AMBITIOUS ITALIANO STARGAZING AT GLADBACH
When you play alongside Bundesliga stars like Denis Zakaria, Marcus Thuram and Florian Neuhaus it provides a window into a wondrous new world. It’s a world Olyroo and Young Socceroos attacking weapon Jacob Italiano wants to inhabit on a regular basis as his career in Germany begins to take shape.
The 18-year old West Australian got a taste of first team football with Bundesliga giant Borussia Monchengladbach during the pre-season, making three appearances and getting on the scoresheet. Head coach Marco Rose and sporting director Max Eberl took note, with Italiano going on to make 14 appearances and score twice for Gladbach’s second team in Germany’s fourth tier before the COVID-19 shutdown.
Arriving from Perth Glory on a five-year contract 10 months ago, Italiano is at the club where it began in Germany for Socceroos mainstay Mathew Leckie and is hungry to take his career to similar heights. “I feel like I’ve settled in well. Everything here is just football, football, football and that really resonates with me,” said Italiano.
“It was a big move but I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. It’s made me more adaptive in life and taught me a lot of things about myself. When I arrived I managed to get involved with the first team pretty quickly during the pre-season, which was pretty big for me.”
“It was a shock being thrown into a higher level of football than I had ever experienced before but it was good to know I could cope with it. After that you feel the only way is up. I did well and made a bit of an impact. Since then I’ve been back with the U-23s. I’ve been playing consistently and I think I’ve done pretty well, so we’ll just see what happens from here.”
Renowned for promoting emerging talent, Gladbach - who sit fourth on the ladder ahead of next month’s planned Bundesliga restart - look like a good fit for Italiano, who is working feverishly to improve his finishing power to take his game to the next level.
“This is a club that loves to give opportunities to younger players, which is one of the reasons I was so excited to come here,” he added. “I love all the boys in the team ... it’s a good group and I’ve been made really welcome.”
“Obviously having another Aussie here (ex-Melbourne Victory prospect Christian Theoharous) has been good and made it a lot easier for me. He was here last year and already knew the ins and outs of the club. I just need to work on being more consistent and hopefully the opportunities will come.”
Die Fohlen’s Borussia Park stadium complex comes complete with multiple training fields, state of the art gym and medical facilities, a hotel and even a museum detailing the club’s textured history. “It’s a fantastic set up,” Italiano said. “We train right next to the first team ... They’re all so down to earth and happy to give you their time.”
The message from the coaching staff is for Italiano to discover his inner assassin. “They want me to be more ruthless in front of goal,” he said. “It looks like the season has been cut short but hopefully during the next pre-season I’ll be scoring a few goals and providing a few assists with the U-23s. If I do that hopefully I’ll then be knocking on the door of the first team.”
In this time of up-evil with the corona-virus around the world, football has taken a back seat. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel, with the social distancing and other regulations working and many believe football will kick off again later in the year, but we must adhere to the government’s policies and flatten the curve.
In the meantime, we will be doing our best to keep you in touch with the local game, bringing you interviews with coaches, players from the NPL, State League and Amateur league, and chat to them on the current situation and about football. In today’s third ‘In conversation’ we catch up with Kingsley Westside Head Coach Steven Dimitrovich.
Dimitrovich played all of his football at Olympic Kingsway from the age of four until he hung up the boots at 26 when his son was born. But he had football in his blood and he took up coaching in 2007 where he coached Kingsway first team in the Amateur Premier League until 2012, and he also coached the State Amateur side in 2013 when they went to Malaysia.
He then took a few years away from the game, before Kingsley came calling at the end of 2016, and he hasn’t looked back. “My time at Chichester Park has been awesome form the time I walked in,” he said. “The clubs board have been nothing but supportive of my vision for the club on the park and that has showed with two second place finishes, a league title, and back to back cup wins as well and that wouldn’t have been possible without a total buy in from all involved at the club.”
It will be a new era at the club in 2020 with the merger with Westside, and Dimitrovich said they can’t wait to get started. “Like everyone in the game we can’t wait for football to hopefully go back soon as we felt we had some good momentum with our pre-season we had and also our merger with Westside,” he explained. “The club was in a good position to go from strength to strength in the coming years and it also gives both our clubs the confidence that we can be around for the long haul and give junior players a path way to state league football.”
The 40-year-old visited family and friends in the UK before the corona-virus took hold earlier in the year and he said he hopes they stay safe, but he is glad he lives in Australia. He also said he is sure his players will come back to the club fir and rearing to go. “The family in the UK are doing well considering they are stuck in full lock down, and one thing I can say is how lucky we are to live in this great country at times like these,” he said.
“During these uncertain times it’s hard to ask the lads to stay focused when we aren’t even sure if football will return but credit to our squad, we have asked them to complete running over the last couple weeks. I’m pleased that they have all completed it and are challenging each other which has lifted the spirits of the lads. As for myself just going for walks and bike rides and playing cards with the kids keeps me sane in this very difficult time, we have all faced.”
Like each week we asked Steven the best player he played with and against in the game, and he said the two were standouts. “The best player I’ve played with would have to be Daniel Stoitis, who always prepared himself very well whether it be at training or on game day,” he said. “You knew once you crossed the white line you got total commitment for the full 90 minutes and he was always the first one to do for the team what was needed.
“As for the best player I’ve played against, I only played against this bloke a couple times and it was in the amateur league but Flavio L’Abbate was that player. He was a no-nonsense striker who gave as good has he got but played the game in the right way. I remember one game up at Kingsway where we kicked each other for 90 minutes but as soon as the final whistle went it was handshakes and let’s have a beer and for me that’s what it’s about.”
BREAKOUT SEASON FOR YOUNG GLORY KEEPER
It was a breakout season for Perth Glory keeper Morgan Aquino, the teenager making her starting debut in the W-League. The 18-year-old has had to bide here time on the bench with the form of Glory number one Eliza Campbell, but she said making here starting debut against Newcastle Jets was a great experience. “I’ve been in this position a long time and all I can do is train really well and have the right attitude. I can’t complain and I just have to do the best I can, and get my game time during training,” she explained.
“It’s obviously really good to finally get on to the pitch, but I’ve been around the team for a while, so it was good to play my part in the 4-2 win. Eliza is great. We get along so well and honestly complement each other, and I wouldn’t want to work with any other keeper in the country.”
Aquino started playing the game at Dianella SC and would alternate her game time between playing striker and goalkeeper, but she is glad with the playing position she chose. “I like scoring goals, but I honestly can’t remember scoring that many,” she joked. “In juniors I played half in goals and half striker (depending on how the team was going) I think I stayed in goals because the team had confidence in me.”
The keeper was noticed by ex-Perth Glory player and then Western Australia state coach Elisa D’Ovidio, who invited Aquino to join the Under-13 state squad. Whilst playing for Western Australia at the National Championships she was noticed by national selectors and has been part of the Junior and Young Matilidas set up ever since, playing for the green and gold in Lebanon, Thailand, Indonesia and Myanmar, which is something she is proud of.
It’s honestly a privilege to represent my country and to be given an amazing opportunity like that. My highlight apart from getting on the pitch, is all the fantastic people I have met along the way, nothing can beat the friendships I’ve made,” Aquino said. “I haven’t played for that many clubs, Dianella SC was my junior club and honestly it shaped me. From there I was with NTC where I grew so much as a player and a person. Once to old I moved to the NPL with my current club Northern Redbacks.”
The talented keeper is regarded highly in the Western Australian scene and was the Women’s Premier League Goalkeeper of the Year in 2019. The Aquino name is well known in WA State League football with cousins Caleb and Jacob Aquino playing for a number of clubs, while her father Cesar is also well known in the game, and she said her dad has been a biggest influence on her career. “My dad is influenced me insanely, and the passion came from him,” she said. “He got me into the game at the age of six, and I’ve been attached ever since and I’m loving it.”
NEW YORK BECKONS FOR BROOME STARLET BEUKE
Football has always been a big part of life for Sabrina Beuke, but now the youngster has the opportunity to kick big goals of her own. It was recently announced the 18-year old Broome resident would be jetting off to the Big Apple in August to join the State University of New York’s North Country CC team.
Beuke said she was “ecstatic” to get the call telling her she was going to New York. “I got into soccer through playing for my school during the Kimberley Cup for a number of years and then it kind of just turned into me wanting to get into it even more,” Beuke said.
“Soccer is also a bit of a family thing so I have always had a bit of a connection with the sport. I was over the moon when I found out I was going to be going to the US to play soccer.” Beuke will be attending college over at SUNY while playing football for the college.
While Beuke has aspirations to work in the medical field after college, she said the opportunity to be professionally scouted would be pretty cool. “It would be pretty amazing if I got scouted and I would be ecstatic to play for any team that would have me if that were to happen,” she said.
Although New York is a long way from her home in Broome, Beuke will still have a family connection as her older brother, Alex, also plays college soccer just an hour away at Jamestown Community College. “We will definitely be spending as much time together as we can in New York,” she said. “We’ll be able to wreak havoc on the town together."
Despite her brother already making waves in America and her father Markus having been a former Australian representative youth soccer player, Sabrina said she felt no pressure to follow in family footsteps. “There’s no pressure at all and my family has completely supported me with whatever I’ve wanted to do,” she said. “We all support each other in whatever we choose to do.”
TAGGART'S THOUGHTS WITH A-LEAGUE PLAYERS
Socceroo Adam Taggart may be buzzing ahead of the start of the K-League season but he's very much feeling for his fellow professionals in Australia. The striker's Suwon Bluewings will return to competitive action on 8 May when they face Jeonbuk in the season opener of South Korea's top flight.
But while Taggart can't wait to get the season underway, he's mindful A-League players are dealing with an uncertain future amid a COVID-19 enforced shutdown of the competition. "It's a little bit disappointing to see the way everything's been dealt with in terms of the players and things like that," Taggart said.
"Looks like they've gone through a bit of a difficult period but I'm sure they'll get that sorted soon. For me personally, obviously I'm buzzing to be back into it but at the same time I feel for all the other leagues that everyone else's personal situation is going through a bit of tough time at the moment."
Taggart was the K-League's top scorer in his first season with Suwon last year, notching 20 goals. He hit the target in a 1-0 pre-season friendly win over Seoul E-Land on the weekend as preparations get underway for the new campaign, which has been reduced to 27 games per team coronavirus delayed the season's start.
Despite 242 people dying from the virus, Taggart revealed handling life in South Korea during the crisis hadn't been as tough as many would presume. "It was obviously the second highest amount of cases other than China (in the early stages), so it was a bit scary at the start," he said.
"But without locking everything down and keeping everyone at home they've managed to drop the numbers down incredibly. Life's actually not been too hard, we've been able to carry on training the whole time. The only thing they blocked was friendly games and things like that."
Taggart's strong form in Korea earned him a spot back in the national team set-up after five years, going on to score in World Cup qualifiers against Taiwan and Jordan. Now the 26-year old's next aim is to keep his form going to ensure he's on Graham Arnold's teamsheet the next time the Socceroos are able to play.
"It was fantastic to be back involved last year. It was a long-term goal," he said. "That was one of the reasons I came to Korea as well. I think a nice start to the season and to try and carry on my form from last year will definitely help me with that because it's one of the most important things to me in terms of playing football."
KILKENNY CALLS FOR RADICAL CHANGES TO A-LEAGUE
Perth Glory’s Neil Kilkenny believes key changes are needed to the A-League that has been thrown into crisis by the COVID-19 pandemic. The competition is suspended with no new start-up date, eight clubs have stood down players and FFA is in an ugly battle with Fox Sports over its broadcast deal.
The experienced Kilkenny says promotion and relegation is crucial to give players more opportunity, to increase the game’s popularity and bring in more sponsorship. He believes a transfer system should be introduced and more importance should be given to winning the Premiers’ Plate than the Grand Final.
Games should be played in smaller stadiums, such as that at Perth Oval, and the passion of tribalism needs to be fuelled among fans. “There are many things that could change the game,” Kilkenny told the club’s podcast. “Relegation and promotion. Definitely need that. That needs to be opened up. That brings opportunity for players to succeed, to not have a ceiling, to push on and show how good they are.”
“Whether it’s a youngster that maybe can’t get in a team in the A-League, maybe he wants to go down to a second division, show everyone how good they are and get promoted with that team, or get a move through that for doing so well. That comes to transfers between A-League clubs.”
“Relegation and promotion also gives an opportunity for sponsorships. If you want to sponsor an NPL club you know there’s a limit you can go to. If you open up and bring promotion and relegation you get sponsors that want to come in and support a local club because you know they can get promoted.”
“A smaller stadium, but full, creates an atmosphere, creates passion, creates emotion,” Kilkelly continued. “The fans are right there next to you. They are feeling and seeing the emotions you are going through as a player. “At the end of the day you need passion in the stadiums.”
“They need to promote the different ethnicities. Instead of dampening them down you need to bring them back and bring that into football. I keep saying about emotion, passion and that’s what these cultures bring. They are from very passionate countries, very passionate backgrounds.”
Kilkenny was a key figure in Glory winning the Premiers’ Plate last season. And he is a big believer in the 'first past the post' approach to deciding the A-League champions. “I’m not saying that the finals series is wrong,” he said.
“I’m saying that I feel the major thing that people should be talking about is the league winners, not the Grand Final winners. That shows a sustained consistency over the season, the best team, and we were by far the best team last season.”
O’NEILL STEELS FOR A BIG SEASON ON AND OFF THE PARK
It’s been a difficult couple of months for former ECU Joondalup, Perth Glory and Sydney FC midfielder Brandon O’Neill, after moving his entire life to South Korea to join K-League side Pohang Steelers in the midst of a global pandemic was difficult enough, he then found out his father, Myles, lung cancer had worsened.
With Pohang's blessing, O’Neill quickly came home to Perth, landing just before the borders were shut with the corona virus in Australia, and he said it was just what he needed. "It was the best medicine I could have ever asked for – I saw my wife, saw my old boy, saw family ... and just really focused on what really mattered in life," O'Neill said.
"He (Myles) has never really been the emotional type – always fun-loving, never taking himself too seriously. But I saw a completely different side of him and I had really good chats with him that I probably wouldn't have had if not for this situation. You've got to take the good in everything, don't you?"
O’Neill, who joined the K-League club from Sydney FC, after helping them win the A-League title last season after a penalty shoot-out win against Perth Glory at Optus Stadium, likened the news of his father’s condition to a "tornado" that ripped him apart. It’s been by far the toughest period of the 26-year-old's career, if not his entire life. But with the K-League now set to return in a fortnight's time, there's a flicker of light at the end of the tunnel for himself and his family.
O'Neill left the Sky Blues in mid-January to take up a deal with the Steelers, and he is still to play an official game for the club, with the season postponed as Korea were among the countries hardest hit by the coronavirus outbreak. But on Friday the K-League confirmed the competition will finally begin on the weekend of May 8, and although O'Neill doesn't yet know who he'll be playing against, he knows the world will be watching.
He headed back to Pohang, with his dad's blessing and the midfielder said he loves his football and he’ll be watching the games. “He knows how much I've wanted this, and for him to see that, that gives him hope ... I know he'll fight until the very last minute,” he said. “The thing that probably would have killed him quicker was me giving up the opportunity to chase my dreams here in Korea to see him and spend time with him.
"These are his words, not mine – he would have woken up every day and he would have felt he was the reason behind that. He lives and breathes football, and for him to see me enjoying myself over here and doing what I can for Pohang, experiencing Asia and playing to the best of my ability ... he knows how much I've wanted this, and for him to see that, that gives him hope, and if I can give that to him, I know he'll fight and fight until the very last minute."
When O'Neill and his wife, Nicole, returned to Korea, they had to self-isolate for 14 days. When they got to their apartment, they discovered the club had practically turned it into a home gym. That made it a lot easier. "We had a bike, we had kettlebells, dumbbells – everything we needed to stay fit and healthy," he said. "I can't speak highly enough about Pohang and what they've been able to do, it's been unbelievable."
O'Neill's focus has been razor-sharp ever since, and he has been back training with his teammates for the last two weeks, cramming in double sessions six days a week to ensure he is ready to go for the season. Life in Korea is almost back to normal, he said, aside from the masks they have to wear whenever they go outside. When he does finally make it onto the pitch for Pohang, his "old boy" Myles will be among millions tuning in. Only a handful of leagues kept playing through the COVID-19 crisis, with the K-League among the first to actually commit to resuming play on a specific date.
Broadcasters across Europe are reportedly scurrying to buy the television rights. "How cool's that?" O'Neill said. "For the things I want to achieve and do, this is perfect. I'm the sort of guy that's up and about, positive, gets everyone going and preaches a happy-go-lucky lifestyle. When I'm at my best, that's when I start to feel all them feelings. And I know my dad gets a lot of hope from that. If I tick the boxes every day, everyone around me is going to get pleasure from whatever I do over here, because it's such an exciting challenge."
IS FOOTBALL’S COMING HOME?
All sports have been affected by the corona-virus this season, but after the news the limit of on non-work indoor and outdoor gatherings will increase from two people to 10 from today, is football coming home? Grassroots football was halted after week one of the NPLWA, with the State League, Amateur, Womens and junior football all cancelled, so there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
Football West CEO James Curtis has welcomed the news from WA Premier Mark McGowan, and will evaluate what today’s news means for the sport, taking into account that all grassroots football in Australia is currently on hold until 31 May. “The announcement from the Premier is encouraging and a reward for the way people in Western Australia, including the football community, have taken on board the expert medical advice regarding COVID-19,” he said. “We still have a way to go and urge all of our members to continue to listen to the health specialists. But this is a significant step and something we will now examine, as with any changes coming forward from the Government.
“If there is a possibility of restarting some of our activities before 31 May, while still following the Government guidelines on social distancing, then Football West wants to be on the front foot. “Football West is proud of the way we have all handled the situation and we will continue to work with FFA, our Associations and clubs through this period. As we have throughout this difficult period, Football West will keep all of our stakeholders informed of developments.”
EX-GLORY MIDFIELDER JAILED FOR MATCH FIXING
Former Perth Glory midfielder Xavi Torres has been handed a prison sentence along with an ex-Real Betis teammate and five former directors of Osasuna after being found guilty on corruption charges in Spain. The two former La Liga footballers have been given one-year prison sentences in a landmark case marking the first successful prosecution for match-fixing in Spain.
Torres played 24 games for the A-League club in season 2017-18, scoring four goals, was convicted with Antonio Amaya were on Friday, after fixing two La Liga games in the 2013-14 season. Also, five then-Osasuna directors, and two real estate agents, were also convicted. The Provincial Court of Navarra concluded that then-Osasuna directors Miguel Archanco, Juan Antonio Pascual and Jesus Peralta, together with then-general manager of the club Angel Maria Vizcay, made a deal with the two players in a bid to help Osasuna escape relegation from Spain's first division.
According to the court's verdict Amaya and Torres agreed to be paid an initial €400,000 ($A678,482) if they beat Osasuna's relegation rivals Real Valladolid in the penultimate game of the season, and a further €250,000 for losing the last match of the season away to Osasuna. The penalties imposed on the convicted varied from eight years and eight months for Vizcay, for crimes of misappropriation, forgery, and corruption in sport; to the one-year sentences for corruption in sport given to Amaya and Torres.
Ex-club treasurer Sancho Bandres and real estate agents Cristina Valencia and Albert Nolla were also found guilty. Another former Betis player, Jordi Figueras, and former Osasuna Foundation president Diego Maquirriain were acquitted. Betis lost 2-1 away at Osasuna on the last day of the 2013-14 season but Osasuna were still relegated because of other results. The president of the Spanish League, Javier Tebas said in a statement: "La Liga is happy, not for the convictions of people, but to see a move forward against corruption in football."
INTO THE LOOKING GLASS: STATE LEAGUE DIVISION TWO PREVIEW
It's been a pre-season and no doubt a year so far like no other! However, even though no one knows for sure when or even if the league season will commence, footballwa.net has decided to still go through the league preview motions! Next week we will run our usual Amateur League final standing predictions, but now check out the State League Division Two season preview how we think season 2020 will pan out...
A-LEAGUE PLAYERS CONTRACTS IN THE SPOTLIGHT
All footballers around the world are having to cope with the corona-virus pandemic, but many are still unsure what happens if their contract ends during the lock-down. Here in Australia is no different, but FFA chief executive James Johnson has flagged the potential for A-League player contracts to be extended if the competition resumes. More than 100 players are out of contract after May 31 and if the A-League does resume, competition would almost certainly stretch beyond that date.
Johnson said FIFA guidelines allow the FFA to work with clubs and the players' union, Professional Footballers Australia (PFA), to find a solution. "Some players will continue (beyond May 31) because they have contracts that go into next season, and some players will end their contracts with their clubs on May 31," Johnson said. "There are discussions that have happened at FIFA which have approved guidelines for player contracts to be extended and to run to the end of the respective season given the COVID situation. These guidelines cater for changes to transfer windows all over the world. They're not something we can enforce but they're certainly guidelines that we can use in discussions with the PFA and the clubs to try to find a pragmatic solution once we're a bit clearer on when the date we would resume the A-League is."
Johnson said the FFA will not follow the lead of other codes in determining a return to play, they will make the decision which is right for the game. "The NRL has chosen its path and we're going to choose our own, and that's another path," Johnson said. "I think football, our code, is quite lucky in that we're local but we're also a very global sport and we do have a number of examples of other leagues all around the world that we can look at and learn from. So, in addition to our local sports we're also in touch with global football leagues and we're trying to learn as much as we can. Ultimately we'll be taking a decision that we think is right for our sport."
Meanwhile, Perth Glory owner Tony Sage said the club had yet to receive its most recent broadcast rights payment, amid ongoing uncertainty over the future of the A-League's deal with Fox Sports. "The FFA are in negotiations, (and) have been really for the past two or three weeks to find out exactly where we stand," Sage said. “We haven't received our distribution from the broadcast which we always get on the 15th of every month."
