite the team needing to rely on Canberra United beating Melbourne Victory to make Finals, their sole focus tomorrow night is on their own performance against Wellington Phoenix.

“We really just want to focus on our own game. There are a lot of other things going on around the game, but we just want to focus on getting the three points and getting our best performance on the pitch.”

With the two sides’ previous encounter this season taking place as recently as 31st January in a hugely entertaining encounter that went one way then the other, Rigby is well aware of the threat posed by the Phoenix.

“We are definitely expecting a similar game against them this time. They have a high and intense press. We need to do a bit better than last time and keep the ball more efficiently. It has been good to prepare knowing these things and trying to counter them.

Perth’s captain revealed that despite the fact that the Glory have been on the road for three months now, there is a degree of sadness that such a powerful bonding period is almost at an end.

Above: Perth Glory captain Tash Rigby in this week’s media conference. Photo: Perth Glory.

“The energy in the group is really good. Everyone is sad that the season could be coming to an end, despite how challenging it has been on the road for so long. We have got really close and want to make the most of our time together.”

In terms of Rigby’s personal experiences this season, she has seen it as being overwhelmingly positive and one of real growth. “My body has held up really well this season, apart from the facial injuries! I have felt the best I have felt for a long time in terms of my physicality. I’m good and it has been an incredible season. I’ve done a lot of growing and it’s been a good experience in terms of leadership too.

“At the moment, we are looking at the game at the weekend. The group are so close and want to stay together and build on the foundation of the performances of this season. Experiences have been great.”

Perth’s captain outlined that after Friday’s match, the squad will be returning to Western Australia regardless of whether or not they have made Finals. “If we do (make Finals), it would just be a one-off away trip as it would be in a normal season.”

Above: Perth Glory head coach Alex Epakis in this week’s media conference. Photo: Perth Glory.

Perth Glory head coach Alex Epakis opened his media conference by emphasizing the quality that Friday’s opponents Wellington Phoenix will bring to the pitch in Wollongong.

“I went out and watched them the other night (when they beat Western Sydney Wanderers 3-2) and full credit to them. It underlines the fact that we have to be really good this Friday.”

With Glory needing a win to have any chance of taking the last Finals berth, Epakis just wants his team to focus on what they can control.

“The message of the last few weeks is that we just have to focus on ourselves. I know it is exciting because it’s been a few years since the club played Finals. But the reality is this could be our last game of the season and we want to end the campaign on a positive performance and result. Wellington are a really good team and we can’t take the result for granted.

“The potential of making Finals is not about what it means to me personally, it’s all about the group. I’m here to help them develop and help them achieve what they are capable of. Last year was so difficult, so for the players who were part of that to have the opportunity to play Finals is amazing. We want to test ourselves against the best.”

Perth go into the game with a strong squad to select from as the head coach highlighted: “We should have the same squad available as played Sydney on Sunday, apart from the fact that Leena Khamis is back after missing the game for a personal commitment and Liz Anton is back from international duty.

“That gives me a positive selection headache. Liz has done really well this year and the fact that she went away with her international team highlights the season she has had. It’s great to have her back in the group.”

With the season approaching its denouement, Epakis revealed that he is already planning for the 2022/23 campaign.

“Given the fact that there are new teams coming into the competition, existing teams are going to be moving fast to secure players and staff. We have to do that as well. Next year will be exciting. We got ahead of the pack last season with our recruitment, so hopefully, we can do the same this time.”

Perth’s coach concluded by highlighting the pride he has in his players and gave an insight into what he was likely to say to his team before they go out onto the pitch at WIN Stadium tomorrow.

“There has to be a level of sentiment in terms of what I say, but also an element of coaching focus as well. The relationship I have formed with the playing group has been quite strong. We’ve really come together as a strong unit since we came on the road. Whatever I say to them comes from the bottom of my heart. I would never say anything to the group that I didn’t think they were capable of.

“What I’ve said the last few weeks is that to have the belief in yourself that we can compete with the best and compete.

Above: Melbourne Victory’s Broke Hendrix talking ahead of tomorrow’s game with Canberra United. Artwork: Melbourne Victory.

Melbourne Victory defender Brooke Hendrix spoke to the media ahead of her team’s crucial clash with Canberra United tomorrow and reflected on the difficult schedule that has seen her side play five games in 14 days.

“It was a crazy schedule and we’re all pretty worn down. Plus having such a small squad due to injuries, it’s made it even worse. We’ve really come together through it though. Now we have a bit of a break (before Friday), we’re strong together and we have taken the schedule on the chin and we’re ready to move on.

“Having so many games close together takes a toll on your body, but also on you mentally as well. We needed this time to re-set our minds.”

Hendrix hasn’t been at the club for long, but is already hugely impressed by the talent in the Victory team.

“It has been awesome working with the youngsters here. They are so talented and have such big futures ahead of them. They have a great mindset and are among the leaders on the team. It’s impressive how they carry that weight on their shoulders and what they do with it.

The American is also full of praise for the standard of the A-League Women having come into the competition for the first time mid-season.

“It’s been really good. I really like it here. There is a lot of fight from every team. You can’t expect to win any game. The level of play is high and there are so many young players. There are growth areas needed and I hope that other international players can come in here and help. I’ve been impressed.”

Going into tomorrow’s match, Hendrix is confident that Victory are ready to step up the intensity to beat off the challenge of Perth Glory and make the top four.

“We know that we have to get a win (over Canberra on Friday) to confirm our place in the Finals. We know that we have the talent in our team. We’re confident that if we work together we can get the win.”

In order to gain the three points that Victory need, Hendrix knows that they have to tighten up defensively as Canberra are in good goalscoring form.

“We need to work on being defensively sound; we’ve given up way more goals than we would have liked.”

With an improved showing at the back, the Victory defender is confident that should her side finish in the Top Four they are capable of going all the way.

“I feel that we can do some damage in the Finals if we make it. Although I wasn’t here last year, I’ve heard all about what we did. I truly believe in all of the girls here. We have something special here and there is always a chance for us to do something here.”

Above: Melbourne Victory head coach Jeff Hopkins speaking to the media today. Photo: Melbourne Victory.

Melbourne Victory head coach Jeff Hopkins opened his media conference today with news of player availability.

“Casey (Dumont) has a good chance. She trained today in a light session. I’m confident that she has done enough today to say she can play. ‘Bungey’ (Claudia Bunge) has come back (from international duty) in good spirits and she’ll be straight back into the team.

“Amy Jackson won’t be back. We could have pushed her back, but looking at the injury, we want to be more conservative with her and hope to have her back next week (if Victory make Finals). Melina Ayres has trained this week and it is great to have her back. She will be involved in the game in some way. It’s probably too early to put her into the starting team though, but she’ll be on the bench.”

With Victory having played five games in 14 days, Hopkins spoke of the huge advantage of having six days to prepare for their final game of the regular season.

“Mentally this six-day break has been good to get everyone ready and also physically too. Preparation-wise, we are also able to properly focus tactically on a team. With all the games in quick succession, it had been just a whiteboard session rather than training ground sessions.”

Asked what he felt could have been done differently to ease his team’s load during the quick turnaround in matches over the last fortnight, Victory’s head coach reflected: “We could have done with a few more players so we could have rotated the squad a bit more. The fact that we couldn’t left us lacking some energy and an inability to impact games when we needed to. At the end of the day, we won’t complain. Playing games is what we want, it’s what we do.

“If you look at our style of play, we play a very aggressive, high press style of play. We haven’t been able to do that so much with so many games. We’ll be a very different team tomorrow, a very different team. We don’t like people writing us off. We were lacking energy. People will see the real Melbourne Victory tomorrow night. I’m very confident about that.”

Melbourne Victory realistically need only a draw to claim the last spot in the Finals, but Hopkins has only got his team focusing on a win.

“We are all talking about winning the game. There are a few things that we need to do well against a decent Canberra side. We know we didn’t do ourselves justice on the ball when we played them down in Canberra.

“We’ve prepared well featuring on different scenarios in the final 20 minutes regardless of what we might need to do, but we won’t be letting the players know what is going on in the Perth game. We just need to go out focusing on beating Canberra.

“Canberra are a good team going forward, and we have done some work defensively on trying to lessen their impact. They are a team that we can cause problems to, and we’ve seen a number of teams do that to them earlier in the season. We don’t underestimate them, but know that if we play to our best, we can beat them.”

Above: Cassidy Davis pictured on her 108th consecutive appearance for Newcastle Jets on Tuesday night. Photo: Newcastle Jets.

Newcastle Jets midfielder Cassidy Davis spoke to the media ahead of tomorrow night’s game with Brisbane Roar, reflecting on her 108th consecutive appearance for the team against Melbourne City on Tuesday.

“It was a good moment, but I can’t wait to get back here to play in front of family and friends tomorrow. Three points would have been better from the game earlier in the week. Hopefully, we can get them on Friday.”

Davis looked back over what has been another frustrating campaign for Newcastle. One which has seen them face a number of challenges.

“It’s been a tough season for us. We started well and had a rough patch in the middle. We now need to finish strong. We have Brisbane twice (in four days) so we have every chance of getting three points.

“We had a lot of interruptions. We didn’t have the same starting line-up for two weeks in a row and we’ve got a lot of injuries, so we are low in numbers which makes it hard too.”

Davis also has an eye to next season and she revealed that she is looking for another campaign at the Jets. “I think you always need to look at what you are doing next season. We’re all playing for a contract. You always want to look to next season and earn a spot. You are always trying to impress your coach to get a spot next year. I’m sure that’s in the back of everyone’s mind so we’re all going for it.”

Above: Newcastle Jets head coach Ash Wilson spoke of the huge positives in her team’s showing against Melbourne City despite only having a squad of 15 players available. Photo: Newcastle Jets.

Newcastle Jets head coach Ash Wilson is confident that her team is more than capable of ending their season on a high despite being ravaged by injuries.

Speaking about Tuesday’s 2-0 loss to Melbourne City, Wilson saw many positives. “I thought that both with the ball and without it we were solid. It was a pretty even contest when you look at it. We had more entries into their box, but it all came down to a few moments. We didn’t deal with those moments well enough and we didn’t take our chances, (but) I was proud of the girls and how they performed.”

Jets are struggling for bodies ahead of tomorrow’s game with Brisbane Roar, and Wilson revealed that there is a strong possibility that only two outfield substitutes will be available. “No-ones coming back. We only had three on the bench on Tuesday and it is likely we will have one less tomorrow. We couldn’t predict having four games in 10 days, but it is the hand that we have been dealt.

“We’ve looked into potential avenues but it is not a recruitment window and we have been told no. We’ll just have to carry on.

“When you look at the starting team we had on Tuesday, we put in a solid performance and we are very capable of playing good football. The players need to finish the season strong and take motivation from the performance against Melbourne City. We had a fair chunk of play. Our players have that drive to take it into Brisbane. We are a team with a lot of character and won’t leave anything on the table. The goal is to finish as strongly as we can.”

Above: Gemma Lewis, Wellington Phoenix’s head coach spoke to the media today ahead of her club’s final game of their maiden season. Photo: Wellington Phoenix.

Wellington Phoenix head coach Gemma Lewis emphasized how motivated her team are to end the season with a win over Perth Glory to keep alive their chances of avoiding the wooden spoon.

The Nix start the final round level on points with Western Sydney Wanderers but sit last on goal difference.

The players are driven to avoid bottom spot and Lewis says it was a goal the team set before their historic 3-0 win over Canberra United three weeks ago.

“Other results that we can’t control haven’t necessarily been in our favour otherwise we could have potentially gotten off the bottom of the table already,” Lewis said. “But it’s back in our favour for this game.”

“If we get this result and we get off the bottom of the table we’d all walk away, players and staff, extremely happy.”

That’s because the Phoenix were expected to lose all 14 of their matches, having been thrown together at the last minute and having a limited pre-season.

“Nobody expected us to pick up any points so we’ve already gone above and beyond,” Lewis said.

“Not just the points as well. I get that that’s how most people and most people are judged, and I completely understand that, but I think our performances have exceeded expectations in terms of how we’ve been able to compete for the most part.

