Match of the Round
Merewether United (4th) vs South Wallsend (2nd)
Sunday 16 June, 2.30pm, Myamblah Oval
Merewether welcomes second-placed South Wallsend to Myamblah Oval this weekend in the Herald Women’s Premier League match of the round.
Just seven days ago, the Wolves became the first team in the league to take points off undefeated leaders New Lambton. It came at the same time as Merewether slipped to a 3-2 defeat against third-placed Warners Bay, dropping them to within just six points of the chasing Wallsend outfit.
While there’s still plenty of weeks to play in the Herald WPL, Merewether’s results in the next few rounds will have a major influence on whether they’re ending their season battling it out for a strong semi-final seed, or for the right to play finals football at all in 2019.
“We’ve lost some games that we shouldn’t have this year, and that comes down to consistency on the field, and with the playing squad,” Merewether coach Cass Koppen said.
“If there’s one thing we want to avoid it’s dropping into a battle for top four at the end of the season, so we have to take points off the top teams if we want to stay in touch with that mix in the standings. We want to secure a semi-finals berth.”
Last weekend saw the Llamas miss out on points by a single goal, with Leah Guiffre’s disallowed effort at John St Oval stinging that little bit more for the defending champions. Despite missing the chance to swing the game, Koppen said that Guiffre has been a key part of the squad, and will be a major factor as the team returns to Myamblah on Sunday.
“Leah has really stepped up as a midfield general for us this season, and she’s got the added bonus of putting a few into the back of the net recently for us too, including one last week, and even the disallowed one,” Koppen said.
“Between her, and Rhali [Dobson] up top, we have the avenues to get some attack flowing. Rhali’s had a bit of a goalscoring patch recently, so if she can keep that up that will get us to the pointy end of the season for sure.”
Right now, Merewether will need Guiffre, Dobson, and the whole squad to step up as they look to upset a Wolves outfit that hasn’t lost a game in seven straight matches. The defending champions have been bolstered by the return of Jane MacDonald to the midfield, while Katy Gray could also rejoin the defence this weekend.
“Jane coming back will shore up our midfield a lot, and if Katy is back too that will give us a lot of strength in defence with her return,” Koppen said.
“Last time we played Southy we were missing all but about five of our starting first-grade players, and the scoreline showed that.
“This time around, it’s a bit of an unknown for us both. South Wallsend have a lot of W-League quality across the pitch and are getting results, but we don’t really have a first-round game to compare it to. They aren’t going to take their foot off the pedal though, so we have to be ready for a really tough game ahead.”
Adamstown Rosebud (6th) vs Wallsend (5th)
Sunday 16 June, 2.30pm, Adamstown Oval
After a last-second heartbreak last round, Adamstown will again return to Adamstown Oval with three points locked in as their target. They were denied by an injury-time winner by Sophie Milton last weekend, and the team will be looking to make amends.
Wallsend is fully aware of the pain that will be driving the Rosebuds come Sunday afternoon. They’ve suffered defeats this season that have left them shaking their heads, though none as late as Adamstown’s Round 13 loss. For coach Brad Jones, however, it’s more than just warding off the Buds’ “bouncing back game.” It’s about making a finals statement.
“The reality is that we believe we’re a top-four contender in this league, and to be a contender up there with the top four you have to take points in these kinds of games,” Jones said ahead of the fifth-vs-sixth clash.
“You can’t just assume you’re going to get them, you have to work hard and ensure that you do. The plus side, for us, is that if we take points off Adamstown as we’re aiming for the finals, it slows their momentum down too, and stifles their ability to climb the ladder.”
After the 1-nil heartbreaker last weekend, the Rosebuds have turned their attention to Wallsend. Jones said he and his squad have taken notice of a message issued from their opponents last round, and are ready for it.
“There was a call last week that Adamstown are “coming for Wallsend,” and that they deserve to be in the spot that we are right now. We’re not taking that lightly at all, that’s for sure,” Jones said. “The three points we got gives us confidence, and we’ve ticked the boxes on what we’ve planned to work on. That will go a long way to securing our three points.”
While Adamstown and Wallsend will likely have a fiery first grade battle on Sunday afternoon, the whole day’s meeting between the clubs will play a major hand in the race for the Friendship Cup in 2019. After taking an early lead in the opening round, Jones says he wants the entire club “ready to play” to make sure they can take another step to bring home that key silverware against the Buds.
“We want to claim that silverware,” he said.
“I don’t think Wallsend has ever won the cup, as far as I’m aware, and it’s definitely been with Adamstown the past few years. It’s important for us to bring home the trophy. Our teams need to make sure they’re ready to go.”
Thornton Redbacks (7th) vs New Lambton (1st)
Sunday 16 June, 2.30pm, Thornton Park
Thornton welcome league leaders New Lambton to Thornton Park on Sunday afternoon buoyed with confidence after their injury-time winner in Round 12.
It’s not just the 1-nil victory last weekend that Eagles boss Keelan Hamilton is thinking about, however. For him, the Redbacks have proven they’re a dangerous outfit, with multiple strong wins over the past few rounds increasing their stock as a “slippery fixture” as the Herald WPL approaches its third round of fixtures.
“They’ll be coming into the game with a lot of confidence, they’ve won a few of their last five and they’ve shown so much improvement from the start of the season,” Hamilton said of his side’s upcoming opposition.
“Thornton is definitely a team that we have to be wary of, we have to make sure we’re playing with the right amount of discipline and professionalism.”
After a one-all draw against second-placed South Wallsend last weekend, Hamilton has issued a message to his league-leading side: “play with courage.”
“Last week was good for us in terms of the fact we didn’t get beat, yeah, but our performance wasn’t where we’d like it to be at all,” he said.
“This week it’s something we’re focusing on, we want to get a better standard of performance, and play with courage.
“That’s a big thing, against Southy we got into a mode of trying to protect our lead, and we played with fear in the second half. We want to have courage in possession, which leads to not turning the ball over cheaply because we’re on the back foot.
“If we can find that courage in possession from all the girls on the park, we will be on the front foot and we’ll be far better set up to control the game how we want to. We didn’t do that last week, so we’re looking to get back to that this Sunday afternoon.”
Football Mid North Coast (8th) vs Warners Bay (3rd)
Sunday 16 June, 2.30pm, Wayne Richards Park
Football Mid North Coast return to Port Macquarie this weekend, when they welcome Warners Bay to Wayne Richards Park in Round 14 of the Herald WPL.
Despite falling 4-2 last round, the northern outfit are “pretty positive” heading into the battle against the third-placed Panthers. According to coach Mick Grass, the two-goal defeat against the Red Devils still showed major signs of “great progress.”
“We had a really good hit-out last weekend, the score did not reflect at all how well we played in the game,” Grass said.
“The girls have come back into training pretty positive because of that, and looking to have a red-hot go again against Warners Bay this time around.”
While defence is a clear focus for Mid North Coast as they look to pull themselves off the bottom of the Women’s Premier League standings, the battle of the midfield is going to be a vital area too, Grass said. With Warners Bay’s stars stacked into the middle of the park, conquering those key playmakers would give Middies an avenue to claim points.
“The midfield is the key, if we shut down Warners Bay’s middle then we’re halfway to achieving our goals because they’re so important for them,” he said.
“If we can maintain the ball for any period of time off the back of that that will help us out as well.
“The way the team defended last week was really good, and we were able to put pressure on Wallsend all across the park by defending from the front, and having everyone in high gear. We can do that against Warners Bay again this weekend, and see how the cards fall.”