2021 has arrived, with my first glance of women’s football for the season from the comfort of my own home. Rainy days were made for livestreams. That and not wanting to drive from Burnie to Hobart with a sole day off work.
A simple skim of the team sheets and it’s definitely a new year. Olympia missed two thirds of their backline, a midfield creator and last season’s golden boot winner, with that core seemingly moving on to different pastures. Kingborough picked up a couple of Zebras, while missing a couple familiar faces, whether through injury or the new season losses.
One quirky thing that was fun to see was Natalie Leszynski followed the family name to slot right into the position Sophie had made home over the past few seasons. The continuity you love to see in state league football.
Olympia thundered home with a 4-1 victory off the back of free kicks, as the Lions were only able to muster the late consolation.
Ok. I definitely intended to write more of a match report, but I have feelings about this match so here we are.
Thank goodness for Leah Gubb because this game needed something special. Gubb pulled it out of her pocket on three occasions, twice to tee up a teammate and once to go it herself. Perfection in the midst of chaos.
Defenders don’t receive near enough praise, so here we are. Katherine Ollerhead and Airlee Lawson had very solid matches. Not perfect, not without fault however for the most part they did their job as centre backs for their respective teams.
Ollerhead is a handy addition to Olympia’s backline, with the ex-Beachside player keeping Laura Davis at bay until the dying minutes.
Lawson has continued to develop and put in some handy last ditch challenges and generally read play better than previous seasons, no doubt a full season as centre back in the WSL now under her belt making a difference.
No first touch, not spreading out into gaps of space in attack and awry passes that made the match look more like a game of ping pong.
We could blame the weather, it was windy. We could blame pre-season, it was mid-March. We could blame cup nerves, it was a grand final. But should we?
The simple things just didn’t stick and these are the two teams that have reached to the top of the pile so far this year.
Too often my hands went to my face in frustration at another instance of a first touch that resembled catching a hot potato with bare hands. In other instances players were falling over each other because there was no one pulling out of the space through the guts of the field and to work in the flanks. And don’t get me started on the amount of poor turnovers and lack of either side really grabbing control of the game with possession.
Perhaps I’m too familiar with previous cup finals being between Olympia and Zebra sides of different ilk, who liked to hold possession, hit their markers and their passes. The times this didn’t happen, the intensity of the match created a gripping affair no matter the score line.
The intensity of the match wasn’t there. I’m fairly certain both teams needed a can of red bull to really wake up and put their foot on the gas.
Fair shout to Olympia, they didn’t need to move out of second gear. Two early goals from set pieces created the buffer that made it unnecessary. Whether they have a third gear is yet to be seen, and quite possibly won’t rear its head until they come up against a team north of Campbell Town. Even then it’s hinged on the hope that Launceston United recruited well and Devonport Strikers can hit their strides.
For Kingborough this was painful. I would say it was only painful at times, but it was painful for a lot of it. Not even their usual solid structure made an appearance, with players drawn all over the pitch both in attack and defence.
Don’t get me wrong, 4-1 is probably a flattering scoreline for Olympia on the whole of play. But the Lions didn’t bring any real bite, Davis looked isolated and the long ball was their only success of the day.
If this is the best football the state has to offer, there needs to be questions. The quality is marginally better than Women’s Northern/Southern Championship matches I watched last season. I’m aware a lot of players have moved about, including interstate and COVID doesn’t help anything, as with most things.
But that match can’t be considered a showcase of the football talent in this state. It simply can’t be, we play better football than that.
There’s a fair argument that if that is the standard this season holds you may as well throw in Ulverstone and University because they were playing at this level last season. Heck, even throw in an early-last-season-fully-fit Burnie too.
The season begins next weekend (at least the Champs do, so I’m guessing the WSL does too). The true state of our game will become clearer. We have the quality of players in Tasmania, even if the depth isn’t quite there yet. If those players bring intensity, hunger and desire to get the simple things right, the season will be another wonderful affair.
The writing is on the wall begging for teams to improve from a Summer Cup Final that has left me feeling sleepy and grouchy.