In this time of up-evil with the coronavirus around the world, football has taken a back seat. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel, with the social distancing and other regulations working and many believe football will kick off again later in the year, but we must adhere to the government’s policies and flatten the curve.
In the meantime, we will be doing our best to keep you in touch with the local game, bringing you interviews with coaches, players from the NPL, State League and Amateur league, and chat to them on the current situation and about football. In today’s second ‘In conversation’ we catch up with new Sorrento keeper Yousri Gharsallah and new Bayswater City defensive midfielder Dean Cummings.
Cummings began his youth football at Falkirk in 2008, before moving to Livingston. He spent three years in the academy at Livi, before signing a professional contract at the Almondvale Stadium. He moved to Edinburgh City in 2016 and had one season at the club before heading to Australia. His starting debut for Livingston in 2011 started well, but ended in defeat. “We visited Somerset Park to take on Ayr United, and many know Scotland in February is cold, and it was,” Cummings explained. “It all started well for me and Livi and I opened the scoring after only 11 minutes, but Ayr went on to win the game 3-1, but it was a memorable senior starting debut for me.”
In one of his last games in Scotland Cummings played for Edinburgh in the Scottish League Cup against Scottish Premier League side Hamilton Academical and it was another great memory for the midfielder. “It was one of my last games in Scotland, and I was playing midfield against Massimo Donati, who had previously played for AC Milan and Celtic,” he said. “We raced into a 2-0 led in the game, but eventually we went down 4-2, but Donati’s touch and vision was unreal, even though he was pushing 40, so he was slowing down, but he was still very good.”
The 27-year-old headed to WA in 2018 and joined Stirling Lions and he said it was a great club to play for. “I really enjoyed my time and football at Stirling, even though it was a mixed bag of results which was frustrating for me at times, I met some fantastic people at the club,” Cummings explained. “They have a good support at the games which is good for the league, so hopefully we see Stirling back in the NPLWA very soon.”
He joined Bayswater City this season, but he had been at the club before heading to Macedonia Park, and is looking forward to the season re-starting. “When I first arrived in Perth, I trained with Bayswater for 4/5 weeks in pre-season, but the situation at the time with visas and a lack of time before the season started made it difficult for me to sign,” he said. “Chris’ training is always done with a purpose and at a tempo, so I always knew after a season or two I would sign at Bayswater. The clubs run professionally off the park as well, sometimes it’s the small things people don’t see that make a big difference at a club.”
Cummings said everyone is itching to get back to training and games as soon as possible, but knows it has to be done at the right time. “It is hard at the minute but everyone is in the same boat,” he said. “Everyone is self-isolating back home, but after speaking to them they seem in good spirits, so hopefully this all blows over soon. We are on the Strava app keeping our fitness up, running and I’m also doing some ball work to keep ticking over, but everyone at Bayswater is putting the effort in so hopefully this gives us that extra edge on other teams whenever we return.”
Gharsallah started his football back in Tunisia as an eight-year-old with local club Kerkennah Sport FC, before being spotted and invited to the Academy of Club Sportif Sfaxien FC at the age of 12, and joined the NTC in the capital Tunis from 2002 to 2005. He played with the likes of Zouheir Dhaouadi, Mahmoud Ben Salah, Moez Aloulou, in his junior days and represented Tunisia at youth level and played in a number of tournaments around the world. “During my youth career I represented my country in many international friendlies and continental manifestations such as the African Cup of Nation Qualifiers and other tournaments,” he explained.
“I played against big names such as Sebastian Giovinco in Turin 2004 also Andre Ayew in Kumasi Ghana in November 2005 to name a few. I was also coached by some great coaches such as Roger Lemerre the Euro 2000 winner and Maher Kanzari. At the age of 17, I signed my first professional contract with the Club Sportif Sfaxien FC and was promoted to the first team. I spent two enjoyable seasons at the club before moving to Sfax Railways Sport where I played two seasons, before other spells at Oceano club Kerkennah and Esperance Sportif Zarzis before I moved to WA.”
After arriving in Perth Gharsallah has played for a number of clubs, including Floreat Athena, Balcatta, Dianella White Eagles, Morley Windmills and Fremantle City, before heading to Sorrento. The keeper said Fremantle was a great club to play for, but the chance to play NPL football again was an opportunity he couldn’t turn down. “Fremantle is a great club, and I joined them half way through last season after a transfer from Balcatta, which was my second spell at the club,” he explained.
“I played 14 games for them in the league without being defeated and we had a great end of season, and I wish I had joined them at the beginning of the season, because I thought we could have got promoted to the NPL. Maurice Oteri has a professional approach to football and I think the club is going in the right direction, and it was also an honour to play for Mauro Marchione and Michael Carbone, two experienced coaches.”
“I feel that I have made the right move going to Sorrento, and I’m feeling very appreciated there. I’m getting all the support to succeed from the players, committee and the coaching staff, Jamie and Alan are helping me progress and I have uplifted my game. It’s a challenging time for everybody, it’s important to establish a routine and stay active, there is no excuse not to maintain your fitness at this level. I’m using my creativity and exploring new training methods involving high intensity workout circuits and private goal keeping sessions.”
The keeper has many family and friends overseas and he said the corona-virus has hit everyone hard, and he sends his love and thoughts to them all. “As you know the Coronavirus spread out worldwide and the situation escalated everywhere, but I’m in touch with my family on a daily basis, and everyone is safe so far, thanks god,” Gharsallah said. “The Tunisian government is doing a great job in controlling and slowing down the spread of the virus by anticipating and getting into a total lockdown few weeks ago.
“It hits home with your loved ones so far away and I’m worried about my dad, who falls under the vulnerable category. But living in Kerkennah an island in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea should help him to stay isolated hopefully. My brothers are living in Canada and I’m also in touch with them regularly, and they are staying in their bubbles. I hope everyone in the football family stays safe and we’ll see you when the games kick off later in the season.”
GRASSROOTS BAND TOGETHER TO SECURE COLLECTIVE FUTURES
Football West chief executive James Curtis hopes a newly-formed alliance between four of Western Australia’s winter codes will endure beyond COVID-19. The heads of the West Australian Football Commission, Football West, Netball WA and Basketball WA last week announced a partnership to ensure “the preservation of community sport in the state”.
The organisations have banded together to share information and collaborate on strategies to ensure the short-term and long-term health of community sport, and a smooth return when given the green light. Curtis said while they had come together due to COVID-19, he hoped the partnership would be viable long-term as well.
“I think this is this is a much longer and broader approach for how we could approach community sports going forward,” Curtis said. “We’ve always had dialogue between the different sports, but this is an opportunity to really structure up, to look at how we better plan, work together on policy in response to key focus areas.”
With all four codes set for delayed - or in a worst case scenario, cancelled - seasons, Curtis said it was critical they all worked together to ensure no sport was left behind. “Across those four sports, we’re at 930,000 plus participants, and so we’ve got a responsibility to make sure that we’re all going to be able to get through this period together,” he added.
The new partnership will see the sports share information and work together to get their seasons up and running if, and when, the opportunity presents itself. Should community sport be given the green light to resume, Curtis said none of the organisations wanted to be caught in a tug-of-war over use of community facilities and the quartet were focused on ensuring they were able to share them with one another.
“Practically within the COVID-19 time, it’s about how do we get better planning for the usage of facilities through this time?,” Curtis said. “How do we better liaise with local government, state government, given that we’ve all got pretty much the same problems and certainly, when we look at practical things such as if seasons need to be extended?”
IREDALE'S CONTRACT LIMBO
Defender Jack Iredale is facing the unknown with his contract at English League Two club Carlisle United expiring at the end of this season. Football in England, like everywhere across the world, is on pause because of COVID-19. For Iredale, who joined Carlisle from Scottish club Greenock Morton on a one-year deal last May, there is the added stress of not having a secure contract past June.
"My contract was to finish this season so I'm in the same boat as a lot of other players," the 23-year old told www.ftbl.com.au "I'm just waiting patiently and seeing what’s going to happen. There was a lot of planning to see what was happening with next season and what the new manager's plans were, so was waiting for that to be finalised first."
Iredale had been a constant for the Cumbrians in 2019/2020, making 30 appearances across all competitions. It has been an up and down campaign for the club, who struggled for points early on. But since November's appointment of Chris Beech as coach the Cumbrians have risen up to 18th place and well away from the relegation zone.
Ireland has enjoyed the switch south from Scotland. "We were really picking up momentum," said the left back, a former Perth Glory junior who came through the Australian Institute of Sport. "I was loving the amount of games played. Just constant football - it was class."
One positive amid the current uncertainty is Iredale was able to return home to Perth three weeks ago. "They were brilliant with allowing me to come home and be with my family," he said. "The strength and conditioning coach is giving us programs daily. It's been good to be with my family during all this."
Iredale has has been using his free time to fish and devote some much-needed work on his golf game. "We're allowed to play golf here so I've had a few games with my dad. Never mind my handicap, I'm in the trees half the time!" he joked. "I seem to have a bunker magnet in my ball as well. I'm more of a driving range player."
A-LEAGUE HIGHLY UNLIKELY TO RETURN BEFORE JUNE
Australia’s football hierarchy concede there’s scant chance of the A-League resuming before June. Football Federation Australia officials will meet again next month to discuss the return of the league, which has been suspended since 24 March because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
FFA are committed to resuming the competition, which has five rounds remaining before finals, as soon as possible. But officials say there’s little hope of that happening before June. “We will resume play as soon as possible,” FFA chief executive James Johnson said in a statement issued today.
“The first stage would see the players return to training. We would then schedule matches. It is difficult to see that process beginning before the end of May but we will work with all stakeholders to achieve the earliest possible resumption. Ultimately, the coronavirus will have the final say on when we can get the season started again, and completed.”
A meeting of the FFA hierarchy yesterday established key criteria that must be met for the league to resume, including the “sustainable provision” of health and safety thresholds for players and staff. Travel restrictions between Australia’s states would also need to be lifted, while governments would have to permit large gatherings again, allowing for squads and staff to congregate.
FOOTBALLERS STRUGGLING WITH DEPRESSION DURING COVID-19: OXTOBY
Bristol City Women manager Tanya Oxtoby can see signs some players are struggling with anxiety and depression during the COVID-19 lockdown. Her comments come after a survey by world players' union Fifpro found the number of footballers reporting anxiety and depression symptoms had "risen sharply".
Before moving to England Oxtoby worked as a government psychologist specialising in mental health for young people and indigenous Australians. "Nobody has directly used that language, but using my background all the signs are there," Oxtoby, who graduated from the University of Western Australia, told BBC Sport.
"It's about trying to think outside the box in terms of how we support those players ... linking in with the support network around them in a subtle way is probably the better avenue to go for. Sometimes just acknowledging that they're struggling a little bit, even without labelling it, is all they need - just so they're aware that you're aware."
Fifpro's survey, published yesterday, showed 22% of female players and 13% of male players reported symptoms consistent with a diagnosis of depression. Last week the PFA, which represents players in England's Women's Super League, said 299 footballers had accessed support in the first quarter of this year - compared to 653 in the whole of 2019.
"Athletes like structure, routine and to be around each other," said Oxtoby, who was born in the Pilbara town of Wickham and played four seasons with Perth Glory Women. "So I think from a mental point of view that's probably been very difficult. There's also obviously a lot of stress going on in terms of finances, families, illness and things like that too.
"Those are all factors that will affect individual players a little bit differently. We also probably went quite hard in terms of the physical training load in the first couple of weeks (of the lockdown), which takes a lot of self-motivation and can also have an effect on players ... It's just about trying to listen to them, I think."
"We've got an open-door policy and we've built that trust where if they're struggling they'll come and talk to us or the leadership group. We've had to listen to that really carefully over the past couple of weeks to make sure we get the balance right for them because it's all very, very stressful."
CLUBS FIGHT TO RESTART JUNIOR SPORT AFTER PANDEMIC
Children packing their bags ahead of a return to school for Term 2 should leave out their hockey sticks and soccer balls. While schools will open their gates as normal on 29 April, Sports Minister Mick Murray dashed hopes of a simultaneous return to the playing field, saying it was “doubtful” junior sport would restart before the end of the 31 May suspension already announced by most sport codes.
Murray said he was “very, very keen” to get kids back into sport but that a decision was likely to require sign-off by National Cabinet. “We know that it can be difficult go get kids back into junior sport if they drop out, and I think it is vital we get kids back out there but, just like the decision to reopen schools, it will need to go to the top end of town,” Murray said.
Murray's comments come as a survey by peak industry body SportsWest found the forced shutdown of sporting competitions had already cost West Australian clubs $41 million and would result in 660 job losses by the end of this month. The survey found seven local sports associations were forecasting revenue losses of more than $1 million, with a further 20 predicting to have more than $100,000 stripped from their incomes.
SportsWest chief executive Rob Thompson said it was “critical” to get community sport up and running again soon, especially given WA’s run of low new COVID-19 case numbers. “Every one of those reports that indicate cases remain low gives people more confidence to stick to what we’ve been asked to do and gives us an opportunity to get back into the action as quickly as possible,” Thompson said.
Thompson is hopeful community sport – which is largely volunteer run – will be shielded from some of the impacts of COVID-19. “That is the bit we don’t know at this stage, there may be volunteers who have lost their jobs and so are no longer able to put in the time,” he said. “And likewise there may be families who have lost income and so affordability becomes a concern for their kids.”
Football West acting chief operating officer Jamie Harnwell said it made sense for junior sport to come back online ahead of adult competitions. “Common sense and all the research lends itself to that and kids sports is much easier to organise because you aren’t as reliant on canteen or bar takings,” he said. “It’s important for kids to be out and about and running around and the sooner the better for everyone I think.
Harnwell’s son Liam, 9, is among thousands of WA children itching to pull on their boots. “I’ve got three kids who are desperately waiting and counting the number of games they have missed,” he said. “Obviously schools are seen as an essential gathering and whether sport yet fits into that category is for government to decide but we are prepared and ready to get the season running and kids out playing.”
Asked whether junior sport might return before 31 May, Health Minister Roger Cook said he would not “pre-empt any of the decisions of government”. “We want our kids to be active, it’s an important part of growing up,” Cook commented. “But we want to make sure that any ... steps that we take we do so with a very conservative and cautious approach.”
CLUB IN PROFILE - ASHFIELD SPORTS CLUB
Ashfield Sports Club began life in 1970 as Ashfield Dynamo Soccer Club and started with juniors only. The club entered a senior team into the semi-professional competition in 1976, joining the Second Division (then known as Division Three). John Van Hoek was the coach, who would later become an Ashfield legend.
Ashfield found the going though in it's first three years, finishing last in 1976 and 1977, and second last in 1978. Due to the formation of a Fourth Division, the club were relegated.
Most of the 1980's was a struggle for Ashfield Dynamo, staying in the old Fourth Division for most of the decade. However, things were slowly on the improve as the 1990's approached. In 1988, the club won the old Fourth Division and were promoted to what today would be known as the Second Division.
The club finished 8th in 1989, 5th in 1990, followed by another 8th place finish in 1991. The game was in turmoil during that summer, with two associations at war on who controlled the game in Western Australia. This was to Ashfield's benefit, who joined the new Professional Soccer League in 1992, and were placed into the First Division. This would be the first time the club competed in the top two tiers, and they haven't been out of the top two divisions since. Ashfield finished 9th in it's first season in Division One under new coach Gerry Wardle.
1993 was a big year for the club. After much deliberation and heartache, the name "Dynamo" was dropped from the club's title. It was also the first time that the main pitch was enclosed at Ashfield Reserve with a surrounding fence, and floodlights were erected. A new grandstand was soon to follow. In 1996, Ashfield decided to form a partnership with Bunbury United. Eyebrows were raised when the "merged" club was announced, but it proved to be an initial success, with the new Ashfield/Bunbury becoming a force in Division One, finishing 5th in 1996, 3rd in 1997 and champions and promotion in 1998.
1999 would see top flight football at Ashfield Reserve for the first time ever, however it was a struggle, with Ashfield/Bunbury finishing 10th in it's first year before being relegated after the 2000 season.
In 2001, the partnership was dropped with Bunbury United, and the club once again became known as Ashfield. Under Tom Kilkelly the club won Division One and were back in the Premier League. However, once again the club struggled in the top flight and were relegated back to the First Division.
Since 2003, the club have remained in Division One, but have had many ups and downs since. In 2005, the club escaped relegation to the Amateur League due to a last minute equaliser by Gosnells City against Kingsway Olympic. After this scare, changes were made. Salv Todaro became the new coach, who brought in many new players, with the Reds finishing runners-up in both 2006 and 2007.
A loss of many players put Ashfield on the brink of going down again in 2008, with the club finishing last and in the relegation position. However, Ashfied were saved from amateur football by the decision of Amateur Champions Fremantle United (now Fremantle City). Fremantle were expected by many to take the offer of promotion, however after various meetings they ended up declining the chance to play in the semi-professional competition for now.
Since 2011, under coaches Matt Carruthers, Paul Dundo and Matt Wardle, Ashfield have been a team that troubled most and would consistently finish in the top half of the league, with runners-up positions in 2014 and 2015. Only in 2018 did they finish as low as 8th. 2013 would also be treasured most by the Ashfield faithful, when the club made it all the way to the cup final, before losing out to Bayswater City 1-0 at Litis Stadium.
SEMI-PROFESSIONAL LEAGUE HONOURS (Using current divisional names)
First Division winners - 1998 (Ashfield/Bunbury)
First Division winners - 2001 (Ashfield)
First Division runners-up - 2006, 2007, 2014, 2015
Third Division winners - 1988
Cup runners-up - 2013
Night Series Lower Division winners - 2007
Night Series Lower Division runners-up - 2010
HOW GLORY’S ACADEMY IS LEADING THE NATION’S TALENT POOL
Perth Glory’s academy has had its most successful ever season with 11 young players coming through the pathway into Australian representative teams. The development program has come a long way since football director Jacob Burns first joined the club as captain 11 years ago.
Back then, there was only a youth side but Glory are now one of just three A-League clubs with a two-star FFA academy rating with sides from under-12 to under-20 age groups. This year academy members have been selected for Australian under-23, 18, 17 and 16 sides.
“We want to be ahead of the curve. We are leading the country in our methods, our ideas,” Burns told thewest.com.au “The club has had the vision to invest in the development pathway for young aspiring WA players. It’s a huge investment.”
“It’s a credit to the coaches and many others. We want players to be with Perth Glory at 11 and know if they work hard that they can eventually become a first team player, a professional player at the club where they started. There’s a lot of work that goes into it.”
“We teach them our style of football, the tactical side, the technical side, the physical side, the mental side. We try to box off every little component to make sure they are well-rounded players as they come through the various ages. We are trying to cast the net further, making sure nobody slips through the cracks.”
Glory has two “academy schools” at John Curtin College of the Arts and St Andrew’s Grammar, and hopes to add more. “We have a burning ambition to have other schools. Creating a balance between academic education and football education is key,” Burns said.
When Burns retired from playing in 2014 he became involved in youth coaching. “That’s where the big debate started. How do we grow things?” he said. “I wanted to effect things differently, for us to take over the pathway from Football West, having our own teams running through from 12 years old, taking control of our own destiny.”
“The onus had to be on us to create that pathway. You shouldn’t be a 16 or 17-year-old coming to the club, trialling for the youth team. You should be able to aspire to be in the first team from 11 or 12 years old. There needs to be a seamless alignment with skills and talents to understand what it means to be a player in a Perth Glory team.”
“Fast forward today and the difference is incredible. We have a clear picture of talent coming through. You don’t have to go outside the box or interstate. There has been a lot of hard work by a lot of people and we will see this come to fruition with more players knocking on the door for contracts.”
The eleven Glory youngsters that have been called up for Australia are Jake Brimmer, Brandon Wilson (under-23s), Bryce Bafford, Jackson Lee, Kristian Popovic (under-18), Trent Ostler, Daniel Walsh, Josh Rawlins (under-17), Josh Rawlins, Aiki Tsukamoto and Sebastian Gomez (under-16). It is understood another four players will be named in the extended under-16 squad.
INTO THE LOOKING GLASS: STATE LEAGUE DIVISION ONE PREVIEW
It's been a pre-season and no doubt a year so far like no other! However, even though no one knows for sure when or even if the league season will commence, footballwa.net has decided to still go through the league preview motions! Next week it will be Division Two's turn, but now check out the State League Division One season preview how we think season 2020 will pan out...
In this time of up-evil with the coronavirus around the world, football has taken a back seat. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel, with the social distancing and other regulations working and many believe football will kick off again later in the year, but we must adhere to the governments policies and flatten the curve.
In the meantime, we will be doing our best to keep you in touch with the local game, bringing you interviews with coaches, players from the NPL, State League and Amateur league, and chat to them on the current situation and about football. In today’s first ‘In conversation’ we catch up with new Floreat Athena midfielder Sean McManus and new Gwelup Croatia winger Daniel Stynes.
Stynes began his football at Quinns FC in 2005, before joining ECU Joondalup in 2007. He spent five seasons at the campus before heading to the Football West NTC program in 2013. He was then picked up by A-League side Perth Glory, where he played for the club’s youth side for three seasons, before being signed up to the senior side. When asked the best player he played with and against in his football career Stynes was quick to answer.
“I’ve been lucky to have played some great players in my time at Glory and would say Rhys Williams, Diego Castro and Matthew Spiranovic would be the three players I’d say would be the best,” he explained. “The best I’ve played against would be Carl Valeri and Kosta Barbarouses, but I was also on the bench in the clubs pre-season game against Chelsea, so I would have to also say Cesc Fabregas, Jorginho and Alvaro Morata.”
