Some huge matches are at play as the National Premier Leagues NSW Women’s round 7 rolls into the weekend.
Macarthur may look as though they’re running away with the league only after six rounds but beware, the ladder may be playing tricks on you.
Both APIA Leichhardt and the Northern Tigers have played two games less while Sydney Olympic and Sydney University have only played three, taking nothing away from the league leader’s excellent start.
Illawarra has had a solid start, as have Football NSW Institute.
Champions, Manly United are already looking like they are out of the Premiership race sitting nine-points behind the competition front runners while the Spartans haven’t won since their first match of the season.
Blacktown Spartans v APIA Leichhardt FC @Blacktown Football Park, Sunday 3pm
A massive fixture will take place at Blacktown Football Park as APIA Leichhardt travel to take on Blacktown Spartans.
It’s starting to feel like a long time between drinks for Brad Attard’s girls, in fact, over a month since they recorded their one and only win of the season.
Two draws and two losses since then hasn’t propelled the Spartans to where they’d like to be in a year where they had the highest ambitions.
It is of course still early days but a loss on Sunday could put them seven-points out of the top five, somewhere they definitely wouldn’t want to be.
And there fixtures don’t get any easier over the coming weeks with some tough and gruelling away trips.
Their W-League stars in Kyra Cooney-Cross and Courtney Nevin have finally re-joined the side and they’ll need to help support the attacking duo of Ash Crofts and Maja Markovski.
Finding the back of the net has been a problem so far for the Spartans but with the attacking talent they possess, you would expect them to start firing soon enough.
APIA on the other hand are experiencing a fine start to the season under the tutelage of Spencer Prior.
Despite a long injury list, with Nikki Flannery being the most recent added to it after suffering a season ending ACL injury while at the Matildas Camp, APIA have arguably exceeded expectations.
All things considering, APIA is spoilt for riches and definitely are title contenders, in particular with the likes of Princess Ibini not too far away from a return.
Three wins and a draw so far has them sitting in third place and should they win their catch-up games (One this Thursday), they could find themselves sharing top spot with Macarthur.
It took them a while, 75 minutes to be exact, to break down a stubborn Bankstown on the weekend with Sophie Hoban playing a starring role.
Georgia Yeoman-Dale is the leader of this squad and alongside Hoban and Rhianna Pollicina, currently leads the clubs scoring charts with two-goal apiece.
They’ll come into this one confident of being able to secure a result and continue their Premiership push.
Manly United v Football NSW Institute @Cromer Park, Sunday 3pm
It’s 5 v 6 at Cromer Park on Sunday afternoon as Manly United welcome the Football NSW Institute.
Manly United are another team in the competition that haven’t registered a W since round two.
They’ve slowly started to fall down the ladder and currently find themselves in sixth place.
Tom Hopley has a plethora of talent at his disposal but right now, the simple things aren’t quite going to plan and it’s something the rookie first grade coach has already established.
In a positive sign for the Manly coach, he almost has all of his first graders to choose from now, giving him somewhat of a headache in regards to team selection.
Remy Siemsen and Tara Andrews were both visibly tired after a tough week away at the Matildas Camp but should be re-charged and ready to fire come Sunday.
Don’t expect the rut to go on for too much longer though and United will be back challenging for honours.
The Institute have been travelling well so far in 2021 and currently sit in fifth place with five matches played.
They suffered their first defeat after three straight victories on Sunday and will feel extremely disappointed they didn’t come away with more against 10 when the Uni keeper was sent off mid-way through the first half.
Jaime Gomez knows his side faces a tough task on Sunday but with talent like Sarah Hunter, Holly McNamara and Isabella Chidiac in the side, they can create problems for anyone.
McNamara in particular who leads the teams scoring charts with four goals in five games.
They’ll also look to take advantage of Manly’s slump in form and this could be the perfect opportunity to do so.
Bankstown City v Northern Tigers @Jensen Park, Sunday 3pm
The final game of round seven takes us to Jensen Park as Bankstown City host the Northern Tigers at 3pm.
Still winless after six matches, Matthew Costantini’s side will feel very hard done by and know they should’ve had more than the one-point they currently have.
Unfortunately though, things need to turn sooner rather than later for the Lions as the season slowly gets away from them.
Liana Danaskos has been brilliant upon her return as has the silky Olivia Price.
With the addition of a couple W-League stars over the last week, the squad will be stronger in the weeks to come.
They put up a fine fight against APIA over the weekend and only succumbed to three goals in the final 15 minutes of that match.
Lots of positives for Bankstown but things ideally need to change this weekend.
They definitely aren’t dark horses anymore, but still, not many people saw the Northern Tigers in their top three.
The Tigers will be Premiership contenders.
Lauren Allan has been on fire, already scoring five goals for the season and looking like an important part of Jason Eagar’s team.