“Some games obviously we were quite far off it but a lot of games we’ve been really, really in it and played some good football.”

Lewis believes the Phoenix match-up well against Perth Glory and has declared her side will “throw everything we’ve got at them”.

“I think we’ve got a good chance. Pushing for a draw or a win would be good to give us that hope of getting off (the bottom of the table),”

“You don’t really want to really leave it down to goal difference or be more defensive minded. I think that’s setting yourself up to fail.”

Glory came from 2-1 down at halftime to beat the Phoenix 3-2 in round nine and they are fighting for a place in the top four.

“Obviously they’ve got a lot to play for but our girls are really hungry to get off the bottom of the table.

Above: Action from Wellington Phoenix’s clash with Perth Glory earlier this season. Photo: Kris Goman for Impetus.

“The girls are really, really positive in the fact that our last performance against them probably should have been our game, but we gave it to them at the end. So I think they want to rectify that as well.

“It’ll be a tough game but last game, girls know they’re going home…there’s that emotion behind it as well.

“We saw how we played in the first game when there was that big emotion of that history and now this is the last game, end of the season, end of the first season ever so hopefully that’ll spur them on and help them find that second wind.”

It’s a short turnaround for the Nix, who played and beat Western Sydney Wanderers on Tuesday night and the squad “pretty much self-selects itself”.

The fullbacks who started against Western Sydney, Zoe McMeeken and Talitha Kramer, are both unavailable for selection.

McMeeken sustained a knee injury against Wanderers, while Kramer is suspended after picking up her fourth yellow card of the season.

With midfielder Grace Wisnewski having returned to New Zealand for mental health reasons and defender Annabel Martin still side-lined with a knee injury Lewis has only 16 players to call on.

“It’s a tight turnaround so we are not going to be as fresh as we would like but it’s the last game so everyone knows they can kind of empty the tank.”

Saskia Vosper is likely to start in one of the two fullback spots, with Charlotte Lancaster and Kelli Brown options for the other starting berth. Lewis is also considering moving Mackenzie Barry to the left side of defence and bringing Te Reremoana Walker into a back three.

Artwork: Graphics by PW.

Five Minutes With Susan Phonsongkham

Above: Susan Phonsongkham gets in a tackle for Perth Glory at Sydney FC in January. Photo: Kris Goman for Impetus.

For this week’s #MidweekDub feature, Perth Glory’s Susan Phonsongkham had a quick question and answer exchange with Impetus’ Ben Gilby (2/3/22).

BG: Can you give us a taster of your footballing journey from junior football onwards.

SP: I was born in Thailand so I started playing football with neighbours and friends on the streets and representing my school. But I also enjoy other sports as well. Football didn’t get serious until I moved to Australia. I started playing for my local team Burwood FC and that’s when my footballing journey kicks off. 

BG: It’s been great to see you again at this level after injury. Why did you choose Perth Glory to continue your career?

SP: I knew that I had to be out of my comfort zone to improve and go to that next level and Perth was the right option for me. 

Above: Susan Phonsongkham in typical control on the wing. Photo: Kris Goman for Impetus.

BG: You have a great ability to control the ball in tight spaces. What helped you to develop this skill so well?

SP: I’m not perfect at it but I will always try to work on it as much as I can. Being on the ball, dribbling through cones and juggling helped me a lot to develop the skill.

BG: Perth has recruited many ex-Young Matildas like yourself. Was there anybody in particular you were looking forward to joining forces with?

SP: You’re right, there’s a lot of familiar faces from my Future Matildas and Young Matildas days. It is good to be with them all and I’m excited to be playing and training them. 

BG: How much did it mean to you to score on debut for a new club? 

SP: It meant a lot for me and the team to get the win that night. To get a goal on my Perth Glory debut was really exciting. 

Above: Susan Phonsongkam has been a creative spark for Perth Glory this season. Photo: Kris Goman for Impetus.

BG: Tell us about Alex Epakis as a coach. What’s he like as a person and what is he like to work with?

SP: Alex is a great coach and also a great person. He is very motivated to achieve many things with the team and I want to be a part of it as it drives me to go to the next level and I’m grateful for the opportunity he has given me. 

BG: What’s it been like having Lisa De Vanna in the squad this season? 

SP: Having Lisa’s experience and achievement is a great asset for the team. She knows what it takes to win big games and also she helps younger players like myself. 

BG: After coming back after such a long-term injury, what were your own personal aims coming into this campaign? Do you think you’ve achieved them?

SP: Personally I wanted to help my team do well this season and improve together to achieve the squad end goals of competing strongly in each game. We’ve certainly done that. 

Artwork: Graphics By PW.

City Keep Premiership Dreams Alive

Melbourne City 2-0 Newcastle Jets

Above: Newcastle Jets and Melbourne City battle it out on Tuesday. Photo: Newcastle Jets.

By Kieran Yap (2/3/22)

Melbourne City has delayed Sydney FC’s premiership celebrations with a 2-0 win over Newcastle Jets.

Anything less than three points would have handed to title to Sydney. Rado Vidosic brought Hannah Wilkinson and Rebekah Stott straight into the starting lineup after the 1-0 loss to Brisbane Roar.

Newcastle’s Cass Davis wore the captain’s armband to commemorate her record-setting game. The loyal Jet has played 108 consecutive games in the A-League Women. It is a remarkable feat, barely possible in the short season, and amounts to almost nine years of unmissed football.

The game started off in an open fashion, although both teams seemed in a hurry to get forward. The first chance fell to City. Hannah Wilkinson, Rhianna Pollicina, and Kaitlyn Torpey combined in a delightful move but the shot from Pollicina went wide.

Newcastle’s best chances came from the pace of Sophie Harding. In the absence of Marie Dølvik and Tara Andrews, the attacking fell to the explosive striker. She sped behind the City defence but got a little too close to Melissa Barbieri who saved.

Lauren Allen was available for the tap in but it would have been a difficult pass.

Above: Newcastle Jets’ Cass Davis in action on her 108th consecutive match. Photo: Newcastle Jets.

Hannah Wilkinson showed her value instantly to her side. Her mobility, holdup play, and intelligence create opportunities. She only needed the slightest touch to tee up Pollicina for another shot but it was overhit and sailed over the crossbar.

Although the game featured two of the league’s best goalkeepers, it was not long before the deadlock was broken. Wilkinson played the ball back to Torpey who’s well-directed low shot skidded into the bottom corner.

The Jets almost replied through a corner kick. City had trouble clearing the ball and it was almost scrambled in but Emma Checker eventually took the simplest approach to snuff out the danger.

Harding came close once more before halftime when she latched onto a defensive error. She hit it well but was straight at Barbieri who had no trouble collecting it safely.

Ash Brodigan created another chance for Newcastle with an impressive burst of pace to get past Tori Tunmeth. She cut inside and got as close to goal as possible but the angle was too difficult to beat Barbieri.

City looked to have doubled their lead before halftime when Rebekah Stott fired at Claire Coelho. The keeper saved well but it fell to Pollicina who tucked it away. The offside flag was immediately up though to rule out the strike.

Above: Emma Checker strides away for Melbourne City. Photo: Melbourne City.

City did eventually get their second goal and it was no surprise who was involved. Pollicina dribbled between the Newcastle defenders to make space for the shot on her left foot. Coelho was well-positioned to stop it and the ball looked to be headed out of bounds.

The City playmaker was alert to the play and directed it back across goal with the outside of her foot and Wilkinson had the easiest finish with her head to bring up her 11th goal of the season.

Despite the scoreline Newcastle did not give up. Harding created space in the area but could not beat Barbieri who must be in the running for Player of the Year by this point.

Kirsty Fenton’s excellent long pass found Lauren Allen in space on the wing. It was an area that Newcastle had no trouble getting into but they had lacked players in the middle to finish.

The winger cut the ball back but Harding was outnumbered and City remained untroubled.

City continued to add pressure, looking for a third but in the end, the 2-0 win was enough to mean the title is still within reach.

Above: Leah Davidson pressing forward for City. Photo: Melbourne City.

They will need a favour though. Even if they win their final match, Sydney FC will have to lose to Adelaide United to send the trophy back to Melbourne.

It is not an impossible scenario, The Reds have been in form and Sydney FC has lost their aura of invincibility.

City looked more like their old self with Wilkinson back up top. The New Zealand international linked up play and provided a focal point along with the goal.

The Jets had the opposite problem, Dølvik was introduced late and Brodigan has been impressive, but they lacked the firepower that they showed early in the season when everybody was fully fit.

Newcastle still has two more chances to finish their season on a high. They face Brisbane Roar twice more in the space of four days.

City will meet Western Sydney Wanderers in a game that they must win. They fill face a team that is determined not to finish bottom. The Wanderers have had a tough year but still have the quality up front to end City’s hopes no matter what happens between Adelaide United and Sydney FC.

Teams: MELBOURNE CITY (4-3-3): Barbieri, Torpey, Tunmeth, Checker, Vlajnic, Davidson, Stott, Heatley, Pollicina, Wilkinson, McKenna. Substitutes: Blissett, James (GK), Karic, Westland, van der Meer.

Scorers: Torpey 16′, Wilkinson 49′.

NEWCASTLE JETS (4-1-4-1): Coelho, Eddy, Brewer, Fenton, Jaber, Davis, Brodigan, Johnson, Gordon, Allan, Harding. Substitutes: Dølvik, Gooch, Magus (GK), Morley.

Referee: Caitlin Williams.

Attendance: 357.

Artwork: Graphics by PW.

Wellington Rewarded With Win

Western Sydney Wanderers 2-3 Wellington Phoenix

Above: Joy unconfined for Wellington Phoenix. Photo: Wellington Phoenix.

By Ben Gilby (2/3/22)

Wellington Phoenix claimed their second A-League Women victory of the season at Western Sydney Wanderers. Gemma Lewis’ side are now only bottom on goal difference.

Once more, the New Zealanders had to do it the hard way by coming from behind as Wanderers took the lead after just two minutes. Erica Halloway’s run down the right ended with her crossing the ball in which was met by the head of Ashlee Crofts for her third goal of the season.

Western Sydney threatened again as Zoe McMeeken was dispossessed by Teigan Collister who found Crofts on the edge of the box. Her effort was charged down and fell into the path of Libby Copus-Brown who followed up with a shot which was held at the second attempt by Nix keeper Lily Alfeld.

It wasn’t all one way traffic though, Wellington’s teenage star Alyssa Whinham turned a vicious effort goal wards which just bounced wide of Willacy’s right hand post.

Above: Western Sydney Wanderers’ Caitlin Cooper looks to get away. Photo: Western Sydney Wanderers.

The visitors had better luck eight minutes before the break. A free-kick on the left was initially cleared by the Wanderers, but Wellington recycled and Isabel Gomez lifted a ball into the box which fell perfectly into the path of Kate Taylor. Free of the attentions of Teigen Allen, the Phoenix vice captain controlled the ball around Western Sydney keeper Sarah Langman and tapped home the equalizer – her first ever A-League Women’s goal in her club’s penultimate match of the season.

Wanderers looked to hit back when Galic gained possession with a sliding tackle which found Copus-Brown who fired a cross shot towards Crofts from the right, but there was too much zip on the effort which went wide of Alfeld’s far post. It remained 1-1 at the break.

Phoenix hit the front with 15 minutes remaining with a goal of quality. Saskia Vosper ran along the right and lifted a pass into Ava Pritchard. Langman rushed out towards her and there was no-one at home in the Wanderers defence which gave the teenager all the confidence in the world to hit a shot over the home custodian and into the far corner of an empty net.

Above: Wellington Phoenix delight in finding the back of the net. Photo: Wellington Phoenix.

The New Zealanders continued to press. With Wanderers missing in action at the back, Grace Jale played a low angled pass into the stride of Kelli Brown. The forward dawdled which allowed Western Sydney to get numbers back, but Brown managed to twist and turn before lifting a shot which bounced up off of the top of the cross bar and behind.