The attacking midfielder returned to WA football this season with newly promoted Gwelup Croatia after a spell at NPL Victorian side Bentleigh Greens, and he said he’s happy to be home and fully fit. “I played 10 games at Bentleigh, and it was a great experience at the club,” he said. “I was fortunate to play in some high-level games, scored some goals, and won a championship at AAMI Park.
“At the end of the season I wanted to take a few months off from football after the season wasn’t really too sure what/where/when I was going to do. So, I decided to go travelling for a bit, then came home and I needed to fix some underlying groin issues, that I had been having since my time in the A-league team. So, I fixed that, and I got a call from a very good friend of mine (like family) Glen Grostate who said Gwelup were keen to have me down.
“I went to the club and met the President Jure Denona and the Football Operations Manager Dejan Vilic and loved the project they were building. I had also been offered a job as a law clerk as well as wanting to go full time with my degree so that made my decision a lot easier. I spoke to my brother and he was also keen so they ended up signing the both of us and we’ve both loved it ever since.”
The 21-year-old said its been a difficult time for everyone in the game and he hopes they can get back to playing football sooner rather than later but he is keeping fit and preparing for the kick-off. “It’s an unprecedented time right now, and it’s effected football all around the world, but I’m still working and have university work so I’m still quite busy,” he explained. “I’ve been doing a few workouts at home to keep my fitness up, and going for a few runs to keep my sanity, hopefully we will be back playing soon.”
Scottish midfielder McManus was spotted early as a youngster and joined the Celtic FC academy at the age of eight. He then moved to the Falkirk academy and signed a pro-contract with the club, before spells at Raith Rovers, Cowdenbeath, before signing for Livingston in the Scottish Premier League. He headed to Australia in 2019 and joined Stirling Lions, before heading to Bayswater City mid-season.
The 21-year-old said he enjoyed his time at Frank Drago Reserve, but after an approach from Floreat he decided a change was needed. “Yes, I really enjoyed Bayswater last season, they a good club, well run, with a good bunch of lads too,” he explained. “My time there was tough, being cup tied and having an injury wasn’t ideal, and it led to me being in and out the team, but I had a great time there.
“It was a tough decision for me to leave them, as I’m close with a lot of the boys from Bayswater, but at the end of the season and a few teams came in for me and I had to make the decision. For me Floreat was the team who I thought would suit my style of play better and felt I would kick on best there. I settled in well and I’ve enjoyed my time there, and it’s always nice to score in the first game of the season, and hopefully when the season restarts, I can add a few more.
It’s been hard for McManus with all his family back in Scotland, but he said all the visa players are in the same boat. “My family are in lockdown at the moment, and can’t leave the house in Scotland, which is obviously a worry,” he said. “With this corona virus going on it’s been tough for everyone especially me and my mates who are over here without family, but we are doing fine.
“I’ve kept up my fitness, I’ve been doing High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and I’ve been doing 5-10k runs every day, to keep on ticking over until the season starts back up.” When asked the best player he has played with in football McManus said it’s a current Celtic player. “A tough one, but I’d have to say Michael Johnstone who played with me at the Celtic Academy,” he said. “He currently plays for the Celtic first team now, a quality player.”
GARDINER REFLECTS ON HER MATILDAS CAREER (by Ann Odong, courtesy matildas.com.au)
There was a time in the mid-2000s when Collette McCallum, now Gardiner, was considered one of the best left footed players in women’s football. Five years on from her Matildas retirement, Gardiner is still considered one of Australia’s best ever players.
After 81 caps, three AFC Women’s Asian Cups and two FIFA Women’s World Cup appearances, Gardiner hung up her boots. While only 29 years of age, she had packed a lifetime of football and accolades into a decade-long national team career.
By the time she ran out for her final game, fittingly against her place of birth Scotland, Gardiner was ready let go of the game she had loved for so long. “I feel the fact that my last game was against Scotland, it was meant to be,” said Gardiner.
“I was having trouble with my knees before Staj (coach Alen Stajcic) became head coach, so I was in and out of camps for a year to try and sort them out. I was hoping to push myself for another World Cup but unfortunately my knees weren’t holding up anymore.”
Knee injuries had been a constant spectre in Gardiner’s career. Before even pulling on the green and gold, she had to fight through two knee reconstructions while still a teenager. That she was able to battle through was an indication of her passion for the game and the talent and vision that was evident early in her career.
As a youth representative, Gardiner is arguably one of the best produced at her age group. Her Young Matildas career saw her make 19 appearances and she was considered one of the best young talents in the world after being named in the 2006 Under-20 Women's World Cup All-Star team.
After all the setbacks, making her debut for Australia against China in in January 2005 was a dream come true for the then 19-year old. “I was so grateful after having two knee reconstructions that I was able to keep playing and push through to the senior squad,” she remembered.
Not long after, Gardiner would become an integral part of the Matildas engine room. An incredible 2007 Women’s World Cup run saw Australia make history by reaching the quarter-finals for the first time. That tournament counts as one of the highlights in her international career.
“I’ll forever be grateful to Tom Sermanni for having the faith and belief to blood some youngsters in that World Cup,” she said. “For a few other girls and I just coming through at that time, it was invaluable to us having such quality players around to guide us. It was a brilliant squad and we never had a dull moment!”
Gardiner was long-listed for the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year, and short-listed for that years AFC Women’s Player of the Year. She was instrumental in the Matildas successful 2010 AFC Women’s Asian Cup campaign and represented her nation again at the 2011 Women’s World Cup.
But for all the on-field successes, it is the off-field connections that have left indelible memories. “It was such an amazing feeling to be able to play for the Matildas through the years and I will always cherish those memories with such a great group of girls,” she said. “A few I still look at now as some of my best friends,”
“It really was an honour and I’ll never let myself forget just how fortunate I was to get the chance to learn and grow under some experienced players and coaches. There are too many memories of when we either were at a camp in Australia or travelling overseas for friendlies or tournaments.”
“Memories of occasionally getting time to explore cities, having fun celebrating, to entertaining ourselves in hotels or camps. I do have a laugh every now and then when a moment from my playing days pops back into my head.”
Since retiring, Collette has not only said goodbye to the national team but also to her playing surname of McCallum. In late March 2020, she married her long-time partner Ricky in private ceremony in Western Australia. “We had an amazing day with our immediate family in the Swan Valley,” she said.
Retirement has allowed Gardiner more time to travel. “While playing with the Matildas you really didn’t get that luxury,” she said. “I’ve had the opportunity to do quite a bit of travelling all around the world with my partner. We’ve had some amazing trips and it really was refreshing having the time to be able to explore these new places.”
Although not currently involved in football, Gardiner still keeps an eye on what her former teammates are doing. And for the 34-year old, watching the explosion of the women’s game in Australia in the past five years gives a sense of pride and excitement.
“It’s brilliant to see the women’s game getting bigger and bigger,” she exclaimed. “Not just here in Australia but all around the world. It is awesome to see the girls are getting more media coverage and money. As they should with the performances, they have put on at the world stage.”
As for the future of the game she has helped build, all Gardiner wants is for the next young girl to have an opportunity to do what she loves and follow in her footsteps. “I just hope women’s football continues to grow the way it has done, mainly for the future generations,” she said.
“The evolution of the women’s game has been great to see with some of the top clubs in Europe finally getting on board, particularly in England where the clubs are giving women the opportunity to play football full time. For me that’s the big picture. With that in place the women’s game is only going to get better and better.”
FURTHER DELAY TO PERTH GLORY’S ACL CAMPAIGN
Perth Glory’s debut Asian Champions League campaign has been put on further hold after the governing body postponed all matches due to be played in May and June. Tony Popovic’s side have played just one game, losing narrowly 1-0 to Tokyo FC in Japan in February, before coronavirus travel restrictions were enforced.
They still have to play the return match against Tokyo and home-and-away fixtures against Korean side Ulsan and Shanghai Shenhua. The Asian Football Confederation issued a statement saying continued preventive measures and travel restrictions put in place by several governments had led to postponements until further notice.
The AFC has asked members for preferred options for the season if travel bans are lifted, but Glory owner Tony Sage has already said he wants the competition scrapped this year and re-launched next February. He said the sides should start afresh next February. “Our position is that all the clubs that were in it this year start from scratch next February as if no season had started,” Sage said earlier in the month.
“We need a new competition because this year is a wipe out and nobody will likely have a new champion. Our season is postponed, the Korean season is suspended, the Chinese season is suspended, all seasons are suspended. All leagues will likely be the same so we continue on next year as if this year didn’t exist.”
Another suggestion is that the competition could be resurrected as a one-off tournament with all teams playing in Kuala Lumpur in August. AFC said matches had already been postponed in March and April after a series of emergency meetings in Delhi, Doha, Dubai and Kuala Lumpur.
“The AFC will also continue to engage and consult with the participating member associations in the AFC club competitions and will explore all possible options in order to complete the 2020 AFC Champions League and AFC Cup group stages,” they said.
“As one of the first confederations in world football to undertake precautionary measures in light of the COVID-19 outbreak, the latest decision reinforces the AFC’s commitment to ensure the safety and wellbeing of players, participating teams, officials, fans and all stakeholders.”
Meanwhile Jacob Burns is adamant that Glory has what it takes to emerge from the COVID-19 crisis ready to build upon the club's recent success. Glory's Football Director was quick to point out that plenty of work is going on behind the scenes to ensure that the club is well-placed to hit the ground running as soon as football resumes.
"I'm optimistic," he said, "you have to be at this time. A lot of good things come out of challenges and we've never shied away from that. ?We'll meet the challenge and make sure we come out stronger for it. There will always be football and Perth Glory will always have a club. ?I'm confident we will come through this and I'm confident the league will come through this. ?
"The reality is we will be looking towards the 22nd April, (when Football Federation Australia (FFA) will announce their re-assessment of the situation) but a lot of it is out of our control, broadcasting, sponsorship, whether we finish off this season, if there are finals to be played, if we have an Asian Champions League and what next season looks like.?
"But one thing is for sure we will be ready. We're doing so much work, and we haven't downed tools. We're using the time wisely to come out the other side whenever that maybe with an advantage and well prepared. ? We've been working behind the scenes to be as strong as ever. ?Becoming reigning premiers doesn't just happen overnight. We've worked incredibly hard over a number of years to become a big club and a big team. ?
"We're not about to let that disappear. We have the personnel, coaching staff and players on our books to cut through this better than most. We've got the core group [of players] for next season and we've already been involved in extra planning because of the ACL fixtures. ? We are making sure we are well prepared."
CLUB IN PROFILE - ARMADALE SOCCER CLUB
Armadale Soccer Club began in 1972, and was known at the time as "Westfield Park Sports and Progression Association", however just a year later the club changed to "Westfield Park Soccer Club". In 1974, the club had nine junior teams along with it's senior teams, all playing on a Sunday at Gwyne Park Reserve in Armadale. That season was the first year the club joined the Amateur Soccer Association, and proved a great success, with the first team winning the Amateur Second Division (known at the time as ASA Division Three).
More success was to follow, with the club winning the Amateur First Division the following season, and gaining promotion to the Amateur Premier Division for 1976.
In 1980 the club changed it's name to "Armadale Park Soccer Club" and also moved to Morgan Park. With the move the membership grew considerably and both juniors and seniors continued to be successful with Armadale to be the heavyweights of amateur football at the time.
In 1985, the club joined the semi-professional competition and in it's very first season playing Saturday football, Armadale won the Third Division (then known as Division Four) under coach Steve Nash. This was also the year that Alfred Skeet Reserve in Forrestdale became the club's new home.
From 1986 to 1991, Armadale Park played in what today would be known as the Second Division, with it's best season being 1991 when they finished third.
1992 was the year of the great "soccer split", with two associations controlling Saturday football. Armadale elected to join the Professional Soccer League, and were placed into the higher league of the First Division. After finishing third, it was a struggle for the club, and were relegated back to the Second Division for the 1995 season.
Two years later, the club were back in Division One due to Soccer West Coast restrucituring the leagues to a two division competition. This was also the year that Armadale Park merged with Armadale City, the new name of the merged club would become "Armadale Soccer Club". Armadale struggled in the higher league, finishing no higher than 10th for the first five seasons. This all changed in 2002 under the leadership of new coach Billy Russell, when Armadale finished second, and then third in 2003.
2004 would be one of the best seasons in Armadale's history, winning Division One and gaining promotion to the Premier League for the first time in their history. It's has been a credit to Armadale that they have remained there to this day, with the best season in the top flight being seventh place in 2010 under coach Brad Hassell.
In 2018 Armadale lifted their first major trophy in their history under coach John O'Reilly , the State Cup, after beating Gwelup Croatia 2-0. It meant Armadale qualified to play in the national FFA Cup, where they lost 4-0 away to Carins FC.
SEMI-PROFESSIONAL LEAGUE HONOURS (Using current divisional names)
First Division winners - 2004
First Division runners-up - 2002
Third Division winners - 1985
Cup winners - 2018
PEACE DEAL STRUCK FOR WARRING A-LEAGUE PARTIES
A-League club owners and the players union have reached a peace agreement after becoming embroiled in a battle of words during the postponed competition. Perth Glory was the first club to stand-down players and staff a week ago and six clubs have since followed the same action.
Professional Footballers Australia immediately threatened clubs with legal action if players were not reinstated. But the union and the owners group, Australian Professional Football Clubs Association have agreed not to get involved in a further public fight.
“We have agreed today that no further legal steps will be taken and next week we will commence discussions to seek common ground on the issues that confront all clubs and player groups in the country at present,” read a joint statement issued by Paul Lederer, APFCA chairman, and John Didulica, PFA chief executive.
SAGE, PLAYERS UNION RIFT GROWS AMID
The row between A-League clubs and the players union continues to rage with Perth Glory owner Tony Sage dismissing claims they have breached contracts by standing down players. Seven clubs have stood down players and Professional Footballers Australia claim they could become free agents.
“We will continue to fight for the players who have been dumped and preserve their legal rights, including challenging the stand down notices and, where instructed, seek free agency on the basis of this breach of contract,” PFA chief executive John Didulica said.
But Sage says that is incorrect. “Contracts are valid under the law. That’s the way it is and in the end they can’t sue us .. We stood players down until April 22, when the FFA said the league may resume, under the COVID rules as set out by the Government so all contracts remain valid.”
A-League clubs desperately need their final quarterly payment of $900,000 due on April 15 that flows from Fox Sports’ $57.6 million broadcast money. But there is growing concern Fox may walk away from the deal and PFA has also demanded answers. “What’s feeding a lot of the anxiety is the lack of clarity from Fox,” Didulica said.
Players on contract for next season may be eligible for the $1500 fortnightly pay under the Federal Government’s $130 billion JobKeeper package. But more than 100 players who are off contract at the end of May could be ineligible as they may need to be in continuous employment for a further six months.
“We have significant concerns about the impact the decisions of club owners are having on the wellbeing of our members,” Didulica said. “It is unnecessary for club owners to place their players in this situation when there is an alternative option, which is for the sport to work together, as we’ve seen across other mature sports.”
FOOTBALL’S RETURN DELAYED UNTIL 31 MAY
Football Federation Australia have extended the postponement of all grassroots football in Australia until 31 May, 2020, due to the COVID-19 outbreak and its continuing implications. The new guidelines affect all sanctioned football in Western Australia, including competitions, training, trials, programs, coaching clinics and other football activities.
Football West chief executive James Curtis said the extension was not a surprise. “It is naturally very disappointing that there will be no football until 31 May but the health and safety of people is the priority and, like the FFA, we will be guided by the health experts. It is about doing the right thing,” Curtis said.
“We remain in regular talks with Federal, State and Local governments to try to ease the burden on our clubs and associations, and in turn their suppliers and other business partners. I have been proud of how the WA football community has reacted to this situation and we urge everyone to continue to respect each other and the wider community.”
Curtis said that while the situation was painful, the long-term future of the game in Western Australia remained positive. “There has been so much good work done over the past few years and that will stand us in good stead when we come through the other side,” he said.
“This is a time for consolidation and planning, but it is also a time for innovation and new opportunity. There is too much talent in the football community for us not to succeed. And I want to reiterate - there will be a season in 2020. We don’t know yet how it will look, but there will be football this year.”
A-LEAGUE PLAYERS MAY BECOME FREE-AGENTS
Professional Footballers Australia has raised the possibility of A-League players becoming free agents in the wake of five clubs - Perth Glory, Central Coast Mariners, Western Sydney Wanderers, Newcastle Jets and Adelaide United - standing down players in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. And it is understood Brisbane Roar and Western United are also on the verge of standing-down their players.
The PFA, which has been advocating for league-wide talks, has issued immediate demands for players to be reinstated. However, the union has also flagged the possibility of seeking to allow players stood-down to become free-agents based on a breach of contract. “Whether it is one club or all 11 clubs, our position on this will not change,” PFA chief executive John Didulica said.
“We will continue to fight for the players who have been dumped and preserve their legal rights, including challenging the stand down notices and, where instructed, seek free agency on the basis of this breach of contract. We have significant concerns about the impact the decisions of club owners are having on the wellbeing of our members, many of whom now face long term unemployment.”
The stand-downs sweeping the A-League stand in stark contrast to the AFL and NRL, which have both negotiated league-wide agreements with their playing groups. The AFL and AFL Player’s Association have agreed for players to receive a 50% pay cut in April and May, while the NRL and NRL Players Association are understood to be close to reaching an agreement on an interim 75% pay cut.
GILSENAN OPTS FOR AUSTRALIA
Australia looks to have won the race to tie down Zak Gilsenan - the Perth-born teenager once dubbed the “Irish Messi”. The Blackburn Rovers midfielder, who arrived at the Championship club via Barcelona and Liverpool, is eligible for Ireland through his parents, and also England.
At just 16, Gilsenan’s already made five appearances for Blackburns’ under-23s this season and is just a step away from Tony Mowbray’s first team. And he’s been on fire in the FA Youth Cup, scoring against Preston and Arsenal as Blackburn surged into the semi-finals where they’ll face Manchester City.
The Irish FA put out feelers, but Gilsenan made his bow for Trevor Morgan’s Joeys against South Korea ahead of last year’s FIFA Under-17 World Cup. And he’s happy with his choice. So too is Morgan who was there in person several weeks back as Gilsenan starred against the Gunners.
“I was born in Australia and they’re the country I have a really good feeling for,” Gilsenan explained. “I was there until the age of nine, growing up and playing junior football at Sorrento (in Perth). It would be massive for me to one day play for the Socceroos - and I’m really going to push for that.”
Gilsenan, who can play anywhere across the front third, first turned heads after scoring seven goals in a trial match for Barcelona, who subsequently signed him up to their famed La Masia Academy. The “Irish Messi” tag quickly followed. It’s a label he finds a “bit strange”, although he admits to being “technically quite good”.
“Being there was an unbelievable experience - learning different styles of football. We played on astroturf a lot which was good for your touch,” he added. Two of the highlights were audiences with Neymar and Jordi Alba, who offered words of encouragement. Though the man himself, Messi, was a reach too far.
Two years later - aged 11 - the family relocated to England, with Liverpool fending off the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal to land the youngster. His four years at the Anfield Academy were beset by injury, with Gilsenan only fit for a little over 18 months.
Blackburn offered a fresh pathway, with Gilsenan signing a two-season scholarship contract last year. The Lancashire club has a long association with Australian football having been home to golden generation Socceroos Lucas Neill, Brett Emerton and Vince Grella.
“It was a family decision to go there,” Gilsenan explained. “There was also interest from Aston Villa, Norwich and Leicester. I just thought it would be the best place to go on and hopefully play first-team football. I loved Blackburn the first time I walked through the door.”
“I think I’m doing quite well at the moment, to be honest. I’ve progressed a lot over the last few months. I’ve trained with the first team at Blackburn three times now - and I couldn’t be happier to have joined them. It’s decent to have got a few chances with the under-23s. I’m living my childhood dream.”
SAGE WARNS OF DISASTER IF BROADCAST PAYMENTS NOT HONOURED
Perth Glory owner Tony Sage has warned of untold disaster to the already postponed A-League if Fox Sports do not honour their broadcast deal payments. Clubs are desperately hoping their final quarterly payment, due next month and believed to be about $900,000, flows down from Fox Sports’ $57.6 million broadcast deal.
Sage, who became the first club owner to stand down all players and staff amid the coronavirus crisis, said if payments do not arrive there will be more heartbreak. But he guaranteed his players and staff will receive all leave allowances. “So many things are up in the air,” Sage said.
“We are waiting for the FFA to tell clubs we will get the distribution that’s owed to us. We don’t know if we are going to be paid our broadcast revenue. But I can tell you, players and staff will get every cent that is owed to them on their annual leave entitlements. If the payment issue is resolved I’m more than happy to sit down with the players and nut out something.”
“But no-one knows what is happening and I want to be able to go to them with surety. If this was a similar situation not connected to COVID I’d be trading insolvent and I’d be in jail. In a normal situation the club would be put into liquidation. That’s how serious the position is.”
Sage said the other A-League clubs will make their announcements on stand-downs in coming days. Professional Footabllers’ Australia, the player’s union, threatened Sage with legal action if he did not reinstate the players and said they would take similar action against any other club owner. FFA chief executive James Johnson said they could step in if the row escalates.
EDWARDS COPING WITH COVID-19 SHUTDOWN
Burton’s Albion’s Ryan Edwards says that a six-month spell without a club earlier in his career is helping him cope with not being able to play football right now. The 26-year old midfielder made sure he kept himself fit and active during that time, which came when he was released by his first English club, Reading, in 2015.
Edwards was eventually offered a trial with Scottish club Partick Thistle and was able to hit the ground running and earn a contract. From there, he moved to Hearts, joining Burton on a free transfer last summer. “The time without a club is helping me now, in this situation, when we can’t train,” said Edwards.
