Some teams exercised demons from their seasons with goal sprees whilst others gathered pace for the finals series with some much needed target practice.
Macarthur Rams grabbed the title of 2012 Premiers but not before a heart stopping 1-0 win over NWS Koalas at Lynwood Park. With this loss The Koalas dropped to fifth, losing the home ground advantage for their Elimination Semi Final with Manly United FC next Saturday. Meanwhile Sydney University, only denied the Premiers title on goal difference, will host defending champions Illawarra Stingrays in the Qualifying semi Final. The Rams top place finish earns them a week?s rest before playing the winner of the Qualifying Semi Final in their first match of the finals series in a fortnight.
The Rams v Koalas game at Lynwood Park was played like a semi final rehearsal in a tight, grafting style of match.
The game ebbed and flowed as the two sides tried to be the first to grab the initiative. The defences of both teams were solid and it was no surprise when the half time break was reached with the teams locked at 0-0.
The second half gave us more of the same but, in the 60th minute, Macarthur were awarded a free kick. The Koalas were unable to clear the danger with Rams defender Lauren Ralston on hand to pick up the scraps and score what proved to be the vital goal.
Macarthur now had their noses in front and, with the title on the line, they threw everything into maintaining their lead. As the minutes ticked away The Koalas tried all their tricks to get back on level terms but The Rams were not to be denied.
When the final whistle blew Macarthur had plenty of reason to celebrate. Coach Matt Turvey and his team are deserved Premiers.
The Koalas, though beaten on the day, will take no negatives from this performance. They?ve proven that they can match motors with any side in the top five. Another Grand Final appearance is certainly not out of the question.
The star studded Rams got the result they desired but will hope to lift a notch or two once they hit the finals. They have every reason to consider themselves championship favourites but anything can happen in the finals.
MACARTHUR RAMS 1 (L.Ralston 60m)
NWS KOALAS 0
At Blacktown Football Park the defending Premiers, the Illawarra Stingrays, gathered some momentum for their title defence with an emphatic 8-0 win over the Blacktown Spartans.
Apart from ensuring Illawarra?s participation in the qualifying Semi Final next Sunday this win also secured the Club Championship for The Stingrays.
The win was highlighted by hat tricks to Jess Cooper and Kim Bonilla whilst 16 year old Natalie Henderson also got herself on the scoresheet in her only her second first grade appearance.
The Stingrays were only up 2-0 at half time after goals by Cooper in the 13th minute and Bonilla in the 37th minute. After the break The Stingrays cut loose with Cooper scoring again in the 57th and 59th minutes, before Michelle Carney made it 5-0 with her goal in the 65th minute. Bonilla completed her hat trick with goals in the 68th and 74th minutes before Henderson finished the scoring in the 80th minute when she converted a penalty.
Blacktown couldn?t match Illawarra once the Stingrays put their foot on the accelerator. The Spartans will be glad to come to the end of a difficult season. Illawarra power on, with the hope of a fourth successive Premier League title still in the offing.
BLACKTOWN SPARTANS 0
ILLAWARRA STINGRAYS 8 (J.Cooper 13/57/59m, M.Carney 65m, K.Bonilla 37/68/74, N.Henderson 80m)
The Central Coast Mariners Academy moved their match with Inter Lions to Budgewoi, bringing their A game with them to run away to a 5-0 victory.
The Central Coast girls held a 2-0 lead at half time after goals to Erin Markwick in the 27th minute and Miranda Walker in the 36th minute.
The under strength Lions couldn?t muster a comeback in the second stanza with Central Coast cementing their win with goals from Vanessa Hart (59m) and Joanna Thornley (66m/85m).
The win saw The Mariners finish a credible seventh on the ladder with a fine run of efforts during the second round showing their true worth.
Inter Lions had their worst season in some time, finishing ahead of only the two promoted sides in Gladesville Ravens and Northbridge FC.
CENTRAL COAST MARINERS ACADEMY 5 (E.Markwick 27m, M.Walker 36m, V.Hart 59m, J.Thornley 66/85m)
INTER LIONS 0
Sydney University did their part by coming away from Wentworth Park with a 4-0 win over Sutherland Shire but had to be content with second place on the final standings, albeit it on goal difference.