The game was ultimately decided three minutes into stoppage time. Wanderers were trying to force an equalizer as Alexia Apostolakis took up possession in the centre of the field and played in Halloway outside her, but her cross went straight to the Phoenix defence who cleared with ease. Charlotte Lancaster was found down the left hand touchline and played a ball forward. Apostolakis looked to have all the time in the world to play the ball back to Langman, but Jale was able to get in ahead and lay the ball home for Wellington’s third.

Wanderers needed a quick response and almost instantly, Galic lifted a high shot in from outside of the box. Alfeld tried to hold but the wet conditions caused the Football Fern to drop the ball over the by-line for a corner.

The resulting flag kick came in high from the right and bounced awkwardly off of Talitha Kramer in the six yard box with the ball agonizingly ending up in the net.

Any hope Wanderers had of levelling the scores died a death with the final whistle sounding immediately after the re-start.

Wellington’s greatly improved performances and consistent levels has been rewarded with a second win of the campaign. They are now only bottom on goal difference and many will feel that they deserve to avoid the wooden spoon.

Above: Wellington Phoenix acclaim their supporters after the final whistle. Photo: Wellington Phoenix.

Speaking to the media, Phoenix head coach Gemma Lewis said: “It was good to finally get the game underway to be honest. There were a lot of postponements and a lot of things changing.

“It took us a bit to warm into the game and we probably conceded the last goal because we were pushing for another one for goal difference,” Lewis said.

“That just shows how hungry the girls are to want to try to get off the bottom of the table that even when they’re 3-1 up straight away they were saying ‘let’s get another one, let’s get the three goal difference to try and take us off the bottom’.

“The positive mentality from them is quite cool to see.”

Teams: WESTERN SYDNEY WANDERERS (4-4-2): Langman, Matos, Apostolakis, Cooper, Allen, Halloway, Price, Galic, Collister, Crofts, Copus-Brown. Substitutes: Massih, Galea, Khamis (GK), Ralston, Steinmetz.

Scorers: Crofts 2′, Kramer (OG) 90+5′.

WELLINGTON PHOENIX (4-5-1): Alfeld, Kramer, Taylor, Barry, McMeeken, Jale, Jones, Gomez, Whinham, Knott. Substitutes: Brown, Edwards (GK), Lancaster, Vosper, Walker.

Scorers: Taylor 37′, Pritchard 74′, Jale 90+3′.

Referee: Kelly Jones.

Attendance: 154.

Artwork: Graphics by PW.

Matildas Announce Football Ferns Venue

Above:The announcement of Canberra as the venue of the Matildas’ second April international with New Zealand was supported by the local football community. Photo supplied to Impetus by: Football Australia.

Impetus’ Ben Gilby heard from Football Australia CEO James Johnson and Matildas head coach Tony Gustavsson as Australia’s plans for the April international window were revealed (1/3/22).

Australia today announced a two-game series with New Zealand during the April international window.

The second match in the two-match series will see the Commonwealth Bank Matildas in action on Tuesday, 12 April 2022 at Canberra’s GIO Stadium. 

It marks a long-awaited return of the women’s national team to Canberra after a nine-year absence.  The last time the Matildas were in the nation’s capital saw a penalty shoot-out victory over New Zealand in the 2013 Centenary Cup.  

Football Australia CEO, James Johnson, said: “As Canberra and the ACT Government have been long-standing supporters of women’s sport and the Matildas, it’s exciting to return to the capital for an international fixture.” 

Above: Football Australia CEO James Johnston announcing Canberra as the venue for the Matildas’ second international with New Zealand today. Photo supplied to Impetus by: Football Australia.

“The ACT has a strong history of producing women’s national team players including names like Lydia Williams, Caitlin Munoz, Amy Wilson, and Julie Murray, and watching in the stands could be the next generation of Matildas to follow in their footsteps.

“We want to provide the football community and as many Australians as possible the opportunity to watch the Matildas on home soil while we continue our preparations for the FIFA Women’s World Cup.

“We appreciate the support of the ACT Government in partnering with us to bring the Matildas back to Canberra – a city that has long embraced women’s football and Australian football as a whole.”

The last time the two sides met was at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics with Australia coming out on top with a 2-1 victory in the opening group match. 

Matildas head coach Tony Gustavsson said these matches will present a different type of opponent for the team as they continue to build towards 2023.  

Above: Canberra’s GIO Stadium, venue for the Matildas’ second match with New Zealand in April. Photo: Canberra Times.

“With only the FIFA Women’s World Cup on the horizon, the complete focus for the next 12 months will be building a squad to compete on home soil,” Gustavsson said.  “That preparation starts with these matches against our fellow co-hosts New Zealand, and we know they will provide a challenge that will help us learn more about the playing group.

“The April window is an opportunity for us to return to the pitch together in front of home supporters.  We, as staff and players, are looking forward to playing before a new set of Australian fans in Canberra who I am sure will welcome us warmly.”

Tickets to the encounter will go on pre-sale for Football Account holders on Friday, 4 March 2022, with the General Public tickets window opening on Wednesday, 9 March 2022. 

$1 (plus GST) from every ticket will be donated to the women’s CP national football program for female footballers with cerebral palsy, acquired brain injury, or symptoms from stroke.   Ticketing information is available from the official Commonwealth Bank Matildas website at www.matildas.com.au

The venue for the opening match of the two-match international series will be announced shortly. 

Impetus Achievers Awards

Above: Adelaide United and their Coopers Stadium home set up ready for the competition’s first Pride Game at the weekend. Photo: Adelaide United.

As the A-League Women season heads towards its final round of the regular season, our writing team covering the competition Ben Gilby, Kieran Yap, and Kris Goman reveal their player, coach, and event of the week (28/2/22).

PLAYER OF THE WEEK:

Ben: Unquestionably Fiona Worts. She is in the goalscoring form of her life. A positive NPL season in a struggling Fulham United side set up the English striker, who formerly played with Coventry United, into red hot form. As Adelaide head into the Finals, they have the competition’s deadliest striking duo.

Kieran: Has to be Fiona Worts. In a must-win game on a huge occasion, she delivered a hat trick to make history. What a season from the striker.

Kris: Fiona Worts. Hat trick. Do I need to say anything else? But she’s been getting better and better as the season’s gone on and this match was critical moving Adelaide into the A-League Women Finals for the first time ever.

Above: Fiona Worts of Adelaide United – the undisputed choice as player of the week. Photo: Adelaide United.

COACH OF THE WEEK:

Ben: For his history-making achievement with Adelaide United this season and having his team peak at the right time, it’s Adrian Stenta. Outstanding work.

Kieran: Adrian Stenta. Adelaide have had their best W-/A-League Women season, making the competition’s finals for the first time and swept away all opponents since losing to Perth. It’s a massive achievement and the result of a few seasons of work.

Kris: For the same reasons, had to be Adrian Stenta. To take Adelaide to the W-/A-League Women Finals for the first time ever, to keep the belief, to raise them up. Definitely gets the gong this week.

Above: Adelaide United head coach Adrian Stenta – outstanding achievements. Photo: Adelaide United.

EVENT OF THE WEEK:

Ben: Can’t go beyond the competition’s first-ever Pride Game. Adelaide United have been a club that just “get it” for some time now and this showed exactly their united cause. Incredible scenes at Coopers Stadium. Where Adelaide led others now need to follow.

Kieran: Sydney have wrapped up the Premiership, you can’t get much better than that. Two seasons in a row but with a very different team and in some style against Perth Glory.

Kris: Has to be the Adelaide v Melbourne Victory Pride round game. Victory came to the game in their pride socks too. So proud of these teams to make this history. Truly groundbreaking.

We’ve been keeping the tally of our votes for Player and Coach of the Week Awards and will reveal who has gathered the most votes across the season to be crowned Impetus’ inaugural A-League Women Player and Coach of the Year ahead of the first week of Finals.

Artwork: Graphics by PW.

Women’s Football Deserves Commitment To Time Frames And Tangible Aims

by Kieran Yap (28/2/22)

We are all on the same team, but women’s football fans need to know what the game plan is.

The priority this season as it was last, is to keep the league running against unprecedented challenges. For this the APL and Football Australia deserve commendation.

However, with good reason, the fans are getting restless. Australia’s A-League Women’s community wants a plan for the future, and so far, they have only seen the implementation of things they explicitly do not want.

In the simplest terms, A-League Women’s fans want:

  • As few double headers as possible
  • A full home and away season
  • Full time pay for the players and coaches.
  • The same eagerness to invest in the league as they show when a 30 something men’s striker from Europe suggests that maybe he might consider thinking about playing in Australia.

The doubleheaders are contentious. From the perspective of a fan on matchday, five hours at a stadium is too long to expect men’s fans to show up for the women, and ALW supporters resent paying for tickets to men’s games they have no interest in, or in some cases actively avoid.

From a broadcast perspective, it makes sense for the same journalists and commentators to be in one location. The possibilities for better camera positioning and the ability to promote sponsors on the sidelines are far better.

From a footballing perspective, players always want and deserve access to the best facilities and pitches. The doubleheader provides this. Currently, there is no easy solution to this question.

In any case, this conundrum will not entice crowds. The men’s fans generally do show up, although not until well into the second half. In the worst cases, doubleheaders have been played with completely unaffiliated men’s teams playing afterward.

Speaking to The Ladies League Big Dub Podcast, Sydney FC CEO Danny Townsend was not convinced that doubleheaders or early kick-off times were a crowd factor. He referred to what was basically a title decider between Melbourne City and Sydney FC.

“You could point to doubleheaders,” he responded,

“But you could point to AAMI Park on a Sunday afternoon between the two top teams in the competition. That argument’s not quite accurate when you point to that game Sunday afternoon.”

This game took place as the curtain-raiser between Western United and Western Sydney Wanderers.

The problems with doubleheaders aside, why would Western Sydney fans want to arrive early to watch Sydney FC play in the ALW? Western United have struggled to attract their own fans let alone any to support Melbourne City’s women.

These are two passionately opposing supporter sets. This game was never going to draw a crowd unless it was a separate women’s fixture, as a title decider should be.

The incoming league chief likely forgot this or never knew it. Either explanation is forgivable, mistakes happen.

But neither reason instils faith in the supporters that the league is being paid proper attention.

In any case, with crowds at men’s games struggling, is relying on them to save women’s football really the best idea?

Townsend also expressed frustration that the Matildas routinely break records with crowds but that does not transfer to the league.

“Where are all these Matildas fans?” he ponders.

“Why are they happy to put on a Matildas shirt one day yet won’t turn up and watch their local A-League women’s team play?

“There seems to be this real fair-weather commitment to Matildas as being this great brand and it is, but why aren’t those fans turning up to watch Sydney FC vs Melbourne City or others?”

Aside from the reasons already covered, one reason is blaringly obvious.

Ticketing links.

The A-League Women Twitter account is 99% great. They provide highlights, lineup, interviews and updates. They announce fixture changes and game times. However, to this date, they do not include links to buy tickets on their posts.

Above: A typical tweet from the A-League Women account advertising games. Source: @aleaguewomen

Fans are forced to tweet into the abyss or wander the deserts of Google aimlessly to find out which outlet supplies the tickets.

Sometimes the tickets are listed online and on club websites under the men’s fixtures only. There are also at least two ticketing outlets, (Ticketmaster and Ticketbooth) who might be handling the game.

The individual clubs social media do provide links, but if the aim is to gather new supporters, ones that may not have chosen a team yet, the central communication hubs need to post them too.

It is a constant mystery that even experienced football fans have struggled to decipher. That often referred to game between Sydney FC and Melbourne City had ticketing links that could not be found through any search engine. They were on the Western United website but could not be found searching “Melbourne City, Sydney FC or A-League Women tickets.”

Contrast this with The Matildas social media and marketing team. Every post from the account that refers to an upcoming game has a link to buy tickets, many mention the costs, or any potential offers and discounts.

They do this almost daily leading up to game day. If you are a football fan and they are playing in your town it is almost harder NOT to go to the game.

The effort is put in, it has been over years, they hustle, and they once even offered free entry for children named “Matilda.” They build crowds, not just expect them,  and they make it easy for fans to attend.   

