Each week, ABC Sport will bring you a Round Wrap of the A-League Women’s Competition, featuring the winners, losers and one good thing that happened on or off the field.
Tour 3 at a glance
Western Sydney snatches a late goal to draw Newcastle 1-1; Melbourne Victory weathered a storm in the second half to defeat Brisbane Roar 3-2; Melbourne City pass Adelaide 3-1; and Sydney barely reached second gear in the 3-0 win over Wellington.
The game changers
When Matildas boss Tony Gustavsson took office in January, he introduced a number of new expressions into the lexicon of Australian football, including a term he uses to describe a group of somewhat maligned players in because of where they spend most of their time: bench.
Gustavsson doesn’t call them “bench players”, however. He doesn’t even call them the “first XI” or the “second XI”, believing that this creates unhealthy internal hierarchies. Instead, its term is “game changers”: players who are deliberately brought into a match at a certain point in time in order to have an impact.
We saw Gustavsson’s “game changers” do just that in the third round. The first was on Friday in Western Sydney’s home game against Newcastle. After conceding in the 21st minute, the Wanderers’ fortunes continued to falter when key midfielder Libby Copus-Brown was substituted early due to breathing difficulties.
His early departure forced the hand of head coach Catherine Cannuli, who brought in local product Rosie Galea in his place.
Galea’s introduction almost immediately changed the energy of her stammering Wanderers side, especially in the second half where she – alongside halftime substitute Ashlie Crofts – led the club’s comeback.
Spicing up the deep midfielder’s goal, Galea hit the crossbar twice, while Crofts scored the ultimate equalizer in the 90th minute, hitting a header from young Sheridan Gallagher.
The same happened in City’s victory over Adelaide, with late substitute Leticia McKenna helping City’s third goal as Adelaide looked like she could make her way to an equalizer, while the young Sydney FC substitute , Charlize Rule, scored her first goal – and the Sky Blues’ second of three goals – after coming on at halftime.
It just goes to show that all players can add value to a team’s performance, but often it’s the timing that can make the difference.
While Newcastle’s 1-1 draw against the Wanderers may not have been a performance the Jets remember – especially after their 5-1 loss to Wellington the previous week – it was certainly a momentous moment for one of their key players.
On Friday, midfielder Cassidy Davis became the first ALW player to play 100 straight games in the competition. The Newcastle local has not missed a home club game since making her ALW debut in 2013.
If she plays nine in a row this season, Davis will hold the all-time record for consecutive appearances in the women’s and men’s leagues.
It’s an extraordinary achievement for the 27-year-old, not only physically – never missing a game due to injury, suspension, illness or other commitments – but also in terms of longevity.
The short length of the ALW season, which is still only 14 regular season rounds, means its players often need several years to rack up the same appearance stats as their male colleagues, whose longer seasons give them more. of opportunities in a shorter space. time to reach these milestones.
It took eight consecutive seasons for Davis to reach this point. Despite his busy career, the midfielder only made the final once, during the 2017-18 season. With Friday’s game, Davis also joined the coveted “Club of 100,” reserved for players who have landed 100 or more appearances in the league.
While some of the club’s 100 members are top Matildas – Clare Polkinghorne, Tameka Yallop, Steph Catley, Lydia Williams, Kyah Simon – this list is also filled with players who may not be so idolized by young fans. de Matildas, but whose presence in the league over the years has been just as important in bringing women’s football to where it is today.
Teresa Polias, Ellie Brush, Gema Simon, Shannon May, Marianna Tabain, Hannah Brewer, Nicola Bolger, Tara Andrews and now Cassidy Davis: these are the players on whose shoulders the ALW is built, and whose contributions to sport will be made feel long after leaving it.
Perth Glory is cursed. This is surely the only explanation for a club whose senior seasons are once again on a knife-edge following the new wave of COVID-19 causing havoc at home and across borders.