University goal wizard Jenna Kingsley sharpened up for next week?s semi finals with a first half brace; scoring in the 12th and 42nd minutes.
After half time University added two more goals with Erin Wilson (50m) and Olivia Kennedy (87m) scoring. It wasn?t a five star performance by University but they got the job done against a stubborn Sutherland Shire side.
Sutherland weren?t entirely disgraced though they were outplayed by a talented University side. Another disappointing season passes The Shire by. Can they improve their lot in 2013?
Now, with the finals series starting next weekend, do Sydney University have what it takes to lift the title? On what I?ve seen of them this season the University girls are in the title race right up to their pierced eyebrows.
SYDNEY UNIVERSITY 4 (J.Kingsley 12/42m, E.Wilson 50m, O.Kennedy 87m)
SUTHERLAND SHIRE 0
Gladesville Ravens finished their first season in the Premier League with an unfortunate home ground pummelling at the hands of Manly United FC.
The match showed the obvious difference between a side gearing up for semi finals football against a team planning their end of season road trip. The Ravens have done it tough in 2012 but one would have hoped for a better finish to their season than this.
Tiarn Powell scored the first of her four goals on the day with a nice effort in the 30th minute. Kristie Crawford made it 2-0 in the 33rd minute before Gemma O?Toole took Manly out to a 3-0 lead two minutes later.
In the final moments of the half Crawford scored her second goal to leave Manly with a 4-0 break as the teams retired to the sheds.
The second half was all about Tiarn Powell who scored goals in the 59th/69th/75th minutes to give herself a memorable day.
Manly United FC now proceed to the Elimination Final and, after today?s results, will hold home ground advantage. They face a tough road in the finals series but this confidence boosting win will have them in the right frame of mind for what lies ahead.
GLADESVILLE RAVENS 0
MANLY UNITED FC 5 (G.O?Toole 35m, K.Crawford, 33/45m, T.Powell 30/59/69/75m)
Northbridge FC?s trip to Marconi Stadium proved to be a disaster as The Stallions put a baker?s dozen past the wooden spooners in a 13-1 smashing.
The half time score was 9-0 with the first coming from an own goal in the 4th minute of play. From there it was a Marconi picnic with the diminutive Samantha Muscat finding the back of the net four times whilst Evelyn Chronis and Helen Petinos also scored hat tricks.
Teresa Polias and Haylee Ingle also got on the scoresheet for the home side before Yvette Joachim grabbed a consolation goal for Northbridge in the 90th minute.
This was sad finish to the season for the gusty Northbridge girls but they were completely bedazzled by a rampant Marconi on the day. The Stallions? Well, what can I say? Though the opposition wasn?t one of the leading sides a 13 goal haul is very impressive from a side that will look back on 2012 and wonder where it all went wrong.
MARCONI STALLIONS 13 (Own goal 4m, S.Muscat 10/21/45/58m, E.Chronis 12/39/62m, H.Petinos 36/44/60m, T.Polias 38m, H.Ingle 88m)
NORTHBRIDGE FC 1 (Y.Joachim 90m)
So, the 2012 season comes to an end for seven of our Premier League sides. The remaining five move on to the finals series starting next weekend. It?s been some time since a finals series has been so keenly anticipated; which is probably due to the fact that any of the sides are capable of taking the title if the find their best form. Macarthur Rams and Sydney University are the two sides picked by most pundits as the likely Grand Finalists but there?s no certainty with The Stingrays, Koalas and Manly ready to upset the applecart.
I can?t wait until next weekend. Two great semi finals, four wonderful teams and the promise of some exciting football.
Be there or be square.
-By Ross Anderson
Two of the best teams in the entire competition going head-to-head for the championship – what more could we as spectators ever want to see.
With the location of Jensen Park and the kick off time of 4pm, our Women?s Super League journalist Pete Nowakowski was on the sidelines to oversee proceedings.
Eastern UNSW Lions 4 ? 0 Southern Branch
With the sun starting to set, the grandstand filled with both yellow and blue supporters cheering and singing on their girls, Southern Branch got the ball moving as they took the kick off ? a sign of it being lights, cameras, action at Jensen Park.
Both teams took some time to get used to the width of the field, Southern Branch looking the more comfortable of the two sides using their wings to start the play rather than using a direct route through the middle. Neither side though showed any real buzz or x-factor quality in the opening 15 minutes which could have been the game changer, instead the game looked to be full of half chances and missed opportunities.