For A-League games, there is only broadcast information. Which is fantastic and satisfies commercial partners but does nothing to get people to the ground.

Include a link for tickets.

Above: An example Tweet from the Matildas account with links to buy tickets. Source: @TheMatildas

Expand outside the bubble

Another reason that crowd figures are vastly different between national team games and league games is that they appeal to different demographics.

There exists a large and growing population in Australia that want to attend, promote and enjoy women’s sport. Some of these people do it to the exclusion of men’s sport for their own valid reasons (I have mine).

So far, the A-League marketing is focussed on combining men’s and women’s supporter bases. To grow the women’s game by appealing to fans of men’s football instead of fans of women’s sport.

This is more likely to work for broadcasting. The game is the game, and football is football. But the atmosphere at the ground is different, in some cases deliberately so.

As relative newcomers to the Australian sporting scene, women’s football supporter culture has been able to take what they like from existing football support and leave behind what they do not.

When the men’s active support does show up, they can change the vibe, often unintentionally. Because they are not familiar with how things usually are.

If you have ever been enjoying a night out and then a buck’s night or footy post-season group shows up, you will know the atmosphere changes. The attitude seems to be “lets show them how we do things” rather than any effort to integrate with the existing vibe.

Learning some of the women’s active support chants instead of using slightly altered men’s chants would go a long way to harmonizing support.

This is not the fault of the League, but even when they do show up, it is not quite enough.

Regarding women’s sports fans, those that might go to the netball, WBBL or ALFW to grow A-League crowds, the league seems unaware a market exists.

“It’s not something we’ve talked about,” said Townsend to Rose of the Ladies League.

“It’s an interesting one to consider.

“We’ve typically operated in a football environment when we think about how to recruit fans.”

As the crowds at other events (and Matildas games) has shown, this is something that really needs to be looked at. It is surprising that it has not been considered or at least researched already.

That’s football environment referred to consists of eight million fans of the game in Australia. This takes in a whole lot of different people. Some play, some watch European leagues, some just check out the World Cup.

It is a huge, but diverse demographic to target when compared to something that has established social media communities like ‘Women’s Sport.’

Surely you both the existing football community and the women’s sport community can be reached out to.

A family may have three children and one parent who play. They are registered participants and football fans. But after paying registration and game day costs for four people and spending hours at the ground on a Sunday morning, do they really have enough time to attend a match or two?

Women’s sport fans will make the time, they have already told you they will by devoting so much of it to setting up watch parties, podcasts, websites, and travelling groups of supporters for various sports.

Active support of A-League women’s teams was granted an audience with the league in the pre-season, but surveys of women’s football fans or women’s sports fans have not been attempted since the APL took control of the league.

Their marketing strategy is not guesswork, but without talking to those who do show up, how can they work out how to attract more?

For a crude analogy, if you want to decide to go to a restaurant, do you listen to people who love it or those who long ago decided never to try it?

Above: Links for tickets and inspirational quotes. The Matildas show how to build a crowd. Source: @TheMatildas

Nothing attracts a crowd like a crowd

This is not to say that there is no potential within the football bubble.

Trading cards, Food trucks, and more women’s specific merchandise are all things that the AFLW has explored to build numbers in the stands. As a personal experience, I had watched AFLW on the TV but was also convinced to attend by the presence of a Pancake Parlour van at the ground.

Nothing attracts a crowd like a crowd, however, due to decades of often unfair bad press, few things deter casual fans like a soccer crowd. It is time to expand the bubble outside of football.

The main thing that supporters want is a full home and away season and for players and coaches to be paid a living wage for at least the duration of that season.

The league has yet to set a timeframe on this. It remains an ambition but not a target.

Meanwhile, the AFL player association has stated that 2025 is their goal for full-time pay for women’s players.

The APL has overseen the league for only months, nobody is expecting this to happen instantly, but fans do expect a timeframe to show some ambition and dedication to the players and the sport.

One concern from the league about an extended season is that it will overlap with the American NWSL. From what the fans are saying, they simply do not care about that, and nor should they.

In the absence of U.S imports last season, the league’s younger players stepped up. Experienced players like Dylan Holmes and Clare Wheeler became Matildas and Kyra Cooney-Cross became a star.

For the players that have ambitions to play in the US, clubs have shown themselves to be flexible, and the fans excited for them.

Lynn Williams was accommodated to potentially season-defining effect and Emily van Egmond was able to switch between the Newcastle Jets and the NWSL with mostly appreciation for what she did in her time here.

Player movement happens, the fans are OK with it. It is a compliment to the league and Australian football. In the end, a strong, flourishing competition exceeds the benefits of matching up with the US league.

Coordinating with the NPLs is a different matter, but not an insurmountable challenge.

Fans remain patient, but increasingly frustrated. Those entrusted with the game are not expected to change it overnight, especially when the priority is completing the season in a pandemic.

Fans largely understand that challenges exist, but they need to be able to trust these problems are being addressed

Women’s football fans and players deserve tangible, measurable aims for the game, they deserve a timeframe, and they deserve to be told what it is.

The episode of The Ladies League Big Dub Podcast mentioned within this article can be heard here: https://podcasts.apple.com/au/podcast/the-massive-dub-pod/id1524033994?i=1000551834590&fbclid=IwAR2Y6ctlYdOr-XKXo1n7URV-UJV2mgGLeUXsFo74UFSSORcwcBrEHL4y2HM

Artwork: Graphics by PW.

A Vine Time For Sydney In Tassie

Perth Glory 1-3 Sydney FC

Above: Cortnee Vine celebrates after scoring against Perth Glory today. Photo: A-League Women.

By Ben Gilby (27/2/22)

At University of Tasmania Stadium, Launceston, Tasmania.

Sydney FC gained an important victory over Perth Glory which puts them back in the driving spot for top spot in the end-of-season ladder.

Going into the first W-League/A-League Women’s match to be played in Tasmania, both head coaches named unchanged starting line-ups from the previous round. For Perth, Demi Koulizakis and Sadie Lawrence came in on the bench for Alana Jancevski and Leena Khamis. Sydney had just the one change among their substitutes with Cote Rojas coming back from international duty with Chile to replace Mary Stanic-Floody

Sydney’s four goals in the January encounter between the two sides came as the result of outstanding wing play. The Sky Blues looked to repeat the process from the start, looking to get crosses into the mix and forcing turnover ball. It was relentless from Ante Juric’s side in the first 12 minutes.

It was also clear that the Sydney head coach has studied the influence of Cyera Hintzen on Perth’s attack. Her surging runs through the midfield have been a source of many Glory goals since the New Year. Every time the 24-year-old American gained possession, she was quickly swamped by at least one defender showing close attention.

Above: Cyera Hintzen was well marshalled for much of the game by Sydney. Photo: Perth Glory.

Hintzen’s importance to Perth is multifaceted as an outlet as well as a potential scorer or creator. Therefore the smothering effect of her at the start only served to enhance the domination of territory and possession for Sydney.

Whilst Sydney continued to dominate with Tash Rigby kept particularly busy on the right-hand side, it took 34 minutes for it to finally be reflected on the scoreboard.

More pressure on the right led to a corner from Mackenzie Hawkesby who aimed for Nat Tobin in the middle of the box. The defender, who was originally going to play for the Glory this season, flicked a volley over Courtney Newbon in the Perth goal and into the net.

Perth responded well after the goal and earned several corners with Hana Lowry bending some dangerous efforts into the box. It remained 1-0 to Sydney at the break.

The second half, like the first, opened with torrential rain which, like the opening period eased off within 15 minutes.

Lowry had a golden opportunity to equalize within five minutes of the action resuming. Hintzen got away and fed sub Lisa De Vanna on the right. The Matildas legend returned the favour to Hintzen who played in a low pass towards Lowry who was closed down by Ally Green at the cost of a corner.

The resulting flag kick was another de la Harpe special curled into the six-yard box. A series of goalward headers were eventually dealt with.

Above: Sydney FC celebrate after Cortnee Vine puts them 2-0 up. Photo: A-League Women.

Within two minutes, Sydney made Perth pay for missing that opportunity. It came from a move that brought them so much success in the first encounter between the two sides in January. Hawkesby lifted the ball through to Vine, who was allowed far too much space. Despite Kim Carroll’s attempts to backtrack, there is only going to be one outcome as she took a touch forward and comfortably lifted the ball home.

Seven minutes later, Sydney confirmed the win. Princess Ibini beat de la Harpe along the left and played a cleverly positioned low ball in from the right which bisected Perth’s defence for Vine to slide home the third.

Cote Rojas came off the bench and was immediately involved along the left to feed Ibini whose effort was well held by Newbon.

Rojas continued to attempt to use her magic wand to break through, but Claudia Mihocic was, again working exceptionally hard to deny the Chilean.

Cortnee Vine had to leave the pitch with ice applied to her knee, and there will be concerns with Finals up and coming, especially after she missed the denouement of last season with an ACL injury.

Perth kept knocking on the door in the closing stages and they were rewarded for their efforts with four minutes remaining. Rigby played a square ball to De Vanna who had taken up a central position just over 30 yards out. The Western Australian played a beautiful pass through the Sydney defence for Aideen Keane to run onto and lift the ball over the diving Whyman. It was the 20-year-old’s first A-League Women goal.

There was a concerning clash between Keane and Whyman in stoppage time as both competed for a ball with the Sydney goalkeeper taking a knock to the head and Keane falling awkwardly.

Both players resumed play although Whyman also took another hit shortly afterwards when she rose AFL style to take a ball over the back of her own defence.

Above: After finding victories hard to come by in Victoria, Sydney FC returned to winning ways against Perth today. Photo: Sydney FC.

Sydney FC now take back the clear favourites tag for ending the home and away season on top of the ladder after Melbourne City’s slip up to Brisbane Roar. Perth will be hoping that Canberra United can do them a favour against Melbourne Victory next weekend with their Finals hopes now out of their own hands.

Speaking afterwards, two-goal Cortnee Vine said: “I’m absolutely stoked, it was a really important game and I think we came out there and showed everyone what we can do and why we are at the top. 

“I’m really proud of the girls. It’s good to get back on the scoresheet for me and get back in my stride with the team. I’m really happy I put two away today and hopefully, I can put some more away in the next few games.”

Mackenzie Hawkesby felt: “We stuck to our style of play and got the job done. We knew we had to bounce back this week and it was a huge game with Perth looking for Finals. We stayed together.”

Perth Glory captain Tash Rigby said: “It was a really tough game. Sydney were class today. We asked all we could of the girls, but Sydney were too good for us. We had a lot more chances than we did last time against them and we’re still fighting for Finals.”

Perth Glory head coach Alex Epakis rued his team’s slow start: “We knew we started a bit flat in the first 15-20 minutes and that made it hard to find our place in the game. We then started to play more our style, but we conceded a goal. We tried really hard in the second half, but they had some more quality than us.

“The second half we at least threw some punches, we tried to attack them and we scored. Last time we played them we were very flat. From that point of view, it is an improvement. We could have been better. It didn’t show what we are capable of.”

“The performance this week wasn’t what we wanted in terms of the result. We now focus on the performance against Wellington. We have to make sure we follow process, review the game plan, and do our best to win the match. If things go in our way, great.”

Above: Sydney FC are marching on together towards another Premiers Plate. Photo: A-League Women

Teams: PERTH GLORY (4-2-1-3): Newbon, de la Harpe, Mihocic, K.Carroll, Rigby, Leth Jans, Cain, Lowry, Phonsongkham, Hintzen, Sakalis. Substitutes: Aquino (GK), Koulizakis, De Vanna, Lawrence, Keane.

SYDNEY FC (4-1-2-3): Whyman, Rule, Mclean, Tobin, Green, Ray, Lowe, Hawkesby, Vine, Siemsen, Ibini. Substitutes: Offer (GK), Nash, Hunter, Rojas, Johnson.

Scorers: Tobin 34′, Vine 52′, 59′.

Referee: Rebecca Mackie.

Attendance: 692.

