Match of the Round
Warners Bay vs. New Lambton
Sunday 7 April, 2.30pm, John Street Oval
Five rounds in and only two undefeated teams remain in the Herald Women’s Premier League (WPL). In a twist of fate that couldn’t have been scripted any better, Warners Bay and New Lambton (both 4-0 so far) are set to face off at John Street Oval this Sunday afternoon.
The prize? The potential to be the only team without a loss left in the competition in 2019, and a strong platform with which to build a title tilt.
That’s certainly what New Lambton boss Keelan Hamilton is expecting as the two high-flying teams meet for the first time in the new campaign.
“It’s going to be a good match, two undefeated teams against each other, and with a lot of good players on each side. It’s all shaping up to be a good contest,” Hamilton said.
Hamilton’s focus heading into the battle at John Street Oval is the midfield. The 2018 Herald WPL coach of the year said he had pinpointed the engine room of both star-studded squads as a place where the match “could be won or lost”.
“They have a lot of strong players that either play in midfield, or float into that area, including Cassidy Davis, Nadja Squires, and even Tara Pender coming in, so I think that’s where any result is going to come from.
“If either team can get on top in that area, it will go a long way to deciding the eventual result.”
Davis, who has stepped back into the Warners Bay coaching role while Antonio Ambrogetti is away, has a similar feeling to the New Lambton coach about the match and said she thinks it’s going to be a quality clash.
“It’s going to be an intense game given how we’ve both gone at the start of the season, I think we’re equal at the top now that we’ve made up our game against Thornton too,” Davis said.
“We’re looking forward to it, and I’m sure New Lambton are as well.”
“We want to be the minor and the major premiers every year, so we’d love to be clear at the top after the game. I don’t think it’s going to be a big scoreline, in the end, I think it will be the team that works hardest that gets the result.
“The team has been working on shooting a lot, and we’ve been scoring goals. We’re hoping we can keep that attacking record up against them on Sunday.”
Davis also revealed there would be “not much change” in her short tenure as the Panthers boss in Ambrogetti’s absence, with a focus remaining on the passing game that has seen Warners Bay stay undefeated so far in 2019.
The short-term player-coach also added she feels the pressure is on New Lambton at the moment, considering how well the away side has been performing in the early stages of their campaign.
“Keelan’s a great coach and New Lambton is a great club, they’ve done so well to get where they are,” Davis said.
“I think they’re a bit of the ‘topic’ at the moment, so I feel like the pressures on them.
“We’re at the top now on goal difference after the Thornton game so if we can get the three points against them that might change the pressure, but for now I think New Lambton are going to be a great contender and all eyes are on them.”
In major news for the match, Eagles coach Hamilton revealed Tara Andrews will be absent from the top of the table clash, though confirmed the league-leading goalscorer would be unavailable for just a single week.
Andrews has been in dynamic form coming into the first four games of the 2019 season, notching a dozen goals for the Eagles in the opening month of the competition.
“It’s a huge loss, she’s been in fantastic form, but we have players that can step in to void,” he said.
“We can hopefully account for that loss, we have someone in mind to replace her. It’ll be a case of looking at the team in training ahead of the match and making a call then.”
While the Westfield W-League Jets striker being absent from the contest is a major blow, Hamilton and the Eagles aren’t lacking in firepower – young rising star Emmeline Pepper, as well as winger Lauren Allan, have both scored three goals for the club this season.
New Lambton’s coach also confirmed veteran defender Stacey Day, who had been ruled out of the Wallsend match last weekend, would be returning to the lineup this Sunday afternoon.
Adamstown Rosebud vs. Football Mid North Coast
Sunday 7 April, 2.30pm, Adamstown No.1 Oval
No.1 Oval is set to become a battleground for three points, as Adamstown hosts Football Mid North Coast (FMNC) in a Herald WPL fixture that’s about “getting points on the board” for both developing clubs.
That’s not to say either team is solely relying on a points haul in their fifth-round clash to glean results – Rosebuds coach Paul Devitis, and travelling Middies boss Mick Grass are both in agreeance their squads’ main focus in 2019 is to build.
Devitis is excited to return home to No.1 Oval, especially considering how close Adamstown came last week to nearly knocking off inner-city rivals Merewether.
“There were so many positives to take from the girl’s performances against Merewether, despite not getting the win,” he said ahead of the Round 5 match.
“We have to capitalise on that positive performance, and turn the results that we are getting on the field into points.
“From our perspective, we’re trying to build week to week, and last round was our best performance yet. We did what we’d been aiming to do for the majority of the season, and we identified if we can get through the first half of a match we’re quite good in the second.”