In the 22nd minute of the game though, things changed. The UNSW Lions? midfielder-come-striker Rebecca Browning was played into space, beating her defender and getting into a great position to have a shot on goal. As the Southern Branch keeper came off her line, Browning seized her chance and knocked the ball into the back of the net. A well deserved goal for one of the hardest working players in the UNSW Lions squad.
Just five minutes later though and things went from bad to worse for Southern Branch as their midfielder, Brook Duffy took a fall and had the be stretchered off the field with a suspected broken ankle. An unexpected visit to Bankstown Hospital was on the cards for a key player to Southern Branch?s attack.
With the score locked at 1-0 in favour of the girls in yellow, the girls knew that what they needed to do before the break was to double their lead to make it even harder for Southern Branch to have any chance of winning. Who else but Ayse Adalis to step up when needed to get the much needed second goal.
Known for her long-range strikes and ability to use both feet, Adalis lined up a shot from 25 yards out. As the ball was hit it was as is the world slowed down with everyone in the grandstand mesmerised by the way the ball floated into the back of the net. A roar of joy from players and spectators alike knowing that heading into the half time break, a 2-0 lead could be enough to get the win over their rivals, Southern Branch.
After the restart, it was business as usual for both sides. Southern Branch were on the hunt for a lifeline however neither Ange Graham or Maddie Jo Costanzo, their two go to girls for goals, had their radars set correctly when in range of a shot on goal.
One of few glimmers of hope for Southern Branch was Hayley Murray who continued to alternate and fight her way down the right and left flanks. The 56th minute saw a fantastic piece of individual skill from the midfielder as she took on UNSW Lions? left back, Zoe Richard. Waiting in the centre were the two target players for Southern Branch however Murray failed to keep the ball in play. A sign of most of Southern Branch?s attacking threats of the afternoon. Close but lacking something to finish off their chances.
With half an hour left to play, UNSW Lions weren?t holding off in the attacking third and it was Ayse Adalis who pushed her side on to glory as she weaved her magic around four defenders before blasting in a shot from range to hit the back of the net. There wasn?t a whole lot the Southern Branch keeper could have done to stop the shot which had a perfect balance of curve, power and accuracy into the bottom corner of the goal.
Southern Branch were almost given a consolation goal a minute after UNSW had extended their lead. A lapse in concentration meant the blue?s attacking midfielder Kylie Meehan could have a strike on goal. A ?clank? against the woodwork was all that came of the shot but it did send a message of hope to the girls from Nowra. That the game could still be theirs if they wanted it enough.
Seven minutes before the full time whistle and it was the golden boot hopeful, Ayse Adalis who scored a hat trick and UNSW?s fourth of the game. Almost a replica of her third goal, Ayse took on four Southern Branch defenders before firing in a low, powerful shot into the bottom left corner of the goal.
A 4-0 win for the Lions who were crowned Premiers and now Champions of the NSW Women?s Super League. Ayse Adalis might have been awarded player of the match for her efforts but UNSW Lions? Claire Stephan also deserves to be recognised for her hard work and persistence in the heart of midfield.
For Southern Branch, it might be a long way back to Nowra after suffering such a big defeat, but the girls should be proud of their efforts this season. If the same group of girls play together in the 2013 season, Southern Branch would be an early shout for a premiership trophy.
With the season now over, I would like to thank each and every club for their hard efforts during the season. Whether your side won the final or won the wooden spoon, you should be proud of your footballing abilities. Until we meet again on a patch of grass with a goal at each end, thank you for reading and see you in 2013.
Full Results of NSW Women?s Super League Grand Finals on Sunday:
Grade 12: Northern Tigers 2 ? 0 Eastern UNSW Lions
Grade 14: Southern Branch 0 ? 0 Parramatta Lady Hawks (Branch win 2-0 in extra time)
Grade 16: Southern Branch 1 ? 1 Northern Tigers (Tigers win 2-1 in extra time)
Reserve Grade: Parramatta Lady Hawks 1 ? 2 Eastern UNSW Lions
First Grade: Eastern UNSW Lions 4 ? 0 Southern Branch
–By Pete Nowakowski
For some teams the 2012 season comes to an end with the final whistle of Sunday’s game. There will be disappointment for many, maybe a feeling of achievement for one or two despite the fact that they won?t be a part of the finals action. The top five started to single out from the pack by the half way mark of the competition leaving their finishing order to be the final piece of the title puzzle in the run to the season deciding matches.