Artwork: Graphics by PW

Night Series Kicks Off in WA

Above: Stella Zampogna wheels away after scoring Perth SC’s winner against Curtin University as the WA NPL Women’s Night Series got underway. Photo: Rob Lizzi

This season Impetus’ coverage of the women’s game in Australia will step up even further as we begin focusing on the NPL (state leagues) in several states. To open our coverage, Ben Gilbywho will be covering the scene in Western Australia (WA) this season, summarizes the opening round of matches in the WA NPL Women’s Night Series – a pre-season tournament that sees teams play each other once in a round-robin before progressing to knock-out (27/2/22).

Group A

Above: High rise action between Northern Redbacks against Balcatta. Photo: Fotoenzo

Northern Redbacks are WA’s leading female-only club. Matildas stars such as Lisa De Vanna and Kim Carroll have played under their banner in the past. The Redbacks recently announced a merger with ECU Joondalup and will be known as Perth RedStar once the main NPL season gets underway.

They began their final few games under their historic name with a 3-0 win over Balcatta. Olivia Wood, a header from Bronwyn Studman and Jayna Ridley earned the points.

Above: Eyes on the prize as Subiaco FC (left) take on Murdoch University Melville. Photo: Fotoenzo.

Murdoch University Melville as expected, also gained maximum points with a 5-0 win over Subiaco. Tia Stonehill was among the goals.

Group B

Above: Perth SC look to build against Curtin University. Photo: Rob Lizzi.

Perth SC opened their campaign with a 1-0 against Curtin University at Dorrien Gardens. Stella Zampogna was on target.

Elsewhere, Fremantle City dispatched Hyundai NTC Women 4-0.

Above: Celebration time for Fremantle City against the NTC who they beat 4-0. Photo: Fotoenzo

Epakis and Mihocic Hail Positive Mindset Ahead of Sydney Clash

Above: Perth Glory head coach Alex Epakis. Photo: Perth Glory.

Ahead of tomorrow’s match Impetus’ Ben Gilby heard from Perth Glory head coach Alex Epakis, and defender Claudia Mihocic as the Western Australians prepare to face Sydney FC in Tasmania (26/2/22).

Perth Glory head coach Alex Epakis remains totally focused on his own team’s performances rather than working out potential mathematics for Finals qualification.

“For me, two solid performances in our last games, attacking the matches we want to would please me. Whether that leaves us where we want to be in terms of Finals is secondary. We’re really proud of what we’ve achieved so far. We want to perform at our best and then we have to see what happens and see where we are.”

Epakis’ team travel to Launceston to take on leaders Sydney FC, looking to show how far they have come since going down 4-0 in the Harbour City in early January.

“I actually look back to the last time we played them (a 4-0 defeat) and see it as a turning point in our season. It was our third game in seven days and were a bit flat. We learned a lot about ourselves as a team and where we were at. We’ve matured and improved from then,” he said.

“We also know a bit more about them, and more prepared about what we can do. We’re not going out to take a backward step. We’re going to attack the game and we’re going to put on a performance to get a result. I have big faith in what the players can do. After the game against Victory, they should have that faith too.”

With Glory still based in Sydney, the head coach explained the itinerary that his team face over the coming days.

“We’ll have our matchday minus preparation here in Sydney early tomorrow morning before heading to the airport for 10:30am to fly over to Tassie, play the game on Sunday, and back to Sydney on Monday.”

Whilst the relocation of the game to Tasmania as part of a doubleheader with Perth’s men’s team came pretty late in the day, Epakis doesn’t see it as a problem. Rather as yet another hurdle to clear this season.

Above: Perth Glory head coach Alex Epakis speaking to the media this week. Photo: Perth Glory.

“We haven’t had a routine. It’s been much of a muchness. It’s not a disruption. It’s the job, it’s what we have to do. We’ve had to do it the hard way for two years now. It is what it is.

Perth’s excellent win at Melbourne Victory last weekend saw defender Claudia Mihocic turn in an impressive debut performance. Glory’s head coach rates the 18-year-old highly.

“Claudia was a really important signing for us. Due to her Final Year 12 exams in Melbourne and border closures, she wasn’t able to join us until we moved to Sydney. She’s only been with us now for eight weeks. She connected with the group. She is a very intelligent and social person. I’m glad everyone got a chance to see what she was capable of (on debut at Melbourne Victory).

“She has fantastic ability, leadership, and character. She has the mindset to be the best she can. The fact she is here this year and next year excites me and I’m looking forward to working with her.

“Claudia finished Year 12. She was happy to move to the other side of the country to test herself. She had been involved with Melbourne Victory for a while. She really backed herself to see what was out there. Full credit to her for that, it’s not easy.”

Mihocic’s performance last weekend eased the pain of Liz Anton being away on international duty with New Zealand at the SheBelieves Cup. At the present time, it is not confirmed whether Anton will play any part in tomorrow’s match.

“Liz has had some good experiences in the USA. She will get in very early tomorrow morning (Saturday). We’ll see how she trains. Obviously, she is an international player, so it is great to have her in the squad. She’s very honest so if she is right, she’ll be in the team

Epakis revealed that, apart from Anton’s potential return, selection remains generally settled. “The squad will remain pretty similar to the one involved last weekend with Melbourne Victory. The only one not available is Leena Khamis. She has an important personal commitment that she can’t get out of. That’s totally fine as we knew it was the case when we signed her as an injury replacement.

Above: Claudia Mihocic speaking to the media ahead of tomorrow’s game with Sydney FC. Photo: Perth Glory.

Perth Glory defender Claudia Mihocic spoke of her huge pride in making her debut in front of her family at AAMI Park.

“Mum asked for 10 tickets, but I think there were at least double that at the game!” Mihocic laughed.

“I had a lot of support from Kim (Carroll), Tash (Rigby), and Mie (Leth Jans). Being surrounded by those players was great. Tash let me know how much she believed in me and how much faith she had. It really helped to calm me down. The whole team had that confidence in me. That, in turn gave me belief.

“The quality and intensity is a big jump. I think it was eight months since I last played in the Victoria NPL so I had forgotten what it was like, so to come into the A-League Women was a big step up, but I felt like I could adjust during the game and get into the swing of things.”

“My last game was pre-lockdown in Melbourne back in July. I have done lots of running and got all the programs I needed. There were one on one sessions with a coach in Melbourne which helped me retain my ball skills. By the time I got to finally train with the team was a huge relief. It took a little while to get used to it and get match fitness, but it feels good to be at that level.”

“It was hugely helpful having Alana (Jancevski) and Sofia (Sakalis) already here at the club. It was so great that I could come in having players that I was close to, along with Sarah Cain who I had played NPL with really eased me in. They helped me get to know everyone. But the girls that I didn’t know were lovely too and helped me.”

Looking ahead to Sunday’s game, Mihocic said: “They are very technical with a fast front three who have chemistry together. However, I have so much confidence in our back line. We know what they can do, but we also know what we can do. We know we can stop their attacks. Coming off a clean sheet last week is a real confidence booster. Everyone is coming in with a good mindset. Defensive work across the whole team can help defuse their attack.”

Artwork: Graphics by PW.

Adelaide Claim First Final Berth

Adelaide United 3-0 Melbourne Victory

Above: Adelaide United celebrate clinching their first-ever spot in the Finals. Photo: Adelaide United.

By Kieran Yap (26/2/22)

Perfect weather and Coopers Stadium was the stage for Adelaide United to host Melbourne Victory in a match that for all intents and purposes was a final. The Reds sat in third position and a win would guarantee a first-ever finals spot. Melbourne Victory had Perth Glory breathing down their neck in fourth position.

Victory were buoyed by the announcement that Alex Chidiac’s contract was extended until the end of the season. The playmaker was making a return to her hometown for the first time this season in a must-win game against her former club.

The setting was the first Pride Game in Australian football history. The match was a celebration of the LGBTQI+ community, and the league and Adelaide had strongly promoted the concept midweek. The only smoke in the sky was from a series of rainbow flares from behind the goal. All of the ingredients were in place for the perfect football event.

Catherine Zimmerman had the first chance of the game. Courtney Nevin received the ball in space on the left and whipped in the sort of ball that has become her trademark. The header was wide but Victory earned a corner via a deflection that Analee Grove handled easily.

Both sides had difficulty making passes stick early. Chidiac was incisive with her balls into the final third, but it was the home side that scored first.

Dylan Holmes held up the ball well then flicked a pass to Chelsie Dawber on the wing. The low cross found Fiona Worts who took a touch to open up space, then on the second attempt scored past Casey Dumont.

Above: Scenes of joy after Fiona Worts doubled Adelaide United’s lead. Photo: Adelaide United.

Once Adelaide score, they almost always get another. Worts doubled the lead barely five minutes later. Shay Evans carried the ball on the right and played a terrific ball across to Omiya. She was tackled well by Polly Doran but Emily Hodgson recovered the ball and fed Worts.

Dumont saved the first shot but once again, Worts reacted quickly and tucked it away to make it 2-0.

Adelaide kept the pressure up for the remainder of the half but Victory almost pulled one back. Brooke Hendrix met a corner at the back post and it forced the best out of Grove. She was equal to it, and then again straight after when Hendrix almost scored again from the opposite side.

Grove must be one the league’s most improved players this season. Adelaide United have not boasted the run of clean sheets that Sydney has but in their all-out attacking style, she has been essential and excellent.

Victory found themselves 3-0 down within minutes of the second-half kick-off. If fans were late to their seats they would have missed it. It was that combination again, Dawber to Worts, and this time she only needed one strike to put the ball away after another cross from the right.

Victory’s best chances came from set-pieces, Corners and free kicks always posed a threat but none could be put away. Catherine Zimmerman was removed after a rough tackle which made the uphill climb much steeper.

Above: Adelaide United’s Matilda McNamara (right) challenges Melbourve Victory’s Maja Markovski. Photo: Adelaide United.

Chidiac was as industrious and creative as ever. Kyra Cooney-Cross was involved box-to-box and Polly Doran was as consistent as ever. However, the Adelaide midfield was relentless in their pressure and decisive with the ball. Matilda McNamara and Kayla Sharples seemed impassable in defence and Dylan Holmes was tireless in midfield.

Perhaps the biggest compliment that could be paid to Adelaide United is that none of Victory’s players had a particularly bad game. The home side were just ruthless, confident, and clinical.

In a final moment of heartbreak for Victory, fan favourite and star goalkeeper Casey Dumont was stretchered off after a collision for a 50/50 ball. Maja Markovski moved into goal. It was a worrying end to a tough day for the goalkeeper.

The 3-0 win has secured a first-ever finals appearance. In a recent exclusive interview with Impetus (see https://impetusfootball.org/2022/02/16/isabel-hodgson-on-captaincy-versatility-and-aiming-for-finals/), Isabel Hodgson declared that anything less than a Grand Final would be an underachievement. On the strength of their recent form, she is correct and they look a fearsome prospect in the finals.

One caveat for Melbourne is their schedule that can be best described as punishing. They have played almost every three days, fatigue, injuries and an international tournament have played a part in recent poor results.

Jeff Hopkins’ players have done extremely well to be in with a chance of another top-four position. But now they find themselves in the odd position of barracking for Sydney FC to beat Perth Glory.

Above: Fiona Worts’ goalscoring run has helped to cement Adelaide United’s spot in the top four this season. Photo: Adelaide United.

Should they make the finals, they will be a threat, they have the attacking talent to deliver on any given day and the tactical nous to grind out wins against the odds. But their destiny has slipped from their own grasp for now.

This day was all about Adelaide United, on-field and off. They achieved this win minus Emily Condon and Paige Hayward, two of their best creative player this season.

Adrian Stenta has outperformed last season, which was to that point their best on record, without Charli Grant and Mallory Weber, who were two of their best players in 2020/21.

Whatever happens next, they have guaranteed finals. They have done it in style and they will fear nobody in the coming weeks.

Teams: ADELAIDE UINTED (4-2-3-1): Grove, I.Hodgson, Sharples, McNamara, E.Hodgson, Holmes, Sasaki, Dawber, Omiya, Worts, Evans. Substitutes: Beaumont, Mullan, Stanbury, Templeman (GK), Tonkin.

