Ash Palombi has banged in goals all season, but the experienced striker has one final goal in mind – winning the National Premier Leagues 2 NSW Womens Grand Final.
APIA Leichhardt Tigers has been the dominant side in the NPL2 Womens competition in 2019 – already securing the Club Championship and Premiership in their cabinet – now have an eye on the final jewel in their crown.
Palombi also picked up a personal honour for her hard work this season.
The striker was the Golden Boot in the competition with 32 goals in the regular season.
Palombi reflected on the role that her team-mates played in the honour.
“I am stoked with the achievement. The golden boot is also for the girls – I have never played in a team that has wanted to serve up so many goals for me.”
On field, APIA were a juggernaut. Across the regular season, APIA were defeated once in Round 1 and then went on a 21-game unbeaten streak that has propelled them to a pair of trophies.
“I am just proud to fly the APIA flag whenever I can score goals or hopefully winning trophies. That’s why when I take the field, my leadership is about leading by example and to leave it all on the pitch,”
There was a litany of highlights for APIA this season for the striker to pick as her favourite but Palombi chose their Round nine 5-nil victory against Central Coast as a key point.
“It was at a point where it was a big test for us, and we turned up and scored 4-5 goals on the Mariners which showed our ability when we show up for a game.”
The striker and her team-mates are fueled by their disappointment in 2018 where they crashed out to the aforementioned Mariners in a wild semi-final clash at Marconi stadium.
“Last season we didn’t achieve what we wanted – to make the Grand Final. It has fueled the fire for us. We have high expectations at APIA and Sunday is another chance to gain silverware.”
Standing one game from glory, Palombi reflected back on her previous Grand Final success in Canberra. The striker played her part in a 3-1 underdog Grand Final victory with the striker scoring the third goal.
“We were a younger team, playing against our rivals. We came out and beat them 3-1, with scoring the third goal myself.
“I have been on the losing side in a majority of my Grand Finals. Hopefully Sunday will be a much happier time with a goal attached.”
Looking towards the final, Palombi is confident but also remains cautious of the threat Gladesville Ravens pose after their 2-1 success in Round 1 and being the only side unbeaten against APIA.
“That [2-1 loss] was a wake-up call for us. Ravens are right to be optimistic headed into the game.
“They are dangerous especially through midfielder Carlie Ikonomou. She can score from anywhere and did so in the 3-3 draw.
“When APIA are on the top of our game, we’re a tough team to stop.
“We had every reason not to be successful this season but the girls have responded to every challenge and we’re ready for Sunday night.”
The National Premier Leagues 2 NSW Womens Grand Final co-headlines a Festival of Women’s Football on Sunday afternoon with finals starting from 8:30am to the main event at 5:15pm.
By Justin Davies (@JustDavies90)