Eagar though, has some squad at his disposal. The addition of Winonah Heatley to the defence has strengthened the back line while Shadeene Evans has already popped up with a couple goals herself at the other end.
Added to that the return of Malia Steinmetz and long term Tigers Maddie Bart and Daisy Arrowsmith, Bankstown will need to be prepared for a long, tough night.
They currently sit in fourth place, but a mid-week win and victory on Sunday will move them into second place, just behind the league leaders.
Emerging Jets v Sydney Olympic @Lake Macquarie Regional Football Facility, Sunday 3pm
Sydney Olympic make the long trip north to take on the Emerging Jets at Lake Macquarie Regional Football Facility on Sunday.
Results and the ladder probably don’t paint the right picture of the Emerging Jets.
They’ve been right in the mix for most games this campaign and have really troubled many teams they have faced.
Moana Walker has been a standout for the Jets over the last season and a half and her spectacular finish on Sunday is more of what the team needs.
Undefeated after three games, most teams would be happy but that probably isn’t the case out at Belmore.
They would’ve expected more on Sunday against the Stingrays than just a point but couldn’t back up their incredible performance from the week before.
There are superstars all over the park for George Beltsos’ team, from Jada Whyman all the way through to Teigen Collister.
Collister is the team’s top scorer on four goals, all of which came in their thrashing of the Spartans two weeks ago.
The midfield maestros of Teresa Polias and Taylor Ray are vital to what this Olympic team can create and it’s obvious that they are still finding their feet with the new additions to the squad.
Victory in their catch up game on Wednesday night against the institute and on Sunday could see Olympic burst into the top five.
Sydney University v Macarthur Rams @Sydney Uni Football Ground, Sunday 3pm
The Premiers Sydney University host current league leaders Macarthur Rams at Sydney Uni Football Ground on Sunday.
The new look Sydney Uni didn’t kick their season off till late April and they probably would’ve wanted an extra week, suffering their heaviest defeat in years, a 3-0 defeat to the Northern Tigers.
They had to settle for a draw the week later but showed all their quality, character and grit to take all three points against the Institute after being reduced to 10 when goal keeper Danielle Bartels received her marching orders mid-way through the first half.
Bianca Galic took the mantle and has grown into the leader of the Uni squad, scoring both goals in their incredible win on Sunday.
The coaching duo of Emily Husband and Amy Shepherd know a victory here will go a long way to dispersing comments about the team’s title credentials.
There are many words you could use to describe the Macarthur Rams’ beginning to the 2021 campaign but professional probably sums it up best.
Stephen Peters’ side arrives, gets on the pitch, gets out and gets the job done. Very simple, very professional.
Renee Rollason is the rock, her defensive work and leadership has helped this side improve on last season.
Added to that the technical ability of Mel Caceres and Kylie Ledbrook with the prowess of Leena Khamis in the front third, they are the real deal.
Laura Murtagh has been outstanding also and special mention must go to her as one of the most improved for the Rams.
They will be contenders for the Premiership if they can get through the five game slog that awaits them, starting with this Sunday.
North West Sydney Koalas v Illawarra Stingrays @Christie Park, Sunday 6pm
At 6pm on Sunday night the North West Sydney Koalas host the Illawarra Stingrays.
Adam Keramea’s side seem to be the draw specialists after the first six rounds. They’ve registered three draws, one win and two losses.
A defeat here could be quite the setback for the team as they could potentially be nine-points outside of the top five come 9pm Sunday night.
There’s a lot of quality in the side, Nat Tobin and Rachael Soutar are the most experienced and need to lead this side.
While Sophie Harding needs to be more prolific, she is the most dangerous attacking player the Koalas possess and they need her to start finding the back of the net.
The Koalas’ recent run has somewhat gone under the radar, undefeated in four, albeit with only one win in those fixtures.
They’ll need to start turning draws into wins to keep their top five hopes alive.
It’s been a good start for the south coast side who currently occupy second place (until at least tonight) on the competition ladder.
They’ve only lost once in 2021 and that was to the league leaders two weeks ago.
They’ve taken points off the competition favourites Olympic and APIA as well as defeating a strong Northern Tigers outfit.
Bruce Tilt has his leaders getting the job done in Caitlin Cooper, Erica Halloway and of course top scorer and captain Michelle Carney.
Soon to crack the 40 mark, the Stingrays captain does not look like stopping any time soon and her form and leadership this year have proven that.
They’ll feel the next few weeks are key to cement their top five places moving into the second half of the season and it begins Sunday, at Christie Park.
Round One Rescheduled Games –
Football NSW Institute v Sydney Olympic @Valentine Sports Park, 7pm
Blacktown Spartans v Sydney University @Blacktown Football Park, 7:30pm
APIA Leichhardt v Northern Tigers @ Lambert Park, 7:30pm
By: NIKOLA POZDER, CHIEF NPL NSW WOMEN’S WRITER