“What I’ve done is look at the previous experience, when I was without a club after Reading and then when I wasn’t in the first team at Hearts. I didn’t have a club, so I was without a club training routine. I tried to stick to my own routine as much as possible.”
“I’d wake up at the normal time for a normal training day, have my breakfast and go and train in the park or in the gym, between 10 and 12, when a football team would train. It was in pre-season time, so I would do that twice a day. I’d go back home, have lunch and then go back outside again about 2-3pm and have another session.”
“I repeated that for a number of days, then weeks and, when the Partick trial came up I flew into training with them in September, healthy and injury-free. I think that is one of the reasons I got a contract, because I’d kept myself ready.”
Obviously, the situation is markedly different now, with the football season suspended and Edwards knows not all players will approach it in the same way as him. “We all miss football and it’s challenging,” he said. “You have a daily training routine that has been taken away from you.”
“I have my own schedule that I stick to. It makes me feel good. I wake up, I meditate. There are some apps that I use. Headspace is one of them and there’s a football-specific one by Mark Bowden called Top Form. I’ll make my coffee in the morning and I’ll update my journal. I keep a journal and I’ll work out what I’m doing for the day ahead.
“If I’m not training, I’ll replace it with something productive. I’m studying psychology and I might do two hours of study with no technology in the room, just my books. I’m also big on fitness and nutrition. I do yoga and pilates and I love cooking, so that has filled in my time.”
“Yes, discipline comes naturally to me and I’ve always been interested in psychology and the mind and how our brains work. There’s been a lot of trial and error for me, this last nine to 10 years, being away from home. I’ve tried different things.”
Edwards will be among the contenders for Burton’s player of the season award, whether the campaign is completed or not. If and when it restarts, he will clearly be as ready as anyone. “Suddenly, we have all been given all this time and I am trying to keep my mind and body active and stick to good habits,” h said.
“So that when the time is right for us to go back to work, I’ll still be in a good routine and ready,” he said. “It’s important to control what we can control. Some will find it easier than others, some will say ‘that’s not for me.’ It’s important to find what works for you.”
DE VANNA TACKLES LOCKDOWN
For the past three weeks, Lisa De Vanna has been stuck in an Italian apartment, trying to maintain her fitness and her sanity. As the COVID-19 death toll rises in Italy and the nation remains in total lockdown, one of Australia’s greatest footballers is worried about the continued spread of the virus, her family back home, and how and when she is going to get out.
De Vanna has been playing for Serie A Feminine side Fiorentina since September. At 35 years of age, she is a seasoned professional of four World Cups, two Olympic Games and countless club outings in five countries. Nothing, though, could have prepared her for the uncertainty and social isolation of COVID-19. “Mentally, it’s really hard to not have a routine in your life when it’s been in your life for so long,” De Vanna said.
Before the Italian government’s decision to order the country into lockdown, De Vanna’s life was a pleasant pattern of Italian language classes in the morning, followed by lunch with her teammates and training in the afternoon. During her downtime, she would stroll into town, sip strong coffee and marvel at a historic city renowned for its art galleries and Renaissance architecture.
And there were games every weekend, either at home in Florence or in cities such as Milan, or Rome, or her ancestral home town of Bari. It did not take her long to win the affection of Fiorentina’s Italian-American owner, Rocco Commisso, who loves her direct style of play and forthright manner. “I haven’t felt so happy in a team environment for a very long time,” she says.
The coronavirus has negatively affected all professional sport, but the global nature of football makes it particularly exposed to the economic and logistical fallout of the pandemic. Domestic and international competitions - male and female - have been postponed or cancelled. Worldwide, the number of football players, managers, coaches and officials who have tested positive to the virus continues to grow.
The players’ union, Professional Footballers Australia, is currently providing guidance and support to 700 members in 35 countries. De Vanna confirmed she has been contacted by the PFA and Football Federation Australia, yet she remains totally confused by her predicament. She chose to stay in Florence in the hope she could eventually play out the rest of the season.
“We’ve still got seven games left,” explained De Vanna, who is contracted to Fiorentina until May. “Do we play those seven games? And if we do, when do we play them? If we don’t play, who finishes one, two and three on the ladder? We’re equal second with Milan - will Milan accept that? It’s just very unknown at the moment.”
Her desire to get back to Australia has been complicated further by the fact that her sister, with whom she used to live in Melbourne, is pregnant; and her mum, who lives in Perth, is 66 years old and in a high-risk category. “It’s a hard one, because I don’t want to put them in danger if I’m sick or have the virus,” says De Vanna.
With Europe now the global epicentre of the virus, De Vanna is desperate to return to football. “When am I going to kick a ball next?” she asks. “It’s my way of expressing myself. When I play football it takes a lot of stress off, it allows me to focus on something I love doing. When I don’t have that, I overthink things, and then I get frustrated and start becoming a little bit negative. I don’t know if I can handle this for another two weeks. It’s hard not kicking a ball, it’s hard not having freedom. It’s really, really tough.”
PLAYERS UNION THREATENS SAGE WITH LEGAL ACTION
Unrepentant Perth Glory owner Tony Sage says standing down players and staff was the only action left open to him to save the A-League club amid the COVID-19 crisis. The stand-down brought an immediate threat from the player’s union, Professional Footballers Australia, to take legal action if he does not reinstate them with a warning of fines of more than $600,000 under the Fair Work Act.
“I’m not worried at all. Are they living on another planet?,” said Sage, who previously stated all A-League club owners agreed to taking the action following the postponement of the seasons’ end. “They can do what they want if they want to waste time and money doing it. We have the legal advice. The FFA has stopped the league. What do they expect?
“Are they going to add all the other clubs to suing me or are they just suing me? Are they trying to scare other clubs into not doing it? Of course we’re going to make a decision to save the club. I want everyone to stay and be there next year but if there’s no Perth Glory. I would not have done this unless all clubs were 100 per cent unanimous.”
The stand-down will stay in place until 22 April when Football Federation Australia will review the competition postponement. PFA says it will take the same action if other clubs stand down players. “A fortnight ago, it was fine to relocate players to the east coast away from their families and expose them to a global pandemic,” said PFA chief executive John Didulica. “Now, when the opportunity arises, it is considered acceptable to stop paying them.”
PFA had not received stand down notices from any other club as of Saturday night, but Didulica said: “We are positioned to take the same course of action if any other A-League club owner elects to take this course of action in contravention of both the law and the sport’s broader needs at this time.”
KERR LIMITED TO ONE HOUR OF EXERCISE A DAY
Matildas captain Sam Kerr has revealed she can only leave the house for an hour a day as part of the COVID-19 restrictions in London. The Chelsea striker has been trying to keep fit during the lockdown but admits that’s been difficult with both a lack of time and the unknown of the future being the biggest factors.
“That is the frustrating part, you don’t know how to train as an athlete when you don’t have a time line,” Kerr said. “We’re only allowed out for one hour a day for fitness at the moment. I don’t really know how their policing that, but I am trying to stay to the rules.”
“The other day I went for a run and I went through this park where I live (and) on the news I seen this reporter condemning everyone who was in Richmond Park. It’s finding a balance of what you can do. We weren’t congregating in the park, but you want to go somewhere with a nice view and not run around an oval for an hour.”
Kerr described the situation in London as scary. “I don’t feel like the public here are taking it as seriously as they maybe should be,” she added. “I feel like at the moment people should be doing what they should. I think it would be harder in Perth, because here it is cold so you cannot do much anyway.”
A-LEAGUE PLAYERS AND STAFF FACE ANXIOUS WAIT
A-League players face an anxious 24-hour wait on their future because of the competition closure amid the coronavirus crisis. Club owners were hoping for answers about contracts during a telephone link-up yesterday but left without a result. Another round of talks is set for today.
Glory owner Tony Sage said nothing had been decided but outcomes were difficult because contracts have to be ratified with Football Federation Australia which is affiliated with world-governing body FIFA. “The FFA is waiting on answers,” Sage said.
“Because we are an international organisation things are harder. The answers didn’t come through so we will have another hook-up. The clubs will act unanimously based on advice. The owners will meet and will make a uniformed decision in the next 24-48 hours.”
The shutdown is taking a toll with clubs sending staff on leave or asking them to take pay cuts. Almost all FFA employees are on leave, with Western Sydney Wanderers reported to have put 85% of their staff including coaches on leave with senior managers agreeing to take pay cuts.
Sydney FC have told staff to take annual leave ahead of the A-League review of the competition suspension on 22 April. Glory chief executive Tony Pignata is in the middle of a club review with an announcement on cost-cutting measures set for the end of the month.
Sage, who said he has lost $30 million on Glory since 2007, is resigned to taking another big financial blow. He was ready for a $2.5 million loss this year but is expecting a further $800,000 hit because they gave up four home games in a bid to get the season finished.
“It is heartbreaking and disappointing,” Sage said. “We don’t make a profit on home games but we make a cash flow every game of $200,000. We asked for the end-of-season home games so we didn’t have to travel too much before finals and it’s come back to bite us on the arse.”
SAGE'S GLORY LOSSES BLOW OUT TO $35 MILLION
Perth Glory owner Tony Sage is preparing to drop more than $3 million this season, bringing his total A-League losses to around $35 million. Sage was already budgeting to lose $2.5 million this campaign, but the coronavirus pandemic could see that figure blow out to $3.5 million.
Even if the A-League season does restart, it's almost certain games will be played behind closed doors with Glory's four home matches likely to be played on away soil. "Each game generates $200,000," Sage said. "So that's an $800,000 hit straight away, and that's just on gate sales and the sales I get from catering."
"We're also missing out on merchandising and the like, which we haven't quite defined yet. We probably take $25,000 per game at the merchandise stalls. It's a massive loss just in that last four games, and we already budgeted for a 2.5 million loss."
Sage has been Glory's owner since 2007, and sole owner since 2009. His losses each season have been substantial, but he doesn't regret his decision to buy the club. "It will be about $35 million now since I started 14 years ago," Sage said.
"I love football. Look at the numbers - 1.9 million registered players across Australia. There is a big future for professional football and grass roots football in this country, and I don't see it as a loss, I see it as an investment."
Sage considered selling an 80 percent stake of the club to controversial cryptocurrency firm London Football Exchange earlier this year, but eventually decided against it. He hasn't given up hope of luring another investor despite the financial carnage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
"In adversity there's a silver lining, and some investors might want to see it as a perfect opportunity to come in now," Sage said. "I have not hidden for 18 months now that to compete in professional sport you need funds. Having a partner would help in that."
Sage was part of a phone hook-up with other A-League owners on Wednesday night. A second discussion will take place on Thursday night. Clubs could start announcing their cost-cutting measures later this week.
"We have to do what's necessary for each individual club to survive," Sage said. "But as a collective, we'd like to get all the advice and thrash it out tonight and each individual club will make its own decision based on what FFA are telling us."
ITALIANO’S ‘SURREAL’ START TO LIFE IN GERMANY (courtesy sport.optus.com.au)
It has been just over nine months since Jacob Italiano left Perth Glory and the A-League to chase his childhood dreams with Bundesliga side Borussia Monchengladbach. At 18 years of age the former Inglewood United junior moved to the other side of the world, to a country whose language he didn’t speak and almost immediately found himself on a pre-season tour with a team who are now fighting for a UEFA Champions League spot. Briefly, they even led the Bundesliga.
It doesn’t get much better than that. “I went away with the first team in pre-season, that was a bit surreal,” Italiano said. “I had just come here so that was good, some of the players there are top players, they’re at the top of their game, playing top competition. One that stands out is probably Yann Sommer, the goalkeeper, some of the saves he pulls out are unbelievable.”
“In pre-season, we (played against) a team with Robinho (and Eljero) Elia, two players that I’d always watch, they were tricky, they were skilful, and now I’m on the pitch with them. Those are a few names to throw out. It is crazy, surreal, you don’t really think about it. You just want to play your game. After the game you sort of think about it, but on the pitch, you just play your game and don’t really notice them. They’re just the opposition to you.”
That pre-season friendly, between Monchengladbach and Turkish side Istanbul Baseksehir, finished 5-1 in his team’s favour with Italiano scoring his first goal for his new club. On the opposition team that day was Socceroos regular Aziz Behich, who offered to arrange a shirt swap for his compatriot; the pair had a quick chat that ended with the full-back suggesting ‘maybe see you in the national team in the next couple of years!’
If Italiano keeps going the way he is, it seems distinctly possible. Last month he was a key member of the Olyroos side that secured qualification to the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games under Socceroos boss Graham Arnold, playing four of six matches at the AFC under-23 Championships. “Everyone watches the Olympics, so it is one of them where the world's eyes are on you,” he said.
“Some of the players that go, like last Olympics, you see Neymar scoring the winning penalty for Brazil; it’s massive. I think we’ve already seen through social media that Egypt are wanting to take Mo Salah, so just some of these world class names will be there and it is where you want to be, what you want to do. (I’ve) just got to try and train well, play good football leading up to it to hopefully be up for selection.”
With Arnold in charge of both teams, the opportunity and pathway to the senior national team is clear, but for now it appears the teenager is in the best place to fast-track his development. “Going to the Olympics there will be first team boys down as well, so it is just a great pathway to maybe fulfilling that goal, that dream as well, of making an appearance for the Socceroos,” he continued. “So obviously the pathway is there so it is about doing the most to get there.”
While this season has been spent with Monchengladbach’s second team, a look across the Bundesliga, specifically at Borussia Dortmund duo Jadon Sancho and Erling Haaland, suggests German football is leading the way in cultivating young talent. Italiano watched the Dortmund pair dominate in their Champions League win over PSG last month and was inspired.
“It was great to see those two (Sancho and Haaland) just kill it really,” he said. “Both 19 years old, and they were both top two players in the match (vs PSG), and obviously that 17-year-old came on as well, Giovanni Reyna, and he is another young player that is doing so well at the minute. In this country they like pushing their youngsters. It is good to be here and see that.”
“To see that, and I’m not with the first team at the minute, that is the next goal, but just to know we train at the same spot we’re only 20 or 30 metres away from their (1st team) training. It is there, you see it every day, and feel close to it. You see that it is an opportunity, and if you do well and train well, you can get given the opportunity ... to have any opportunity to play in the same pitch as some of those players is crazy. It is a goal. A dream.”
Indeed, he wouldn’t be the first Australian to make it in the Bundesliga, and as a winger could tread a path similar to the Socceroos regulars Mathew Leckie and Robbie Kruse. However, Italiano knows he has a number of hurdles to climb if he is to reach those same heights during his time in Germany. Improving his German speaking ability is high on his list of priorities, although his progress has been limited by frequent trips away with the national team.
“The language is a big thing,” he said. “When I first came here, they would help me and speak English to me as much as they could and a lot of the boys speak pretty much perfect English so it’s alright. But in training when the coach is speaking you need to concentrate and pick up on the words that you do know, just to try and understand the session.”
“That is probably the hardest part. But as you go now they kind of are starting to speak German to me and help me out which is good, but that is probably the big thing, just the language barrier. It is alright (my German), I’m alright understanding it, not so much speaking it, it’s a bit tough, but I need to get onto it.”
Adjusting to life abroad presents a range of challenges, especially for someone so young, but Italiano believes his experiences with the Australian Institute of Sport, where he was part of the final class to come through the FFA Centre of Excellence before its closure in 2017, have aided his transition.
“(The move) was probably made a bit easier for me because I went to the AIS program when I was a bit younger,” he said. “I already had a couple of years where I lived at home, so I think it was made a bit easier for me. But being a different country, it makes it a bit tougher, but I’ve found it ok. Obviously, you do miss the family, you miss the people at home, but I love life here, it’s good, its calm. The weather isn’t as good but everything else is good.”
When overseas, there is nothing better than having a familiar face around. Italiano was greeted at Monchengladbach by former Australia under-20s teammate Christian Theoharous, who had signed from Melbourne Victory the previous season, and the pair have become best mates. They live walking distance from one another and have strong bond both on and off the park.
“Would you say we’re best mates?,” Theoharous asks Italiano while both spoke to sport.optus.com.au “Well, I’m the only mate you have really!” Italiano has also taken to giving his mate ‘a bit of stick’ about the fact he features in FIFA 20, while the former Melbourne Victory winger does not. They are also often told they could pass as brothers.
“It has been a big help (having Christian here) I think,” Italiano said. “I couldn’t imagine what it would be like if he wasn’t here. It is one of them where he had already been here for a year so he’d already settled in, learned the ins and outs of the club, and I already knew him previously from Australia under-20 stuff and we kind of broke into the A-League in the same year.”
“So him being here, living close to him, always being in and out of training here has helped that much. I don’t know if he’ll always be here when I’m here, so I’ve got to start learning the language and doing that. But that first year, six months so far that he’s been here while I’ve been here, it’s been that helpful. He probably doesn’t know how helpful it’s been, but he’s really helped me out.”
After several months in Germany, Italiano has had the opportunity to reflect on the differences in his experience abroad versus back home. Youth development remains a big talking point in Australian football, and the teen winger believes there is a clear lesson his home nation can take from the way youngsters are brought through the ranks in the Bundesliga. “Opportunities,” he said.
“Obviously we got our opportunities in Australia but like just the amount of opportunities that get given here to young players, not afraid to throw any young player that is doing well into a position where they can get something from it or get a next deal, train well and prove yourself. I guess that is the main thing, they’re just not afraid to give youngsters an opportunity.”
Italiano got his opportunity at just 16 and made just 19 appearances for Glory before moving to Germany. During his time with the Monchengladbach first team, Italiano had the opportunity to work with head coach Marco Rose. The 43-year old had a clear message for the young winger. “(I was struck by) just how forward thinking he (Marco Rose) was,” Italiano said.
“Whenever he’d have a chat to me, he’d always (say) make sure you’re going forward, make sure you’re running in behind, make sure when you get the ball you try and run forward, get at your defender, back yourself ... And I think you can see that in the football that they play, everything is forward thinking, everything is high press, it is an exciting game, so that is probably the main thing.”
‘FAMILIES UNITE DURING TIMES OF TROUBLE’: PIGNATA
The survival of A-League clubs is under threat with the competition suspended indefinitely amid the havoc of the COVID-19 outbreak. A financial storm will put their viability at risk, while a number of players face a bleak future with contracts that run out at the end of May.
As the sole owner of Perth Glory Tony Sage has already admitted it will be tougher for his club than the corporate-owned sides. Sage was involved in a telephone link-up with owners today to discuss various scenarios designed to finish the season that had just a handful of rounds remaining.
“This decision will have major implications for our club and the game at a wider level,” said Glory chief executive Tony Pignata. “We are currently formulating a strategy to meet the challenges that this unprecedented and rapidly-evolving situation presents.”
“Our priority has been and remains, the health and safety of our players, staff, members and fans and we will adhere very strictly to the guidelines laid down by the health authorities in order to safeguard that. FFA’s decision (was) essential in order to safeguard the health and safety of both the football and wider communities.”
“Families unite during times of trouble and I believe that if we continue to stick together in the face of adversity, the Glory family will emerge stronger and ready to continue the fantastic progress that the club has made over the last two years.”
A-LEAGUE SHUT DOWN
The A-League has become the final Australian sporting domino to fall due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with the competition postponed immediately. Football Federation Australia chief executive James Johnson said the remainder of the 2019/20 season has been postponed after consultation with the national working committee for coronavirus, effectively halting the game at all levels in Australia.
Johnson said increased protocols placed upon society made it untenable to continue the competition for now. “As a national competition played in all parts of Australia, as well as New Zealand, mission complicated became mission impossible,” Johnson said. The postponement decision will be reviewed on 22 April.
Johnson said he “remained optimistic” the season may yet resume and be concluded but admitted it was “heartbreaking” for players and clubs for the league to be postponed so close to the end of the season. With all domestic and international football across the country now suspended, Johnson admitted the financial impacts will be drastic.
GLORY’S MONDAY NIGHT CLASH POSTPONED AS CLUB LOOKS EAST
Perth Glory’s players are ready to base themselves in New South Wales to see out the final six rounds of the A-League season. Glory’s clash with Western United at Perth Oval tonight was postponed late last night, with the visitors not arriving in Perth.
But club owner Tony Sage said his squad and coaching staff voted at an emergency meeting to play out their final six games in the eastern states. He added that other interstate clubs were ready to jump on flights to NSW in order to complete the 2019/20 campaign.
“There is a plane ready to whisk three teams up from Victoria,” said Sage, who also raised the potential of an A-League shutdown ahead of an official Football Federation Australia release. “Adelaide has been told. I’ve been told Brisbane has been told.”
“Four teams will go to NSW if the league and government decide that we are allowed to do that without being quarantined. Every team will be ready to leave tomorrow before the bans come into place. I don’t know whether it will be a private charter.”
REDDY AND POPOVIC HOPING TO CELEBRATE MILESTONES WITH A WIN
Perth Glory will look to end a four-game streak without a win when they host Western United at HBF Park on Monday evening (6.30pm WA Time). The behind-closed-doors clash will be a milestone for keeper Liam Reddy and Head Coach Tony Popovic. The Glory custodian is poised to make his 300th Hyundai A-League appearance, and will become the first goalkeeper, and fourth player overall, to chalk up 300 games in the Hyundai A-League. He celebrated his 100th game for the club last month, while Coach Popovic is set to take charge for the 50th time since arriving in the West in 2018.
Popovic said in his pre-game press conference, that Reddy has been huge this season and has produced some vital saves. "I've had a lot of experience with Liam over the years, and I believe he's playing as good as he ever has,” he said. “Physically and mentally, he's in fantastic shape. Last weekend he had that one crucial save to make and he made it and I'm very happy to have him as part of this squad.”
The coach said his journey in the west has been enjoyable, and would like a win to celebrate the milestone. “In terms of my time here at Perth Glory, it's been great, I feel like it's flown by,” he said. “I'm loving it and really enjoying my time at the club and working with the players and staff every day. We feel we're on a journey and there's so much more to achieve and so much more we'd like to do as a football club. It'll be nice to reach 50 and hopefully we can do it with a win."
