The penultimate week of the A-League Women left us no clearer as to who will make up the top four, and the premier is still to be decided.
The Newcastle Jets farewelled Claire Coelho and Tara Andrews, and sent of the retirees with a thrilling 3-2 win over Wellington Phoenix. Marisa van der Meer opened the scoring for Wellington, but Lauren Allan drew level before half time.
An incredible second half saw Paige Satchell re-take the lead for the visitors, before goals to Ash Brodigan and Cass Davis won the day for the Jets.
Canberra United travelled to face Western United, and left Victoria with a 3-0 win. A Vesna Milivojevic brace and a third from Chengshu Wu kept their finals hopes alive, and meant that Western United’s title chances are no longer in their own hands.
Sydney FC defeated Adelaide United 3-0 in a comprehensive performance. Rachel Lowe, Nat Tobin, and Mackenzie Hawkesby scored the goals, as the reigning premiers sharpen their claws before finals.
On Sunday, Brisbane Roar held Melbourne Victory to a 1-1 draw with an impressive goal from Shea Connors and a miraculous save by Hensley Hancuff. Melina Ayres scored from the spot for Victory. A win would have secured finals, and it was an opportunity missed.
Perth Glory played out a seven goal thriller against Melbourne City. Hana Lowry, Sadie Lawrence, Hannah Blake, and Cyera Hintzen scored for the home side. Rihanna Pollicina, Hannah Wilkinson and Julia Grosso for City.
Tuesday night saw Wellington Phoenix rebound with a 3-1 win over an unlucky Adelaide United. Millie Clegg won the corner that led to Wellington’s opener, before adding two of her own. Fiona Worts headed her third goal of the season in the first half to give Adelaide something to celebrate.
Wednesday night saw a crucial encounter in the make up of the ladder. The Round 11 meeting between Perth Glory and Sydney FC was delayed after no ground could be found at the time. When it finally took place it was an epic.
Cortnee Vine put on a clinic in the first half, scoring one and setting up another for Indiana Dos Santos. Perth Glory pulled level through Alana Jancevski and Gabby Coleman, but Madison Haley scored the winner for Sydney.
Princess Ibini sealed the result with a cool finish in the dying moments.
The win, gives Sydney every chance of winning a third straight premiership, and delivered a decisive blow to Perth Glory’s finals hopes.
Talking Points Week 19
The Legends take centre stage
Some of the greats of the A-League Women/W-League announced their retirements before Round 19, and their teams put on performances to match the status of these stars.
Kim Carroll is a 54 cap Matilda who has played in “The Dub” since its inception. Her time in the league has been separated between Brisbane Roar and Perth Glory, where she will finish up after this season ends.
Her Glory teammates are giving everything to extend her career by as much as possible. After going a goal down early against Melbourne City, Glory rallied and won in a remarkable 4-3 game. Caroll started in her 92nd game for Perth, has shown few signs externally of slowing down, and has remained one of the Glory’s most valuable contributors right to the end of the career.
In Newcastle, the home fans said farewell to The Jet’s greatest ever striker. Tara Andrews first joined Newcastle as a 15 year old and finishes her career with 45 goals, the highest tally by a Jets player in their history. Andrews is a unique striker in Australian football. She is one of the tallest players in the league, but is as adept at dropping deep and linking play as she is at knocking headers into the net.
Andrews has been staunchly loyal to The Jets throughout her career. At her best, she is an almost unstoppable forward, and has undoubtedly has her signature hunted by other clubs. A stint in the USW League with Colorado Pride resulted in 24 goals in 23 appearances.
At 29, her retirement feels premature, if she made a Heyman-like comeback there would be a line up clubs ready to welcome the centre forward. But if this is the last we see of Tara Andrews, it has been a privilege to watch one of the greats.
Ellie Brush is another legend of the league to announce her retirement at season’s end. The Canberra United defender is one of the stars of the league, and has been since season one in 2008. Although she has spent time with Sydney FC, Houston Dash and Western Sydney, it is Canberra that she will be most linked with.
Brush has won the premiership and championship double on two occasions with Canberra United, and has been instrumental in this season’s push to make the finals. Her last minute winning goal against Sydney FC was a season defining moment for the club. Brush is an icon of the game at an iconic club.
Michelle Heyman has shown no signs of retiring yet. She has already done that once, and has not slowed down since her comeback two seasons ago. As of Round 19, Michelle Heyman has now played more A-League Women’s games than anybody else in the competition’s history.
Heyman is another veteran of Season One in 2008, has won two Julie Dolan Medals (a decade apart) and is the league’s record scorer. Heyman’s game against Western United was her 158th appearance in Australia’s top tier. As always, she started, and as always she was instrumental. Her turn and defence splitting pass set up Vesna Milivojevic for the crucial second goal.
Heyman is still one of the leagues deadliest strikers. She has the pace to outrun most defender, is tricky in tight areas, and can link play with long raking passes from deep. She is the complete modern centre forward, and consistently one of her side’s best players.
This is a real legend of the game, who continues to achieve on the field. There is still plenty to aim for, Heyman’s form has her knocking on the door of Matildas selection, and she is chasing 100 career goals. If Canberra do not make the finals this year, the football community will be hoping she returns for another season next year.
At the other end of the age spectrum, Sydney FC have trusted in youth this season, and yet again been rewarded.
Sydney FC are a benchmark of develoment
When Theresa Polias took a break from the game before the 2021/22 season, 19 year old Taylor Ray was entrusted to sit in the deep midfield position. She helped deliver a premiership for Ante Juric’s team in a career making season.
With Ray out injured for 2022/23, Juric gave 17 year old Shay Hollman a chance in the role. Once more, Sydney FC are right in the mix for the premiership and championship.
In Round 19, with Hollman unavailable, 15 year old Indiana Dos Santos started in midfield. Combined with Sarah Hunter (19) and Mackenzie Hawkesby (22), the average age of their midfield was 18 years old. When Dos Santos scored against Perth Glory, she became the fifth youngest goal scorer in the league’s history.
Sydney FC have always trusted younger players. They have shown that given the right support, opportunity and guidance, you can contend for trophies while developing young players.
There is a steady production line of elite talent coming out of Sydney FC. Their 3-0 win against Adelaide shows that they are more than just good players, they have a strong mentality to deliver when it matters. This is a golden generation at Sydney FC, and potentially the foundation of another for The Matildas.
Game to watch in Week 20
It is nearly impossible to pick. If Melbourne Victory defeat Wellington Phoenix, it assures their finals position. The Phoenix are coming off an impressive win against Adelaide United and many of their young stars are trying to force their selection into the New Zealand World Cup squad.
The Phoenix have plenty of motivation as a club and as individuals. Victory has struggled in recent games. Without Alex Chidiac in attack, they have lacked invention, and with Paige Zois doubtful, they have lost another player who can score out of nothing.
Thier defence will face the in-form Millie Clegg, who is one of the brightest prospects in the league. The defensive duo of Kayla Morrison and Claudia Bunge will have confidence that they can contain her, but she is an exciting talent that mixes X-factor with strong technique.
This is Victory’s most important game of the year. They only just scraped into finals last season and won the trophy. A few sides will be barracking against them this week.