The title of Premiers is still on the line come Sunday with Macarthur Rams and Sydney University being the contenders. Rams have a much superior goal average so a win over NWS Koalas will ensure them the title. Should they stumble though Sydney University can jump to the top of the pecking order with a win over Sutherland Shire.
Sydney University are also right in contention for the Club Championship; narrowly behind Illawarra Stingrays. The Marconi Stallions are still an outside chance of snatching the title but will need some good fortune to go their way if they hope to leapfrog the other two clubs after this weekend?s round.
So, there?s plenty to play for at the top end of the ladder but you can be sure that pride will be the driving force for many sides on Sunday.
There?s no doubt about the match of the day; that has to be the Macarthur Rams v NWS Koalas game at Lynwood Park.
The two combatants are both assured of finals football. A win for the NWS Koalas offers a chance of playing in the Qualifying Final in week one of the finals, dependent on Illawarra?s result against Blacktown. Macarthur?s choice of fate will be, win and have a week?s break as Premiers or lose and they could be contesting the Qualifying Final on Sunday week.
The home side have looked like collecting some sort of silverware all season. With a squad that would have Tom Sermani green with envy, Rams mentor Matt Turvey has guided his team towards the top of the tree with his usual efficiency. Whilst still being without midfield architect Kylie Ledbrook having the likes of Rollason, Khamis and Brogan on board more than compensates. Stephanie Haim is running into form along with young Elisha Williams who has looked solid in recent weeks. One would expect that The Rams would be revving up their engines in readiness for the finals.
The NWS Koalas don?t get all the headlines but they?ve steadily worked their way through the competition, achieving a series of very positive results. The girls have gathered a number of impressive scalps including the Illawarra Stingrays and Sydney University as they?ve marched towards the finals. A repeat of last season?s charge to the Grand Final is certainly not out of the question. The Koalas have their own Matildas connection with the multi talented Ellyse Perry but their success has been built on a more tradesmen like team ethic. It seems to be working well though, doesn?t it?
This will be a great appetiser for those awaiting finals football. Gerry Gomez and his team enjoy a challenge and Macarthur will certainly provide them with one on Sunday.
Over at Blacktown Football Park the Blacktown Spartans finish their season with a tough assignment against Illawarra Stingrays.
The Spartans managed a narrow win over the struggling Inter Lions last weekend; a result that moved them to eighth place on the ladder. It?s been a rather indifferent year for Blacktown with coaching changes, injuries and a lack of real firepower. The second round of the competition has been somewhat kinder to them though with three wins and a draw from ten matches played so far. They?ll certainly give their home crowd a thrill if they can find a way to get past Illawarra for another win on Sunday.
The Stingrays currently sit third on the table, one point ahead of NWS Koalas. A loss here could put them in danger of missing the top three but they did enough in their narrow loss to Sydney University last weekend to make me think they aren?t far off their usual finals form. No team in the top five has the penchant for success that has become synonymous with being the Illawarra Stingrays. No, they may not be as fearsome as in past seasons but they still carry enough clout to be considered as major dangers to the title favourites. Kim Bonilla and Michelle Carney couldn?t take a trick last Sunday; Blacktown best be wary they don?t suffer for that off day.
The Stingrays are the team with something to play for. They may have been considered unlucky by some against Sydney University last week. Blacktown will need some true grit to hold the visitors at bay.
The Central Coast Mariners Academy meets Inter Lions at Pluim Park in what will be the season finale for both clubs.
Central Coast should take some positives from their performances in 2012. The second round of the competition has seen them prove very competitive, though last week?s 5-0 loss to NWS Koalas blotted their copybook slightly. Given their fairly ordinary 2011 season Central Coast?s results have shown that they are heading in the right direction. It?s not all that long ago that they gave Inter Lions a considerable start in a midweek catch up game at Nineveh Stadium yet reeled them in to win. The Mariners will be keen to repeat the dose here to finish the season on a winning note.
