Here’s Match Day Monday coming at you on a pretty late Monday evening, and probably a Tuesday by the time you get to read it. The reason for the delay? All thanks to a six hour round car journey, late night soccer goss sessions, sleep and a very sore throat all stopping me from my usual midnight Sunday dash to pump this out. But that’s all good, because everyone wants a reminder of the killer weekend that was on a Tuesday. Today we’re going to be going through my McKellar Park debut. Really this purely something my 15 year old, slightly more Canberra United leaning self, would love to hear. I hope you enjoy it too.
McKellar Park. A bit like a religious pilgrimage, it was never a question of if I would go there someday, but when. Despite being a Sydney fan, my earliest memories of the W-League are largely dominated by the green of Canberra United. Growing up 3-4 hours away from the Capital and with the side containing players also from the country, especially in the Sykes sisters, they’re just a team who I’ve always had a soft spot for. I mean I was born in Sydney yes, hence being sky blue, but I grew up in the country and that’s Canberra yeah. I’ve always wanted to pay the ground a visit. Ask me the home ground of any other side, I wouldn’t have known it until I’d paid it a visit. But for Canberra? I don’t skip a beat, it’s McKellar Park. A sacred place and Fortress as they call it.
Currently based in suburban Sydney, early Sunday morning I undertook the journey 3 hours south to Canberra. I had a playlist of belter car songs sorted, an apple that switched out for a Krispy Kreme donut at my first petrol stop for fuel and the excitement in my heart of getting to see a match at McKellar. It’s between Sydney FC and Canberra, always the grudge match. I’m frothing.
Apart from learning that microsleeps legit work when on the road, stopping for a five minute nap to “stop, revive, survive” a bit over half an hour from Canberra as my sleepy self couldn’t deal with driving in the barracking winds, the drive is uneventful as I belt out some absolute classic tunes. Further Google maps is fast becoming my favourite friend during my adventures, so finding the ground was made easy.
At the ground.
Already having a heads up about the cows paddock for parking, I immediately felt at home driving through the grass field and finding a park within the ad hoc organisation that is individuals parking without lines. Hello the country. Luckily the ground isn’t as expansive as some of the others *cough AAMI Park cough* so I’m able to find where I’m meant to be sitting super easily, plus meet the amazing Canberran The Women’s Game crew. We get settled in, find the beer truck that was parked diagonally opposite to where we were seated, aka the furthest part of the ground away from us, say no to the bevvie because driving and beer send me to sleep, see a small horde of Sydney fans arrive with some sweet tifo on one of the goal sides and finally the match starts.
Always expect fireworks when these sides meet, no matter the circumstances. Here was no different. The challenges were tough, the offside flag overworked and an outstanding display by Khamis in goal for Canberra. Honestly if you’re a goalkeeper and want to know how to deal with one on ones, just flick to Khamis’ saves in this one. Two massive opportunities for Sydney, one through De Vanna, the other Huerta, where Khamis was perfect in each. To see such a stunning goalkeeper display made me nostalgic. There has been some top notch goalkeeping by Canberra goalkeepers, and this display must be up there with the top ones.
Ultimately though. Look. Everyone who isn’t a Sydney supporter knows the score line already, whilst Sydney supports pretend not to, but do, as we are left once again shaking our heads, with little or all too many words to say over this one.
They’re a different side with Jane back in the starting IX. Whilst Khamis put in a massive display, to control the match it was Jane who was the difference between this side and the one who lost the previous two. A player who can screen the defence, get the important turnovers, then release the ball quickly to get the best out of Mulaudzi, is quality and the heartbeat of the side, which Jane is. Canberra took their opportunities. That’s what counts.
Honestly I want the whole side to just sit down, have a cup of tea and learn how to communicate with each other. The big names and players on the team list mean they should terrorise other teams. Whilst Sydney can hold the bulk of possession, have territorial dominance in the final third that any other side would be jealous of, they just can’t connect the passes the way they should. Simple balls were often all over the place. Players weren’t working for each other to create the simple option. Credit to Canberra, who did well to shut down Sydney’s options, but honestly, the movement for lengths of the match for Sydney were lazy. There was little variation in the way the side moved forward, and again nothing between the lines to create an option other than pumping the ball into the box with a flat forward line. Kennedy was stellar in the back though. Plus credit to Harrison for running out a full game coming back from her ACL injury.
A short time after Prior got on the field, a rogue elbow struck and Prior was on the ground not moving. It looked serious, and was. The match stopped, both teams doctors were on the pitch and the ambulance officers were there too. Thankfully Canberra have confirmed that the damage is a concussion and nothing further. Still, concussions suck, so here’s to Prior getting back to full health soon.
They played a role in this match. On the sixth minute, Sydney earn a corner. Uncontentious. The ball floats in, Kennedy seemed in prime position, suddenly wasn’t, instead her hand was, striking the ball. Anyway, the ref immediately blows the whilst pointing to the spot for a penalty. I’m the only blue in a sea of green yeah. I wasn’t fully sure what went on, but was informed it was Corsie who dragged Kennedy. However, the crowd is livid. An uproar! IT’S A HANDBALL the masses call. I, the apparent only Sydney supporter in this patch of the ground, hide. The referee consults her assistant ref, to go on and somewhere along the line decide to go with the handball decision, overturning the initial penalty call. Mayhem. The crowd. I love it.
Shout out to the kid sitting a row down to the left of me who had an intricate soccer ball design stencilled into his hairdo. You’re an inspiration.
Next time I get to McKellar Park, I’m hoping I can be on the green side, without Sydney playing. But honestly, small ground pitches are the best, to see football thriving in the country makes my heart happy. Let’s make it happen again McKellar Park, I like you.
The Other Matches
Thursday Night|| Newcastle Jets 0 – 1 Brisbane Roar
I keep bagging out the Roar this season, and I probably will continue until the start an out and out number 9, but they played their cards right here and got a tough win away. Newcastle were ok, but honestly didn’t really get ticking until too late. Once again McCormick was excellent in the back, shutting out Stengel like shutting up a boisterous puppy. Just quality. The mix of Yuki and Gorry is going to be brilliant, there were glimpses of what the duo will bring, and with a centre forward who will benefit from the service. They are going to destroy teams this season. While Stengel again put in the hard yards without a goal, whilst Smith looked dangerous, seemingly growing into the league now.
Saturday Night|| Melbourne City 1 – 1 Adelaide United
City threw this game away. Adelaide did well, still keeping it tight in the back and looking solid without the ball. For the first goal to get past Willacy this season to be from a Kyah Simon penalty seems unjust, but that’s what’s happened. By the second half, City had control of the midfield through Butt and KK. But to not kill off a game, or score from open play, came to kick City in the teeth, especially when they persisted in trying to run the clock down. With plenty of extra time added on, Adelaide dug deep for Campagnale to come up with the winner. Absolute brilliance.
Sunday Afternoon|| Melbourne Victory 2 – 1 Western Sydney Wanderers
Of flipping course the Wanderers finally find the back of the net the one match I don’t see them play. Not just any goal, but an absolute worldie by Ledbrook. As I was busy watching a different Sydney side lose, I’ve yet to see the full match. However if Nairn’s goal is indicative, the match was scrappy. According to Twitter and perhaps bias reports, the Wanderers in the second half picked up a bit with the inclusion of Addo. But Victory are winning games this season, this one was never in doubt, even if they wanted to make it difficult for themselves.