Popovic, who previously coached Western Sydney Wanderers when they first entered the Hyundai A-League, went on to salute the good job his counterpart and former teammate Mark Rudan has done during Western United's maiden campaign in the competition. "It's a huge challenge to be a start-up club, and you do go through a bit of a roller-coaster ride with the different challenges that you have,” he said. “You learn a lot along the way, on and off the park.
"They are on a very good run at the moment. They've scored 11 goals in their last two games and it's an important game for them and us. They've had a very good season and I'm sure they're trying to lay a platform for years ahead to be a strong football club and that takes time. But they should be proud of their efforts so far." United will be sweating on the availability of A-League goalkeeper of the year Filip Kurto as the Polish shot-stopper faces time on the sidelines following another concussion.
The 28-year-old, who became a first-time father last week, was injured early in Western's stunning 5-1 win in Adelaide on Saturday after he fell awkwardly, striking his head and back on the ground, and will need medical clearance before he can even begin training with his teammates. "There's a bit of a history last year with Filip. On two occasions he had to go off with concussion," said Western coach Mark Rudan, who coached the goalkeeper at Wellington Phoenix in 2018-19.
"He's okay the bye has come at a good time for him. He's well. It will give him time to recover, we hope. I have to speak to the doctor to see if he can train. He will have to pass certain tests in order to start training again. The medics assessed him, but there's a three-minute break, that's the amount of time you are given for a head injury, and he came off." Kurto has been one of the stars for Western in their debut season, but Rudan has confidence that his rookie back-up Ryan Scott can do the job if needed.
"I thought Scotty took to it like a duck to water,” he said. “He was fantastic, there was a lot of confidence in him. I spoke to the defenders, they loved having Ryan behind them. He's a leader, he speaks well, he comes out when he has to." United had looked as if their season was sliding away after a poor run of form in January and February, but have hit their straps with a vengeance in recent games, beating Central Coast 6-2 before putting Adelaide to the sword last weekend. Sixth on the ladder, Western remain in the finals mix.
A MESSAGE FROM FOOTBALL WEST CEO JAMES CURTIS
“Football West appreciates the uncertainty felt in the WA football community in view of the decision to postpone all grassroots activities until 14 April. We are also acutely aware of the potential impact that this decision will have on clubs, players, coaches, officials and volunteers. Football West will use the period of postponement to work closely with all of our football community.
We are also working with the FFA, Federal, State and local governments to try to reduce the burden on the WA football community during these difficult times. Our priority is to safeguard the sustainability of all of our 250+ clubs so that when it’s the right time to resume football, we are ready to go together.
Football West also kindly requests we all:
* Share Football West and Football Federation Australia updates on COVID-19;
* Respect all members of the community, including the football community;
* Encourage members to stay up to date with and put in place the latest expert health advice
Football is the most participated team sport in this state and we understand the role it plays in the broader community, including with the local businesses involved in supporting our clubs. Staying united in our approach and maintaining our values will enable our sport to remain strong and navigate these uncertain times.
We appreciate your continued hard work and support and extend our thanks to all that are involved in community football for their understanding. Football West will continue to work closely with all of our clubs and members and appreciate your co-operation.
James Curtis - CEO, Football West
JAMES JOHNSON’S MESSAGE TO AUSTRALIA’S FOOTBALL FAMILY
“This weekend marks the first weekend since the temporary suspension of grassroots football activity across the nation came into effect due to the ongoing COVID-19 situation. As the largest club-based participation sport in Australia, with almost two million participants, football has an important role to play as a good and responsible citizen in slowing the spread of the virus.
Suspending grassroots football across the country was one of the hardest decisions the organisation has ever had to make, but it was necessary and done so in the interests of the health and wellbeing of all those that love and participate in our game. However, we understand that this weekend, and over the coming weeks, grassroots players, coaches, volunteers, and officials will be longing for the sport they love – football – and the unrivalled camaraderie, connection, and sense of community that comes with it.
As our organisation now focuses on placing the game first, we want you to know that despite tough times, we are doing all we can to ensure that we all still have every opportunity to engage and connect through the game.
One such initiative which we have been working on is a suite of digital content activations that we anticipate will go live next week. This platform will provide social and beginner-to-amateur footballers especially with a virtual place to learn new skills and engage with the game by sharing their #PlayAtHomeChallenge efforts (I might have to dust off my old Copa Mundial’s!).
This suite will be housed on the PlayFootball.com.au website, with content also shared across all of FFA’s primary social media channels including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. We ask that you keep up to date via our website and other media platforms so you have the latest information on our initiatives. Don’t forget that despite the suspension, we still have access to some excellent football via various digital platforms. On Saturday, Melbourne City FC and Sydney FC will contest the Westfield W-League Grand Final.
It will be a fantastic game of football and a timely reminder of why we love this game so much – I wish both teams the very best of luck! The Hyundai A-League also enters its final regular season rounds before the Finals Series gets underway, so please continue to support your teams. We appreciate the level of uncertainty this situation is having on the football community, and can only thank you for your understanding, patience, and commitment to the game and one another as this unprecedented situation evolves.
Football is taking strong measures in response to the ongoing threat of COVID-19, but we encourage those in our family to stay calm and connected, so that when the suspension is ultimately lifted everyone is ready to return to the pitch.” - James Johnson - Football Federation Australia Chief Executive Officer
GLORY READY TO RACE TO FINISH LINE
Perth Glory players are under no pressure to play as the coronavirus crisis unfolds and they face six games in a month with Football Federation Australia racing to get the A-League season finished.
Coach Tony Popovic, who takes charge of his 50th Glory game against Western United at home on Monday, believes the player group are keen to see out the season. He said any player who didn't want to train or play for fear of the coronavirus would be fully supported.
“If any of the players said they would not be comfortable training and playing they would be supported by the club,” Popovic said. “We certainly understand that and certainly respect that. They have my ultimate respect. I trust the players.”
“Players have their concerns, as we all have, for friends and family. Players are talking about it all the time. We’re all in the same position. I believe players, amongst the concern, have also love the game. If there’s a chance to play, they want to play.”
Popovic said his side was focussed and motivated for a tough run-in to the end of the season. Glory were initially scheduled to play four of their remaining six games in Perth. But with the A-League scrambling to condense the final six rounds of the regular season, Glory have agreed to play one of their home games in Sydney.
Popovic’s team hosts Western United on Monday and Central Coast Mariners on Thursday before taking on Western Sydney Wanderers, Adelaide United and Wellington Phoenix in Sydney in the space of eight or nine days. Glory finish the home and away series at home to Melbourne Victory.
“This group is very focussed and very determined,” he commented. “We would have liked to have had four games at home but we understand that this circumstance is unique. There’s enough motivation ... motivation should be easy, doing what we love ... it’s a dream job. We get paid ... in many people’s eyes it’s a hobby.”
“We have an opportunity to showcase the game through tough times and put a smile on people’s faces ... Maybe the A-League can put a few smiles on people's faces during that period watching the game on TV. For that 90 minutes they (the fans) may forget some tough times.”
COVID-19 OUTBREAK HITS JUNIOR SPORT
All sport from semi-professional to junior athletes across the country are being caught up in the coronavirus storm. Community football - association and AFL - along with basketball yesterday officially delayed the start of their seasons.
Campbell Ballantyne, president of Curtin University, said the past few days have been madness. "I think a third of our club have emailed someone, a coach, a community member asking 'is training on tonight?'" Ballantyne said.
"I think the real challenge is that uncertainty. No-one knows what will happen in terms of is the season going to take place, is a game going to take place, what's the economic impact in terms of registrations and the potential refunds of those."
Football Federation Australia have called a halt on all grassroots association football until 14 April while AFL - including Auskick - has been postponed until 31 May. A series of local sport events were also cancelled over the weekend, including Little Athletics.
Ballantyne said the roll-on effect on grassroots sport from COVID-19 was "intense". "At the moment, what we're dealing with is probably 70 per cent of our membership are yet to pay their fees, and because we can't tell them we have a season, they won't pay their fees," he said.
"They simply can't pay the $395 we're asking from them if they're only going to play one or two games. I think everything's moving and changing pretty quickly ... there's too many people it's affecting."
Play has also come to a halt for the state's estimated 50,000 basketballers. The State Basketball League is off until 29 May and other levels are suspended until at least 27 April. Basketball WA chief executive Rob Clement said the organisation had fielded numerous calls from associations and players.
"It's just getting to the point now where there's too many people it's affecting, and sort of giving mixed messages," Clement said. "I think for the safety of the community, and particularly the elderly, we've decided to call it today for all activity."
Clement also expressed concern about the financial impact. "There's going to be some significant pain within the community, and it does put into question some of the financial viability of some of the associations in the longer term if this extends out beyond a three to six-month period," he said.
WA Cricket Association chief executive Christina Matthews has called on all community cricket clubs to end the season early. The association has also wrapped up its school programs. "It's been a very tough time for all sport, and we can just count ourselves lucky that we're at the end of our season," Matthews said.
KERR: 'YOU WANT TO BECOME A FRIEND MORE THAN ANYTHING'
Sam Kerr has detailed the struggles she's faced fitting into the Chelsea team, given her constant travel, the coronavirus pandemic, and the hardships of settling into South London. The Matildas captain says her main ambition now is to gel with her teammates on and off the pitch, to help with both her professional and personal transition.
"Whenever you go to any new club – even when I changed from Sky Blue to Chicago - it’s hard," Kerr explained. "Changing cities, changing teams, living in a new, foreign place. That’s always the hardest part for me - settling off field and playing well on the field."
"When I first got there (to Chelsea) I was sick, then I travelled back home for the Olympic qualifiers, then that got extended because of all this stuff that’s going on, then back home for 12 days, then back here. So I actually haven’t been there that much."
"But I’ve been enjoying it, and I’m looking forward to getting home to really dig my heels in and get amongst it. I haven’t really had the opportunity to show who I am as a person or a player yet, which is tough because you want to become a friend in the team more than anything, and I haven’t really had that opportunity."
"It’s going to be a challenge to make the starting team rather than just rock up every day and play on the weekend and not have to train well. I didn’t want to upset the team, and I haven’t really put my best foot forward yet playing-wise with injuries, sickness, travelling."
With the Matildas upcoming friendlies against Canada and the United States cancelled, Kerr can now truly settle into her new life in England. Her rise in world football has been swift, from just eight goals for Australia in 2016 to being within five goals of the Matildas all-time record four years later.
"When you’ve only scored eight goals you don’t imagine yourself scoring five times that in the next four years," Kerr said. "I'm really proud of the work I’ve done to get here, and I think, going forward to these Olympics, it just shows how far the team has come."
"I don’t score any of those goals alone, so for me it’s about how the Matildas have come as a team and really there’s no pressure on myself to keep scoring. It’s about the team performing, and the goals will come whether it’s me or any of the other forwards or midfielders."
"I feel really lucky that I’m living in this time because there’s a lot of retired players who kind of see what we’re going through at the moment, and, you know, that’s what they hoped for. I know they’re happy that the female game is reaping the rewards for all the work they’ve done … but there’s still so much work to go."
GRASSROOTS FOOTBALL SUSPENDED NATIONWIDE
Football Federation Australia has suspended all football activities across the country for the next four weeks due to coronavirus, COVID-19. The suspension applies to all National Premier Leagues, FFA Cup, youth, junior, MiniRoos and futsal games and training through to Tuesday, 14 April.
Football West recognises the significant impact COVID-19 is having on the broader community, including the football community. “These are unprecedented times and it is important we work together as a community across sectors to get through these difficult moments,” said Football West chief executive James Curtis.
“As the team sport with the most participants both nationally and in the state, we recognise the role football plays in Western Australia and our responsibility in ensuring a safe and healthy community. This decision has been taken with that in mind and to ensure the ongoing sustainability of our clubs and associations, so that when the postponement ends we are all ready to go.”
“We appreciate the WA football community’s concerns and understanding. Football West will endeavour to ensure our stakeholders remain updated and engaged with regarding this constantly changing situation. Football West re-emphasises the need for all of the community to heed the latest expert health advice in order to stay safe.”
RULE CHANGE COULD FORCE JONES OUT OF AL NASSR
Brad Jones could be on his way out of Saudi Arabia this northern summer as league officials in the country consider banning foreign goalkeepers from next season. The former Socceroo has established himself as a leading number one in the Saudi Premier League since joining Al Nassr in August 2018.
Jones, 37, has been impressive this season, missing just one league game out of 21, so far for an Al Nassr side currently second behind Riyadh rivals Al Hilal. The Saudi Arabia Football Federation have looked at recent performances of the national team at various age levels and are concerned that Saudi goalkeepers are having their development blocked by imports.
If the change is made, it is expected that the seven-player limit on foreign signings will remain though the quota will have to be outfield players. Any announcement is likely to be made before the season is scheduled to finish on 30 May, a month before Jones’s contract expires.
NICOL AT THE DOUBLE FOR BAYSWATER
Bayswater City kick started their season with a hard fought 4-2 win against Armadale at Alfred Skeet Reserve. New signing Angel Andres gave the host the lead early before Brent Griffiths levelled. The Reds regained the lead with another new signing Sebastian Stenqvist on target. But the visitors restored parity 10 minutes into the second half, with Gordon Smith scoring. But three minutes later Smith was sent off and Chad Nilson was also sent on 77 minutes and it was Bayswater who went on to win it with a brace from Daryl Nicol. “Delighted to get the three points away at Armadale which is never an easy place to go,” Nicol said. “To come from 2-1 down and a man down and get the win showed some excellent character and is a great way to kick off the season.”
It was a lively opening and Devon Spence had to be alert to tip over Brian Patterson’s effort. Moments later Sam Hutchings reacted well to save from Nicol, but on 12 minutes Armadale hit the front. Josh Cortes pulled the ball back from the right to new signing Andres to score on his debut. Bayswater hit back and Hutchings denied Luke Salmon one on one, but he was helpless when Griffiths levelled, finishing from close-range from Todd Howarth's corner. But Armadale regained the lead two minutes later, when Stenqvist was given far too much room in the box and he fired past Spence. Patterson went close to a third before half time, but his shot flashed the wrong side of the upright.
But Bayswater restored parity 10 minutes into the second half, Nicol skipped past his marker and crossed to the back post and Smith headed home. But three minutes later Smith was sent off after a bench clearing challenge on Chad Nilson and referee Shane Skinner showed the striker a straight red card. But it was ten v ten on 77 minutes when Nilson received a second yellow card. Bayswater then took the lead, after Dean Cummings' blocked shot fell for Salmon, who picked out Nicol who made no mistake. Armadale pushed players forward looking for the equaliser and in the eighth minutes of stoppage time Bayswater added a fourth after Salmon was brought down and Nicol scored from the resulting penalty to seal a 4-2 win for Chris Coyne’s side.
Armadale: GK Sam Hutchings, 4 Nathan COSTELLO, 5 Ali NAZARY, 7 Joshua CORTES, 8 Brian PATTERSON, 11 Chad NILSON, 12 Dannie RICHMAN, 13 Blake ADAMS, 14 Sebastian STENQVIST (10 Roberto SOARES 67'), 17 Angel ANDRES (20 Pieter JACOBSZ 82'), 18 Kevin ASHWOOD – Subs not used: RGK Blake HENSHALL, 21 Fillipo GIOFFRE - Red cards: Nilson 77'
Bayswater City: GK Devon SPENCE, 5 David STOKOE (30 Matt SPARROW 72') , 6 Todd HOWARTH, 7 Daryl NICOL, 8 Gordon SMITH, 9 Gustavo MARULANDA (14 Gomo DUKULY 67'), 10 Jason MIRCO (11 Ryan PEARSON 67'), 12 Steve HESKETH, 18 Brent GRIFFITHS, 22 Luke SALMON, 29 Dean CUMMINGS – Subs not used: 21 Kenny KEOGH, 22 Hamish VAN DIEKEN - Red cards: Smith 58' - Referee: Shane Skinner
GWELUP PUT ON A FIVE-STAR PERFORMANCE
Newly promoted Gwelup Croatia began life in the NPL with a stunning 5-0 win against Perth Glory at Hartfield Park. Hasani Sinclair and Jon Stynes scored doubles in the first half and Stynes completed his hat-trick after the break to seal a comprehensive win. “I’m happy to be back amongst the goals since my foot injury in the middle of last year,” Stynes explained. “We have assembled such a great squad and have worked hard on the training park to gel as a team, and it has been so good to see how fast we have come together to play some exciting football.”
Gwelup, who were playing amateur football only four years ago, made a perfect start in their opener when Hasani Sinclair, who was back at his former ground, latched on to a Declan Hargreaves lob on 13 minutes and finishing well past Cameron Cook. It was 2-0 on 20 minutes, former Glory Youth winger Ethan Brooks made space out wide and his cross found Jon Stynes who headed home. The game was all but over five minutes later, with Jon Stynes volleying home Sinclair’s cross to make it 3-0.
Glory were shell shocked but went close to pulling one back on the half hour, when Dane Ingram’s low ball into the penalty area was inches away from Gabriel Popovic at the back post. Gwelup were still dangerous going forward and they pulled apart a static Glory defence just before the break with Callum Timmins shot superbly saved by young Glory keeper Cook. Gwelup continued to cause havoc before the break, and Daniel Stynes was gifted an opportunity by a poor back pass, but Cook stood tall to deny him, before Sinclair should have done better after rounding the keeper but he fired wide.
Gwelup continued to dictate terms after the break and they added a fourth on the hour, Sinclair getting on the end of another pin-point cross from Brooks. Glory had a chance to pull one back on 73 minutes when referee Joshua Nixon pointed to the spot after Carlo Armiento fell under a Hargreaves challenge. Armiento picked himself up but missed the resulting penalty. That miss summed up the day for Richard Garcia’s side and Gwelup put the icing on the cake with a fifth in stoppage time, Stynes completing his hat-trick after being found by Brooks and curling the ball home.
Perth Glory: GK Cameron COOK, 2 Mason TATAFU, 5 Jacob MUIR, 6 Aiki TSUKAMOTO, 7 Joshua RAWLINS, 8 Joshua SAMSON (17 Giordano COLLI 46’), 9 Gabriel POPOVIC (16 Charlie LEECH 75’), 10 Carlo ARMIENTO, 11 Ciaran BRAMWELL, 14 Nicholas WALSH, 15 Dane INGHAM – Subs not used: 12 Alessandro CIRATI, 13 Jayden LEADER, 20 Samuel RILEY
Gwelup Croatia: GK Connor CAMPBELL, 2 Ciaran SALINGER, 5 Blair GOVAN, 6 Declan HARGREAVES (34 Matthew GROSTATE 81’), 8 Jon STYNES, 10 Daniel STYNES, 11 Ethan BROOKS, 12 Hasani SINCLAIR, 13 Rocco PIZZATA, 20 Samuel MITCHINSON (88 Bobby WILSON 81’), 22 Callum TIMMINS (23 Kian MCGUIGAN 66’) – Subs not used: RGK Aidan HOLLOWAY, 38 Adam BUCKINGHAM - Referee: Joshua Nixon
PETKOV’S LATE STRIKE BEATS ROCKINGHAM
Inglewood United scored late to beat a ten-man Rockingham City 3-2 at Perth Plasterboard Centre Stadium. City skipper Lydon Hodgkiss gave the visitors the lead early, but new signing Robert Petkov levelled before the break. Another new signing Chris Jackson gave the home side the lead on the hour, but City restored parity with Hodgkiss added his second. But it was Petkov who won it for Andreas Oliveira’s side, scoring four minutes from time. Things went from bad to worse for Rockingham when Michael Farmer was sent off moments later. “Were all delighted to start the season off with a win which is something we haven’t done for a couple of years,” Inglewood defender Alex Ishida-Livings said.
“Rockingham made it tough for us so the fact that we managed to grind out the win is a testament to our character, and it was great to see both of our new strikers score their first league goals for the club as well.” It was a perfect start for Gary Christie’s side and they were ahead after only five minutes. Ryan Kennedy sent Hodgkiss down the left, and his cross shot sailed over United custodian Alex Dunn. But the home side levelled on 20 minutes, Thiak Kuel picked out new signing Petkov, whose shot on the turn beat Bradley Stout.
Inglewood, who were beaten in last seasons Top Four Final, continued to press and they hit the front on the hour. Petkov was once again involved, easing past two defenders but his shot was well saved by Stout, but Jackson was quickest to react and the former Armadale striker fired home. But Rockingham were up for the fight and ten minutes from time they restored parity. Jared Mort’s cross was superbly controlled by Hodgkiss and his shot flew past Dunn. The home side weren’t to be held and four minutes from time they won it. Petkov, who joined the club from Floreat Athena this season, received the ball in the middle of the park and strode forward and unleashed an unstoppable shot. City's misery was compounded soon after when Farmer picked up a second yellow card in four minutes from referee Arvin Shanmuganathan and was sent off.