Inter Lions have had a very disappointing season, both on the first grade table and in the Club Championship. Whilst they should manage to sidestep any relegation concerns the club will be looking for a big improvement in 2013. In recent weeks the starting list for the main match has resembled that of the Under 16?s side as Coach Joe Baldacci has had to cobble a side together in the absence of many senior players. Joe will be glad to hear that final whistle on Sunday so he can sit back with a cold beer whilst planning his recruitment strategy for next season. Ah, the joys of being a Coach!
Central Coast Mariners Academy looks to have the better form coming into this game. Revenge for that night at Nineveh might inspire The Lions but they face an uphill battle.
Gladesville Ravens throw out the welcome mat for Manly United FC at Magdala Reserve.
The Ravens defied the disappointment of their loss to Northbridge FC a fortnight ago to share the points with Marconi Stallions last Sunday. After an afternoon on the back up fields at Bossley Park Gladesville return to the leafy surrounds of Magdala Reserve intent on a rousing performance to close their season. The girls will be hoping that a few players carrying injury concerns come good so that they are at full strength against a Manly side gearing up for a finals campaign.
In the last five weeks Manly have lost to three fellow top five sides in Illawarra Stingrays, Sydney University and Macarthur Rams. That probably isn?t an enormous confidence boost leading into the finals series but a solid win over The Ravens won?t hurt before next Saturday?s Elimination Final. Manly forays into the season deciders haven?t brought too much joy in recent seasons but Coach Grant Lee and his girls will be out to change that in the coming weeks.
It would be a big surprise if Manly didn?t venture back down Pittwater Road with all three points from this match. If Ravens are on song they?ll make Manly work for the win though.
The Marconi Stallions play Northbridge FC at Marconi Stadium.
The 2012 season hasn?t turned out quite like either of these sides would have hoped. Marconi, after narrowly missing out on a Grand Final appearance last season, were strongly favoured by many to be title contenders this season. Northbridge, on the other hand, were readying themselves to build on a successful inaugural season in the Football NSW Women?s Super League and push for promotion in season 2013. Wow, how things changed!
Marconi have had a torrid run with injuries this season. They endured a coaching change early in the season and 2012 has had a decidedly unsteady look to it. A couple of weeks ago at Lynwood Park the Stallions gave Macarthur Rams quite a fright, playing some of their best football of the season. Last Sunday though things took a u turn with Marconi struggling against the lowly rated Gladesville Ravens. Which Marconi will be on show this weekend? If it?s the Trudy Camilleri inspired team I saw at Lynwood Park then a win looks likely.
Northbridge FC came so close to a second successive win last Sunday when they went down 4-3 to Sutherland Shire. The Premier League newcomers haven?t been short of triers this season but they were surely set an enormous task with their late inclusion in the league. Their only win of 2012, over Gladesville Ravens, brought great celebration. A win against a club with the history of the Marconi Stallions would be a big feather in their cap but such wins don?t come easily.
Northbridge will do their best but Marconi will start strong favourites.
Our final match for preview sees Sydney University up against Sutherland Shire at Wentworth Park.
Sydney University have plenty to play for with a possible Premiers title on the line should results go their way elsewhere. University come off a good win over Illawarra Stingrays last weekend in a ?finals football? style performance. Many pundits have considered Sydney University to be the team to beat in 2012; the girls have certainly put in some stellar performances during the season to add weight to those opinions. They have a well balanced side with a genuine goal scorer in Jenna Kingsley giving them a lethal attacking outlet. I like what I see.
Sutherland?s wins this year have been few and far between, though the last four weeks have seen some positive results. A narrow escape last Sunday at Northbridge Oval saved some blushes and winning form is always good form. Paloma Oliveira and Siobhan Dibley have been on target in front of goal for The Shire during recent weeks. Given the gravity of this match for their opponents one would think Paloma and Siobhan will need to be even more industrious this week to help get their side home. Goal scoring can be infectious!
Sydney University have too much at stake to find a banana skin in this match. Sutherland may face a difficult afternoon.
There will be a few questions answered with this weekend?s round, not least of all the title of Premiers. Next weekend five teams start the finals battle, hoping to work towards a Grand Final appearance and the chance to be the 2012 Women?s Premier League Champions.
Bring it on!
-By Ross Anderson