Scorers: Worts 18′, 25′, 46′.

MELBOURNE VICTORY (4-2-3-1): Dumont, Nevin, Hendrix, Eliadis, Doran, Zois, Cooney-Cross, Privitelli, Chidiac, Zimmerman, Markovski. Substitutes: Barbieri, Iermano, Maizels (GK), Murphy, Withers.

Referee: Lara Lee.

Attendance: 2,421.

Artwork: Graphics by PW.

Canberra End Home Campaign In Style

Above: A battle for possession at Viking Park yesterday. Photo: Anthony Caffery Photography via Canberra United.

Canberra United 3-0 Newcastle Jets

By Ben Gilby (26/2/22)

Canberra United continued their fine run of results in the final weeks of the season by sweeping Newcastle Jets aside in wet conditions in the national capital.

Eleven minutes were on the clock when Canberra hit the front. Lauren Keir’s corner on the left was originally headed away by Sophie Harding. Possession was recycled back via Jets’ Bethany Gordon to Keir who returned the ball back into the mix for Michelle Heyman.

The league’s all-time record goalscorer managed to extricate herself from the close attentions of Cassidy Davis and lay off for Allira Toby to fire home from close range.

Jets had a half-chance to reply within three minutes when Sasha Grove lost possession to Lauren Allan who hit a long-range effort that lacked the power needed to bother Chloe Lincoln in the Canberra goal.

Just before the half-hour mark, another Keir corner from the left led to Canberra doubling their lead. It came in high into the mix. Ally Haran got up highest to nod across the box towards Heyman who flicked a header into the net at the left-hand post.

There was still time for things to get even worse for the Jets as they were swamped by a Canberra high press in stoppage time when trying to play out from the back. It was Heyman once more with the finish as she robbed Tiana Jaber of the ball, rode off an attempted challenge from Kirsty Fenton, and slotted the ball calmly past Claire Coehlo for her sixth goal of the season.

Jets came out after the break and claimed the first chance of the second half on 50 minutes. Liz Eddy hooked a ball through on the half volley to Ash Brodigan, who beat Emma Ilijoski in a footrace, but as Lincoln advanced out of goal the forward put her shot well wide of the far post.

Ten minutes into the half, Ilijoski was given too much space on the left to advance before finding Toby inside. The former Sydney FC star was unmarked and able to hit an effort from almost 30 yards which narrowly cleared Coelho’s crossbar.

Above: Alirra Toby celebrates her goal that put Canberra United 1-0 up. Photo: Anthony Caffery Photography via Canberra United.

Shortly afterwards, Coehlo’s clearance was nodded back from where it came from by Chelsee Washington who found fellow substitute Margot Robinne who advanced before lofting an inch-perfect ball into the path of Caspers whose shot was smothered by the Newcastle keeper.

Canberra were pushing hard for a fourth with Washington being determination personified to persist with her challenge on Eddy, eventually succeeding to get away and win a corner. Heyman was also looking for her hat-trick, and with Jets still affording Canberra too much space, the 61-cap Matilda was able to escape down the left and cut into the box where were effort at the near post was repelled by Coelho’s foot.

After waiting for so long to pick up their first win of the campaign, Canberra have now won two of their last three, recording seven points and scoring ten goals in the process. The Viking Park faithful may well be contemplating a far different ending to the season had those wins started racking up a few weeks earlier.

Teams: CANBERRA UNITED (4-3-3): Lincoln, Taylor-Young, Haran, Keir, Ilijoski, Middleton, Maher, Hughes, Toby, Heyman, Grove. Substitutes: Caspers, Esposito (GK), Robinne, Vidmar, Washington.

Scorers: Toby 11′, Heyman 29′, 45+1′.

NEWCASTLE JETS (4-3-3): Coelho, Brewer, Fenton, Davis, Eddy, Gordon, Johnson, Brodigan, House, Harding. Substitutes: Allan, Gooch, Magus (GK), Morley.

Referee: Georgia Ghirardello.

Attendance: 753.

Artwork: Graphics by PW.

Adelaide United On Pride Game And Huge Showdown With Victory

Above: Adelaide United captain Isabel Hodgson speaks to the media ahead of this weekend’s Pride Game against Melbourne Victory. Photo supplied to Impetus by: Adelaide United.

Impetus’ Ben Gilby heard from Adelaide United players Isabel HodgsonDylan Holmes, and Matilda McNamara ahead of Saturday’s Pride Game against Finals rivals Melbourne Victory (25/2/22).

Adelaide United captain Isabel Hodgson spoke about how excited she is about the feedback she is receiving from all over the country about the A-League’s first-ever Pride match this weekend.

The women’s team sees United host Melbourne Victory with the men hosting Central Coast Mariners at Coopers Stadium on Saturday.

“It’s going to be amazing and a wonderful day. There are so many great things coming up leading to the game. We’re all excited by having rainbow numbers on the back of our shirts.

“Sport brings us all together. It is not about race or sexuality and something we can all come together to do. Players from other teams are asking for the sizing of jerseys to buy the special Pride jerseys.

Above: Isabel Hodgson speaks to the media with her Pride Game shirt on display along with Josh Cavallo’s. Photo supplied to Impetus by: Adelaide United.

“There is a lot of interest from both South Australia and interstate. Melissa Barbieri (Melbourne City’s 86 cap Matildas goalkeeper), who is married to a man has been in touch for a shirt with rainbow numbers on.

“Girls have been messaging me for shirts and they are also openly gay and so they are happy that our club are doing it.”

Saturday’s match is also important from the perspective of the Finals race with two teams well entrenched in the top four coming head to head. Hodgson highlighted the fact that a lot has changed since the two sides last met.

“Victory are a great side and we’re looking forward to playing them. Obviously, we played them on the opening day and lost a lot of goals (Adelaide were defeated 5-1), but we are ready for them now. We are putting the goals away ourselves – eight against Brisbane and four against Wellington!”

Above: Adelaide United midfielder Dylan Holmes speaks of her admiration for club team-mate Josh Cavallo and her club for providing such an inclusive atmosphere. Photo supplied to Impetus by: Adelaide United.

Adelaide United’s Matildas capped midfielder Dylan Holmes has spoken of her huge admiration for United men’s left-back Josh Cavallo coming out as being openly gay in October 2021.

“The reaction that Josh received all over the world and different organizations just shows that the football community is right behind Josh and is becoming a more inclusive space. This Pride game is really important to share that message and hopefully, it will inspire people to live their true life and be comfortable.

“When I see Adelaide United embracing this, I feel really honoured that I represent a club with these values and one who is willing to go out publicly to support their players. A lot of my team-mates are gay and a lot of players I’ve played with over the course of my career are gay.

“This Pride game is a chance to celebrate these differences. Feeling safe when you do something you love enables you to feel like yourself and perform at your best. The best moments in my career have happened when I’m feeling comfortable within the team. It translates into your on-field experiences.

“This game day will feel a bit different. Through my career, I’ve never played in a Pride round. I definitely don’t take it lightly. Lots of teammates I’ve had in the past have never been accepted for who they are, so it’s a big step for football, not just in South Australia, but the whole of Australia. Football is a game for everyone.”

Above: Matilda McNamara speaking to the media about the Pride Game and a huge encounter with Finals rivals Melbourne Victory. Photo supplied to Impetus by: Adelaide United.

Defender Matilda McNamara emphasized the double importance of this weekend’s match with Melbourne Victory.

“We’re excited for Saturday not just because of the Pride match, but because it is such a massive match for our season.

“Women’s football is such an inclusive environment for the girls for so long, so now we can push that for the men’s game now too.

Adelaide United know that a victory on Saturday will virtually assure them of a Finals place, but McNamara does not feel any extra pressure on the game compared to the last few weeks.

“Realistically, for the past three or four matches, it has felt like we have to win to stay in the Finals race. All the girls are really up for it. We know what is on the line, but we know that if we play at our best, we can beat any other team.

Above: Adelaide United’s Matilda McNamara. Photo supplied to Impetus by: Adelaide United.

“We’re not really talking too much about Finals as that just puts too much pressure on. We are all aware of the fact, but we are going into the match with a view that it is just another game. We were all here last year so know what the pain was like missing out by such a small margin (just one goal).”

The Adelaide defender is also keen to put things right after the South Australian side’s defeat to Melbourne Victory in the opening round. “It wasn’t our best performance, but the scoreline (5-1) wasn’t a completely fair reflection on the game and the girls aren’t going to let that happen again. We are aiming to give Victory a beating on Saturday.

“We play a way that means we are always looking to score goals. We were 4-0 up against Brisbane at halftime but still went out for more (Adelaide eventually won 8-2). We want to take every chance we get in front of goal.”

McNamara has had a strong run of form this season with many starting to push her name towards national team selection, but the defender knows that she just needs to focus on her own game.

“Over the past few years I feel I’ve definitely improved so much with my game and I’m glad that people have noticed it. I know I’ve got more to give and I will keep my focus on that. If those people outside of my control can notice too, then that is great as well.”

Artwork: Graphics by PW.

Roar Success Dents City’s Top Spot Hopes

Melbourne City 0-1 Brisbane Roar

Photo: Post match celebrations or Brisbane Roar. Photo: Brisbane Roar.

by Kris Goman (24/2/22)

Brisbane Roar made the trip south to spoil the party for Melbourne City and in front of a vocal Roar Supporters group, made up mostly of players’ families, they achieved that aim and redeemed a bit of pride.

With Brisbane coming off an 8-2 thrashing at the hands of Adelaide United, no one held much hope of the Premier contenders, Melbourne City not winning easily and capturing top place on the ladder. Just a win and three points would see them leapfrog Sydney who have held the top position the whole season.

For most, it was a fait accompli. City had just beaten Sydney last week. The only team in the comp to have done so this season. Brisbane only had two wins the whole season and were beaten convincingly in their last outing. But things are never so straightforward in the Dub. And one key factor is the absence of a couple of key players for City with Rebekah Stott and Hannah Wilkinson playing for New Zealand in the She Believes Cup and Holly McNamara out with an ACL injury.

Melbourne start strong and get an early free kick on the left not far from the byline. Rhianna Pollicina curled it into goal but it was cleared by Roar defence successfully.

Then things change and Roar get a bit more possession and start to make some damaging runs. There’s a series of Roar players caught offside before Larissa Crummer has the first shot on goal for Brisbane at 15 minutes in. It’s the first on-target shot for anyone.

TJ Vlajnic sends left-footed shot to the centre of the goal from a corner and Jamilla Rankin heads it away and out for another corner. Taken from the other side, Pollicina directs it to the near post but it’s straight into the side netting.

Katrina Gorry sends in a cross after a short run which results in a corner, only to see it headed away in front of goal by Tori Tumuth.

At 26 minutes into the match, Roar get a throw in that goes long to Shea Connors and she twists, chests it down and takes it towards the box, and shoots. Mariel Hecher gets a toe to it flicking it over Melissa Barbieri’s hands. Bubs releases an expletive, letting everyone know how she feels and it’s repeated on every replay of the goal. Brisbane are ecstatic and celebrate appropriately. They take the lead 1-0.

Above: Brisbane Roar showing their joy against Melbourne City. Photo: Brisbane Roar.

City ambitiously go for goal from the kick-off but Shuttleworth catches it and launches another attack that sees Crummer get tripped up just into the box. No penalty but City are rattled and Roar and invigorated. Will they spoil it for City?

Gorry has a little run around on the right before passing back to Natalie Tathem but Connors is offside.

Kaitlyn Torpey takes a long-range shot and Shuttleworth dives to save it towards the bottom right corner.

Roar get another serious attempt when a short corner is sent in and bounces around but Connors deflects it away from goal instead of into the open goal. Barbieri comes out to grab it just as Connors is trying to kick the ball in and cops a knee to the chest. She’s hurt and arguing with the ref that she had the ball in her hands. A good three minutes of injury time is accounted for here.

Gorry intercepts the resulting goal kick and takes a long-range shot but it’s out to the left.

