This weekend the Female Football Festival will host all National Premier Leagues NSW Women’s top tier and two grand finals at Valentine Sports Park.
One of the most anticipated match ups will be when NPL1 First Grade back-to-back Premiers, Sydney University SFC take on a renewed 2019 Northern Tigers.
After taking out the Premiership last year, followed by a nail-biting 4-3 loss to the Macarthur Rams in the Grand Final, Sydney Uni find themselves at the top of the table for a second time, vying to add another double, of Premiership and Championship to their list of accomplishments.
21 year-old Young Matilda and W-League forward, Cortnee Vine, has been a crucial part of the set up for both seasons, last year as the third leading goal scorer of the competition and this year, despite some injuries, still bolstering the team as they powered through a 17 win, five draw and one loss season.
“Making the grand final and winning back-to-back premierships is such a massive achievement for the club, the coaching staff and the girls. It says a lot about the club as a whole when both your First Grade and Reserve Grade are two-time Premiers,” Vine said of making her second grand final with Sydney Uni.
This season, Vine has scored 11 goals in 18 matches for her team, which although seems a far cry from her 22 in 18 effort of 2018, her focus this year was less about scoring goals and more about evolving as a player.
“My performance this season has been a bit more up and down than what I was hoping for. I’ve had some little niggles here and there, which meant I’ve had to miss out on some games,” Vine shared.
But when she was on the pitch, she was expanding her footwork repertoire with the goal of becoming a more multi-faceted player.
“I wanted to work on another side to my game this year. I’m usually an “in behind” type of player so I decided I wanted to work on trying to receive the ball more this season. I wanted to evolve my game which I think I’ve achieved.”
Vine said that having the space to grow as a footballer is one of the highlights of playing under Head Coach Alex Epakis but the overall foundation and objective of the team has remained consistent.
“I think one of the main things that helps us to gel so well, is having consistency. We’ve all played together for at least a couple of years now and the playing style that Alex has enforced hasn’t changed,” she explained.
“Everyone is on the same page and that’s key. Apart from a few tweaks here and there and adapting to new players, our game plan is consistent. We’ve had some new girls come in who have done a great job and just slotted right in, which I think is credit to our coach and our team,” she continued.
“I think we as a unit are very strong. We have a lot of players who have experience at a W-League level and I’d say one of our strengths is our speed in the front third, we have wingers who aren’t afraid to take their players on, 1v1. We have fullbacks who love to run and overlap and a midfield who can not only defend but play killer passes into our attacking third.
“Our back line is very solid and calm on the ball and as you can tell, I just really back my team!” Vine said.
Head to head, it would seem Sydney Uni are the favourites to take out the Championship. Of the three times they’ve faced off this season, Sydney Uni have won twice and drawn once against the Northern Tigers, but the Tigers have been one of the biggest movers and shakers of 2019.
Rich Byrnes’ side finished third on the ladder during regular season after winning 15 games, six losses and four draws. For comparison the Northern Tigers of 2018 finished ninth.
With second leading goal-scorer Daisy Arrowsmith combined with the experience of Servet Uzunlar and Ellie Brush, Vine knows stats mean nothing at finals time and anything could happen.
“Our stats look great, but I’m never comfortable in finals series, it’s an entirely different ball game!” she said.
“The quality of the league just keeps getting better each year. You never know who is going to make final series and that’s what makes it so exciting. The Northern Tigers have definitely improved since last year and it’s always good to see a club who didn’t do as well, become one of the most successful teams in the comp.
“This year has been like a whole new season and as a striker, coming up against Ellie Brush and Servet Uzunlar as Northern Tigers centre-backs is pretty challenging!
“They’re great players with a lot of experience, they’re calm on the ball and that definitely shows on the pitch.
“Family, friends and fans can definitely expect an entertaining Grand Final. Sydney Uni and Northern Tigers are not teams that give up easily. It’ll be a fight until the very end, a very physical and mental battle.”
-By Liana Buratti