All eyes will be centred on the South Coast for the local derby between the pride of Wollongong, the Illawarra Stingrays and their Nowra neighbours, Southern NSW FC.
There?s nothing like a local derby to get the adrenalin rushing through the veins of all true football fans. The Stingrays are certainly the most exciting team in the league with goal scoring talent across the park. The two Michelles; Carney and Heyman have been reunited after Heyman?s return from injury last week. That spells double trouble for the Southern NSW girls. But then players like Akid, Halloway (all of them!) and Michael also represent plenty of danger. Illawarra are just one of those sort of sides that, if one star doesn?t get you, the other one will! The Stingrays? Minor Premiership hopes hinge on crunch games like this one.
Southern NSW FC got off to a slow start this season but have started to surge home in recent weeks. ?Home? is an important word there as Southern?s run of success is built on an imposing home record. With 2007 Golden Boot Katie French always a danger the girls from Nowra will be keen to dent their Illawarra sisters? hopes of staying in touch with Western NSW Panthers. Southern are a good football side who are going forward at the right end of the season. This match will test their semi final credentials.
The first round clash was a close one with Illawarra getting away with a 4-2 win. I?m a big fan of the type of attacking football The Stingrays play. I believe they will win on Sunday but only after an absorbing struggle.
Inter Lions host UNSW at Ron Routley Reserve. Inter?s semi final hopes appear to have just about disappeared. Their last two matches have yielded scoreless draws; not quite what was required to push the team up the ladder. They?d hope for a better result against the side which sits at the bottom of the competition table but the feisty UNSW girls may have a different idea.
UNSW took a battering from the Illawarra Stingrays a fortnight ago but turned in a good performance to snare a draw with the Northern Tigers last week. Prior to that UNSW had scored an upset win over Blacktown Spartans.
I expect Inter Lions to win but Coach Joe Baldacci will need to ensure that his girls don?t take the Uni girls lightly.
St George FC?s semi final hopes survive only if they keep winning so Sunday?s encounter with Bankstown Wildcats is a ?must win? for the locals. St George have had losses to two of the competition?s big guns in Illawarra and Panthers in recent weeks. Those losses were followed last weekend by a tame draw with Inter Lions.
Bankstown Wildcats last few performances have shown some improvement though they?ve not tasted much success. They too have a recent 0-0 draw with Inter Lions so, if that?s used as a form guide, this should be a close match. St George, however, won the teams? first round clash convincingly.
I can?t see anything other than a St George win at home. They appear, at least mathematically, to have a little more to play for than their opponents.
I had the pleasure of attending the last game between Northern Tigers and Gladesville Ravens. Whilst The Ravens eventually ran out winners they were certainly put to the test by the courageous young Tigers side. The match was fast and exciting with some quality goals amongst the four that were scored.
The Ravens had last weekend off with their match against Western NSW Panthers being postponed due to the national titles. Prior to that, they had a tough battle with Blacktown Spartans at Peel Park. Courtenay Parrott was amongst The Ravens? stars that day and The Tigers would be well advised to keep a close eye on Parrott this Sunday.
The Tigers have a bit of attacking ammunition of their own with young Georgia Eastoe amongst the goals in recent weeks. The Tigers couldn?t put UNSW away last week, despite numerous chances. They won?t be able to be that wasteful against Gladesville.
I suspect The Ravens will tough this one out for a narrow but convincing victory.
The last match for review for Round 14 action is the Western NSW Panthers v Blacktown Spartans clash at Alec Lamberton Field in Bathurst. The Panthers sit second on the Arrive Alive NSW Women?s Super League ladder, but with a game in hand. They?ve certainly looked the part this season, playing a fine brand of football, highlighted by a miserly defence.
The Bathurst girls aren?t just a defensive side though, with players like Gillian Rosconi, Vanessa Hart, Ashleigh Sykes and Shannon Waine giving The Panthers plenty of attacking spark. No, they rarely hand out the scoreboard battering that Illawarra are capable of but The Panthers know how to win.
Blacktown have had a disappointing season. I saw their game against Gladesville Ravens a fortnight back and walked away wondering why this team is so far down the ladder. I was impressed by the talent they had on offer; especially Captain Bronwyn Jarvis, Elif Albayrak and Paige Grant. This side is capable of giving Western NSW a fright but will the ?ON? button be pushed this Sunday?
The Panthers look the winners but I suspect it won?t be by a baker?s dozen.
If you?re weekend looks like being a bit dull I?ve just given you plenty of options for sparking it up! There are some very intriguing clashes coming up on Sunday. A nice Sunday drive to Nowra coupled with lunch/afternoon tea at Ison Park?..you might even catch a game of football between two of the best sides in the Arrive Alive NSW Women?s Super League.
-By Ross Anderson