Competitions

Herald WPL 2019 Season Review

September 26th, 2019

 SPROULE SPORTS FOCUS

 ISAAC MCINTYRE

 

New Lambton – Premiers & Champions

New Lambton cemented themselves as Premiership favourites from minute one in the Herald Women’s Premier League this year and delivered on their early promise as they climbed to a 56 point finish with just a single defeat to their name.

After a 2018 season which saw the Eagles fall just short of the Grand Final and 11 points behind first place, Keelan Hamilton’s outfit knew they had to lift to a new level if they wanted to compete for the silverware. Led by their forward-thinking ‘big three’ of Tara Andrews, Lauren Allan, and Georgia Amess and their combined 84 goals, New Lambton found the level in 2019.

The Premiers are not unstoppable, however. Warners Bay exposed a chink in the league leaders’ armour in Round 19 with a 3-2 victory at John Street Oval, though the Eagles had already secured the Premiership the weekend before.

Now, New Lambton sits on the precipice of securing a season’s double in their first year as Premiers. A nail-biting 4-4 finish at Lisle Carr Oval last weekend against South Wallsend still saw the high-flying Eagles through to the decider by 7-5 result on aggregate, and Hamilton’s near-unstoppable squad now roll towards the final fixture at Rockwell Automation Park where they pulled off a tremendous 4-3 Grand Final victory in extra-time to win the double.

 

Warners Bay – Finished 2nd

The Panthers may have finished nine points adrift of New Lambton in their hunt for the Premiership, but that’s no slight on the Warners Bay outfit who lost just four times all season.

Led by captain-coach Cassidy Davis during the middle of the season, before Craig Atkins came onboard for the final run home, the league’s second-placed team has had a successful season overall. The club finished runners-up at the TAFE NSW Women’s State Cup in July and was the only team to find a way past the Eagles to score a win against them in the league this year.

Unfortunately for last year’s runners-up, a top-four finish awaited them this time around. Their two-goal deficit in the first leg against Merewether ended up sealing the end of their postseason, as they wrapped their year with a 2-2 draw at John Street Oval.

Having finished close, but not close enough, may sting a little for the Panthers, but they’ve proved even with backroom changes across their campaign they can still remain consistent – and can even improve their standings in the tail-end of their run.

There’s no sugar-coating it: Warners Bay will be disappointed not to be playing in the final game of the season today. That’s not to say the club did not have a great year overall though. A runaway New Lambton clinched the title, but Warners Bay quietly ended just nine points behind the shining squad. To remain in the fight as long as they did and miss the Grand Final by just two goals will give the Panthers a fire for next season which many may not be able to match. Beware the clubs standing in Warners Bay’s way come 2020.

 

Merewether – Finished 3rd

Two-time defending champions Merewether had a rough opening round this year, as injuries dictated their starting lineup for much of the first seven fixtures. Most weeks, the Llamas were battling to put a strong starting eleven out on the park, and their results paid the price.

As United’s missing stars filtered back into the team across the middle of the season, losses and draws turned into victories for the third-placed club. Cass Koppen’s team were able to turn around the misfortunes of their early season, and a 4-1 win over South Wallsend late on clinched their turn-around top-four finish.

From there, the quality and class of the side shone through. The team clicked into high gear in the first leg of their semi-final battle against Warners Bay and collected a 3-1 lead at Myamblah Oval. A 2-2 draw next Sunday confirmed they would again defend their title.

United’s season has been nothing but success after recovering from the difficult opening rounds. Stars like Leah Guiffre, Nikki Jones, and Alison Logue stood up to be counted when it mattered, and once they had their feet in the postseason the Llamas reminded the Premier League why they’re a veteran contender to be feared.

After putting in an incredible performance against New Lambton in the Grand Final, they fell just short of a third straight Championship going down in extra-time, 4-3.

 

South Wallsend – Finished 4th

If Merewether’s season took a hit early through injuries, South Wallsend was the opposite. A strong start of the season saw the Wolves in a bid for the top two spots, before absences, injuries, and representatives duties rocked the finals-bound roster.

In a season knocked around by a different starting eleven every week, the Wolves did well to keep the ship on course. Losses to rivals Wallsend – 1-0 and 3-2 – marred Southy’s campaign, but standout results like their 2-1 win over Warners Bay, and a 1-1 draw with New Lambton, buoyed the fourth-place finishers three points ahead of the Red Devils.

