NPL Women’s NNSW Round Eight Preview: Azzurri and Olympic take centre stage for Female Football Week

May 12th, 2022

 Andrew Parkinson

 Sproule Sports Focus

Match of the Round
Charlestown Azzurri v Newcastle Olympic
Lake Macquarie Regional Football Facility Field Three, Saturday 7pm

Charlestown Azzurri coach Niko Papaspiropoulos believes his team are experienced enough to play the game rather than the occasion when they take on Newcastle Olympic on Saturday night.

Azzurri and Olympic meet at the Lake Macquarie Regional Football Facility in the Match of the Round as part of Female Football Week.

The feature match is expected to be played in front of a strong crowd following Northern NSW Football’s Female Football Week Networking and Awards night.

But more important for Papaspiropoulos is the chance for Azzurri to open up a six-point gap to the 2020 premiers and champions with a win.

Charlestown are fourth on the table a third of the way through the season, three points ahead of sixth-placed Olympic.

While there is still a long way to go in the campaign, Papaspiropoulos is aware of the chance for his side to give itself an advantage.

“At this point it’s still very early in the season so you don’t want to get caught up in your position on the ladder and too much. But obviously creating a gap against any team, especially a quality team like Olympic, would be an early benefit,” Papaspiropoulos said.

“It’s a big game against a good side and we have to be prepared as best as we can.

“We’ve managed to be Match of the Round a fair bit so far this season but to do it in Female Football Week is a little bit more special. It’s always good to see female football recognised and celebrated. It has grown a lot especially in the last decade.

“I can recall myself, I’ve been coaching Women’s Premier League juniors and seniors over the last five years [but] when I was first involved admittedly I had little to no knowledge about the level and the general competition here in Newcastle.

“Since then, originally with youth and now with seniors, it’s definitely becoming a lot more well known and gained a lot of traction. The Matildas have done a big service to the women’s game in Australia over the last decade as well which is great to see.”

Azzurri downed Olympic 4-1 at Darling Street when they met in the opening round thanks to a Jenna Kingsley double which completed a dominant second half display.

But Papaspiropoulos said that result would count for little come Saturday night.

“I think we’ve both had a bit of a disrupted start to the season in terms of personnel,” Papaspiropoulos said.

“We can’t think about what happened in the past. This year there is a lot more competition battling for the top four positions. Every game is tougher and has more weight and importance. Every game is really difficult in that sense.

“Your upcoming game is the most important and you can’t look too far ahead. Saturday is only about getting a result against a side in a similar position who we might be battling with for the top four at the end of the season.

“Everyone is aware of the quality players they have. They’ve been strong since their inclusion in the NPLW. We need to do what is required to put on a good performance and get a result.”

Newcastle Olympic will be keen to bounce back from a disappointing 5-1 defeat at the hands of Warners Bay in their rescheduled round three match on Tuesday night.

Olympic coach Paul Devitis said he expected a much-improved performance from his side.

“It should be a competitive game with both teams needing to get a win,” Devitis said.

“I would expect our performance to be much better than against Warners Bay on Tuesday night. We must be more diligent at the back and play smarter football and eliminate basic errors if we want to get the result we are after.

“Our midfield needs to try to control the tempo of the game and support our attack more often.”

Adamstown Rosebud JFC v Broadmeadow Magic
Lake Macquarie Regional Football Facility Field One, Saturday 7pm

Marquee Broadmeadow signing Rhali Dobson will look to continue her strong start to life in a Magic shirt when her new club take on Adamstown Rosebud on Saturday night.

Dobson retired from professional football two years ago after winning the W-League premiership and championship with Melbourne City without losing a match.

A Football Mid North Coast junior with Wauchope Soccer Club, Dobson joined City ahead of the 2017-18 season having left the Newcastle Jets.

Dobson made her W-League debut in the competition’s inaugural season in 2008 as a 16-year-old, going on to make 55 appearances for the Jets before heading south.

The 30-year-old, who was also part of Melbourne City’s victorious 2018 grand final-winning side, played for men’s Zone League Two club Bolwarra Bushrangers last season.

But Dobson has now returned to the women’s game and was impressive in her Magic debut last weekend as she assisted all three Broadmeadow goals in their 3-1 victory over Newcastle Olympic.

After joining a Broadmeadow team that has already won six games out of six to sit three points clear at the top of the table, Dobson now has her sights set on more success.

“Basically word got around that I was looking to come back into women’s football with it potentially being my last season. Magic were one of the clubs that reached out and after talking with them and knowing the history of Broadmeadow as a club it just felt like the right fit for me at this stage of my career,” Dobson said.

“I saw it as a good opportunity to help promote the women’s game locally and promote players in our region and hopefully inspire the next generations and work with them to develop. And also help promote the NPLW in its first season. If I can add my name into that and help facilitate its growth then that’s great.

“It’s a great club culture [at Broadmeadow]. The women and men are really well integrated and supported by the club. Some of the girls I already know from either training or playing with the Jets Academy or WPL.

“Alison Logue was a longstanding teammate at Merewether and the Jets and Kirstyn Pearce (Antoni) at the Jets. So it has been really nice to slip into a team, everyone knows how I like to play and they play how I’d like to play. It’s been easy to slip in and fit into their plans.”

Dobson was critical of her first half performance against Olympic but was pleased with her second half contribution.

But it will be a completely different challenge against a young, physical Adamstown team on Lake Macquarie Regional Football Facility’s synthetic surface on Saturday night.