Glory has already endured that particularly exhausting ringing once. Their women’s campaign last year was deeply disrupted by the pandemic, forcing the team to travel the country for an inconsistent schedule that included, at one point, playing three catch-ups in the span of a tiring week. quickly their young unprepared cohort. of players.
Perth came out of this season bruised and bruised, getting just one point out of the 12 games they’ve been able to play. They haven’t won a single game of the year and they’ve conceded nine more goals than any other team in the competition.
But things looked upbeat for the Glory this time around. With a full preseason under their belt, a slew of new and returning signings and relaxing frontiers, it looked like 2021-22 could be something special for this struggling club.
Indeed, they have enjoyed their best start to the women’s A-League season in almost five years so far, winning their first two games and currently occupying a place in the final.
However, a new wave threatens to stop them in their tracks. Their game against Canberra United last Saturday was postponed due to border restrictions between Western Australia and ACT, while the men’s team quarantined their entire squad in Queensland due to an outbreak among them. players.
Considering how quickly the virus is spreading through the A-Leagues and across the community, it’s only a matter of time, you think, before a similar fate befalls the team. feminine.
On Monday, the league confirmed several schedule changes for Perth’s season, including a postponement of their next game against Adelaide. Their next game now kicks off in the New Year against the Reds on January 1, with four of their remaining season games yet to be confirmed on venues and times as the situation unfolds.
But hey, they’re five more points than what they earned last season. This is one of the few silver liners they can take if things go upside down again.
Double head fans
When the Australian Professional Leagues (APL) announced the 2021-22 season schedule, one of the changes they celebrated was the increase in the number of double matches between the men’s and women’s teams.
This not only meant that the women’s teams could play in larger stadiums more often – which meant better pitch surfaces, changing rooms and broadcast infrastructure – but it also meant that in theory attendance would increase as attendance. that the fans of the men’s game arrived early and to get a preview of the women’s game in advance.
Obviously, there are a number of questions and issues with the dual-header setup that deserves its own review later this season, but the one that continues to cause frustration is the one for casual fans that the APL wants to capture with this concept.
Last weekend, two of the four matches that took place were scheduled for doubles. One – Brisbane’s match against Victory – was supposed to be the third, but the COVID-19 outbreak in Perth saw the men’s match postponed.
The problem in question concerned the ticket office. Or, more specifically, the lack of information provided on tickets purchased by fans eager to watch ALW matches.
For casual fans who aren’t club members – and therefore lack targeted communication via club emails – even finding out what time ALW matches start can be a dilemma.
Before Sunday afternoon’s doubles match between Sydney and Wellington, for example, the only time printed on the physical ticket was the men’s match at 6:45 p.m., with no mention of the ALW match scheduled in advance.
Additionally, when trying to search online for more information, fans were often redirected to landing pages for the men’s competition, or found nothing at all.
While there is merit in the idea that the ALW could grow their fan base by programming games in double-header formats, making the information difficult for casual / indifferent fans to access – the same fans that the PLA is trying to attract – defeats the purpose of exercising it.
Attracting new fans to the competition through this format is great in theory, but only if you talk to them first.
Here is a good thing
Although their results on the pitch leave something to be desired, Adelaide United have clearly done a lot of work to create a safe and inclusive environment for their players.
Following the story of A-League Men player Josh Cavallo coming out earlier this year, A-League Women player Emma Stanbury revealed on social media this week that she has autism, paving the way for more neurodivergent footballers hoping to pursue football professionally.
“I haven’t really told people that, but it’s only this year that I’m kind of open about it, because I kind of take that mask off and I’m really me,” a- she told Adelaide’s The Pitch podcast.
“I have a different brain. My brain works in a completely different way.
“I have already told the previous coaching staff, [but the Adelaide United coach] really put it in and they do things in training to support me.
“[They’re] get me to train early, so I can see how passing practices work, rather than doing it on the spot because my brain sometimes melts.
“It shows in my performance because I feel so supported.”