With four rounds remaining in the shortened Herald Women’s Premier League season, a clearer picture of who remains in contention for finals football is starting to emerge in what will be one of the tightest premiership races in years.
Broadmeadow Magic sit on top of the table on 25 points heading into round 11, followed by Merewether United (23). Newcastle Olympic and Warners Bay round out the top four, with Adamstown fifth.
Mid Coast remain within striking distance of the top four, while seventh-placed New Lambton and eighth-placed Thornton are mathematically out of finals contention.
Merewether and Mid Coast remain the only teams with a game in hand, with the sides to meet in a grueling Saturday-Sunday double header in a fortnight’s time.
Match of the Round
Broadmeadow Magic v Merewether United
Magic Park – Saturday 3pm
It will be a battle of the heavyweights at Magic Park on Saturday in what could well be the most important game of the season in the race for the premiership.
Broadmeadow Magic are two points clear of Merewether United on the table, though the Llamas still have a game in hand against Mid Coast FC.
“The girls are excited about the game on the weekend. Our approach is the same, we work on our structure and the way we play,” Magic coach Jake Curley said.
Merewether walked away winners in an end-to-end seven-goal epic at Arthur Edden Oval the last time the two sides met. Since then, Magic have added the experience of Gemma Harrison and Erin Wilson.
It has been a disrupted month for Magic, with the week gone the first full schedule of training the side has had in some time.
“The focus has been structure. With our busy schedule we haven’t really trained,” Curley said.
Merewether head into the clash off the back of what coach Scott Ellis described as his side’s “most complete performance so far this year.”
The Llamas thumped Thornton 8-0 on Wednesday night, with the focus now switched to Saturday’s top of the table clash.
“Most of the bits and pieces we’ve been working on pretty much dropped into place [against Thornton]. It sets us up well for Saturday,” Ellis said.
“[Broadmeadow] are a good team and to beat them it has to be a pretty complete performance.
“We’ve evolved as a team since we last played them. My message to the girls will be it is going to be hard, it’s going to be tough but it’s there for us to win.”
“If someone is going to come and watch a game this year, I think this will be one of the best ones.”
Both sides are expected to be unchanged for the clash.
Adamstown Rosebud v Newcastle Olympic
Adamstown Oval – Sunday 3pm
Adamstown will be out to score an upset when they face the highly-rated Newcastle Olympic at Adamstown Oval on Sunday.
The Buds are expected to be unchanged for the clash which, while not a must win for Adamstown, three points would strengthen their chances of securing fourth spot.
“The points are very important and it is our responsibility to go out and get them,” Adamstown coach Ryan Campbell said.
“The girls are keen and excited for the weekend. They are quite disappointed with the way the game [against Merewether] ended on the weekend after such a bright start.
“The message will be to be aggressive and show belief in our style of play and in their own ability.”
It is a difficult run home for Adamstown, who face Broadmeadow Magic, Mid Coast and Warners Bay to round out the regular season following their clash with Olympic.
“We are looking to keep working on ourselves and making sure that we eliminate lapses of concentration so that we give ourselves the best chance of success,” Campbell said.
Newcastle Olympic head into the clash full of confidence after two comprehensive victories. Olympic left Warners Bay reeling with a dominant 7-2 performance on Sunday, while the women from Darling Street added another five to their season tally on Wednesday as they defeated New Lambton.
Jemma House led the attack with four goals, while Georgia Amess also found the back of the net.
“Defensively we were also strong. The girls are looking better in terms of just doing their role,” Olympic coach Harmonie Attwill said after the game.
Just six points split Adamstown and Olympic on the table, with the Buds likely to prove another tough challenge for Olympic.
“We just have to stick to our principles and that is to be patient, to pick our time to go forward and if it is on it is on, if not just sit back and relax,” Attwill said.
And while much of the talk over the next fortnight will be around the race for the premiership, it is not a discussion that interests the Olympic coach.
