Sydney University SFC star striker Nicki Flannery hit the ground running in a huge way as the 21-year-old opened the rebooted National Premier Leagues NSW Women’s season on the right foot scoring a brace in her side’s 3-1 victory over the Macarthur Rams last Sunday.
It was a feeling of huge relief for the former Canberra United and Newcastle Jets W-League player as NPL football returned once again following a four and a half month layoff due to COVID-19.
“Playing our first competitive match was honestly the most relieving yet surreal feeling.
“We have been working exceptionally hard the past few months, individually in isolation and collectively since returning to training, so it was an excellent feeling being back and starting off on the right foot with a win.
“I think this time off has allowed us all to reset and appreciate how much of a positive influence football has on our lives and to never take a minute for granted.
“Despite this long, uncertain layoff being challenging at times, for me, it made me very eager to ensure I came back fitter, refreshed and ready to hit the ground running as soon as we were able to return.
“Our squad has strengthened again this year, in terms of depth. There are multiple players competing for the same position across the field, and I truly believe this will help us in making sure we keep growing and performing as a team week in week out.
“We have all returned to training in good condition and are confident in our preparation for the season.
“Given the season is much shorter this year, we really have no time for slip ups and are all so determined to make sure we find our mojo from the get-go.”
Asked about her two-goal haul, the humble Canberra born attacker put it down to her teammates.
“Scoring any goal is always a rewarding feeling for a striker, but they are most rewarding when the goal is the outcome of solid team build-up play.
“The two I scored were simple tap ins given to me by the hard work and great performance of my teammates, so I am thankful I was able to finish the move off for the team.
“For myself, I am really grateful I was able to put in a solid performance in round one and look forward to pushing my performance further in the coming rounds.”
All eyes will be fixed at Valentine Sports Park this Sunday as Flannery and co will take on another one of the competition heavyweights in Sydney Olympic, a clash that will feature a number of our current NPL NSW Women’s stars and will be shown live and exclusive on NPL.TV at 5pm.
“This weekend’s game will be tough, there is no doubt about that. Olympic have a number of great players so we are all looking forward to the game and building on our performance from last week.
“Having the NPL matches live streamed is a great way to display the strong calibre of players that play across the league but it is also a tool for the players themselves to go back and watch and reflect on their performance for personal development.
“There is also the added benefit that my family can watch my games from home in Canberra too, especially during this time where spectators aren’t encouraged.”
With a shortened season and bearing the pressure of being last year’s Champions, Flannery stated to Football NSW that Sydney University SFC will not be resting on their laurels and that striving for more success is on each of the player’s minds.
“This year has been a year of uncertainty inside and outside of football, however, as a club and as a team our expectations have not changed.
“We have the added pressure of our success from last year which has given us the drive and determination to ensure we rise to another level this year.
“We are all very focused and eager to raise the bar both individually and collectively to continue to build on our growth from last year.
“As an individual, I look forward to continuing to work tirelessly with my team and Alex (Epakis), to strive to achieve our season goals and will ensure I play my part in order to do so.”
With female football in Australia constantly on the rise, the announcement of Australia and of course New Zealand hosting the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup is only set to bring more eyeballs on the women’s game.
For Flannery, the right to host the biggest female football spectacle in our backyard was music to her ears.
“Hosting the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2023 will be an amazing time for women’s football from grassroots level to Matildas.
“Again, this outcome is only the start of recognising women’s football in Australia, the next step is to do everything we can to get people to experience it for themselves.”