By Isaac McIntyre
Match of the Round
Broadmeadow Magic FC vs Thornton Redbacks FC
7.30pm Friday, March 13 — Magic Park
For the second time in as many weeks Broadmeadow are preparing to host their Herald Women’s Premier League season opener at Magic Park.
This time it is on Friday night and against Thornton but Magic coach Jake Curley said the build-up was the same.
After the former Premier League powerhouse club was denied their triumphant return to the top-flight women’s competition last Thursday evening by the storms rolling over Newcastle, Magic is even more eager to kick-start their season.
Due to their opening match against Warners Bay being delayed, Magic now face a glut of fixtures early on in 2020. The Panthers and New Lambton lie in wait later next week.
First up though are the Redbacks.
“The whole team is looking forward to just getting out on the park and playing,” Curley said.
“It was a bit disappointing having our start delayed but it did give us some time to work on some extra things for the start of the year.”
Broadmeadow are already balancing a few outs. Kalista Hunter is suspended and Kobie Ferguson (ACL) is unavailable but Curley knows the real trick will be making sure they get through the early fixture rush unscathed.
“We’ve got a few games to play but it should be a good chance for us to see exactly where we’re at with the crunch,” Curley said.
“I think the plan is just to balance how we approach it with the team. We don’t want to lose anyone early.”
Redbacks coach Alan Primmer is also dealing with a key out in round two with Thornton’s captain Anais Moore unavailable for Friday’s clash. Luci Maddison is expected to wear the armband in her place.
Whether or not she leads the team out at Magic Park or not, Primmer expects Maddison to have a big game.
“I don’t think you can go any better than what Luci did last Sunday. She’s been fantastic,” the Redbacks boss said.
“She won everything last year and has been a big player for some time. She’s even fitter this season too, which she showed against the Buds. I’m expecting more of the same from her… whether she has the armband or not, she leads from the front.
“We’ll need her too. Adamstown came at us hard last round and it will be exactly the same for Magic I think, especially considering it’s their first game of the season. We’re going into the game looking for all three points and we’ll go from there.”
Newcastle Olympic FC vs Merewether United FC
3pm Sunday, March 15 — Darling Street Oval
Newcastle Olympic play their first ever Herald Women’s Premier League match on Sunday as 2019 grand finalists Merewether travel to the “special” Darling Street Oval.
The match could also mark an early litmus test for both top sides as they look to state their intent for the season. Olympic comes into round two with an 8–0 win at their backs while United are looking for their first win.
In particular, Olympic may have an added factor in the Sunday clash with the Newcastle club to host it’s first-ever top-flight women’s game at Darling Street. It will be a big moment for the team and the fans according to coach Harmonie Atwill.
“We’re excited to be playing at Darling Street this weekend for sure. It’s a bit of a first for us,” she said.
“It’ll be good to have a big challenge for the first game there too. Merewether are going to be a major trial for us early on, I think.”
With the team’s ‘12th player’ potentially arriving in the form of dedicated Olympic fans, Atwill believes Newcastle can make it two from two if they click early. But it is a matter of the team finding their feet in their first home game.
“We’d love to see a crowd that can get behind us on the big day… we’re a well-supported club and we’re looking forward to sharing this special moment with everyone,” Atwill said.
“I think everyone is excited about it. It’s a big game for us.”
Merewether’s new coach Scott Ellis also knows travelling to Darling Street can be a big ask at any point in the season. Even more so early on as every team attempts to find their feet.
But Ellis revealed United had a returning star that could help with that problem.
Captain and goalkeeper Alison Logue will return to the side after missing the opening week. A handy inclusion given Olympic scored eight goals in their opening game and stifling their forward line will be key to victory.
“Alison is a pretty big addition back in the team for us,” Ellis said.
“I’d say she’s the best goalkeeper in the league and I don’t think anyone would really disagree with that. Her leadership is key too. She leads from the back and is simply a rock.”
Sarah Bergin is also up for selection for Merewether after her international clearance landed on Ellis’ desk on Monday. Her availability gives the United boss a “bit of a headache” in terms of selection but one he’s happy to have.
“I’m looking forward to the game, to be honest,” Ellis said.
“I think it’s generally accepted that Olympic are going to be the pacesetters for the competition this year so I’m keen to see where we shape up to them in these early rounds.”
New Lambton FC vs Adamstown Rosebud JFC
2.30pm Sunday, March 15 — No.2 Sportsground
After an entertaining 3–3 draw against Merewether last weekend, New Lambton return to No.2 Sportsground with one objective in mind: all three points. Standing in their way is Adamstown, who have already pocketed three.
Eagles coach Brad Jones said the defending champions failed to capitalise on their best chances last Sunday. This time around he expects his forward line, especially Georgia Amess and Sophie Stapleford, won’t repeat the same mistakes.
“We’re focusing on execution for this round, like I said after round one’s result,” Jones said.
“The football we played was very good. It was just that last-moment execution that let us down at a few critical times against Merewether.
“I think it’s just a matter of focusing when we get in front of goals. That said, we did score three and I think Amess and Stapleford were happy without being ecstatic after last week. I expect both to come out firing on all cylinders this weekend.”
If things don’t click immediately though Jones knows it won’t be the end of the world. The Eagles are looking to go back to back but Jones acknowledged it was going to be a long season and wanted to make sure his side are set for a deep run.
“There are quite a few new faces in this squad so we’re a little bit away from the finished product,” Jones said.
“It’s just a matter of getting game time under our belts. With that we’ll just constantly improve and refine. We’ve got a ways to go yet.”
Adamstown will be looking to make up for a disappointing 2019 season against the Eagles, after New Lambton fired double-digit goals past them in their three meetings on the way to the championship-premiership double.
The Buds are expected to line up similarly to their 4–1 victory over Thornton last weekend and Campbell will likely continue his quest for his young side to collect “nine points from the first three games,” a promise he made ahead of the season opener.
Mid Coast FC vs Warners Bay FC
3pm Sunday, March 15 — Taree Zone Field
In the final match of the round, Warners Bay travels north to Taree to face Mid Coast in what will unofficially be their season opener. The Panthers missed their first-round battle with Broadmeadow due to heavy rain on Thursday.
Warners Bay coach Craig Atkins said it was a disappointment not to be able to start last weekend with the week one washout but it had just increased the excitement for his team to get out on the park.
“We’re definitely keen to get our season actually kick-started this weekend,” he said.
“The surprise break has given us a bit of time to work on a couple of things so I think we’re a little more prepared than we would have been. We’re ready to play for points but.”
Like Broadmeadow, the Panthers now prepare to balance a busy start to their 2020 campaign with the delayed match. After playing the Middies on Sunday, Warners Bay will turn around and play Magic on Tuesday night.
“We’ve got a few games at once now that we’re actually started and they’re all going to be pretty competitive too so we’re cautious of balancing the workloads for everyone,” Atkins said
“We want to make sure we can get over every tough test ahead.”
Atkins also laughed at the thought rain might delay his squad’s two-hour journey to Taree this weekend and push back their opening round even further.
It is predicted to rain in the north on Sunday but Atkins had his fingers crossed.
“It would be very frustrating if we miss the first two weeks. [It] would not be ideal at all,” he said.
“We do have a busy week ahead of us already and we want to avoid anything that would give us more of a logjam. We just want to get started, [so] let’s get going.”