Part II – Melbourne
Much like in life, there are some games where if everything lines up, you’ve just got to go. Sydney FC heading down to Melbourne to take on City in a repeat of last season’s grand final was one of them for me. The key dictator? My exam timetable. Most people would likely look poorly on having two core law unit exams in the space of five days for their last semester. Not me. I was STOKED. It meant the moment I saw my exam time table was out, I could book a flight out to Melbourne for Friday morning. Gunning it out of the state for two months of following football and chilling with family in South West Sydney.
Not only was making this game going to happen, but with being apart of The Women’s Game team, I got a media pass. Checking in with TWG team in Melbourne and I offered my services for whatever it took to get into the media box (turned out to be a match report, more of that later). Bob’s your uncle, I was to be watching the game from the media box, essentially meaning no boofhead was going to cut out my views either. How good!
Friday comes, early morning airport trips, the possibilities of a storm, heat, food finding and book buying, then finally it’s time for the football. I arrive at AAMI Park and encounter the maze that is getting to the media room. A couple messages sent, a phone call guiding me through the way (thanks Cheryl) and I make it. Well with a detour. When I finally made it to the general vicinity, I was looking at a choice of doors. A guy was there eating his sandwich. My clueless self asks sandwich guy which door I’m meant to go it. He goes “they all join up, just go through that one”, pointing to the door with a sign of “Fox Sport”. OK cool I think, odd, but whatever goes. I walk through the door. Immediately I see Kate Gill getting her hair done, with Teo and Natasha Dowie around. I stand there half stunned for a good 30 seconds, until I finally find my nerve to speak up and ask “I’m in the wrong room aren’t I?”. Yes I was. I was meant to go to the room next door. Clearly it wasn’t all just one big room.
Finally I find where I’m to set up for the match. Plus there is free merch, which I hear never happens, so now I’m conflicted over being the owner of a Melbourne City scarf. Look it’s good quality, so who am I to burn it out of rebellion as a response to City’s domination?
Then the match starts. My heart starts to plummet with the passing seconds as it becomes clear this is the Kinga and KK Show. The way the duo absolutely owned Sydney from the kick off was stunning to watch, also heartbreaking as a hopeless Sydney supporter. To make things worse, whilst I was in a cool sport, excellent views, with seemingly nice people. It became clear for the men in the room this was the entree event, not the main viewing it was for me. Just as Spencer was starting to show glimpses of owning the second string centre back duo Sydney had set out, the guys were bringing up topics from EPL to the English grounds and hec knows.
Just as I was considering how much nicer it would be watching the second half from the crowd, I get asked “sorry, can I just make it over to that chair on the other side of you?”. It was Dowie. Dowie was asking if I could move a bit, with the hopelessly broken chairs and limited space, so she could sit just down the bench from me. I jumped up. Like yeah, of course I’m going to move for Natasha Dowie, please. Whilst I didn’t work up the nerve to ask for a selfie (which I’ve been assured of since that I totally should’ve done), it was totally awesome being in the presser with her for the majority of the match. One of the best moments? When I worked up some courage to mention the difference of the Victory midfield to what I saw her with against Sydney last season, and her face legit lit up, like the players providing her the ball for goal scoring opportunities this season are the bomb you know?
Anyway, the match carried on. Spencer provided something special, finishing off the night on a hattrick. Sydney’s midfield just couldn’t figure out how to deal, as the match wore on, the side kept looking for something to combat the fight City were bringing. But they were simply outclassed and looked a bit gassed, evident by how often they were unable to release the ball early to create any terror from a counter. City were in control, getting the goals at the vital times and simply being the better team in possession. Sydney did conjure up something special, one of the rare times they were working the combinations, McCaskill found the ball and put in a devine pass in behind the defence for De Vanna to fire off a shot, and Sayer to clean up the goods to bring the sides level. But really it was Spencer who stole the show, pace, tenacity and eye for goal, Sydney really needed Kennedy and Ralston at the back. City also bombed down the right hand flank, exposing the young Hristodoulou at left back.
Put simply, the game was one to forget, bringing back unwanted flashbacks of last season’s grand final. However the experience was one to remember. The experience included writing a match report, to be done virtually as close to the finish of the match as possible. Boy is this a hard thing to do, when there are so many people around, making noise and different “shiny” things to be distracted by. To be included in the match report was whatever I could manage to gather from the post-match presser with City coach Vado. As previously mentioned, the boys there were all there for the men’s match, so it turned out it was a one on one interview between myself and Vidosic. Right, hadn’t mentally prepared myself for that one. Did I mention this was my first time post-match interviewing, second time interviewing someone I don’t actually know? Look, clearly it wasn’t Vidosic’s first time doing one such interview and we got through it with enough being said so there was a quote I could use in the match report.