“The goal is just to win every week. We’ve never really been focused on the minor premiership or anything other than making the semi-finals,” Attwill said.
“We did well at the start of the season. I think we probably plateaued halfway through and now I think we really need to keep that upward trend otherwise anything can happen in finals football.”
Warners Bay v Thornton
John Street Oval – Sunday 3pm
Warners Bay will be out to make amends for last weekend’s disappointing loss at the hands of Newcastle Olympic when they host Thornton on Sunday afternoon.
The Panthers were left reeling after Olympic dismantled their defence in a dominant display at Darling Street Oval, with coach Craig Atkins commenting post game his side lacked “intensity” in the second half.
“I just said to them at training on Tuesday I want to see them respond from the performance or that 20 minutes on the weekend,” Atkins said.
“We were well and truly in the game and I just wanted to see a response from each girl at training.”
Warners Bay are expected to be unchanged for the clash with Thornton, which doubles as another important three points in the race for the last finals place.
“It’s just about that intensity, focus and communication because as I’ve said we’re trying to build that consistent performance,” Atkins said.
“We’re not quite there yet. Fingers crossed we can put a solid performance together this weekend.
“[The girls] need to believe in themselves. Communication is a huge factor and we just need to focus for the 90 minutes.”
Thornton head into the clash off the back of a loss to high-flying Merewether on Wednesday, though despite the eight-goal defeat coach Al Primmer walked away impressed with the tenacity of his side.
“The girls continue to try and find something for me. We lost two girls during the afternoon before kick-off, so it was a mad scramble to change a few things around but the effort was huge,” Primmer said.
“We lost it last night in transition. Merewether scored four goals straight after we pushed forward.
“We need to stay in the game.”
Thornton are likely to field a somewhat different side to the one that faced Merewether for Sunday’s clash with Warners Bay, although the message before kick-off is expected to be the same.
“Normal message to the girls will be play happy football, make it fun not a chore,” Primmer said.
Mid Coast FC v New Lambton
Taree Zone Field – Sunday 3pm
Football returns to Taree Zone Field this weekend when Mid Coast FC host New Lambton in what is a crucial clash for the home side if they are to remain in the hunt for finals football.
Middies coach Mick Grass said his side was capable of playing deep into the finals but needed to lift for each of their remaining five fixtures.
“They’ve got to lift. Every game now becomes key for us. Our next loss is probably the end of our chances for finals,” Grass said.
“All the girls understand that they’ve got to lift for every game.
“We’ve got to take chances. Last week [against Thornton] we probably had 20, we got three and got the win but we probably should have put more away.”
As for the key to ensuring three points on Sunday, Grass said it was a matter of sticking with the same formula.
“Stick to the processes we’ve been sticking to all year. We had a good run when we came back from [the COVID-19 suspension] and the process proved to be successful,” Grass said.
It has been a tumultuous week for New Lambton, who announced on Tuesday they had parted ways with head coach Brad Jones.
“In what has been a disrupted season and with the numerous challenges that presented, it became clear that it was in the best interest of the players and the club to recalibrate our WPL program, to finish 2020 on positive note and reset now for the 2021 season,” the club said in a statement on social media.
Less than 48 hours later, the Eagles were outclassed by a rampant Newcastle Olympic in their round seven catch up game. The 5-0 loss compounded by a hamstring injury to goalkeeper Ruby Jones.
Having stepped into lead the side against Olympic, New Lambton’s technical director Cas Wright said post game her focus was “keeping the group together and keeping it positive.”
“It was just unfortunate that we weren’t able to capitalise [on chances] but I think going from last week’s game to this week’s game there’s lots of positives to take out of it,” Wright said.
The trip north is never an easy one for visiting sides, with the challenge compounded by a growing injury list for the Eagles.
“We didn’t even have the bare 11 [against Olympic]. We only had 10 and reserve grade was light on as well,” Wright said.
“It’s a numbers game for us at the moment, just making sure we’ve got 22 fresh starters.”