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