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