In this weekend’s Women’s State League Grand Final, the Western NSW Mariners FC take on Bankstown City FC, with the Championship on the line this Sunday at Valentine Sports Park.
It is surely fitting that the Women’s State League Grand Final will be competed by first placed Western NSW Mariners FC and second placed Bankstown City FC.
Both sides have set the standard throughout 2015, and demonstrated the most consistently impressive and entertaining football.
Throughout the season, the two have faced on four occasions; Bankstown have emerged victorious three times, only losing their round one fixture.
The most crucial of said victories came in the Major Semi Final, where Bankstown were dominant in a 2-0 victory which qualified them for this weekend.
The Western NSW Mariners, on the other hand, were forced to work extremely hard to earn their place in the Grand Final. After defeat to Bankstown, they faced St. George FC in the Preliminary Final; where they came from behind to win the game in the very last play of stoppage time.
They know that they will have to significantly improve this Sunday, as Bankstown are in red hot form. After their convincing Semi Final performance, City have had two weeks of preparation.
Coach Todd Gagan acknowledges that this is their second consecutive Grand Final appearance, an exciting achievement for the club. However, they are determined not to replicate last season’s 2-1 loss to Nepean FC.
“We have worked hard on our game at the back end of the season in preparation for the Finals and will need to be on our game against the Mariners, who have been the most consistent team throughout the competition.”
Key for Bankstown will be their attacking trio of Samantha Muscat, Tania Baban and Melissah Parlato. Muscat is the league’s top goal scorer, finding the net an incredible twenty seven times this season. Baban and Parlato are incredibly quick and skillful on either wing, and have proved a nightmare to handle for some defences.
In the Major Semi Final, Bankstown’s Lyndsay Kohlet was the standout player, utilised on the wing. Her combination of strength and speed was difficult to deal with, and resulted in a deserved goal towards the end of the game.
In midfield, the industrious Liana Babic and Jessica Abrahim are supported by playmaker Maniso Micheal. This group have established themselves as one of the league’s best passing units.
Impressive centre-back Allegras Vickas has led from behind this season, and is not shy of a strong tackle or powerful burst forward. To her side, Marie Sim-Sing has provided valuable experience and contributed to what has been a difficult backline to break down.
The Western NSW Mariners FC ran out deserved Premiership winners this season, with a game in hand. They took an early lead atop the table, and refused to let go for nearly the entire year.
However, their more recent form is a cause for concern, and one might say that they’ve slowed down at the worst possible time.
They were handily beaten by Bankstown City FC during the Major Semi Final, where their attacking efforts were scarce and their defence almost relentlessly overridden.
In their Preliminary Final, they showed signs of returning to their best, but still struggled to get over the line against St. George. The Saints dominated for the first half hour, but Western NSW demonstrated great resilience to find an equaliser before the break and then a winner on the cusp of extra time.
Head coach Mick Gobdier was proud of the girls’ efforts last weekend, “Our defensive unit was outstanding, especially without our skipper Meg McFarland, and they set the platform for us going forward.”
Gobdier was also pleased with improvements shown going forward, “We spoke about our attack and how we needed to fix that from the previous week, and I thought we made some positive steps in that regard.”
“Our goals were of an extremely high standard and when our young gun Tayla Lloyd scored the winner deep into injury time, it was such a relief as we really dug deep and threw everything into it.”
Tayla Lloyd has indeed stepped up this season as a player of immense talent, and her lively presence between attack and midfield has proven very effective throughout the season.
Top-scorer Jess Salamoni has been clinical in front of goal, despite often playing on the wing, scoring eighteen goals. Megan Embleton has been typically effective up front, adding fourteen goals to the tally.
Goalkeeper Jessica Daymond has been a standout player for the Premiers, with a commanding presence inside the goalbox and great alertness off her line.
Gobdier says that making the Grand Final is “an outstanding achievement… and we know if we play our best football we will be in this up to our eyeballs.”
However, he acknowledges that Bankstown City FC will be an incredible challenge, as they have proven throughout the year.
This weekend’s Women’s State League Grand Final could not be set up any better, with the league’s two best performers engaging in what will undoubtedly be a game to remember.
Western NSW Mariners FC vs. Bankstown City FC – Sunday 20 September, 4:30PM at Valentine Sports Park No. 2
-by Daniel Palmer, Women’s State League Reporter