The newly crowned Premiers, Macarthur Rams, are taking a well earned break prior to meeting the winner of this Sunday?s Qualifying Final in the Major semi Final on 9th September.
The other four members of the competition?s elite five will do battle this week with one of their number to bow out after week one.
Saturday?s Elimination Semi Final pits fourth placed Manly United FC against NWS Koalas in what should be an absorbing encounter.
Manly United FC enter the finals as the side many consider most likely to make an early exit. However, their form against NWS Koalas this season is most impressive, having recorded wins in both their matches. Certainly Saturday afternoon?s venue, ELS Hall Park, would hold no fears for the Manly girls who scored a convincing 3-1 win over Koalas there in Round 4 of the competition.
Manly?s Achilles heel has always been their ability to capitalise on their scoring opportunities. That?s not an issue that?s unique to Manly but, if they can bury an early chance on Saturday and put The Koalas on the back foot, the peninsula girls could find themselves on the way to victory. Coach Grant Lee will hope that his strike force, headed by the in form Tiarn Powell, is ready to fire in the semi final cauldron.
The Koalas have scored some great wins in recent weeks, having knocked over fellow semi finalists in Sydney University and Illawarra Stingrays before giving Macarthur Rams a severe test of character last Sunday. Gerry Gomez?s side, boasting a solid blend of youth and experience, are capable of beating any side on their day. The Koalas are a determined bunch who will be buoyed by their spirited finals series run of 2011; a run which saw them go all the way to the Grand Final.
If anything, The Koalas form coming into this year?s finals is much stronger than last season. The goal scoring brilliance of Jo Burgess has been replaced by the multi talented Matilda Ellyse Perry. Emma Stewart, Emma Stanbury and Anna McLean all offer the ability to turn a chance into a goal. The Manly defenders will need to be on their toes or The Koalas target players could leave them clutching at air.
Manly have the bragging rights so far in 2012 but The Koalas have the semi final touch. There won?t be much between these two sides at the final whistle. This looms as one of those matches where a singular piece of brilliance from one individual may tell the tale.
On Sunday second placed Sydney University meet the defending champions, Illawarra Stingrays, at Wilson Park Homebush.
Sydney University have been the victors in both clashes between the two sides this season with a 1-0 scoreline on each occasion. The most recent of these encounters was in Round 21 of the competition when the University side travelled to J.J.Kelly Park to come away with the points via an Erin Wilson goal. University seemed happy to sit back in the second half that day and attack Illawarra on the counter which left The Stingrays to spend long periods attacking the visitor?s goal. Sydney University held firm in what would be a confidence building performance.
Sydney University?s season has been highlighted by the goal scoring talents of Jenna Kingsley. Can the blonde torpedo come up with the goods in the finals? If she does then University will fancy their chances of winning the title. Olivia Kennedy and Erin Wilson know how to find the back of the net also whilst Hannah Kimber, Alesha Clifford and Emma Schiller all play their part in making this University team one to be respected.
We?ve become used to Illawarra Stingrays charging through the season proper in almost invincible fashion before turning contenders into pretenders come finals time. This season has been a little different for the three time champions. There have been times when The Stingrays have appeared very vulnerable. That lethal edge that has always been an identifying aspect of Illawarra?s character has been missing. Will it return now that the preliminaries are over and the title is on the line?
Much of Illawarra?s fate will fall on the strong shoulders of their legendary skipper, Michelle Carney. Carney is the conductor who leads the Illawarra orchestra, the lead singer in the rock band called The Stingrays. She rarely fails to deliver. With Illawarra?s favourite Yank, Kim Bonilla, also striking form at the right time the girls from the South Coast are primed for a finals resurgence. Jess and Caitlin Cooper will play vital roles along with the youthful duo of Talitha Kramer and Ann Mayo. Never write off a champion team.
What a match this one should be. A date with Macarthur Rams awaits the winner; the loser faces a sudden death semi final in Week 2. Can Sydney University finally fulfil their potential or will the might of The Stingrays come to the fore? It?s a toss of the coin for favouritism.
No side can claim true dominance coming into the championship deciding weeks of the competition. Macarthur Rams, with their superstar squad, may well deserve to be favourites but they will need to be at their best to turn back the challenge of their four fellow finalists.
Fans of the Women?s Premier League have plenty to look forward to in the coming weeks.
See you at the ground this weekend.
-By Ross Anderson