So I knock one out quick. One of the guys were pondering the issue of a seat in the media box, I offer mine for the match as I won’t be needing it, only adding pressure to my time limit. I toss something together, it’s not quite shambles, but it’s not resume quality you know? When I’m under the pump, professional etiquette isn’t my forte, I just say “cool” a lot. Meaning after sending my match report in to an editor to put up on the website, said editor looked at my work and needed clarification of some of my ace phrases. Problem was I was conquering the maze of AAMI Park once again, trying to find someone. Later I looked at my phone, blown up with messages. Lucky no disaster, but my ability to explain phrases that I know, but am not 100% certain using the right words is hard work. I am yet to read the article, but it’s the game’s match report on The Women’s Game website if you are game (let me know if it’s ok… maybe?)
Melbourne killed it. I think I fell for the city again, although not City. Forever never City, despite my new scarf hanging from my backpack containing my next two months of belongings. Saturday afternoon was onwards to Sydney, and over at Part III.
Part III – Sydney
Sydney. Or more Campbelltown. Mate, home base for the next two months, shout out and many thanks to my Aunt and Uncle for having me. So to get to Campbelltown, it’s normally easy yeah. Catch a plane, then the airport train line heading straight to Campbelltown. Easy, I’ve done this trip before, I know the drill. No. Not this time. Massive shout out to Sydney Train works, making this tired, hot and stinky nearly 25 year old have to wait on a bus for flipping ages at the airport to head to central, then go on a train tour of Western Sydney via Granville that I really didn’t want (anyone local here will know how this is far, far from ideal), to switch at Leppington to FINALLY be on a train home. Yup Sydney, you didn’t have me at hello this time round.
By the grace of the W-League logistic people, there was a game close to my rellies place the day after I arrived. All my dreams of bouncing between cities on weekends to catch as many games as possible have come true momentarily for this one weekend. So of course, easy choice to decide on going to watch Western Sydney Wanderers v Brisbane Roar. A bonus is the match being held at Marconi, when it was once the Marconi guys who travelled out to my little town of Leeton to run soccer clinics during the school holidays, giving some significant sentimental value to the whole thing.
I get there, realise I’ve forgotten both my media pass AND portable, life-saving phone charger, but at the same time meet two thirds of the brilliant Sydney The Women’s Game team, and the complete legend that is Ann Odong without making a fool of myself (helped it had to be super quick as she needed to take photos of the players about to enter the field), so turns and roundabouts yeah?
It was all about the heat and an odd game of chicken between the sides at the kick off. Being the home team, and wanting to start the game off positively, it was the Wanderers who searched early, holding possession in better patches of the field. The Wanderers are a side starting to find the combinations and their style of play under Dan Barrett, meanwhile the Roar had about them the air of last season’s Premiership side. They knew what it was all about. Grinding out the results on a hot afternoon of football. Roar are a side comfortable without the ball, with hard working midfielders capable of shutting down the options, shout out to Gorry who was amongst everything, plus an experienced defence and Macca’s brilliance in goal. All Roar needed was a lead and then to hold on for dear life.
The battle of the match for me was between Georgia Yeoman-Dale and Carson Pickett for the first 50 minutes, until Yeoman-Dale was pushed deeper to fullback. Both players are blazing fast and had the potential to be the key for their side in attack. On the same side, you could tell Yeoman-Dale, who is use to being the fastest, suddenly had someone who could keep up. From a positional sense, Yeoman-Dale’s directions pre-match must have been to move deeper than an out and out forward, to make sure Pickett couldn’t make that roving run to receive the ball and whip in a beautiful cross with that special left boot of hers. There were some big challenges between the two, and good foot races, but it was Pickett who came up the goods. Yeoman-Dale was unable to stop Pickett’s ability from a dead ball situation. Pickett lined up a free kick on the line of the top corner of the penalty box (it honestly was a penalty from where I was sitting. On the line, from the spot yeah?) a low and hard shot was hit near post. Goal. Pickett had sunk the free kick, so the non-penalty call didn’t wind up mattering.
A goal ahead before halftime, somewhat against the run of play, Roar were able to shut up shop. The Wanderers will be wishing they had a better finisher, had they found a goal when the play was going their way earlier in the half, the match would have opened right up. Without Roar needing to search for a goal, player’s such as Ubogagu remained static, not creating the exciting football the side is capable of when searching for a reply. For the Wanderers, it was again a frustrating affair, of creating some opportunities, but unable to finish and struggling to really break down the Roar’s defence for enough clear cut opportunities. The result and match could have been far different, had the call for a goal scramble following a corner been given a goal for the Wanderers. Despite possible evidence to the contrary, no goal was given. Roar still had a lead to protect.
Through the hazey, itchy eyes of hay fever, the Wanderers had some half chances towards the back end of the game in their chase for a whiff of a result. But the whistle blew far too soon, and a comeback wasn’t on the cards.
Here’s to a few more matches out at Marconi this season. Meanwhile, Canberra United and Perth Glory fought it out in a grueling, crazy game that wound up at 4-4. To watch the match is on today’s to do list, but from what I can tell is the chasing down of leads, a red card, two penalties and last minute equalizers. Crazy. Next weekend we’ve got Matildas matches. Who else is keen? Who else is going to remember to take antihistamines before the matches if attending them live?