Connors launches another attack down the left and shoots but it hits the side netting.

Back down the other end and Isabella Shuttleworth, who hasn’t been that busy, has her pass is intercepted by Caitlin Karic but she loses her footing. Pollicina tries to take over but then dives and it’s cleared.

Leah Davidson gets a little run through the centre and shoots but it hits Karic who then takes control and shoots but it skims the crossbar.

A Gorry free kick goes into the box and is cleared before Tatham lobs a high one that goes out.

Above: Shea Connors looks to get away with possession with team-mate Jamilla Rankin looking on. Photo: Brisbane Roar.

They hit the change rooms with Brisbane in the lead 1-0.

Before she leaves the field, Hecher says they are happy and that she thought they’d be struggling. She thought they needed to be more compact and that the game was a bit scrappy but they are happy with the lead. She said they had nothing to lose and no chance to make the finals but want the winning points and are doing it for pride.

During halftime, Caitlin Karic comes off for Chelsea Blissett to go on.

In City’s closest chance of the match, Torpey creates a good run down the right to produce a corner. Vlajnic’s flag kick is directed to Meisha Westland. Her shot bounces up to hit the underside of the crossbar, then was kicked back in to hit the post. Shuttleworth grabs it amidst shouts for a goal but it didn’t cross the line.

Hecher sends Crummer off down the field and Crummer is in a one on one with Barbieri but she shoots straight into her arms. It was a genuine squandered chance to go up 2-0.

Davidson gets a yellow for a foul on Gorry as she gets nutmegged. Gorry takes the free-kick and it goes to the far post but Barbieri has it then drops it and gathers again.

Roar send a nice through ball that Connors runs on to but Barbieri gets there first and scoops it up.

Up the other end and Torpey centres and Vlajnic pops it up and does a half bicycle kick but it’s caught safely by Shuttleworth.

Despite having 60% possession, City just aren’t making the same decisive runs that Roar are. They also are not connecting in the final third.

Barbieri comes right up near to the halfway line and Checker, who’s also pushed forward, has a shot from the top of the box but she’s hooked it slightly and it flies out to the left of the post. There’s a sustained press by City as they get desperate to equalize at the very least.

Above: Fast-paced action from Brisbane Roar’s win at Melbourne City today. Photo: Brisbane Roar.

We’re into stoppage time and City need to win which means two goals in five minutes and they are getting increasingly desperate. Brisbane are just sending long balls out to clear rather than attacking.

Pollicina is shown a yellow for a foul. Checker gets it on the left and shoots another big ball from the top of the box and hits the cross bar beating Shuttleworth.

Torpey has a final run on the left but on transition, Gorry runs down the right and Barbieri comes right out and appears to handle the ball on two occasions outside the box but only gets a yellow. Gorry to take kick. She slides it to Norrie at the corner to waste time and then whistle goes.

Incredibly, Brisbane hold a clean sheet and win and it means Sydney stay top of the table. It’s a big come back from 8-2 loss the previous match. Bizarre.

In the post-match interview Gorry said that Brisbane had been working hard and had some disappointing losses so wanted to ruin a few people’s finals.

Torpey acknowledged that Brisbane fought for the win. It was disappointing. If we won, we would have been top but will keep fighting.

Garrath McPherson said he was proud of Bella Shuttleworth in goal. It was exceptional to keep a clean sheet.

Teams: MELBOURNE CITY: Barbieri, Torpey, Tumuth, Checker, Heatley, Vlajnic, Westland, Davidson, McKenna, Pollicina, Karic. Substitutes: James (GK), Blissett, Chinnama, Malone, Van der Meer.

BRISBANE ROAR: Shuttleworth, Rankin, Norrie, Hecher, Crummer, Gorry, Tathem, Connors, Haffenden, Palmer, Clough. Substitutes: Margraf, Rasschaert, Stamatopoulos, Kitano, Symes.

Scorer: Hecher 26′.

Referee: Kelly Jones.

Attendance: 857.

Artwork: Graphics by PW.

Vidosic On Reshuffle Against Roar

Above: Melbourne City head coach Rado Vidosic pictured today at his media conference. Photo: Melbourne City.

Melbourne City face Brisbane Roar as Round 13 of the A-League Women gets underway tomorrow. Impetus’ Ben Gilby heard from the Sky Blues’ head coach Rado Vidosic ahead of their match – one that if they can win gives City a realistic chance of finishing top of the table at the end of the season (23/2/22).

Melbourne City head coach Rado Vidosic began his media conference by addressing the devastating news that Holly McNamara, one of the competition’s star players this season, will not play again after suffering an ACL injury against Sydney FC at the weekend.

“We are all trying to rally around her and support her. She remains an important part of our team,” Vidosic emphasized. “She is such a lovely person, one of the youngest members of the squad. Holly is contracted to us for next season, so she will do her rehab with us ahead of returning.

“She has been a breath of fresh air and someone that we can build our whole football style around. Someone like that is priceless. We believe that she has a long future ahead with our club and the Matildas. She will probably go and play overseas with a big club at some point, but we want to have a relationship with her so she knows how much she is admired and loved here.”

Reflecting on his team’s achievement of being the first side to defeat Sydney FC this season at the weekend, City’s head coach said: “We hadn’t changed anything (in our game plan). We played our game and pressed them high, looking to make them uncomfortable in the first half. We could have scored more goals. Then it changed in the second half and they dominated.

“We managed to get over the line. It wasn’t easy. The second-half performance is something that we need to be proud of. It showed great character and that we can dig deep in the tough moments. If we can put that into tomorrow’s game and future ones, we’ll do well. That never give up attitude. I was so proud of that performance.”

That win means that if City wins every one of their remaining games, they will be crowned Premiers going into the Finals, but Vidosic is not counting his chickens yet.

“We’re just not talking about it. We know how tough and unpredictable this league is. Brisbane Roar have nothing to play for, nothing to fear. They will just come out and get as much as they can. It won’t be easy for us. Expectations are higher for us and everyone expects us to walk through the game and it won’t be like that.”

City will be without three key players for the match with Roar. In addition to Holly McNamara’s injury, Rebekah Stott and Hannah Wilkinson have not returned from international duty in the USA with New Zealand yet. Vidosic outlined how he will try and fill the gaps.

Above: Caitlin Karic (right) – expected to be part of the City squad against Brisbane Roar tomorrow. Photo: Melbourne City.

“We have Leticia (McKenna) and she is a fantastic player. Such a good, technical player with great vision. She is also good defensively. There is also Caitlin Karic (16-year-old striker). If she can play to her strengths, we won’t feel a difference in our playing style. Caitlin can definitely give us something that we are lacking with missing those three players.

“She is a fantastic talent and has so many qualities it is frightening. We need to slowly integrate her. She needs to learn how to be a professional player and concentrate. It’s just learning those micro-behaviours on the pitch that she hasn’t learned yet. From a physical point of view, she is big and strong.”

Artwork: Graphics by PW.

Lily Alfeld: Rising With The Phoenix

Above: Wellington Phoenix goalkeeper Lily Alfeld in training this season. Photo supplied to Impetus by: Wellington Phoenix.

Lily Alfeld, was the first player to sign for the new Wellington Phoenix club after they joined the A-League Women competition and was announced as their inaugural captain. For this week’s #MidweekDub feature, Lily spoke to us about her footballing journey, an impressive season at Perth Glory last year, and life at the Phoenix (23/2/22).

Alfeld first began playing football when she was five-years-old at home in Christchurch where she remained playing until she was 18.

“Then I was playing at U17s and U20s for New Zealand. In 2014 I went to the United States and played college football for Louisiana State University before coming back to New Zealand in 2018 when I trained with the Football Ferns domestic program before last year when I had the opportunity to go and play with Perth Glory in what was then the W-League.”

Above: Lily Alfeld playing for New Zealand at the U20 World Cup. Photo: Wellington Phoenix.

Perth was a tough place to be playing your football last season, but Alfeld shone as one of their brightest stars. The team only had the go-ahead to compete in the competition late on due to Western Australia’s covid border restrictions and so they put together a squad that consisted largely of talented local teenagers.

“It was good, but a huge challenge. It was my first professional gig and I’ve taken a lot of learning out of it. I didn’t really know what to expect. It was a big challenge, especially coming together late with so many youngsters – pretty similar to the situation we found ourselves in at Phoenix this year.

“It was a difficult season as there were so many experiences that we hadn’t faced before, but we took a lot from it. Alex Epakis was fantastic at guiding us through it and helping us find our feet in our first year of playing.”

Alfeld reveals that she came close to staying in Western Australia for another season: “I spoke to Alex about the possibility of staying on. I loved Perth and the club were fantastic. The Phoenix were in the back of my mind about that possibly happening. Alex did have another goalkeeper from Sydney (Courtney Newbon) who he was interested in signing, so in the end, we parted ways.”

This then led to the goalkeeper becoming the first player to sign for Wellington Phoenix’s women’s team with their entry into the A-League Women competition finally confirmed.

“There was no hesitation at all from me when it came to signing for the Phoenix. As soon as I heard the team were coming into the league, I was making phone calls! When the opportunity came to be their first signing, that was a huge honour.

“It’s huge – New Zealand’s first professional women’s team, it’s such a significant moment. I’d grown up watching the Phoenix. They were the one team that I grew up as a child watching and supporting. I always loved pulling on their shirt as a kid.

“I’ve known Gemma (Lewis – head coach) and Nat (Lawrence – assistant coach) for a few years and I knew it would be fantastic to play under them.”

Above: Lily Alfeld pictured after becoming Wellington Phoenix Women’s first-ever signing. Photo supplied to Impetus by: Wellington Phoenix.

Wellington Phoenix’s pre-season began with few players initially, with more joining at regular intervals once they had signed to the club.

“It was a massive challenge, but the staff managed it well and a lot of time was spent helping us to gel. The Kiwis and the Australians hadn’t met each other. A lot of work was done in terms of seeing how we all played and putting that together. With lockdowns in both Wellington and Sydney, a lot of players hadn’t played for a long time so there were a lot of yards covered in that pre-season to make sure we were up to running for a full 90 minutes in the Australian heat.”

With Wellington Phoenix unable to host home matches in New Zealand, the players and staff have all been in a hub in Wollongong, New South Wales, over 1,000 miles away from home. The Phoenix captain revealed what living with your teammates and coaches full time is like in reality.

“I’ve actually loved it. It’s pretty much like being on a school camp when you were a kid with your classmates with you all the time. It’s been a lot of fun. We are managing it carefully though. It’s not a normal thing to be in a camp like this where you don’t get to go back to your families and friends.

“We are making sure that we have our own individual downtime and getting out to do different things. We need to be conscious that it’s a lot of time to spend together. A lot of us, the Kiwis, had known each other for a long time, so that’s been good.”

Alfeld also spoke about her added responsibility as captain. “It’s awesome, a massive step up for me as I’ve never captained a team before, and it has been a massive learning curve. I’ve taken away new experiences and seeing what the demands are and what is expected of me. We have a fantastic support staff around us and a great core-leadership group. A lot of the girls have international experience, youth international experience.

Above: Lily Alfeld gets down bravely to save from Newcastle Jets’ Sunny Franco whilst playing for Perth Glory last season. Photo: Perth Glory FC.

“These girls bring different leadership characteristics and it’s been great to be able to learn from than and take different things from them.

“Being a goalkeeper, it is a juggling act between encouraging the players and wanting to keep a clean sheet. We’ve all got behind Gemma (Lewis)’s ideas of wanting to be brave in our play. In terms of our first matches, we started off well against Western Sydney, but I think we went into our shell a bit against Newcastle and it was good to see that if we are not brave on the ball, then we will get punished. Then against Sydney, it was a good indicator that if we are brave on the ball, we will find opportunities. That starts from us at the back as goalkeeper and centre-backs. We need to make sure we’re not just lumping the ball forward, actually building things up and creating our own chances.”

The Phoenix star then spoke about her own aims for this season. “It’s definitely putting in performances that can earn a clean sheet for the team. We want to win as many games as we can and that starts with me as we can’t lose if we don’t concede!

