Local Mash Up: Round 13

This weekend’s footy is brought to you by Banjos chai lattes, difficult rainy drives down the Midland Highway and soothing trips back. Seriously, I managed to squeeze in 2 great matches, albeit scrappy, a half match and something special in lieu of a forfeited game.

Dancing in the Rain

Well, more like avoiding the rain. The season is a long slog, and it feels like this year the heavens have decided to open in a delayed time frame to reflect the football season.

Upon arriving at Warrior Park I’m quickly welcomed by Ulverstone as I enter and then asked “hey, did you want to sit under shelter out of the rain?” Of course, with a bag full of camera gear and my laptop I answered with the obvious “yes”. Soon after, my name is on the team sheet so I can share the bench and stay somewhat dry. An absolute delight.

Chatting on the bench with Tiela Weeda, who was forced to sit with an icepack on her face for a majority of the game, was my match highlight.

But seriously, this moment is just one of many throughout the season that reminds me how special it is to have the opportunity to cover the WSL’s only northern team consistently. I may have missed their season best performance at Darcy Street (I needed ONE week off the road OK), but I’ve caught the other important moments. The most valuable is the relationships built off the pitch.

One on One Battles

For some reason, the games between Olympia and Ulverstone always leaves me drooling over the 1v1 matchups. It’s in how both teams set up, attack and defend each other. Duals can be found across the park.

On paper, Olympia had it in the bag. But during those 1v1’s it’s anyone’s games. The battle between Meg Gaffney and Madi Chambers again had me on the edge of my seat. Matched pace for pace, with the defender giving away very little room for the attacker. While Georgia Burley and Lucy Reimer tag teamed on Bonnie Davies, with Davies isolating one of the centre backs, attempting to run off the shoulder but so often showed the line and out.

Up the other end, Eli Cropp’s ability to pick off players in those isolated moments is a delight. Though taking on Olivia Bomford and Innocent Michael in the same run is a tough, and often unsuccessful, ask. When the balance struck right though, Cropp’s ability to win 1v1 duels is a game changer.

The Future is Bright

I arrived at Wentworth Park early on Sunday with the hope of catching a Women’s Championship 1 match and taking some photos while the sun was out. My dismay at the match being forfeited was short lived. In part to being shouted an excellent hot chocolate. But largely because it was the first weekend of “Club Connect”. 

“Club Connect” is a program that’s looking to help girls in grade 5 and 6 girls who play soccer find a pathway to play beyond primary school. It’s genius. Showing these young kids different local clubs over a month, giving them exposure to the senior women’s team leaders/role models and providing a welcoming environment within sport.

The opening weekend was a success. I couldn’t count, but word on the street is there were about 80 girls there. They were everywhere, filling two full size pitches. 

Not only was participation there, which is vital and so encouraging, but the skill was too. The idea of finding space, basic ball skills and passing were all there. This wasn’t a “welcome to football”, it was a “you belong and we don’t want to lose you during your leap to High School”.

One day it’ll be these girls filling the local competitions. Forcing more comps ranging from social to semi-pro, while producing players for the W-League and Matildas. This is only the beginning and I’m very excited to watch it.

Momentum

It was a delight to finally make the trip to Olinda Grove this season. The difficult year for the Bees means I’ve been hesitant to make the trip, because writing match reports of hefty losses is no fun. But maybe I should’ve ventured sooner because so far the games I have watched live of University it’s been two tight 1-nil losses and a 2-all draw. Clearly I’m their lucky charm.

The match itself ebbed and flowed, with momentum shifting throughout. University were kept in the match though, not just due to their hunger in midfield and classy last ditch defending, but from South shooting themselves in the foot. 

The Reds nearly undid the hard graft of the first half, which ultimately the sole goal was all the difference. One decision during the break saw their best central midfielder of the first half moved to the flank, unsuccessfully relocating the unpredictability and penalty area lurking of Pishon Choi. While a spate of substitutions threw a spanner into the works of the rhythm South had mustered during the first half.

Don’t get me wrong, University came out with a point to prove in the second half. Digging deep to press defenders, finding feet with combinations and looking lively. But South could’ve given them a greater challenge, building off the first half and finding the target.

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