Warners Bay FC v Merewether United FC
Sunday 26th August, 3:00 pm
Rockwell Automation Park, Weston
Last meeting: Warners Bay won 2-1 in round 20 at John Street Oval.
Where they Finished: Warners Bay 1st, 38 points; Merewether 2nd, 31 points.
Past three starts (most recent first):
Warners Bay – lost South Wallsend 1-0 (h), won South Wallsend 2-1 (a), won Merewether 2-1 (h).
Merewether – drew New Lambton 1-1 (h), won New Lambton 1-0 (h), lost Warners Bay 2-1.
Merewether should have everyone available and field last weekend’s starting line-up. Warners Bays’ Nadja Squires and Tara Pender picked up injury concerns last weekend but should be fit for today.
After a nail-biting final series, the stage is set for an enthralling battle with the two best teams in the competition, Warners Bay and Merewether, facing off in the highly anticipated Grand Final re-match.
United will be looking to achieve back-to-back Championships, which hasn’t been done since Adamstown in 2012-13, while Warners Bay will be aiming for their second Grand Final win in three seasons.
The Premiership race was essentially between these two sides, with the Panthers leading the charge for most of the season and putting the contest to bed in their round 20 clash against United securing a 2-1 victory.
Warners Bay has had a spectacular season and has been fortunate on the injury front, which has largely contributed to their success. On the other hand, Merewether lost Grace Macintyre for the season in the round two catch-up game, Jamee Ellis for six weeks and was then forced to play without strike weapon Rhali Dobson for several weeks due to an eye injury.
In the finals series against South Wallsend, Warners Bay looked comfortable in the first leg of their semi-final, however, the Panthers had to weather a ferocious attack in their second leg match against the Wolves, seeing them hit panic mode and struggle to create any real clear-cut scoring opportunities. They scrambled well defensively on both occasions which is one of their strengths and something Merewether will need to be wary of if they want to win.
It was a similar story for Merewether against New Lambton, with the defending champions playing below their usual standard but somehow still managing to scrape through and get the job done. They may only play three in the back line, but it has worked well for them and with standout goalkeeper Alison Logue leading the charge, they have managed to keep five clean sheets this season which is the most in the competition.
If you look back on history, Merewether beat Valentine 3-2 in the Grand Final in 2015, Warners Bay beat Wallsend 1-0 in 2016 and Merewether beat Warners Bay 4-3 in 2017. If Sunday’s Grand Final is to follow the history books, it would appear as though Warners Bay is set to take out the Championship for 2018.
However, there are a few key cogs in United’s machine they will need to overcome if they want to be singing their team song in the shed after 90 minutes.
Defender Jamee Ellis may only have one game under her belt since returning from injury, but her experience shines through and she is almost unshakeable at the back, as well as being lethal off the set-piece.
Captain Lori Depczynski has been simply superb this season and her leadership skills at the back will be crucial come Sunday afternoon. Depczynski’s calm nature and ability to stay composed for the full 90 minutes will certainly have a positive effect on her side.
Fleet-footed winger Rhali Dobson is clinical with the ball at her feet and her speed makes her a headache for any opposition, so expect her to wreak havoc on the park.
On the flip side, a team like Warners Bay can’t make it through the season suffering just one loss without having quality in the ranks.
Veteran fullback Toria Campbell has had a strong season and given this will be her fourth consecutive Grand Final and 99th First Grade appearance, Campbell’s experience will be useful and there is no doubt she will rise to the occasion.
For midfielder Nadja Squires, this has been potentially her best season since joining the club in 2016. Her work ethic in the midfield is simply unmatched which makes her a threat in both attack and defence, while her free-kicks are arguably the best in the competition.
Speedy striker Jenna Kingsley is the Golden Boot winner, with a staggering 26 goals to her name. Her pace makes her dangerous, complemented by her excellent dribbling skills she rarely makes a mistake if she gets 1v1 with the keeper.
With Warners Bay heading into the match as slim favourites, the 2018 Herald Women’s Premier League Grand Final is shaping up to be an extremely exciting contest.
What the Coaches say
Cassandra Koppen (Merewether United)
“I don’t think we have to change too much heading into the game, but it’s always a tough game against Warners Bay so we definitely have a big challenge ahead of us. We watched them closely in their second leg semi-final and last week against South Wallsend, and even though Southy probably deserved to be in the grand final, Warners Bay is the type of team where if you give them half a chance they will capitalise on it. For us, I think it’s a matter of getting used to having Jamee back in the squad because she has been out for a couple of months, so we need to make sure we tighten up defensively and not give them that half a chance,” Koppen said.
Cassidy Davis (Warners Bay Panthers)
“I’m really happy for the girls because they have worked hard for it all year and deserve to be there. We have had the same core group of girls that have made all three finals so it’s great to still be playing together. We have a great support base which makes it really exciting and we all really enjoy being there on the big day. I think they will come at us hard and try to score goals, but I think their goalkeeper has had a great season which is something we will speak about. We need to make sure we take every chance we have and really just enjoy it because there isn’t much we can change in a week, so we may as well enjoy the build-up and have fun on the day,” Davis said.
Can Warners Bay bounce back from last year’s Grand Final heartbreak and finish their stellar season on a high?
Tip: Both sides boast quality across the park and are known to play out nail-biters, making this one tough to split. Warners Bay 3-2.