“I also want to grow into this captaincy role and refine my leadership skills to leave a positive legacy for this club going forward. It’s a massive opportunity and we have a chance to shape where Wellington Phoenix’s women’s team goes. We need to start off on the right foot and make a positive impact on where women’s football goes in New Zealand.”

In terms of wider aims for the Phoenix’s first A-League Women campaign, “If we can go out there every week and improve from week to week and take the learnings that we’ve taken from each game into the next, then I’d be over the moon. It’s a huge challenge for the girls to be expected to perform consistently each week, but I think it’s definitely our goal to go out there and build each week. We recognize that we are the underdogs, but if we can get some wins and upset a few teams then that would definitely be success in our book.”

A strong run of performances with the Phoenix has brought Alfeld to the attention of new national team coach Jitka Klimková and she has been in the USA with New Zealand competing in the SheBelieves Cup.

“International honours have always been my goal. I had a little bit of experience with the Football Ferns on national team tours in 2014 and 2019, but I hadn’t been in the mix since. I would love to get into the squad, and with a home World Cup coming in 2023 and the Olympics following that, if I can play well this season then hopefully I will get an opportunity. That’s the overall goal.”

Artwork: Graphics by PW.

Victory Comeback Denies Canberra At The Death

Canberra United 2-2 Melbourne Victory

Above: Canberra United scorers Michelle Heyman (left, 23) and Chelsee Washington (7) celebrate together.

By Kieran Yap (22/2/22)

Melbourne Victory escaped Viking Park with a 2-2 draw after Canberra United dominated much of the match.

The result means that Victory keep their destiny in their own hands as the season enters the final weeks.

Melbourne Victory was coming off a tough eight-day run of matches where they played three times since last Wednesday. Canberra were comparatively well-rested after their Friday match against Brisbane Roar was postponed.

The difference in energy was obvious in the opening half. It was an open game but Victory looked slower than Canberra. The home side passed and ran the ball through midfield with ease. Sasha Grove looked particularly lively for the hosts.

Melbourne’s best chance came to Catherine Zimmerman on the edge of the area. Her shot was swell saved by Chloe Lincoln.

Courtney Nevin’s corner kick almost snuck in for a goal but Hayley Taylor-Young was well-positioned in textbook fashion at the back post to prevent it from crossing the line.

Despite these two chances, the first half belonged to Canberra United. Michelle Heyman and Ash Sykes were linking up well and looking dangerous. Often it was just the final ball that was missing, but Canberra were looking most likely to score either on the counterattack or through the build-up play of Grace Maher.

Inevitably, the goal arrived. Michelle Heyman created space for herself 20 yards from goal and attempted a shot. It was blocked but she was given a second chance after collecting the ball again.

This attempt made it through to Casey Dumont who got down low but the ball spilled to Chelsee Washington. The in-form American midfielder poked it home to put Canberra United 1-0 up.

The lead was doubled on the stroke of halftime when Heyman got on the end of some nice interplay between Sykes and Washington.

It was a vintage Heyman finish. She took one tough to open up the angle and the second rifled the ball above Dumont and into the net. The 2-0 lead was what Canberra deserved at the break.

Above: Maja Markovski of Melbourne Victory (left) battles with Allyson Haran of Canberra United. Photo: Melbourne Victory.

Melbourne Victory introduced Maja Markovski to their attack and her first touch of the ball was to take a penalty kick.

Lincoln anticipated correctly, dived to her right, and saved the ball, pushing in downward to prevent the rebound.

It looked as if Melbourne’s chance to get back into the game was fading, and Jeff Hopkins introduced Alex Chidiac and Harriet Withers to provide some spark. Chidiac was immediately busy. She picked up the ball in deep positions and tried to dribble and link play.

Courtney Nevin was the most dangerous attacking option for Melbourne for much of the second half. She has been an important signing for the club following the departure of Angie Beard.

Even with the injury crisis at centre-back, Hopkins has resisted the temptation to move Nevin into the position and kept her at left-back. This game was a huge example why.

Nevin may not have the pace of Beard or Steph Catley, but she is a terrific crosser of the ball. She has a deceptive ability to dribble into space and can accelerate quickly in tight spaces. She was huge in the second half.

She set up the goal to give Victory a lifeline, A quick change of direction and a whipped in cross found the head of the surging Chidiac. The pace was all on the ball as she guided it past Lincoln to make it 2-1 with 10 minutes to play.

Above: Alex Chidiac heads home Melbourne Victory’s opening goal. Photo: Melbourne Victory.

Soon after, Nevin almost score the equalizer herself, she charged down a bouncing ball and hooked her shot toward goal but Lincoln backpedalled quickly enough to hold onto it.

Nevin took a knee to the ribs in that effort and was slow to get up, but she jogged off the pain and was fit to continue.

Melbourne fans were glad that she did, she took the corner that found Tiffany Eliadis in a crowded penalty area. The header looped high and fell in slow motions off the bar and into the net.

It was an unfortunate goal for Lincoln to conceded. The 17-year-old had been terrific all game and is another goalkeeper that has made her mark this season alongside fellow teenagers Annalee Grove of Adelaide United and Mia Bailey from Brisbane.

However, the celebrations belonged to Victory. For the second time in just over a week, they had clawed back from 2-0 down in the second half. They are tired, injured and on the road, but Jeff Hopkins team still is in a strong position to stay in fourth position.

This is likely to be the last time we see Alex Chidiac in a Victory shirt this season. She has been essential to their success so far and is always one of the most watchable players on the pitch.

If this is her final game in blue, she went out with a game-changing performance.

Canberra United are improving, this side has started to click just as the season is ending. Chloe Lincoln is a real discovery and Hayley Taylor-Young has grown from a handy substitute into a very good, versatile player.

She is able to fill in in either full-back position or midfield and is a player that Canberra United will be keen to hold on to.

Canberra now has a two-day break before facing Newcastle Jets and Melbourne Victory have only four days before they try and stop the rampant Adelaide United.

Teams: CANBERRA UNITED (4-2-3-1): Lincoln, Taylor-Young, Haran, Keir, Ilijoski, Maher, Hughes, Sykes, Washington, Grove, Heyman. Substitutes: Esposito (GK), Middleton, Richards, Robinne, Toby.

Scorers: Washington 41′, Heyman 45+3′.

MELBOURNE VICTORY (4-3-3): Dumont, Nevin, Hendrix, Eliadis, Doran, Barbieri, Zois, Robers, Cooney-Cross, Zimmerman, Privitelli.

Scorers: Chidiac 80′, Eliadis 90+1′.

Referee: Rachael Mitchenson.

Attendance: 1,089.

Artwork: Graphics by PW.

Impetus Achievers Awards

Round 12 of the A-League Women saw some huge games in the Finals race as well as clashes between sides looking to pull away from the lower reaches of the table. Our writing team for the competition. Ben GilbyKris Goman, and Kieran Yap highlight who caught their eyes this week (21/2/22).

PLAYER OF THE WEEK:

Ben: If Cortnee Vine was the player of the first half of the season, then Adelaide United’s Chelsie Dawber is going to be a serious contender to take that crown for the second half of the campaign. She is starting to show the form and scoring consistency that she’s threatened for the last few seasons. On the scoring sheet once more this weekend as Adelaide took another massive leap towards the Finals. An honorable mention also to Perth Glory’s Cyera Hyntzen whose runs and delightful back pass for her team’s second goal on Saturday was sublime.

Kris: Ash Brodigan. Gave 100% all-match long for Newcastle Jets against the Wanderers with a lot of damaging runs. Created the penalty that equalized and scored a beautiful goal for her first ever in the A-League Women.

Above: Adelaide United’s Chelsie Dawber – Ben and Kieran’s choice for player of the week.

Kieran: It’s Chelsie Dawber. She might also be the best striker in the competition. She’s intelligent and has perfect technique in the box. 

COACH IN THE WEEK:

Ben: Alex Epakis. To go to AAMI Park and set his team up to produce a fantastically sustained attacking performance was brave, but completely his style. Every time you think Perth might have missed their Finals chances he keeps the belief in the team to pull off another superb win. After two months on the road.

Kris: I really can’t decide between Cath Canulli of Western Sydney and Ash Wilson of the Jets this week. It was the battle of the bottom dwellers and they were both facing embarrassing records if they didn’t score. Both teams rose to the occasion and produced an enthralling match, so a draw between the coaches too seems fitting.

Above: Perth Glory’s Alex Epakis, picked up two votes for coach of the week. Photo: Perth Glory.

Kieran: Alex Epakis. It was close between him and Rado Vidosic, but Perth Glory won on the road (again) against the reigning champions and kept them to their only scoreless game this season.

EVENT OF THE WEEK:

Ben: Sydney’s trip to Melbourne. They had looked impregnable all season, but dropping a 2-0 lead to Victory and going down 2-1 to City saw the end of both their clean sheet record and unbeaten run. They gave it a real good go to hit back in the second half against City and were within minutes of beating Victory. Two huge games and outcomes.

Kris: Perth’s win over Victory. To see them come from the wooden spoon last year to bring a serious finals contender had been wonderful. This win over Victory is one of their most important and keeps them in the race for the finals.

Kieran: Catherine Zimmerman’s late equalizer against Sydney FC last Wednesday. It was a well-executed left-foot volley to send Victory fans into raptures. Gotta love some late drama.

We’ve been keeping a tally of all the votes for player and coach of the week during the season which will count towards naming our player and coach of the season.

Artwork: Graphics by PW.

City Send Out Message To Title Rivals

Melbourne City 2-1 Sydney FC

Above: Rhianna Pollicina celebrates her opening goal with team-mates including Holly McNamara who would later suffer a potentially season-ending injury. Photo: Melbourne City

By Kieran Yap (21/2/22)

Sydney FC’s undefeated run has ended and Melbourne City has closed the gap on the defending champions to one point. However, City fans were far from jubilant at the whistle after what looked like a season-ending injury to young star Holly McNamara.

Sydney started the match the slower of the two teams. They were playing after only three days break following a tough 2-2 draw to Victory on the Wednesday night.

City attacked from the whistle, but it was Sydney who crafted the first real chance of the game. Remy Siemsen played in Cortnee Vine who sprinted into a shooting position but hit it straight at Melissa Barbieri from a tight angle.

City’s in-form playmaker Rhianna Pollicina tried her luck from a free-kick that skimmed the top netting. Jada Whyman looked to have it covered but it was a good effort from the City number 10.

Minutes later, City opened the scoring. Kaitlyn Torpey received the ball in space on the right and played a quick pass inside to Rhianna Pollicina.

She was unmarked in the box in the middle of an unusually open Sydney FC defence. There was no hesitation in what she did next. A quick turn and a right-footed shot rifled the ball into the bottom corner. It was her fourth goal in as many matches and the only time this season that Sydney FC has conceded first.

Above: Rhianna Pollicina )(left) celebrates with Leah Davidson after scoring for Melbourne City. Photo: Melbourne City.

City held onto the momentum. Pollicina played in Holly McNamara who outpaced the defenders easily but Whyman was equal to the close-range effort.

It was not long before City had a second. Tyla-Jay Vlajnic had been excellent in the opening half, and she set up Torpey for a terrific goal.

The fullback, who occasionally drifted into midfield, cut inside and curled a perfect pass from her right foot. The ball dissected the Sydney defence and landed perfectly into the stride of Torpey.

After setting up the first goal, Torpey had one of her own. The first time finish slipped beyond Whyman and into the net.

Sydney’s best chance came when Mackenzie Hawkesby collected the ball at the edge of the area. She had time and lined up her shot. Somehow Barbieri was able to get a strong enough hand to it and palm it over the bar. It was a spectacular effort to stop a well-hit shot.

The second half began with Sydney FC in the ascendancy. Melbourne City’s defence remained compact and organized and easy chances were hard to come by.

Charlize Rule almost pulled one back for the visitors. She connected well with a Mackenzie Hawkesby corner but it crashed off the woodwork. Ibini came close from the follow-up but City scrambled the ball away.