Macarthur Rams and Sydney University FC are set to clash in the final of the 2018 NPL NSW women’s top tier competition.
Macarthur Rams’ Teresa Polias and Sydney Uni’s Julie-Ann Russell gave us a run down on what we can expect from the final showdown and their thoughts on what is to come for the future of the women’s game.
Both teams have met three times this season, with their first two games ending in a draw and their most recent, the semi-finals ending in a nail-biting 2-1 to the Rams over the premiership winners, Sydney Uni.
Between the two teams, they boast three of the top five leading goal scorers, the Rams with leading goal-scorer Georgia Yeoman-Dale at a whopping 31 goals scored so far this season, Leena Khamis with 14 and Sydney Uni’s Cortnee Vine at 20.
Fans of the beautiful game would be no stranger to the name “Teresa Polias.” The former Matilda and current W-League superstar has been an ever-present force in female football for several years.
Starting football at the age of six with her twin sister Susy, Polias made her debut at 17 in the very first season of the W-League. As her career progressed she went on win a grand final with Sydney FC and captain the squad.
Polias says that playing in the NPL helps keep her primed and ready for the W-League during off-season. She also believes the league and game has grown in leaps and bounds throughout her time.
“I love playing in the NPL during the W-League off-season. During this time most players return to work, school or study, however, we do need to keep ourselves in touch with the game and the legs ticking over”, the 10-capped Matilda said.
“The NPL has been great in helping me to keep fit and ready to roll into pre-season for W-League. Just as importantly, it’s also very enjoyable.
“When it comes to how the game has changed and grown throughout my time, I think the obvious major factor that everyone can relate to, is the exposure that women’s sport is getting as a whole now.
“When I first started playing at an elite level there wasn’t really any promotion of the women’s game. You basically found things out from sources close to the game, so it was really hard to build fan bases and get exposure out there.
“Social media has really helped in a global sense as well. If you want to watch games or tournaments taking place in other countries, there is a lot more access than there used to be.”
Julie-Ann Russell is one of this season’s most impressive international imports, joining the women’s top tier league from Ireland.
With an already impressive resume playing for the Republic of Ireland women’s international football team and an FAI Senior Women’s International Player of the Year award under her belt, Russell has also made her mark down-under, as Sydney Uni’s second leading goal scorer.
Russell says moving to Australia last year and joining the women’s NPL was one of the biggest decisions of her life, but one that has paid off.
“Moving to Australia was a huge decision as I was playing with the senior Irish national team for nine years, so moving over meant I would have to take a break from playing with them.
“I wanted to continue to play at a high standard when I moved over so I decided to join Sydney Uni and it has been an absolute pleasure since day one. Everyone was so welcoming, from the girls, to the coaching staff, to the backroom staff and helpers. I have gained great friends, great coaching and great experience playing with and against top players,” the 27-year old said.
Russell also shared that the women’s top tier NSW NPL competition and the Australian women’s game in general has exceeded her expectations.
“To date I have only experienced football in the NPL in NSW but so far it has exceeded my expectations.
“I think it’s great that the clubs all have underage teams and that they all play on the same day one after each other. The standard is very high with lots of talented top-class players,” she said.
“I have also seen lots of young players with huge potential. A huge number of NPL players also play in the W-League which I believe is growing from strength to strength. Finally given the fact the Matildas are doing so well in World Tournaments, competing and beating top nations I really think the future is bright for the women’s game in Australia.”
In terms of what she thinks the future has in store for the women’s game in Australia, Polias sees it as glowing.
“The future is definitely so bright! I think the most exciting part about it, is that there are endless possibilities. We could even be hosting a world cup in the near future which gives me goose bumps just thinking about.”
Polias says the advantage the Rams could have over Sydney Uni is experience.
“We’ve had 3 tight battles and I’m sure Sunday will be no different!
“I think that the experience our team holds is a factor that could get us over the line. We have players that have played in big games throughout their career, so hopefully they can transfer a level of calm into the team to ensure we play our usual game.”
Russell says that Sydney Uni is up for the challenge,
“In general, I think the Rams are a strong team particularly in midfield and up front. They are well set up and we will need to watch out for the ball over the top for their runners. However, I have every confidence we can match them player for player and come out on top and am looking forward to the battle.
“I think having lost to them in the semi-final makes us want to beat them even more. I also believe having won the league, the drive to do the double will give us that extra determination and edge over the Rams,” she said.
You can watch the two sides play at Valentine Sports Park, Field No.2 on Sunday 2 September at 5.45 pm. If you can’t make it down to the park you can follow the live stream on the NPL NSW Facebook page.
-By Liana Buratti