Inglewood United: GK Alex DUNN, 2 Alex ISHIDA-LIVINGS, 3 David CYRUS, 4 Scott BLACKMORE. 5 Thiak KUEL. 9 Christopher JACKSON, 10 Anthony BAFOBUSHA, 13 Jordan ALLEN-RANA (19 Brodie LANGAN 58’) (12 Brendan ITALIANO 80’), 14 Steve SOKOL, 16 Jamie MURPHY, 23 Robert PETKOV - Subs not used: RGK Josiah GODFREY, 11 Adrian MANNO, 15 William NICHOLSON
Rockingham City: GK Bradley Stout, 2 Michael FARMER, 3 Jarred MORT, 4 Jacob AQUINO (14 Declan COLLINS 52’), 5 Dean APELGREN, 6 Dylan RODGERS, 7 Jason POTTIER, 9 Mitchel GRUIN (12 Harvey HANCOCK 73’), 10 Ryan KENNEDY, 11 Jethro YUMANGE (15 Nasser BELLO 55’), 13 Lydon HODGKISS - Subs not used: 21 Nestus BURGER - Red cards: Farmer 87 - Referee: Arvin Shanmuganathan
FLOREAT STUNS CHAMPIONS IN OPENER
Reigning Champions Perth SC have started the 2020 season with a 2-0 defeat against Floreat Athena at Dorrien Gardens. It was a tight first half with new keeper Ryan Montgomery in top form for Perth, but it was Floreat who hit the front on 52 minutes through Noah Shamaki. Perth had a chance to level on 67 minutes, but Jason Saldaris guessed the right way to save Thomas Southgate’s spot kick. The points were wrapped up in second minute of stoppage time, with Sean McManus finishing well. “I thought it was a disciplined performance by us, and we had to build a little momentum back up after last week’s result,” Floreat keeper Jason Saldaris said. “But a clean sheet and 2-0 win away is a great start, and Noah (Shamaki) had a big game and so did the squad defensively.”
It was a tight first half with both sides creating chances, but it was Floreat who carved out the best on 38 minutes. McManus, who joined the club from Bayswater this season, swung over a cross and Phil Arnold thought he had scored from close-range at the back post, but Montgomery produced a great reaction save to deny him and send the teams to the break all-square.
New Floreat coach Ante Kovacevic must have pleased with the first half performance and he would have been delighted when his side took the lead on 52 minutes. The Lively Shamaki drove into the box and raced past Bojan Radinovic and Jackson Morgan, and his shot beat Montgomery and went in off the post. The home side had a perfect opportunity to level on 68 minutes when new signing Yacoub Mustafa darted into the box and was brought down by Floreat’s Andrew Palmer, and referee David Bruce pointed straight to the spot.
Southgate stepped up but Jason Saldaris guess the right way to save. That miss was a dagger in the heart of Perth and Floreat made it worse by adding a second goal in stoppage time. Shamaki was involved again, racing past two defenders and crossing to McManus who finish past Montgomery via a deflection and celebrated with a back flip.
Perth SC: GK Ryan MONTGOMERY, 2 Alex SILLA, 3 Jordan DE LEO, 4 Thomas SOUTHGATE, 6 Luke BODNAR, 8 Paul ZIMARINO, 10 Michael DOMFEH (9 Gustavo CATARCIONE 65’) , 15 Sasa NJEGIC, 18 Jackson MORGAN, 19 Bojan RADINOVIC (21 Andreas THEODOSIADES 56’), 22 Yacoub MUSTAFA - Subs not used: RGK Adrian SINGARA, 7 Alex JOVIC, 17 Jayden GORMAN
Floreat Athena: GK Jason SALDARIS, 5 Nelson TSHONGO, 6 Jesse FULLER, 8 Sean MCMANUS, 9 Noah SHAMAKI (4 Ben STEELE 90+4’), 10 Nicholas AMBROGIO (32 Robert HARDING 84’), 11 Dennis GALAN, 15 Christopher SALDARIS, 17 Dean EVANS, 18 Phillip ARNOLD (19 Liam MURRAY 74’), 20 Andrew PALMER - Subs not used: RGK Jordan BARBAS, 36 Andrew MARANTA - Referee: David Bruce
VAN DIEKEN BRINGS DOWN THE GULLS
Cockburn City have come home from Percy Doyle Reserve with a 3-1 win against Sorrento to start their season in style. They had a perfect start with former Rockingham City midfielder Riley Van Dieken scoring from the penalty spot, but the home side were level on the hour with new signing Ollie Annis on target. It looked like the points would be shared but nine minutes from time second half substitute Ali Gholami found the net, and the points were secure seven minutes later, with Van Dieken adding his second. “Obviously good to start with a win after not picking up any wins in the night series,” Cockburn skipper Euen Grant said.
“I felt we dominated the first half, and could maybe have gone in at half time a couple more up. Then Sorrento went a bit more direct second half and put us under pressure for 20 minutes they got their goal then we weathered the storm. We then got control of the ball again and young Riley finished off the day with a goal of the season contender already.”
It was a good start for the Cockerels and they hit the front on 14 minutes when Riley Woodcock was brought down by Shaun Kilkelly and referee Michal Jasinski pointed to the spot and Van Dieken sent Yousri Gharsallah the wrong way from the resulting penalty. The Gulls went close to the equaliser on the half hour when Cameron Teece was sent clear but Luke Radonich denied the striker.
Sorrento were on the front foot after the break and they levelled on the hour. Daniel Faichney’s ball from the left found Annis, and the former ECU Joondalup defender raced past his marker before finishing with aplomb past Radonich. But Cockburn hit back and nine minutes from time they regained the lead. Second half substitute Gholami was picked out on the edge of the penalty area by David Araya and he found the bottom corner. Scott Miller’s side made sure of the points in the final minute, Woodcock found Van Dieken on the left of the penalty area and he cut inside before firing into the top corner giving Gharsallah no chance.
Sorrento: GK Yousri GHARSALLAH, 4 Shaun KILKELLY, 5 Graham TOUGH, 6 Clark KELTIE, 7 Alexander MORGAN, 9 Cameron TEECE, 10 Oliver ANNIS (25 Sean CANHAM 86’), 17 Reece VITTIGLIA, 18 Jordan BROWN, 21 Daniel FAICHNEY, 24 Afian GIYANTO (14 Amir AJAN 65’) - Subs not used: 22 Tristan COLLI, 20 Brad McDONALD, 60 Matthew GIUDICATTI
Cockburn City: GK Luke RADONICH, 4 Euen GRANT, 8 Cameron EDWARDS (2 Christopher THACKRAY 90’), 10 David ARAYA, 11 Riley VAN DIEKEN, 12 Ryan PRATT (3 Daniel DOLS 78’), 14 Hayden STEVENS, 15 Daniel SANTICH (16 Ali GHOLAMI 78’), 18 Adam ANFUSO, 21 Jesse LAZZARO, 23 Riley WOODCOCK - Subs not used: RGK Ryan BARKER, 5 Julian TELES - Referee: Michal Jasinski
BALCATTA OFF TO A WINNING START UNDER TANESKI
After a week of turmoil at Balcatta Soccer Club, there was some good news for new coach Bobby Taneski in their NPLWA season opener against a ten-man ECU Joondalup. First half substitute Adam Zimarino scoring the only goal in a 1-0 win at Grindleford Reserve on Saturday afternoon. The visitors had defender Ross Millard sent off three minutes into the second half and Zimarino got on the end of Michael Zimarino’s cross four minutes later to seal the three points. “We had to grind out a performance, but after the week we've had we'll take the three points,” Balcatta midfielder Jon Corness said. “We didn't play the greatest game but defensively we did well to keep things compact and tough for ECU and we created some good chances at times.”
With former Balcatta coach Goran Stajic resigning in midweek, Taneski only had three training sessions with the players and they were on the back foot early. Sam Riak’s curling effort crashed off the post on 11 minutes, and moments later Danny Hodgson’s shot on the run was saved by Riccardo Mazzoleni. Balcatta were struggling in the final third, but they almost got a helping hand in the final minute when ECU defender Ewan Fawcett’s clearance flashed just wide of the upright.
But only three minutes into the second half the visitors were reduced to ten men when Millard was caught with a tackle from Alex Castiello and he wasn’t happy and he told the referee so and referee Steven Gregory showed a straight red card to the defender for foul language. It only took four minutes for Balcatta to make the most of their one-man advantage. Adam Tong sent the ball down the right and Joseph Marino flicked the ball on to the overlapping Michael Zimarino. His cross found Adam Zimarino in the six-yard box, who turned his marker and fired past Johnny Perkins, despite the keeper getting a hand to it.
The host went close to a second when Calum O’Connell’s free kick from the left found John Kearney at the back post, but the Balcatta skipper headed wide. It was end-to-end football with chances at both ends, first O’Connell’s shot on the run was saved low by Perkins, before Fawcett sent Hodgson down the right and slipped in Hinshelwood, but Castiello got back with a great last-ditch tackle to deny the teenager. With ECU pushing men forward Balcatta almost doubled their advantage, but Daniel Robinson dragged his shot wide.
Then Perkins produced the save of the day to deny Roberto Del Borrello shot on the run, after he was played in by Adam Zimarino. The visitors weren’t finished and were finishing the game the better and on 92 minutes Andy Higgins played in Bayley Brown-Montgomery, who raced one-on-one with Mazzoleni, but the Balcatta custodian stood tall to deny him with his legs. They had one final chance to earn a point deep into stoppage time, Higgins’ free kick was headed goal wards by keeper Perkins, who had come up for the set-piece, but Mazzoleni saved to seal the win.
“We started off well and had lots of possession, and it’s a new team and lads are still working out how each other play which always take time gel right,” ECU striker Danny Hodgson said. “The red card at the start of the second half was a game changer. These things happen and we adapted well to having one less man. They scored just after the sending off and sat back I don’t think they had another shot after that. They did make it hard for us to break them down. I think if we had 11 men the full game, we would have got the three points. There’s lots of positives from Saturday so all we can do is put it behind us and make things right this Saturday.”.
Balcatta: GK Riccardo MAZZOLENI, 2 Joseph MARINO, 5 John KEARNEY, 6 Alex CASTIELLO, 7 Callum STOCKS (17 Adam ZIMARINO 39’), 10 Daniel ROBINSON (21 Roberto DEL BORRELLO 73’), 11 Michael ZIMARINO (13 Anthony TOPINI 65’), 14 Adam TONG, 15 Calum O’CONNELL, 22 Shubham MOKALA, 23 Jonathan CORNESS - Subs not used: RGK Gianluca DE FELICE
ECU Joondalup: GK Johnny PERKINS, 3 Ross MILLARD, 6 Sam RIAK, 7 Danny HODGSON (18 Bayley BROWN-MONTGOMERY 78’), 8 Tommy AMPHLETT (9 Ben HINSHELWOOD 54’), 10 Andy HIGGINS, 11 Harry EVANS (2 Luke RHODES 54’), 12 Tom HOUGH, 14 Shane CASSIDY, 15 Ewan FAWCETT, 16 Billy QUINNCROFT - Subs not used: 4 Henry DURR, 5 Charlie KENNA - Red Cards: Millard 48’ - Referee: Steve Gregory
GLORY AND SKY BLUES SHARE THE SPOILS
Perth Glory bounced back from last week’s loss in Newcastle, with a hard fought 0-0 draw against Hyundai A-League leaders Sydney FC in week 23 at Jubilee Stadium on Saturday afternoon. In what could be the last game in front of spectators for both sides, Glory had keeper Liam Reddy to thank for securing a point in this one, the veteran making a number of fine saves to deny the Sky Blues. “I think it was a good point away from home considering we’ve had a tough couple of weeks,” Reddy said post-match. “To get a clean sheet against the league leaders was a good result for us. We will take this point and now look forward to two home games now coming up.” Reddy was happy to help his side get a point, and said he was just doing his job. “With the last one I just tried to make myself as big as possible and luckily I got a good foot to it,” he explained. “It was good that I got down low but I just did my job today. The boys are doing well and if I can make two or three saves a game then I am doing my job.”
The home side had the best chance early Anthony Caceres raced into the box his shot was well saved by Reddy and Kosta Barbarouses failed to turn home the rebound. The home side thought they had the lead on 23 minutes, Luke Brattan closed down Neil Kilkenny and won the ball and poked it home, however it’s ruled out correctly for a handball by the VAR. Glory hit back and James Meredith cross found Ivan Franjic, who nodded the ball back across goal but Sydney skipper Alex Wilkinson got in first with the lurking Bruno Fornaroli ready to pounce. Both sides had late chances, Greg Wuthrich produced a perfectly-timed tackle to deny Adam le Fondre, before Joel Chianese picked out Diego Castro, but the Spaniard’s effort from the edge of the box was too high.
Reddy got down well to block Joel King early in the second half, before Fornaroli found the side-netting with a close-range header at the other end. The game was heating up, and Castro’s goalbound shot took a deflection of Brattan and looped over the top before Fornaroli's shot on the turn tipped over by the alert Andrew Redmayne. The Sky Blues still looked dangerous going forward, but Reddy was determined not to be beaten. Paulo Retre's shot flew narrowly wide, before Reddy saved well to deny Ninkovic in a one-on-one situation after the Serbian midfielder had latched on to a long clearance from Redmayne. There was still time for Ninkovic to play Trent Buhagiar in on goal, but the substitute dragged his shot wide and Glory were able to see out the final seconds to claim the point their performance deserved. “We’ve come up against a very good opponent tonight in Perth and I think we had enough chances to win that game in the two one on ones that we had,” Sydney coach Steve Corica said. “I thought the performance was good, we defended well, we were good with the ball as well and created chances and towards the end we should have nicked it.”
Sydney FC: GK Andrew REDMAYNE, 4 Alex WILKINSON, 6 Ryan MCGOWAN, 8 Paulo RETRE, 9 Adam LE FONDRE, 10 Milos NINKOVIC, 11 Kosta BARBAROUSES (12 Trent BUHAGIAR 80'), 16 Joel KING, 17 Anthony CACERES (5 Alex BAUMJOHANN 66'), 23 Rhyan GRANT, 26 Luke BRATTAN - Subs not used: RGK Thomas HEWARD-BELLE, 2 Patrick FLOTTMANN, 3 Ben WARLAND, 21 Harry VAN DER SAAG, 24 Marco TILIO
Perth Glory: GK Liam REDDY, 2 Alex GRANT, 4 Greg WUTHRICH, 5 Ivan FRANJIC, 7 Joel CHIANESE, 8 James MEREDITH (21 Tarek ELRICH 73'), 9 Bruno FORNAROLI (18 Nicholas D’AGOSTINO 88'), 16 Tomislav MRCELA, 17 Diego CASTRO, 27 JUANDE (29 Kristian POPOVIC 76'), 88 Neil KILKENNY - Subs not used: RGK Tando VELAPHI, 3 Jacob TRATT, 20 Jake BRIMMER - Referee: Chris Beath
AMATEUR LEAGUE NIGHT SERIES - WEEK THREE REVIEW
The Semi-finalists for Amateur Night Series have been decided after another exciting round of group games this weekend. In Group A North Perth United secured top spot after a 3-0 win against UWA Nedlands at E&D Litis Stadium on Sunday afternoon. United opened the scoring when Terry Berard broke down the flank, his low shot was saved by the UWA keeper but the ball fell into the stride of Alfa Sheriff who tapped in from close-range. They doubled their lead when Berard’s inch-perfect cross found Steve Foolchund who rose above two defenders and headed powerfully into the roof of the net. United wrapped up the points with a great team third goal. The ball was moved at pace from the backline to striker Sheriff who turned his marker and slide in Dave Musa who finished clinically into the bottom corner. “We never got out of second gear,” United coach Alex Carter said. “I was happy for the boys to get the result however the performance was very flat. It may be a flat spot during pressing or they had the mentality that we had already qualified for the Semis.”
Queens Park missed out on the best runners up spot despite a 2-1 win against Joondalup United at Comer Park on Thursday evening. The Park were quick off the blocks and created a number of chances early, and were rewarded when Ameir Sultani played in Lindon Bridger who beat his marker and crossed in for Leigh Bridger to finish with a smart header that beat the keeper at the far post. But Joondalup levelled when Mark Walsh flicked on a corner from Josh Kennedy-Edwards, and Adam Taylor scored from close range. But the home side won it when Byron Goodwin chipped the keeper for the winner. “Our performance was controlled and we moved the ball well and had good passages but didn't take our chances,” Queens Park Ricardo Fynn said. “Joondalup were solid and their experience at this level showed when the scored after a period of sustained pressure. If we are going to have a successful Premier League season we must learn quickly and finish teams off, but overall, it was a typical Joondalup performance where you must be at your best to walk away with any points.”
In Group B Wembley Downs finished top after a 0-0 draw against South West Phoenix in Bunbury on Saturday evening. Wembley coach Mike Ford said it was a good game, and he was pleased with how some of the youngsters played. “Really hard-fought game which could have gone either way,” he said. “We had five 18-year-olds in the squad and everyone got on the pitch and played their part. Bunbury will be a force this year especially at their ground, so it was great to get the point that’s taken us into the semifinal, and for such a young group they’ve performed well above expectations.”
The Phoenix needed a win to qualify, and Lee Stewart said they had their chances. “It was a very hard-fought competitive game and I felt after a slow start we settled and had some really good periods of play and probably created enough chances to win the game in the second half,” he explained. “But fair play to Wembley as they defended well in the second half as we pushed for the winner and there was a lot of last-ditch blocks and tackles to get the game goalless. Although narrowly missing out on the semifinals next week as a whole we have been happy with this night series campaign. We have been able to give everyone some minutes to a lot of new players as we continue to build for the season. We will now get back into training and prepare for our FFA Cup game against Northern City this weekend.”
In the other game in the group Kwinana United beat Quinn’s 4-3 in a seven-goal thriller. “I thought it was a terrific game to be honest. I’m probably saying that because we won,” Kwinana coach Mark Purvis said. “Quinns are a really good side, and our keeper Kale Hunter had to keep us in it during the later stages of the first half. We managed to hit them with three goals in 15 minutes at the start of the second half, but Quinns came back strong and at times we were defending on the edge, but I’m so proud of the effort and desire of our boys and hopefully we can take that into the season.” It was Kwinana who opened the scoring with David Clark converting a penalty.
Kwinana keeper Kale Hunter was in great form as Quinns looked for the equaliser, he saved well to deny Ryan McCready and Callum Wells, but just before half time McCready did level. Kwinana dominated after the break and goals from Dom Sumner, Clark and Leo Darke put them in control at 4-1. But Quinns weren’t finished and David Long converted from a corner and McCready squared a ball for Ash Woodrow to tap in, but they couldn’t find the equaliser. “Another game where we didn’t take our chance with 27 shots on goals to 12,” Quinns Coach Lee Garnish said. “The Kwinana keeper had a great game with some fantastic saves, but now we look to our final few weeks of preseason and get us ready for the start of the season.”
In Group C, current Night Series holder’s Leeming Strikers staged a remarkable comeback from three goals down to beat Jaguar 4-3 at E&D Litis Stadium on Sunday evening. It was the Jags who started the better and were ahead on five minutes. A long ball found Luqman Abdirahman who took on his marker and cut the ball back to Malek Domköc to tap in from closed range. They doubled their lead three minutes later Akuei Guot played in Domköc who finished across the keeper. Moments late Domköc thought he get his hat-trick when he headed in from a corner only for the referee to blow for a foul on the keeper. But on 14 minutes Jags made it 3-0, a through ball from Ibrahim Hamad released Guot, who finished well.
Leeming’s hold on the title was slipping but on the 20 minutes they pulled one back. Good work by Igor Shtefan beating two players before finding Lucas Pickering at the back post to tap in. Jags continued to create chances and Emanuel Aniyego’s shot was tipped over by Jordan Jones. Moments later Lok Mamal released Guot, who went one-on-one with Jones, but the Leeming keeper stood tall and he shot wide of the target. But on the half hour Leeming added a second, Andy Jennings was fouled in box and James McDaid stepped up to convert from the spot. They leveled when McDaid headed home and Leeming won it and completed the comeback when Lucas Pickering scored with an overhead kick.
“We started very poorly and without the structure we have been working on and Jags exposed this,” Strikers assistant coach Justin VanderHoek said. “Their counter attacking was exceptional and we kept turning the ball over which enabled them to counter quickly. We managed to grab a goal which gave us confidence and to the credit of the boys they adjusted well. A whirlwind 15 minutes saw us score three more and head into half time 4-3 up. At half time we reiterated our structures and the guys followed up with a more disciplined display which enabled us to take out the win, and a lot to work on but happy with the win.”
The final spot in the semifinals went to Maddington White City after they beat Hamersley Rovers 2-0 at Wanneroo Reserve on Saturday evening, to pip Queens Park by three goals. “It was an entertaining game with both sides creating chances but it was scoreless at the break. But it was Maddington who opened the scoring on 65 minutes, with Chris Sparks on target. They wrapped the points with Steven Pino lobbing the Rovers’ keeper. “Gustavo Ospina and I were very pleased with the performance of our team, even though we were missed some important players,” Cesar Orozco said. “We now look forward to playing in the next round of the night series.”
INTO THE LOOKING GLASS: THE NATIONAL PREMIER LEAGUE SEASON-WA PREVIEW
The NPL-WA season kicks off this weekend, and all eyes will be on reigning State champions Perth SC, who are looking to make it three titles in a row, which they last achieved between 2009 and 2011. However they will be strongly challenged by Bayswater City and recent Night Series runners-up Floreat Athena. Newly promoted Gwelup Croatia have surged up the divisions in recent years, and after a very good night series, it would be no surprise if they challenge Perth all the way to the title.
A host of clubs will be waiting in the wings and try to squeeze into the top four, but it's likely the teams that will be in the middle of the pack by Round 22 will be Sorrento, ECU Joondalup, Inglewood United, Cockburn City, Perth Glory and Balcatta.
The battle at the other end of the table should be hard fought, with Rockingham City and Armadale the two likely clubs to be be fighting it out to avoid relegation.
The team which finishes top of the regular season table will once again be champions and represent Western Australia in the national NPL play-off series. This week the footballwa.net team takes a look at the twelve clubs, and are joined by Football Hall of Fame WA committee mMember Brett Klucznik, Eamon Duffy, host of "Let's talk Football", Richard Kreider (Author of "Paddocks to Pitches" - a history of football in WA, and footballwa.net founder Jacob Aufdemkampe, in offering their thoughts on how season 2020 will pan out...