The home side boss also said he’s expecting a clash of “similar brands” when it comes to the Buds-Middies showdown on Sunday afternoon.
“I’m a big fan of Football Mid North Coast, I like how they play, and they always try to play a good brand of football,” Devitis said.
“They obviously have a good coach there and a set way in how they want to play. They’re developing a similar brand, and looking for that consistency.”
Grass voiced a similar sentiment for his travelling northern side and believes the mood within the club is “on the upswing” after their 2-0 victory at home last weekend.
For the Mid North Coast coach, team synergy is key to collecting competitive points for the side, and believes the clash at Adamstown’s home base offers an opportunity for back-to-back wins in the 2019 season.
“I think we can put a good performance on the park again, we’re feeling pretty confident – I have no doubt we can get points,” Grass said.
“That said, I think we’re going to have to be especially good because they’re a good team as well.
“Their early results don’t reflect their quality on the park, so I’m expecting a really good game on Sunday.”
Wallsend vs. Merewether United
Sunday 7 April, 2.30pm, Wallsend Park
Wallsend may not have claimed the three points last weekend, but when they welcome defending champions Merewether to Wallsend Park they’ll be “brimming with confidence”, according to coach Brad Jones.
The Red Devils – who will be donning purple kits in the WPL for the club’s annual Purple Day for Epilepsy Awareness – have won just a single one of their opening three games in the league, but Jones believes the “lessons the team has taken out of the losses” have been just as valuable as three points.
“We’re happy with where we’re at now, obviously we would have liked to get a result in the last couple of games, but we’ve learned a lot and we’re going to take that into the game against Merewether,” Jones said.
“We’re doing very well playing for each other, and I really do think – and I know it’s cliche – that it’s been a solid team performance all over the field.
“I expect us to show the heart and desire the girls have had in the last couple of weeks, and I expect a strong performance from the girls. Hopefully, that translates into three points.”
Merewether enters the match at Wallsend Park with a different mindset, one focusing inwardly on what the champions have been putting on the park in recent weeks.
“We’re just going to worry about our own game, we’ve been a bit frustrated with trying to form connections and formations, so for us I think we just have to stick to the basics,” Llamas coach Cass Koppen said.
“Wallsend are a bit of an unknown entity for us, they’ve made a few good signings, and their results haven’t reflected how they’ve been performing. They have a very young team, but they have a few key players who are more than capable of causing some damage.
“Their new coach has got them playing a good brand of football, so definitely wary of them. I think they’re capable of pushing for a top four finish.”
Koppen also confirmed Merewether would have a major return for the club – Tayla Braithwaite, who departed United after the 2017 season, and played a year with Newcastle City in the Black Diamond AFL Womens competition, has returned for the champions.
Signed to cover Bridget Holt’s departure from the team due to injury, Braithwaite is expected to slot back into the gameday side. Sarah Hartree (ankle) was also a possible return to the team in Round 5, although Koppen revealed they were taking it “slow” with her recovery.
Thornton Redbacks vs. South Wallsend
Sunday 7 April, 2.30pm, Thornton Park
Thornton continues to search for a win in the Herald WPL since their return to the top grade in 2019 and will look for an opportunity against South Wallsend as they welcome the Wolves to Thornton Park on Sunday.
The travelling side will be looking for a bounce-back victory, however, after their Round 4 clash against Warners Bay at home went against them last weekend.
Wolves boss Cas Wright said the team was aiming to bring together what they were looking to achieve in the games, a move she’s hopeful will see the top four contenders “come out on top” again after the loss.
“Not taking the game lightly at all, I’m sure they’ll come out after their defeat against Middies,” Wright said.
“Now sure how Thornton play, haven’t seen them. We just need to make sure our goals are aligned and executed, and hopefully, we’ll come out on top.”
The Redbacks return home off the back of a 2-0 loss on the road, as they headed north to face Football Mid North Coast.
A longer margin followed for the Redbacks in Wednesday’s catch-up match against Warners Bay, when the side fell 9-0 at John Street Oval under lights.
For Primmer, the message is ‘more of the same’ for the girls despite the defeats, with an understanding that the youth of the team means development is the focus for now.
“On the weekend we just have to keep working on what we have been doing,” he said.
“Against Warners Bay [on Wednesday] we finished with five 16-year-olds on the park.
“We are a little worried about South Wallsend coming off a heavy loss to Warners Bay because we saw this side is streets ahead.
“We’ll look to Ainsleigh Childs as a focus this Sunday, she was fantastic against the Panthers.”