Match of the Round
Newcastle Olympic v Warners Bay FC
Darling Street Oval, Sunday 4.15pm
Newcastle Olympic have been dealt a horrid blow ahead of their clash with Warners Bay with Sophie O’Brien ruled out after she sustained a hamstring injury at training.
O’Brien joins a long injury list for Olympic which includes Jemma House, Keely Gawthrop and Chloe Hinde, with coach Paul DeVitis hopeful stability will deliver results on match day.
“The first couple of rounds we are still trying to find some team consistency with all the changes we have had to make due to injuries and COVID but hopefully things start to settle down over the next two-week period,” he said.
Warners Bay will prove a tough assignment for Olympic with the Panthers boasting a strong attacking line up.
“This weekend against Warners Bay we know we must finish our chances on goal because they have shown they are capable of scoring plenty of goals,” DeVitis said.
“[Warners Bay] are obviously going to be full of confidence coming off back-to-back wins.”
DeVitis identified the need to deliver in front of goal as a key to three points on Sunday.
“Our fitness is improving each week and we are training hard to start capitalising on the goal scoring opportunities we’ve been creating over the first two rounds,” he said.
Warners Bay coach Craig Atkins hopes the constant wet weather does not halt the momentum of his high-flying Panthers.
“Nothing beats getting on the grass and working on things to try and continue that momentum. We managed to get an indoor court on Tuesday night,” Atkins said.
“It’s not the same but everyone is in the same boat.”
Kristy Martyn and Airlie Davis are expected to return after they missed last weekend’s match against Mid Coast with the rest of the squad expected to be unchanged.
With two wins after two rounds you would be forgiven for thinking Warners Bay had come flying out of the blocks. But if you talk to Atkins, he will say there is still more to come.
“The first game was not our best performance and the girls knew that. Our first 45 minutes last weekend [against Mid Coast] was much better but we fell away in the early stages of the second half,” Atkins said.
Darling Street produced a heavy surface for last weekend’s match between Olympic and Maitland, with similar conditions likely on Sunday.
Broadmeadow Magic v Maitland FC
Magic Park, Friday 8pm
There is no shortage of tantalising action in round three of NPL Northern NSW Women’s, including Friday night’s must watch match between third-placed Broadmeadow Magic and second-placed Maitland.
Both sides head into the clash at Magic Park with two wins under their belt, with Maitland holding the ascendency thanks to its strong defensive effort, which has seen them yet to concede a goal in 2022.
In just their second season in the competition, Maitland have proven themselves as a team to watch with the likes of Sophie Stapleford and Bronte Peel being described as “near unplayable” by opposition coaches. Their own mentor, Dave Walker, is not getting ahead of himself too early though.
Sophie Jones remains in doubt with injury, though in better news for the Magpies, Madison Gallegos is expected to return. The only barrier to her return, the unknown of mother nature.
“You lose a bit of continuity and momentum [from wet weather]. The sessions for these players is not necessarily that there is a lot of new stuff to learn but the continuity to bed down formation and strategy changes,” Walker said.
Reflecting on the opening two rounds, Walker delivered a frightening message for the remainder of the competition.
“To start the season on the front foot has been tremendous. In terms of our football, I think we are at about 30 or 40 per cent of where we want to be,” he said.
Magic coach Jake Curley admitted his side were still in a transition phase, with the key message from the premiership winning mentor being that the more games they play the better their understanding will be.
“We’re in a transition phase at the moment with the players getting a better understanding of how we want to play,” Curley said.
“I think over the first two rounds we have been good in patches. Our job is to be more consistent in what we’re doing individually and collectively.”
Curley is calling on his side to identify the areas for improvement, while working to limit mistakes.
“Our approach is the same every week. We will focus on what we want to do during the game and it is up to the players to perform at the required level to get a positive result,” Curley said.
Charlestown Azzurri v Adamstown Rosebud JFC
Allen Davis Field, Saturday 3.40pm
Charlestown Azzurri will be boosted by the return of a number of key players who were unavailable due to COVID isolation when they do battle with Adamstown Rosebud on Saturday.
Jenna Kingsley, Courtney Anderson, and Jesse Gentle all missed last weekend’s disappointing loss to Broadmeadow Magic, with coach Niko Papaspiropoulos hopeful the return of his key attacking players will boost the squad’s confidence.
“We spoke about the game [against Broadmeadow] and it was little things that let the game go from a draw to a loss. We just have to make sure we are focused for this week and put in a good performance,” Papaspiropoulos said.
Charlestown have started the year with a win and a loss in the opening two rounds though despite the varied results, it has been off the ball characteristics that have impressed their coach.
“Unfortunately, with the stack of unavailabilities we have had over the past week and a half we have been a little bit thinner. In general, the biggest positive for me is the mindset of the squad and the unity of the squad,” Papaspiropoulos said.
Adamstown head into the match minus the services of Ellyse Lynch who was injured against New Lambton last weekend. Josie Morley is also unavailable, as is Leia Puxty who is in camp with the Australia under-20s.
“With limited sessions this week I will need to see how everyone is on Friday night to know how we line up Saturday afternoon,” Adamstown coach Ryan Campbell.
“Our conditioning levels are good at the moment however we are not finding consistency on game day and this is something that we will need to improve.”
Wet weather has also disrupted Campbell’s plans, who remains focused on consistency across the pitch.
“I don’t think we have hit our straps yet with the way we are looking to play in comparison to how we performed in pre-season,” he said.
“Unfortunately with the weather we are going to have a short week with training at the beach last night and only the one session leading into the game on Friday night.”
Mid Coast FC v New Lambton FC
Taree Zone Field, Sunday 3.40pm
New Lambton make the trip north to Taree on Sunday with the hopes of recording their first win for 2022 against a Mid Coast side yet to find its best form during the opening rounds.
The Eagles have suffered heavy defeats in the opening two rounds, first by Warners Bay before an 8-0 thumping at the hands of Adamstown. Middies have also been near luckless in their opening encounters with two losses to their name.
The home side will be bolstered A-League Women’s player Hannah Brewer who will join the club in coming weeks. Brewer has appeared for the Newcastle Jets on 83 occasions.
“It is good news for the club to have a couple of high-profile players playing and drive the young girls around the park,” Mid Coast coach Mick Grass said.
“I think the expectation on the younger girls becomes greater. Because it won’t just be expectation coming from me as coach, it will be expectation coming from other players on the field.”
Brewer joins fellow Jets player Claire Coelho at Mid Coast, with Grass hopeful the signings will deliver more than just benefit on the park.
“I think the big thing for our club and what could be a turning point will be the exposure. The team is now going to have greater exposure when you have players like Hannah and Claire involved,” he said.
Middies have shown promise across the opening rounds, though have struggled to stitch together control for extended periods. Grass believes his side is heading in the right direction.
“I think putting all aspects of the game together is a key for us. I thought our first game against Maitland we actually did our defensive job quite well,” Grass said.
“If we can combine all the aspects of the game and get that right, we will perform far better.”