NPL-WA ROUND ONE PREVIEW
The 2020 NPLWA season kicks off this weekend and the Footballwa.net Match of the Round takes us to Hartfield Park where newly-promoted Gwelup Croatia visit Perth Glory. It was announced in midweek that Glory would call Hartfield Park home this season and share the ground with State League side Forrestfield United and this one will be an entertaining game.
Gwelup easily won promotion last season but Head Coach Taki Nicolaidis has completely overhauled that squad as they get ready for the first appearance in WA’s top flight, but Nicolaidis is looking forward to Saturday’s opening game. “Everyone at the club is buzzing and really looking forward to our very first NPL game this week against Glory,” he said. “We’ve done a hell of a lot of work during the off season and it’s important for us that we get off to a good start in the league.”
Gwelup skipper Blair Govan said there is exciting times ahead for the new look squad, and he said a good showing in the Night Series showed they can perform in the NPL. “We’ve had a solid pre-season and we’re at a good fitness level and we’re gelling well as a team which is the main thing with so many new players,” the defender explained. “It’s been a long pre-season, so we’re really looking forward to the start and getting things going.”
Govan said they had a good game against Saturday’s opponents in the pre-season competition and is expecting another one on Saturday. “The young Glory lads are always a tough opposition, and there’s a lot of quality in there which we are well aware off, and the coaches have them very well drilled,” he said. “But we have a lot of quality as well and we will be very hungry to start off with three points. It’s all about winning now not fitness or trying new things, we’re prepared to go there and do whatever we need to do to come away with three points.”
Glory missed out on the top four last season, but like Gwelup have a new look side and Head Coach Richard Garcia said they are adapting to senior football well and has been pleased how they have worked in the off-season. “It’s an exciting challenge for the players and to play against some of the best players in the State week in week out and I’ve been delighted the way they have adapted to it,” he said. “In our clubs NPL history the players struggled with the physicality and were often out-muscled in games, we are trying to improve that and help the boys be prepared so they can match it in that department with every club which is a credit to the players, for taking that in their stride.”
Garcia said Gwelup have a talented side with a number of former Glory players in, and is expecting a tough game, but he is only concerned about his side, and knows if they get the game plan right for 90 minutes, they are capable of good things. “I’m really looking forward to the season with this new group, and it’s a tough opening against a good Gwelup side,” he explained. “I’m sure we will say hi to a few of our old players prior to the game as we always do and see how they are getting on, but once the whistle blows it will be business as usual. The boys have shown the quality they have collectively, it’s just small mistakes that have cost us in games, but they are primed and ready for action - bring it on.”
It will be a Glory NPL debut for the former Bayswater City midfielder Giordano Colli, who is celebrating his 20th birthday today, and he said the players are relishing the challenge. “Yes, my NPL debut for Glory, so I’m really excited for the season to get underway,” he said. “But it’s also NPL senior debuts for many of my teammates, and we just want get into it and give everything we have got and see where we end up. We had a strong night series campaign losing in the semi which wasn’t what we wanted but a great effort by the boys and take the positives into the season.”
Colli said the game in the Night Series was a tight game, despite the 1-3 loss, and with Gwelup adding some quality to their squad Saturday will another good game. “Gwelup will be a tough first game as we’ve already played them in the night series and it was a tight one,” the midfielder said. “We know many of their players and what they are capable of doing as the they came through the Glory. But we’ve been training hard all week and we hope to go out on Saturday night and get the job done and start off the season with three points.”
The Champions kick off their season with a repeat of last week’s Night Series Final, when Perth SC host Floreat Athena at Dorrien Gardens. Perth Head Coach Ramon Falzon said he knows clubs will be trying to knock them off the top, but he said they are ready for it. “I think that we are in the same position we were last year, and even last year we had a target on our back all season long since we won the NPL the previous year,” he said. “That is usually a good motivator for our opponents, and they tend to lift when they play against us, but we do not even think about it. We just focus on what we do, and we need to do better.
“Our success over the past four seasons speaks volumes about the cohesion of our playing and coaching group. We recognise the importance of every individual in the dressing room, be it a player or a coach. We are a well-oiled machine determined to improve ourselves. We were delighted to cap off a good pre-season by winning the Night Series and finishing the competition off undefeated. The boys are ecstatic because this has been our seventh trophy since we have been working together since 2016. However, from our side as coaches, we immediately put the Night Series behind us and reinforced with the playing group to remain humble, retain the excellent attitude and keep working hard on the specific areas that require improvement. I am confident that we will be competitive once again and that is the most important thing. It will be a long journey, full of ups and downs and we will work hard to still be in the fight for the NPL come the business end of the season.”
It will be a completely different Floreat side this time around, with most of the players who missed the game returning, and Falzon is well aware of that and is expecting a fired up Floreat outfit as they look to get revenge for the five-goal loss last week. “Floreat had a good season last year and although it is still early days, they look to be on track to be a highly competitive team once again. Our encounters against Floreat are usually great games to watch because of the football quality and the intensity injected by both teams, and that is our expectation for this Saturday,” he said. “Floreat tend to be dangerous going forward and they are aggressive in their attempts to regain possession. They had a strong start to this season, so we are expecting a tough clash on Saturday, however we are keen to keep building our momentum following the Night Series positive results.”
In other games this week, Kenny Lowe starts life as ECU Joondalup Head Coach with a trip to Grindleford Reserve to take on Balcatta. The home side will also have a new coach in the dugout, with Bobby Taneski replacing Goran Stajic who resigned on Monday. Sorrento host Cockburn City in the ‘Battle of the Birds’ at Percy Doyle Reserve, while Rockingham City hit the road under new coach Gary Christie, with a trip to Perth Plasterboard Centre Stadium to take on Inglewood United.
In the final game Armadale have home ground advantage when they host Bayswater City at Alfred Skeet Reserve. City will be determined to start the new campaign with a win, especially after missing out in the top four finals last season, while Armadale go into their 16th season in the Premier League and Head Coach John O’Reilly said he’s seen some good signs ahead of the season opener. “We have worked hard in preseason, and I was pleased how the new players gelled and we head into Saturday’s game confident we can get a positive result,” he said. “All the talk stops now and its on with the football and we take on a good Bayswater side and we will be looking for three points to open the season.”
GLORY READY FOR SKY BLUES CHALLENGE
All Perth Glory fans remember that day in May last season when Sydney FC won the Hyundai A-League title on penalties at Optus Stadium, and on Saturday Tony Popovic’s side will head over east looking for a little redemption, and also try and close the gap on the Sky Blues. Steve Corica’s side sit ten points ahead of Melbourne City on top, and after their loss to City last week Glory sit in fourth 16 points away from Saturday’s opponents.
Glory will travel to Kogarah for Saturday's Round 23 clash looking to end a run of six successive away defeats at the hands of the Sky Blues who have also won eight of their nine home league games this term. Popovic said they are ready for the challenge and feels that they have the character to do just that. "We get a chance to show our quality against the best and most consistent team this year, away from home," he said. "It's a great challenge and the players are ready for this one. The stats are there for a reason and there's always an opportunity to change that, so Saturday is a chance to change those numbers and we feel that we are more than capable of doing that.
“We expect them [Sydney FC] to play very well, but if we can play very well for 95 minutes, I don't see why we can't get the win. We're looking forward to playing the top side on their home patch and we'll go there with confidence." Popovic said he’s sides fightback in the second half of last weekend's game against Melbourne City was evidence of their never-say-die attitude, but he is aware they need to tighten in certain areas.
“We showed in that second half what we can do in terms of performance, but also in character and mentality and although we didn't get the result, that's something that probably shows how far we've come last year and this year," he said. "The boys never feel like they're out of a game and that's credit to the players, but we need to tighten up on those fine details. Melbourne City punished us and [this week] we're playing a team that can punish you at any moment, but we certainly feel we have enough to punish Sydney FC."
While Sydney's home record is undoubtedly a strong one, Glory have been similarly impressive on the road since Popovic took charge, losing just three of their 23 away games. Sky Blues midfielder Luke Brattan said whenever they play there is a target on their backs, but he said that drives them on. “We want to win every single game we play in, that’s the culture of the club,” he said. “We expect if we’re on our game to beat anyone, so if we can wrap it [the Premiership] up [as soon as possible] that would be great, but that’s not our thoughts at the moments it’s just game by game.
“We know what to expect from them [Perth Glory] attacking they’re good, but defensively they’re also very strong. They play five at the back, they’re going to be tough to break down but we’ll work on that this week and hopefully it’s a great game. Knowing Poppa [Perth Head Coach Tony Popovic] he expects a lot, I know of a few of the boys as well, and I know they’ll be very hungry to bounce back. Everyone that comes against us plays a lot better than they usually do, everyone wants to beat us, it’s going to be a tough game but we’re confident.”
Sydney FC squad: GK Andrew REDMAYNE, RGK Thomas HEWARD-BELLE, 2 Patrick FLOTTMANN, 3 Ben WARLAND, 4 Alex WILKINSON, 5 Alex BAUMJOHANN, 6 Ryan MCGOWAN, 7 Michael ZULLO, 8 Paulo RETRE, 9 Adam LE FONDRE, 10 Milos NINKOVIC, 11 Kosta BARBAROUSES, 12 Trent BUHAGIAR, 16 Joel KING, 17 Anthony CACERES, 18 Luke IVANOVIC, 21 Harry VAN DER SAAG, 23 Rhyan GRANT, 24 Marco TILIO, 26 Luke BRATTAN - *2-4 to be omitted* - Ins: FLOTTMANN (promoted), ZULLO (return from injury), IVANOVIC (return from injury) - Outs: Nil Unavailable: Nil
Perth Glory squad: GK Liam REDDY, RGK Tando VELAPHI, 2 Alex GRANT, 3 Jacob TRATT, 4 Greg WUTHRICH, 5 Ivan FRANJIC, 7 Joel CHIANESE, 8 James MEREDITH, 9 Bruno FORNAROLI, 12 Kim SOO-BEOM, 13 Osama MALIK, 16 Tomislav MRCELA, 17 Diego CASTRO, 18 Nicholas D’AGOSTINO, 20 Jake BRIMMER, 21 Tarek ELRICH, 27 JUANDE, 28 Gabriel POPOVIC, 29 Kristian POPOVIC, 88 Neil KILKENNY - *2-4 to be omitted* - Ins: SOO-BEOM (promoted), MALIK (promoted) - Outs: Nil - Unavailable: 6 Dino DJULBIC (ankle – indefinite), 19 Chris IKONOMIDIS (knee – season) - Referee: Chris Beath
WHY WOODCOCK SWAPPED FOOTBALL FOR FITNESS
Injury cruelled Riley Woodcock’s A-League career but now the former Sydney FC and Perth Glory full-back has found a new passion in health and fitness. The 24-year old former Gosnells City and Forrestfield United junior was once one of Australia’s brightest young talents.
Woodcock came through the Australian Institute of Sport, debuted in the A-League at the age of 18 and represented his country at Under-17, Under-20 and Under-23 levels, captaining the Young Socceroos and playing in the 2011 FIFA Under-17 World Cup.
But a move from Glory to the Sky Blues in 2015 ended in disaster when he fractured his ankle in pre-season and tore all his ligaments. Woodcock’s second season with Sydney was also plagued with injury, and he admits some his love for the sport diminished while he recovered.
“I kind of spent a lot of time with Andrew Clark and the rehab team there, I spent more time in the gym than I did on the pitch,” Woodcock told The World Game. “I kind of gained a bit of a passion for it and then I did my certificates in fitness and started working in a gym casually while I was still at Sydney.”
“Then I started to really enjoy it and my agent at the time said: 'do you want to take a step back and play in the NPL, a club’s offering this amount, it might be good for you to get games under your belt'. So I terminated my contract at Sydney a few months early and from there I went into full-time work in the fitness industry.”
“I was playing in the NPL [as well] and I happened to be earning a bit more money than I was actually in the A-League. So I was a bit more comfortable and just kind of went into the fitness world.”
“I spent a lot of time at Sydney FC off the pitch so coming back from that a lot of things come into it – passion for the game, loss of confidence and form – and for me, I got myself into a bit of a rut football-wise. I wasn’t enjoying it as much as I was a junior.”
“And then with life financial things come into play and just working full-time in Australia and playing semi-pro just worked out financially better for me at that time. A combination of a lot of things, but definitely a little bit of passion lost for me but in saying that I’m still playing, it’s just I didn’t have as much drive as before.”
After spells with Sydney United and then Sydney Olympic, who he helped win the double in 2018, Woodcock moved back to Perth and now manages an F45 gym in the Western Australian capital. He also works as a personal trainer privately and is studying to become a Pilates instructor.
But now, completely injury-free, the defender has not completely given up on football and will turn out for Cockburn City this winter. “The NSW and Victorian NPL’s are pretty competitive,” Woodcock said. “Over in Perth it’s not as intense as those leagues but it’s still a decent standard.”
At just 24 years old, Woodcock admits he hasn’t completely ruled out a possible A-League return one day. “Never say never, but one thing we kind of learn as young players is once you’re out of the system in Australia it’s actually really hard to get back in,” he said.
“If that opportunity was to come my way I’m sure with the flexibility of my job it’s something I’d have a look at for sure now that I’ve sorted my body out. But it’s pretty hard to get back into the system, which a few of us have learnt in the NPL. If the B-League/expansion thing did happen I think it would be good for a few people.”
“We’ve seen a few people from the NPL now stepping into the A-League and doing good things. Max Burgess was in our team a couple of years ago and he’s on fire at the moment. I’m sure there’s plenty of players around Australia that - given the opportunity - could take it with both hands.”
Woodcock’s former Joeys and Young Socceroos teammates include Milos Degenek, Awer Mabil and Christopher Ikonomidis, who have all since gone on to play for the Socceroos and in Europe. The full-back is content in his new career choice but says it’s “crazy” how things can work out in football and in life.
“It’s crazy, there’s guys that were at the AIS with myself that don’t even play football anymore,” he said. “Then there’s a group that are playing in Europe and in the Champions League, and you go: 'f*ck, I wouldn’t have seen that coming, I didn’t even think you were going to scrap a deal in Australia'.”
“But that’s the world of football – right place, right time. Different experiences in life and where it leads you. That’s why we love it.” Woodcock is part of the Cockburn squad that travels to Percy Doyle Reserve on Saturday to play Sorrento in round one of the 2020 NPL season.
MATILDAS SECURE PLACE AT TOKYO OLYMPICS
The Matildas have qualified for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games by defeating Vietnam 2-1 over night at C?m Ph? Stadium. First half goals from captain Sam Kerr and fellow forward Hayley Raso gave Australia a two-goal buffer at the break, and although the hosts pulled a goal back it wasn't enough to prevent Ante Milicic's team from progressing 7-1 on aggregate.
Goalkeeper Lydia Williams conceded post-game that the Matildas overall performance against Vietnam wasn't the greatest. “Obviously it was a pretty scrappy game,” Williams said. “We play for having a perfectionist game but we did the job, we got the three points and we going to Tokyo which is the most important thing.”
“We are all really excited about it. We really believe in our team, in each other and in what we can do and I think just qualifying is hard enough in itself and I think the fact that we have done it with some two really hard tournaments in different places, I think it’s a good step in the direction we want to go.”
SOCCEROOS IN PERTH PUT ON HOLD
This month's World Cup Qualifer between Australia and Kuwait, scheduled for Thursday 26 March at Perth Oval, has been postponed. Football Federation Australia received confirmation from the Asian Football Confederation and FIFA overnight that, due to the COVID-19 situation globally, numerous qualification fixtures are to be rescheduled.
This includes the Socceroos games with Kuwait (home) and Nepal (away) this month, as well as Chinese Taipei (home) and Jordan (home) in June. FFA is working with the Western Australian Government, Tourism WA, and HBF Park regarding the rescheduling of the Kuwait fixture to ensure that the match is played in Perth later this year.
OLDFIELD NAMED OXFORD CITY BOSS
Perth-born David Oldfield has been named manager of English club Oxford City. The 51-year old, who made in excess of 650 appearances as a player for Luton Town, Manchester City, Leicester City and Stoke City amongst others, replaces interim manager Andy Ballard, who will remain on as assistant manager.
Oldfield takes the reins with Oxford sitting mid-table in the National League South, the sixth tier of English football. “I’m very pleased to be joining Oxford City and look forward to working with the players and staff at the club,” said Oldfield, who is eager to make his mark with the Hoops.
“The club is looking to build on the strong foundations that are already in place, with continued progression on the pitch and further growth of the vital community links around the city. I know the passion of Oxford City supporters and very much hope to bring more success to achieve all of our collective ambitions.”
Oldfield started his senior career at Luton in 1986, receiving an England under-21 call-up two years later. He helped Manchester City gain promotion to the First Division in 1988/89 before heading to Leicester where across six seasons he played 221 games before a short loan spell at Millwall.
By 1995/96 Oldfield was back at Luton where he'd play the next three seasons, making 138 appearances. Three years later he signed with Stoke followed by time at Peterborough United, Oxford United and non-League clubs Stafford Rangers and Tamworth, where he played his final game in 2007.
Soon after hanging up his playing boots Oldfield stepped into team management at Brackley Town. He subsequently occupied coaching positions at West Bromwich Albion and Milton Keynes Dons plus assistant manager roles at Peterborough, Burton Albion and Queens Park Rangers.
BALCATTA MOVE QUICK WITH TANESKI APPOINTMENT
National Premier Leagues club Balcatta have installed Bobby Taneski as senior coach for the coming home and away series. Taneski, who was handed the reins of Division Two club Balga only four months ago, steps into the role following yesterday's departure of Goran Stajic.
"We're extremely excited to be bringing a Coach with Bobby's record and football know how into the Club," read a Club statement issued via facebook.com "We have a talented, strong playing group and I think they'll respond well to Bobby's calibre, style and leadership. As a Club we are looking forward to building on the foundations of the past few seasons."
"Bobby's appointment is as a result of former Head Coach Goran Stajic stepping down. The Club would like to take the opportunity to thank Goran for his hard work and dedication towards both the players and Club over the past few years. We wish him and his family all the very best going forward."
"We are also excited to welcome Basil Lenzo as our newly appointed NPLWA 20s Coach and Michael Johnson as our NPLWA 18s Coach. Both men have a wealth of football knowledge and experience and we look forward to having a strong team of Coaches within our Balcatta FC family ... we wish Bobby, Basil and Michael along with their coaching and support staff all the success for the upcoming season."
Taneski is no stranger to Balcatta having coached at the club for five years from 2009. He spent time working with Perth Glory's youth teams in both the NPL and National Youth League before taking up a three-year head coach position with Balga. Taneski was in charge of Perth SC's Under-20 team last year.
MATILDAS’ WILLIAMS TO JOIN EUROPEAN EXODUS
Matildas goalkeeper Lydia Williams is set to leave the W-League at the end of this season after announcing her intention to move to Europe before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The 31-year old recently parted ways with American club Reign FC and said her tenure at Melbourne City will almost certainly end after this W-League campaign.
The opportunity to spend a season at one club in Europe instead of bouncing between the United States and Australia each year is a major motivation for Williams. "My agent is obviously in contact with a few options for me," said Williams, who is looking to join Matildas' teammates Sam Kerr, Caitlin Foord, Lisa De Vanna, Chloe Logarzo and Emily Gielnik in Europe.
"I guess it’s obvious I am not going to be going back to the States so that leaves Europe as the next valid (continent) I guess ... There are some moves for me there. It’s been six years that I have been in the US so quite a long time going back and forward between the W-League and there. I feel like Europe is the next place to go as a player."
Williams exact destination remains to be seen, with the 'keeper remaining tight-lipped on her next move, revealing only that it won't be a return to Sweden where she played seven years ago. "There are a few countries, I can’t give anything away yet but not Scandinavia. That’s the one thing I can say," she said.
Williams arrived in Vietnam over the weekend ahead of the second leg of the Olympics qualifying play-off. Australia are all-but assured of a spot in Tokyo after thrashing Vietnam 5-0 last week, needing only to avoid a loss of six goals or more to the unfancied Vietnamese to progress.
STAJIC QUITS AS COACH OF BALCATTA
Goran Stajic has vacated the head coach position at Balcatta just days out from the start of the new National Premier Leagues season. Stajic, assistant coach of the Pararoos, made the decision to step aside following a "misalignment" between the boards’ direction and his own.
A board decision that lead to the removal of the clubs’ football operations team is understood to have left Stajic feeling his position was untenable. Off-season changes within the coaching team are also believed to have factored in him relinquishing the reins.
"I feel (this) is the right thing to do for the players," Stajic said via a statement issued by FNX Sports. "With the eve of the season upon us I don't want to see tumultuous times during the season as these boys deserve the best chance to perform in this league now."
"With the misalignment between the boards direction and mine, I feel I cannot provide what the club is looking for and it's time for a new visionary leader. The group of players I have assembled over these challenging years make me believe there's nothing but amazing Red and Blue skies ahead for this club."
Stajic initially joined Balcatta as an assistant to Salv Todaro for the 2017 season, and twelve months later accepted the head coach position. With a strong youth policy he guided Balcatta to their just second NPL Finals appearance last year, after completing the home-and-away series in fourth place.
WILLIAMS: AUTOMATIC PROMOTION IS IN THE BALANCE
Ryan Williams has warned one more defeat will end Portsmouth’s automatic promotion ambition. The Australian international is convinced Pompey will be forced to focus solely on the play-offs should they endure another loss in their final ten League One outings.
Saturday’s 2-0 defeat at Peterborough United has left Kenny Jackett’s men in sixth spot, encouragingly only three points off second place and with a game in hand. However, five teams are level on 59 points, among them Portsmouth and Peterborough in a congested promotion battle.
Seventh-placed Fleetwood Town visit Fratton Park on Tuesday night, while there are trips to other promotion rivals Ipswich Town, Oxford United and Rotherham United. And Williams concedes another loss would finish any aspirations of reaching the Championship automatically.