A final two-legged battle against the Premiers was a mixed bag for the Wolves. A tough 3-1 loss in the opening round put South Wallsend on the back-foot, and a series of injuries and absences ahead of the second leg seemed to put an exclamation point on the story of the club’s first-grade year. Their epic 4-4 effort showed the team’s class and character, but in the end, the team settled for top four after their rollercoaster season.

Consistency in the starting eleven was the prize that got away for Cas Wright and her Wolves. If the side can find more of a balance in regular players, and avoid the almost curse-like nature of injuries, knocks, bumps, and unavailabilities, South Wallsend will be back to their fighting best in 2020’s new campaign.

 

Wallsend – Finished 5th

The Red Devils may have finished without finals football in 2019, but the season was a flying success for the club nonetheless. Wallsend claimed the TAFE NSW Women’s State Cup in July and finished just three points outside the top four on 35 points.

Considering the club collected just nine points last year, to turn around and collect “more wins than points last year” in the words of coach Brad Jones, was a phenomenal feat for the club. The team scored notable victories over Merewether (3-1 in April) and South Wallsend (3-2 in June) and battled  a draw with runners-up Warners Bay in Round 16 (2-2 in June).

A season without finals may be a disappointment for the team who came rolling out of the gates on fire to begin their 2019 knock, but there was nothing but improvement for the team overall. The foundation has been laid throughout the Red Devils system now for success, and with confidence already building from the fixture-based and State Cup silverware of the year, Wallsend is sure to rise stronger than ever in the Premier League’s next season.

 

Adamstown – Finished 6th

Adamstown climbed to a sixth-place finish in the third round of the season and bounced from strength to strength once the ‘click’ moment happened at No.1 Oval.

The Buds were one of three teams locked outside the battle for finals mid-way through the year, but Paul Devitis’ squad were able to clinch a series of key results to spearhead a climb up the ladder. A 4-2 victory against Thornton and a cagey 1-0 win against Mid North Coast sealed the escape for the Rosebud and put them six points clear of the bottom of the table.

For the former, Herald Women’s Premier League powerhouses, who last made finals in 2017, another year without a postseason run may be disappointing, but the strategy and mentality implemented into the squad this time around has set them in a good place. Led by Bud’s heroes like Elodie Dagg, Olivia Sneddon, and Chelsea Lucas, the team is on the right track.

The results may not be instant, especially with Devitis and his roster of backroom staff out the door at the end of the season, Adamstown has found their path in the Premier League. Strong pickups in the off-season, and a firm grasp on their young stars heading into 2020, the Rosebud’s may once again rise as a finals contender alongside the other five.

 

Thornton – Finished 7th

Thornton’s return to the Herald Women’s Premier League in 2019 saw them finish seventh after 21 rounds, though coach Alan Primmer still passed the season off as a success for the club.

After the Redbacks were forced to withdraw from the competition last time around, focus behind the scenes turned to youth development. Primmer’s attention was locked solely on forging a pathway from the junior grades to the top, and a handful of young stars breaking into Thornton’s squad across the season has ticked those boxes for progress.

Ainsley Childs and Kirstie Power-Walford were two such rising stars. Together they ticked off 33 appearances for the Redbacks and added eight goals to their season haul. The two proved key to locking Thornton into seventh-place as well, with the duo both scoring in the club’s valuable 3-0 win over Football Mid North Coast in Round 11 – one of the team’s two victories.

Overall, Thornton will be happy with their return season club-wise. The results may not have been there in 2019, but with a bedding-in period always expected and in part welcomed by the backroom staff as they eye growth – and this year was a great start on that path.

 

Mid North Coast – Finished 8th

Football Mid North Coast was in a similar boat to Thornton for this season – settle back into the rhythm of the Herald Women’s Premier League, blood new players, and begin the ball rolling towards a stronger and developed squad.

While a last-place finish didn’t seem on the cards early for the Middies as they edged both Thornton and Adamstown 2-0 in the 4th and 5th rounds, a string of defeats at the tail end of the season saw the northern squad slip to just seven points in 21 games.

Like the Redbacks, however, youth development was a great success for the club in 2019. Middies boss Mick Grass helmed the club to a successful return year, and the implementation of both culture and specific gameplay objectives proved positive. The Mid North Coast squad scored back-to-back wins in late March may have collected six points, but the team which took to the field in the final weeks was a far more complete package in regards to how Grass wanted them to play football.

As with their seventh-placed compatriots, Mid North Coast will tick the box for their return to the Herald Women’s Premier League, and turn their eyes to recruitment and retention for the 2020 season. If they can continue their upward growth next year, expect big things from the north.

Related Topics:
Herald WPL Premier Competitions

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