Named in honour of one of the Matildas most enduring stars, Cheryl Salisbury, the tournament is a great initiative on the part of Football NSW to showcase the talented young female players across the state.
The tournament, for Grade 12 Girls, attracted 16 teams; among them sides from the Girls Premier League, Girls Super League club football. The 16 teams were split into four groups, playing off during the week to reach the finals of the tournament on Thursday afternoon and Friday morning.
The matches were keenly contested but the passion never overflowed. All teams displayed a fine level of sportsmanship (or maybe that should be ?sportspersonship?!), the supporters were encouraging rather than combative whilst the standard of play was of an outstanding level. If these girls are the future of women?s football in NSW and Australia then the game has much to look forward to.
After a hard fought round robin series the competition had come down to eight teams at the Quarter Final stage on Thursday afternoon. The results of those Quarter Finals were as follows:
QF1 NWS Koalas 4 defeated Penrith Nepean 1
QF2 Central Coast Lightning 1 defeated Manly United 0
QF3 Southern Branch defeated Sutherland Sharks (3-1 in a penalty shoot out)
QF4 Macarthur Rams 1 defeated Marconi Stallions 0
This set up some absorbing Semi Final match ups. Southern Branch, the Super League girls from the country, were in the semi finals with three teams from the Premier League! Could they go all the way?
The semi finals were tight, exciting affairs.
NWS Koalas played Central Coast Lightning in one semi final. Despite some marvellous play from both teams neither could find the back of the net in normal time. However, Koalas came to the fore in extra time, scoring the golden goal to take them through to the Final.
SF1 NWS Koalas 1 defeated Central Coast Lightning 0
The other semi final saw the giant killers from Southern Branch doing battle with the girls from Macarthur Rams. Inspired after the QF win over the highly fancied Sutherland Sharks, the girls from Southern Branch were too strong for their Premier league opponents, running out 2-0 winners.
SF2 Southern Branch 2 defeated Macarthur Rams 0
So, what a final we had in store! On one side, the leading team in the Girls Premier League, on the other, the team lying second in the Girls Super League. What a climax to a great tournament. The girls did not disappoint the large crowd of spectators, turning on a fast, entertaining game. Play flowed from end to end with both sides creating plenty of opportunities to score. Both goalkeepers were called upon to pull off some magnificent saves as the two teams went in search of that elusive winner.
Full time saw both sides in a stalemate at 0-0, meaning a period of ?golden goal? extra time was played. In the first period of that extra time NWS Koalas player Emily Usherwood let loose a long distance shot from outside the Southern Branch penalty area. It was one of those strikes that David Beckham probably has dreams about, sailing over Southern Branch?s keeper Ruby Boland?s head to find the back of the net. The Cheryl Salisbury Cup goes to NWS Koalas!
Final NWS Koalas 1 (Golden Goal) defeated Southern Branch 0
Scenes of jubilation followed from both players and supporters. Though beaten Southern Branch had nothing but positives to reflect on. Coach Shane Duffy commented that making the tournament final had been totally unexpected. The club had chosen to enter the tournament so as to give their girls the opportunity to test themselves against the Girls Premier League sides. Shane was obviously very proud of what his girls had achieved. He made special mention of goalkeeper Ruby Boland, Dakota Taylor and the team Captain Nicole Constable for their efforts throughout the tournament.
The victorious NWS Koalas Coach, Peter Crvelin, was proud of the manner in which his side endured a long week of football. He was pleased with the way his girls handled the pressure of the tournament. Peter also mentioned that, unlike a couple of other sides, he?d had his full squad of 16 players who had managed to get through the week without injuries. Peter also said that football at this level was all about development and trying to give everyone an opportunity. He felt that the best for Koalas during the week were Emily Usherwood, Aiona Mila and Ashley Gray.
The tournament trophies were presented by Football NSW President, Jim Forrest, who complimented all the teams involved in the tournament on their performances on the field and their behaviour off it. Mr Forrest also presented the Award for Player of the Match in the final to Georgia Winkcup of NWS Koalas. A special award for Defender of the Tournament, donated by Cheryl Salisbury herself, was made to Southern Branch keeper Ruby Boland.
Congratulations go to Associations Competition Secretary Larry Grant and his Assistant, Kim Burge for the time and effort they put into making this tournament a reality, but moreso a tremendous success. The referees and linespersons from various associations who officiated in the games also deserve a pat on the back for their contribution to the tournament.
I keep telling everyone that female football is the real benchmark. The Cheryl Salisbury Cup 2008 only proved my point yet again. Well done girls!
-By Ross Anderson