Match of the Round
South Wallsend (3rd) v Wallsend (5th)
Sunday 14 July, 2.30pm, Walker Fields
The Herald Women’s Premier League (WPL) returns after a week off for the TAFE NSW Women’s State Cup with the Wallsend Derby at Walker Fields on Sunday afternoon.
It’s a particularly special clash against their arch-rivals for Wallsend after the club secured its first major silverware with a 1-nil victory over Warners Bay last weekend at the Lake Macquarie Regional Football Facility (LMRFF).
Now the Red Devils have the chance to take that trophy-glory, and the swell of confidence it will bring to the club, into their away game against South Wallsend. Sitting just five points outside the top four, every player at Wallsend knows they have a handful of must-win games in their future.
“Taking down a heavyweight in Warners Bay in the final counts for a lot for the squad, the girls were pretty excited and one of the things they said after the win was that we have to carry this forward now,” Wallsend coach Brad Jones said.
“I think you’ll see a boosted confidence when we get back into the Premier League, we’re hoping we can replicate the performances from the State Cup. While it’s great that we won the cup, we also know that we have a big goal to achieve ahead of us in the league.”
As well as the lift from securing the State Cup title last weekend, Wallsend has taken another positive from the event. Olivia Kennedy, who was ruled out of nearly the whole season after an injury in the opening rounds, returned to the team during the State Cup and stacked up valuable minutes on the road to Wallsend’s triumph.
“Olivia played some minutes in the Cup and that was important because she has been away with injury for so long,” Jones said.
“That brought a lot of confidence for the girls because she’s a massive presence on the field and seeing her back can only be a good thing for the whole team. She’ll have a big role to play for us as we go forward, so it’s good she’s back.”
The Wallsend Derby also comes just three weeks after the last time the two clubs met. Due to a delayed wash-out match, the Round 3 meeting was played out on June 19 under lights. Wallsend took the meeting 3-2, with Georgia Little leading the way with a brace.
The Wolves won the first played match between the two this season, with a double from South Wallsend leading striker Ashlee Brodigan guiding the third-placed team to a 3-1 win over their rivals in Round 10.
New Lambton (1st) v Adamstown Rosebud (6th)
Sunday 14 July, 2.30pm, Alder Park
Neither Adamstown nor New Lambton were able to break out of the TAFE NSW Women’s State Cup group stages, and with a limited amount of games played last weekend both are eager to get back out onto the park and restart their Premier League campaigns.
For the Eagles, the end of their season is coming up fast. There may still be five rounds to play, and some clubs have catch-up games to lock in, but New Lambton sits 10 points clear of their closest competitors. With 15 points up for grabs in the final rounds, the club is now within touching distance of the 2019 premiership.
The mentality coming into games hasn’t changed for Keelan Hamilton and his soaring squad. They are fully aware of how many points are left in the pile of the season, but being close doesn’t mean they’ve crossed the line. Not yet.
“Winning the premiership would be fantastic, of course, but we have to get there first and we don’t want to think about it too much before it’s right in front of us,” Hamilton said.
“This weekend we have Adamstown, who are a tricky team to face. The positives for us is that the State Cup gave us a chance to play through our entire squad, and everyone got a game, so everyone is match-fit and ready for the final run-in for the league.”
While New Lambton are looking for a game that doesn’t upset the apple cart at all, Adamstown are focusing on the exact opposite. If they can show some discontent for the potentially Premiership-bound squad, and grab points on the way, Paul Devitis admits he’d be very happy coming away from Alder Park.
“We’re expecting a very difficult game against top quality opposition,” the Buds boss said.
“We will go into the game with no fear, however, and if we can compete like we have been in the last month then it should be a tight battle.”
Adamstown have a clear-cut goal for claiming the upset. Lethal Westfield W-League striker Tara Andrews, who comfortably sits ten goals clear in the race for the golden boot, has scored 36 times this season. Eight have come against the Rosebuds, and Devitis knows if they want to have a chance in the contest they must silence Andrews.
“Tara scored four in both games against us this season, so trying to keep her quiet will be the big challenge for us,” he said.
“They have a lot of quality all over the park as well, but we’re confident we can match them. Elodie Dagg and Ryley Field have been performing great in the midfield, and we will use them as a base for good football, and creating opportunities.”