“I don’t really know much about Adamstown so it will be completely new to me. It will obviously be different playing on a different surface,” Dobson said.

“I think it comes down to respecting your opponents but not too much. It won’t be an easy game, if it’s physical then so be it. I believe our girls will be well accustomed to that. We’ve got the best keeper in the comp without a doubt. We just need to turn up and play our game rather than adapt but at the same time be conscious of what their strengths are.

“If they’re going to press high that’s fine, we’ve got players who can press themselves.”

Adamstown will be looking to keep touch with the top four, with a defeat against Magic and a win for Charlestown against Newcastle Olympic having the potential to open a five-point gap.

Ryan Campbell’s side will be buoyed by their result against another competition heavyweight Warners Bay last weekend as Adamstown came from 4-2 down late on to snatch a point.

But Rosebud were well beaten when the sides met in round one as Lucy Jerram and Chelsea Lucas doubles sealed a 5-2 win for Broadmeadow.

New Lambton FC v Warners Bay FC
Arthur Edden Oval, Sunday 3.40pm

Warners Bay coach Craig Atkins was delighted with his side’s performance against Newcastle Olympic midweek but is keen for them to maintain those standards when they take on New Lambton on Sunday.

It has been a mixed week for the Panthers who threw away a two-goal lead against Adamstown last weekend to settle for a point before thrashing Newcastle Olympic 5-1 in their rescheduled round three match on Tuesday night.

They now take on a New Lambton side who are the bottom of the table without a point, a -48 goal difference in five games and coming off an 11-0 thrashing at the hands of Maitland.

But Atkins said Warners Bay’s focus would be on themselves rather than the struggling Eagles.

“Obviously we’ve all had a look at the ladder but these are always tricky games,” Atkins said.

“Our number one focus is on us. We were disappointed in our performance on Saturday night but it was fantastic to turn it around [against Olympic].

“It doesn’t matter who you play. They are the same three points and we want to try and win every game. You can’t afford to drop points.”

Atkins credited an impromptu bonding session on Monday night which helped bring his players back together following the disappointment of the Adamstown result.

“The girls were very disappointed [after Adamstown]. I’m not sure how many people spoke to each other after the game,” Atkins said.

“There was silence which is a good sign. We should have completed the game. We probably weren’t smart enough. You could see they were very down on themselves. [But] the good thing was we got to turn it around quickly [against Olympic].

“We did a light session on Monday with some fun stuff and a few laughs. Then we went out for dinner after. It was a good old-fashioned bonding session and got us all back together again and helped us regroup.

“Sometimes it just takes the little things to get you back on track.”

A Tara Pender hat-trick and a Adriana Konjarski double helped Warners Bay run out comfortable 6-2 winners when the sides met in the opening round.

Maitland FC v Mid Coast FC
Cooks Square Park, Sunday 3.40pm

While much has been made about Maitland’s sparkling attack, Magpies coach David Walker has made a case for his defence.

The high-flying Magpies host struggling Mid Coast FC at Cooks Square Park on Sunday looking to maintain pressure on Broadmeadow at the top of the table.

Maitland trounced New Lambton 11-0 last week and have the equal second-best attack in the competition, scoring 30 goals in six games.

But while attackers generally receive most of the plaudits in football, Maitland’s defence has been equally impressive.

The Magpies have conceded just 10 goals, the equal second-fewest in the competition and kept three clean sheets.

While Walker has been pleased with Maitland’s attacking output he is keen to see his side maintain their high standards defensively.

“It’s not any one specific thing we’ve worked on [defensively]. Likewise it’s only been the last few weeks we’ve really been working on our front third,” Walker said.

“Our players in those [attacking] areas are obviously very talented as they are in our defence. We’ve got some great experience at the back in Toria Campbell and Kaitlin Radstaak. They’re excellent defenders, really proven and with Tahlia Gossner and Emily Wicks at the back end of last season as well.

“I think our defence can’t be underestimated. We’ve only conceded in a few games. Half of our games have been clean sheets. The only game that really hurt us was the Adamstown game which was a bizarre game.

“That game aside things have been very good defensively. I think just like our front third we’ve got some really talented individuals who are maybe a bit underrated.”

Unlike some other clubs in the competition battling injury and unavailability the Magpies are at full strength, with Maitland expecting to see the return of Sophie Jones from a hamstring strain this week.

Mid Coast were much improved last weekend, falling 2-0 to Charlestown Azzurri. But Middies remain at the foot of the table without a point, only above last-placed New Lambton on goal difference.

But Walker was adamant Maitland would not be taking Middies lightly come Sunday.

“It’s about ensuring no complacency and playing to our own standards,” Walker said.

“We’ve still got a few key areas we want to dominate games so that will continue to be the focus.

“It’s more about us building towards having that complete performance. So far, regardless of where we are on the table, we’re yet to put together a full 90 minutes. We’ve had good patches in different areas of different games.

“For example to be honest I thought we played better in the loss to Warners Bay than we did in the win over New Lambton. The energy, the pressure we applied to the opposition, our structure was also better.

“It can always be a challenge when you’re playing a team that has some top quality players. But in general the group stepped up [against Warners Bay] so I’m looking for us to play with that same amount of intensity regardless of the opposition.

“Every side is changing and developing. This is the first game of the second round. Everyone has had a look at each other just about. But we’re not taking any opposition for granted regardless of where they are on the table.”

Related Topics:
NPL Women's NNSW Round Eight Preview

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