The Eagles hold the head-to-head record against the Rosebuds, having defeated the Adamstown club 9-2 and 7-0 in their two meetings at Adamstown Oval.
Thornton Redbacks (7th) vs Warners Bay (2nd)
Sunday 14 July, 2.30pm, Thornton Park
After falling just short of TAFE NSW Women’s State Cup glory at the LMRFF last weekend, Warners Bay have turned their attention to the next silverware up for grabs – the year-end premiership and championship trophies the WPL has on offer.
While many teams would be shaken after falling by a single, late goal in a decider, Craig Atkins said his side were “encouraged” by the performances they had put out on the park at the three-day event. A shock Friday night defeat revved the Panthers back into shape and allowed them to approach the tournament from a different direction.
“There were a lot of encouraging things that we took away from the State Cup despite the loss,” Atkins said.
“Our Friday night result wasn’t what we expected and we probably got through the tough way, but from there, our performances were great to see, and solid,” Atkins said.
One thing Atkins took away from the weekend was that his side is dripping with talented depth. With a host of games played from Friday to Sunday, Warners Bay fielded a number of rising stars from the junior ranks, and Atkins said he was “pleased” with what he saw.
“We have some great young players coming through and I thought they played well all the way up to, and in the final. We could even have pinched a draw at the end but it just wasn’t to be,” he said.
“The depth that we found at the State Cup is important because we are going to have a lot of players coming in and out over the next few weeks, and that poses an almighty challenge for keeping consistency on the park. We’re aiming to hit the ground running back in the league.
“What we need from the squad now is for everyone to click on the park. We had the Cup, we’re back in the league, and in the final five weeks, we have to work hard, and work even harder again, as we head towards the finals.
“I’m asking everyone to step up, and if we can get everyone pulling their weight together that can drive us to the end.”
Warners Bay defeated Thornton 9-0 and 6-1 in their first two meetings this season. Both games were played at John Street Oval, and this will be the first time the two clubs face off at Thornton Park in the league in 2019.
Football Mid North Coast (8th) vs Merewether United (4th)
Sunday 14 July, 2.30pm, Wayne Richards Park
The final game of Round 16 sees Merewether travel north to Port Macquarie to face Football Mid North Coast at Wayne Richards Park on Sunday.
It’s a beleaguered Mid North Coast outfit that welcomes the defending champions to their northern home this weekend, and one that has been trying to plug holes in the squad left by injuries and absences for weeks. These injuries may not be the only reason Middies have found themselves locked in eighth, but it certainly isn’t helping their cause.
“We’ve been battling to put the best team that we can put on the park most weeks because of the injuries that we’ve had,” Mick Grass explained about his team.
“These have been happening throughout the season, which hasn’t helped.
“The team wants to grab points now, so we’ll see what happens. We want to get away from the bottom of the table, but more importantly than that we’re looking to develop what we can with who we have available so that we can be ready for the next ones coming up.
“If we end up at the bottom then it happens. We’ll go away at the end of the season and continue to learn and grow every game. We have a young team, and we have to understand where we want to go from here to achieve results in future seasons.”
While Mid North Coast have one eye locked on development, and preparing for their march into future seasons, Merewether faces a much more pressing concern. The team is in the top four right now, but with a red-hot Red Devils outfit breathing down their necks just five points behind, every win counts for the Llamas.
“It’s important for our mental game that we put on a strong game at Port Macquarie, it’s a hard trip to play away at,” Merewether coach Cass Koppen said.
“Mid North Coast are a strong, well-disciplined, and athletic team and they’ve caused us problems in the past.
“If we want to keep our place in the standings, and keep the momentum going, then we need to get three points this weekend. More than that though, we’re just looking forward to playing. The season has been very staggered because of wash-outs, and the State Cup, so we just want to get back into the swing of things again.”
There’s also another reason Merewether are looking forward to a potential result on Sunday afternoon. Courtney Anderson made the switch from Mid North Coast to United last season, and the Merewether star wants to show her old club “how much she’s improved.”
“It’ll be a nice return for Courtney, she’s been one of our standout performers this year, and not just for the team but for the whole WPL, and she’s improved so much week after week,” Koppen said.
“It will be nice for her to come up against her old team, and show them how much she’s developed in the past six months. I’m hoping she enjoys the game and has fun.”