"We have 10 games left, we can't really afford to lose any more," Williams commented. "It's as simple as that if we want to try to get into the top two, which I am sure everybody wants to do and I think we are more than capable of achieving."
"We have to keep going, we can't dwell on stuff like defeat at Peterborough, you have to bounce back. Personally, I feel we can't really lose any more games. We just can't rely on other teams, you don't want to focus on anyone but yourself. We have five home games remaining, so we'll be looking to win as many as possible."
"We are in a good position, we lost on Saturday but it's not all doom and gloom, win our game in hand on Tuesday and we're third. We just have to keep working, keep smiling, there's no point in being upset about the Peterborough loss, they were a bit better than us on the day and that's how it is sometimes."
Williams' team now have three consecutive matches at Fratton Park, where they are unbeaten in the league this season. Following Tuesday evening's visit of Fleetwood, on the horizon are Accrington Stanley (14 March) and Doncaster Rovers (17 March).
It's an opportunity to strengthen their placing in the race to reach the Championship. And Williams is relishing the challenge ahead on home soil that has proven so important this season. "We have three successive home games now, which I'm looking forward to," he said.
"Let's just try to keep our heads up and look at the positives rather than negatives at this point of the season. Keep morale high and go and win these three games at home. We are sixth with a game in hand on all but Coventry, so win our next match and its third - so let's just keep the pressure on the front two."
GLORY STILL A 'VERY GOOD TEAM': POPOVIC
Perth Glory have won just one of their past six A-League games, but coach Tony Popovic still believes his team can fight for second spot. Glory's dramatic 3-2 loss to Melbourne City yesterday saw them drop to fourth spot on the A-League ladder.
It means Glory are now six points adrift of second-placed City, and three behind third-placed Wellington Phoenix. Glory were one of the hottest teams in the competition after stringing together six straight wins in December and January, but have since won just once in six.
Popovic was eager to remind the doubters of his team's credentials following yesterday's loss. "I think not much is expected (of us) in general," Popovic said. "The crowd at half-time didn't really expect the players to come back in the second half, so that's a bit disappointing."
"But they need to remember this is a very good team that's been on a very good run. We're in there fighting for second ... and last year we won something. There's a good group of players in our dressing room."
ANKLE INJURY SIDELINES LYDEN FOR THE SEASON
Joran Lyden will miss the rest of the season with an ankle injury, but Swindon Town boss Richie Wellens expects the midfielder to pen a new contract with the League Two club. The 24-year-old was absent from the matchday squad in Swindon’s 2-0 mid-week defeat of Scunthorpe United.
And after the match, Wellens revealed an injury in training has ended Lyden’s campaign. “Jordan will be out for the season, he’s done his ankle on the astroturf outside,” Wellens said. “We’re obviously not happy about that, but he’ll have an operation, I think it’s Wednesday or Thursday. That will be his season done.”
Following his release from Premier League Aston Villa last season, Lyden penned a one-year deal at the County Ground following a summer trial. The former ECU JoondaLup junior has made 24 appearances and, regardless of his injury, Wellens has already made clear he wants Lyden to remain.
“As soon as he picked up the injury his agent was panicking; ‘is the deal still on?’,” said Wellens. “But I’m a man of my word and there’s no way I would go against that. So Jordan Lyden will sign a new contract, it’s just a case now of agreeing it and sorting it out.”
GRANT’S REMARKABLE COMEBACK TO BE ONE OF THE A-LEAGUE’S BEST
Defender Alex Grant has been an imposing figure in Perth Glory's hunt for more silverware this season. He has been outstanding in a backline that has allowed just 19 goals, the second best in the competition behind leaders Sydney FC who have conceded 14 times.
And Grant has missed just one of the side's 18 games - a suspension after two rather harsh yellow cards against Newcastle Jets last November. But it didn't look quite so rosy when he started the pre-season under a dark black cloud.
Grant struggled with a groin injury last season that kept him out for half of Glory’s Premier’s Plate winning campaign. After battling back he was struck down with glandular fever, an illness that left him unable to train and resulted in a loss of 5kg.
Things have changed for the amiable Grant who has been touted for a Socceroos call-up. But a return to the international scene, after playing for Australia at Under-17 level, is the last thing on Grant's mind as he prepares for today's crucial clash with Melbourne City.
A win would see Glory regain second place, a loss would leave them six points behind the Melbourne club. They follow that up six days later against league leaders Sydney FC. "We are going to have to pull them back," Grant said. "We want to solidify that second spot."
Grant said he was confident he could battle back from last year's disasters. "I was unlucky with injury but I knew if I got my body right I had the confidence in my own ability," Grant said. "I'm just taking each game as it comes, looking after myself, putting the performances in."
"One day hopefully I'll be able to play for Australia, it's a massive dream of mine. It's nice that he (Socceroos coach Graham Arnold) mentioned my name but you've just got to take it with a pinch of salt." Glory take on Melbourne at Perth Oval on Sunday from 3.00pm.
TEEN MATILDA TO WANDERLAND STAR: MASTRANTONIO'S STORY
Western Sydney Wanderers star Ella Mastrantonio has enjoyed a whirlwind adventure in the world game. From earning a Matildas cap and being part of Perth Glory’s inaugural W-League squad at the age of 16, to moving across the country and playing in Melbourne Victory’s 2013/14 W-League championship winning campaign, the now 28-year-old can boast a football CV that would be the envy of many.
Mastrantonio has played 103 W-League games over the past 12 years. Her Matildas career has somewhat stalled since playing all six of her internationals for Australia back in 2008, however, she continues to be a valuable contributor to Australian women’s football. Not bad for a young lady who learned the game by “curling balls around pot plants” and “juggling a lot.”
It all started back in 1996 at Phoenix Park juniors. “Of course I had to copy my brother back in the day, so I started training with his team when I was about five,” explained Mastrantonio. “My dad was also a huge influence on me. My mum is also one of the strongest people I know, she will do anything for her family, which is an amazing trait to have.”
Mastrantonio’s proud family were there in Bunbury last weekend to watch the midfielder lead her team to their maiden finals appearance with a best-on-ground performance in a 3-2 win over Glory. The result ensured the Wanders snuck into fourth on the W-League ladder, narrowly ahead of Brisbane Roar.
Mastrantonio has been a key link up player between defence and attack for the Wanderers this season. To date, she has completed 690 passes at an accuracy of 80% with 18 goal scoring chances and two assists to boot. Add to this 18 interceptions, 11 clearances and a healthy appetite for tackling, Mastrantonio is the complete footballer.
Wanderer’s coach Dean Heffernan described Mastrantonio as having one of the best techniques in the world, while Matildas legend Joey Peters has led a chorus of calls for her to be drafted back into the national team. She is flattered by all the compliments but admits donning the green and gold is something she holds dear.
“A dream come true,” she beamed. “Representing your country is the highest possible milestone you can achieve as a footballer and something I strived for since I was very young. Of course, playing for your country is the best feeling an athlete can have, so I would love to have that feeling again.”
But for now, Mastrantonio is focussed on the W-League finals, with the Wanders set to take on unbeaten Melbourne City next Sunday in their first ever final’s game. “We have the belief that we can beat anyone. We believe in ourselves, each other and in the way we play. We play with no fear and believe anything can happen,” she said.
“The whole set up this season at Western Sydney has been exceptional ... From top to bottom - the facilities, the coaching staff, the professionalism and then all the on-field stuff fell together. We have an incredibly tight group of amazing people which makes a huge difference and is why we’ve been successful on the pitch.”
CITY SUNK AFTER LACKLUSTRE FIRST HALF
Perth Glory dropped to fourth on the Hyundai A-League ladder after 2-3 loss against Melbourne City at HBF Park on Sunday afternoon. City were cruising at the break leading 3-0 with goals from former Glory midfielder Rostyn Griffiths, Florin Berenguer and Market Susaeta. But they had to withstand a fierce second-half fightback from Tony Popovic’s side with Joel Chianese and Bruno Fornaroli on target, but despite laying siege on the City goal they were unable to find the equaliser.
"They [Melbourne City] had a very good lead at half-time, and then the reaction was fantastic and we could have won two or three football games in the second half," Popovic said post-match. “But in the end, we just couldn't manage to get another goal or another couple of goals. Moments change games and they [Melbourne City] took advantage of their moments. I'm just disappointed that our players didn't get any reward for the great mentality they showed in the second half. I can only credit the players for their effort, but conceding some soft goals makes it difficult and that's something we have to learn from moving forward."
It was City who had the first opportunity with former Glory striker Jamie Maclaren firing across the face of Liam Reddy's goal after only 12 minutes. Glory hit back and James Meredith crossed for Alex Grant whose downward header was cleared off the line by the alert Craig Noone. City soon made the most of that let-off as Susaeta's corner found Griffiths lurking at the far post, and he steered the ball home at the second attempt. Moments later Fornaroli was denied by Tom Glover in the City goal, but the visitors showed them how to do it on the half hour.
Scott Jamieson surged down the left before squaring for Berenguer who cut inside just outside the box and curled home a stunning strike past Reddy. Jamieson was also involved in his side's third goal which arrived in four minutes later. The defender's shot turned into a perfect low cross for Susaeta who ghosted in at the far post and applied the simplest of close-range finishes.
Glory needed a quick response at the start of the second half and they got exactly that as a cross from half-time substitute Ivan Franjic was nodded goalward by Fornaroli and parried by Glover to the feet of Chianese who forced the ball home to make it 3-1. Fornaroli then blazed over having been teed up by Chianese, but the same duo combined again moments later and this time the Uruguayan made amends by sweeping the ball past Glover. With the Shed in full voice, Glory poured forward and came agonisingly close to finding the equaliser.
Franjic's cross sat up nicely for the onrushing Castro whose curling volley struck the post. Reddy was then forced to produce a fine double save to prevent firstly Maclaren and then Luna from punishing a defensive mistake, but that was a rare attacking moment for City as the WA side dominated the final stages of the game. In the last minute of normal, substitute Kristian Popovic teed up Fornaroli, but his volley was spectacularly tipped onto the bar and over by the impressive Glover and Glory's hopes of salvaging a point went with it.
Perth Glory: GK Liam REDDY, 2 Alex GRANT, 4 Greg WUTHRICH, 7 Joel CHIANESE (18 Nicholas D’AGOSTINO 78'), 8 James MEREDITH, 9 Bruno FORNAROLI, 16 Tomislav MRCELA, 17 Diego CASTRO, 20 Jake BRIMMER (29 Kristian POPOVIC 46'), 21 Tarek ELRICH (5 Ivan FRANJIC46'), 88 Neil KILKENNY - Subs not used: RGK Tando VELAPHI, 3 Jacob TRATT, 27 JUANDE, 28 Gabriel POPOVIC
Melbourne City: GK Tom GLOVER, 3 Scott JAMIESON, 6 Josh BRILLANTE, 7 Rostyn GRIFFITHS (2 Scott GALLOWAY 73'), 9 Jamie MACLAREN, 10 Florin BERENGUER, 11 Craig NOONE, 13 Nathaniel ATKINSON (4 Harrison DELBRIDGE 60'), 14 Markel SUSAETA (19 Lachlan WALES 59'), 20 Adrian LUNA, 22 Curtis GOOD - Subs not used: RGK Dean BOUZANIS, 17 Denis GENREAU, 30 Moudi NAJJAR, 34 Connor METCALFE - Attendance: 8107 - Referee: Kurt Ams
KNIGHTS CROWNED NIGHT SERIES WINNERS
Western Knights have won the first piece of silverware in the State League after goals from Matt Henry and Alex Kretowicz gave them a 2-0 win against Olympic Kingsway in Sunday’s Night Series final at Kingsway Reserve. “I thought our first half was very good, where we controlled possession and defensively solid. We were rewarded with an early goal and from there our intensity only increased,” Knights coach Ivan Zuvela said. “We know Kingsway are a very good side and they came out the second half and looked dangerous. But we absorbed the pressure and we looked for that second goal which we ultimately did.
“The win was a nice reward for the whole playing squad for their efforts during pre-season. We set ourselves high internal standards and the players attitude and character has been outstanding. We are a proud club and one of the most pleasing things was to see some of our supporters join the players in celebrating the win with the trophy presentation.”
It was a perfect start for Zuvela’s side and they were ahead in the open minutes. Kretowicz cut inside his marker and slid the ball across the penalty area and Henry was on to score from close-range. Henry’s game wouldn’t last much longer with the goalscorer replaced by former Floreat Athena striker Lewis McMahon following a heavy challenge from Chris Balazs.
Western Knights continued to dictate terms and Kretowicz, Callum Roberts and McMahon were a constant threat, while skipper Jack Rycroft was everywhere. In contrast, the hosts failed to manage a single shot in the first half, and striker Ajak Riak cut an isolated figure for the majority of the match. But he did go close after Knights defender Jake Sardelic and keeper Sam Stone handed him two opportunities. First Adam Harris got back with a last-ditch tackle, while Stone recovered to save smartly and spare his own blushes.
Olympic lifted after half time, but it was the Knights who were creating the better chances. Kretowicz came within the width of the post of doubling the Knights’ lead, before Andrew Cartwright fired wide moments later. There pressure was rewarded with a second on 75 minutes, the former UWA Nedlands striker Kretowicz latched on to a long ball over the top of the Kingsway defence, before lifting the ball past the onrushing Duncan Lennon-Black with his first touch before firing into the empty net and securing the title. In the third/fourth play-off Forrestfield United beat Fremantle City 3-1 to claim third place.
Olympic Kingsway: GK Duncan LENNON-BLACK, 4 Joel PROUT (10 Nathan THORP 75'), 5 Luke PALMATEER, 6 Antoine LEVY (2 Jack JONES 50'), 7 Brody KENNEDY, 8 Gyles DAVIES, 9 Ajak RIAK, 13 Hamza HINA (19 Paul McCORMACK 50'), 16 Chris BALAZS, 17 Kyle MURRAY, 18 Cameron MURRAY - Subs not used: RGK Dave KEENAN, 14 Daragh KAVANAGH
Western Knights: GK Sam STONE, 2 Andrew CARTWRIGHT, 3 Ryan COX, 4 Jake SARDELIC, 5 Adam HARRIS, 7 Callum ROBERTS (19 David MURPHY 85'), 8 Matt HENRY (15 Joshua KAMASZ 17', 21 Lewis MCMAHON 77'), 9 Alex KRETOWICZ, 11 Jack RYCROFT, 18 Conor DEVLIN, 20 Ciaran BYRNE - Subs not used: RGK Jordan HOWELL, 17 Rikki SMITH - Referee: Walter Ciotti
PERTH SC TO STRONG FOR UNDERMANNED ATHENA
Perth Soccer Club have won their 20th Night Series title after a comfortable 5-0 win against an undermanned Floreat Athena in the NPLWA Night Series Final at Perth Plasterboard Centre Stadium on Saturday evening. Floreat went into the game without seven regular starters, who were attending the wedding of skipper Dean Evans, and the game was over by half time. Yacoub Mustafa bagging a brace, with others to Jordan De Leo, Thomas Southgate, while Alex Silla added a fifth after half time to seal a big win for Ramon Falzon’s side.
Floreat went into the game in search of a third consecutive Night Series title, and they thought they had the perfect start after only 13 minutes. A long ball was flicked on by Sean McManus and Noah Shamaki raced on to the ball and finished well past Ryan Montgomery, but his celebrations were cut short with the flag up for offside. Then two minutes later it was Perth who opened the scoring. Floreat lost possession in the middle of the park and Silla played in Mustafa who finished clinically and celebrated with a Sam Kerr-like backflip. Floreat looked to hit back and Liam Murray’s long-range shot was saved low by Montgomery, before Sean McManus’ curling effort drifted just wide.
Perth looked dangerous going forward and Luke Bodnar and Domfeh fired wide, and it wasn’t a surprise when they doubled their lead on 35 minutes. Domfeh saw his initial shot well saved by Josh Hunter, but in the goalmouth scramble skipper Jordan De Leo fired into the roof of the net. It was 3-0 when Deng Mawien brought down Mustafa, and referee Steve Gregory pointed to the spot. Southgate stepped up and sent Hunter the wrong way from the resulting penalty. Then on the stoke of half time Perth added a fourth. The lively Mustafa was sent clear and he held off his marker and finished well to send them into the break well on top.
Floreat were first to threaten after half time, Murray’s shot beating Montgomery, but the woodwork came to the Perth custodian’s rescue. But just before the hour mark it was Perth who added a fifth. Paul Zimarino’s free kick stung the palms of Floreat keeper Hunter, the rebound falling to Silla who finished from close-range. Mustafa went close to a hat-trick moments later, after he was sent clear by a neat through ball from Zimarino, but his shot crashed off the post. Both sides had late chances, Shamaki’s shot was well saved low down by Montgomery, while Leigh Morgan saw his shot on the run well saved by Hunter. But at the final whistle it was Perth celebrating their first Night Series tile in ten years, and sending out an ominous warning to the other teams ahead of next weeks opening NPLWA season.
Perth Soccer Club: GK Ryan MONTGOMERY, 2 Alex SILLA, 3 Jordan DE LEO (C), 4 Thomas SOUTHGATE, 6 Luca BODNAR (16 Kieran COLWELL 52’), 8 Paul ZIMARINO (13 Leigh MORGAN 76’), 10 Michael DOMFEH, 15 Sasa NJEGIC, 18 Jackson MORGAN, 19 Bojan RADINOVIC, 22 Yacoub MUSTAFA (20 Jayden GORMAN 63’) - Subs not used: RGK Adrian SINAGRA, 5 Niccolò SABATINI
Floreat Athena: GK Josh HUNTER, 2 Andrew PALMER, 3 Deng MAWIEN (13 George FESTA 46’), 5 Nelson TSONGO, 6 Jesse FULLER (C), 8 Sean MCMANUS, 9 Noah SHAMAKI, 10 Liam MURRAY (18 Josh ANASMO 77’), 11 Ben STEELE, 20 Andrew MARANTA (14 Adam FALCONE 64’), 32 Robbie HARDING - Subs not used: RGK George JACKSON, 15 Ben RUTTER - Referee: Steve Gregory
CRAINE LIFTS FREMANTLE CITY TO NPLW WA NIGHT SERIES TITLE
Fremantle City have won the inaugural NPLWWA Night Series title after a 3-0 win against the Football West Hyundai NTC in Saturday evening Final at Perth Plasterboard Centre Stadium. First half goals from Isabelle Bridger and Gemma Craine, set the port side on their way and Jayme-Lee Smith added a third to seal a comprehensive win and take home the first piece of silverware for the season.
With Perth Glory Women’s Coach Bobby Despotovski in the crowd, it was a bright start from the NTC, and they had the first opportunity after only seven minutes, but Georgia Cassidy couldn’t keep her effort down. From then on Fremantle started to take control of the game, and Coral Buxey fired wide of the target, before Craine’s shot on the run whistled wide. But on the half hour Fremantle hit the front. Craine’s corner picked out Bridger at the back post and she headed past Shivani Battaglia.
They went close to a second four minutes later, but Battaglia saved well to deny Mikayla Lyons, before NTC defender Cameron Barreiro got back with a last-ditch tackle to thwart Ashleigh Santich. Then in final minute of the half Fremantle doubled their advantage. Craine won possession in the middle of the park and surged forward past two NTC defenders before firing past Battaglia.
Fremantle continued to dictate terms after the break and Evie Marchetti’s shot was saved by a busy Battaglia. The NTC weren’t going down without a fight and Cassidy shot was cleared off the line by the alert Laura Waltman, before the lively midfielder was in again moments later, but shot straight at Fremantle keeper Dayle Schroeder. But the game was wrapped up four minutes from time when the NTC turned the ball over in their own half and Smith was sent clear and she finished clinically to seal the win. Craine was outstanding on the night and deservedly won the ‘Tracey Wheeler Medal’ as best on field.
Fremantle City: GK Dayle SCHROEDER, 2 Courtney BUTLION (27 Annique KEISLER 66’), 5 Isabelle BRIDGER, 8 Mikayla LYONS, 9 Evie MARCHETTI, 10 Steffi NADILO, 19 Annabella LEEK (6 Georgie IRELAND 85’), 22 Laura WALTMAN, 23 Coral BUXEY, 31 Gemma CRAINE, 42 Ashleigh SANTICH (20 Jayme-Lee SMITH 58’) - Subs not used: 32 Matilda BOYLE, 72 Kaylin GEELHOED
Football West Hyundai NTC: GK Shivani BATTAGLIA, 2 Dylan DAVIDSON (17 Elizabeth DOUST 79’), 3 Ruby WALSH, 5 Cameron BARREIRO, 8 Georgia CASSIDY, 9 Kate ARMSTRONG (24 Sophia PAPALIA 71’), 12 Judy CONNOLY, 13 Grace MONTEIRO, 15 Monique PRINSLOO, 16 Daisy MCALLISTER, 18 Ella LINCOLN (10 Kate RITCHIE 61’) - Subs not used: RGK Lilly BAILEY, 25 Carys DAVIS, 26 Jana GARCIA - Referee: Jessica Bryd
AMATEUR LEAGUE NIGHT SERIES - WEEK TWO REVIEW
It was week two of the Amateur Premier Division Night Series and all three groups are tight. In Group A on Friday evening Queens Park earned their first win of the competition after a hard fought 3-2 win against UWA Nedlands at Wanneroo Reserve. Queens Park found themselves 2 -0 down early, but got back into the game with Ravi Kuppersamy scoring after a neat exchange of passes with Leigh Bridger on the right. They levelled with a screamer from Gershom Rowland from long-range. The comeback was complete when Samual Samuel closed down the keeper, which led to simple tap in for him.
“The game was a game of two halves with UWA getting off the blocks very quickly and utilising some very good combination play exposing our full backs,” Queens Park Coach Ricardo Flynn said. “In the second half we stuck to the plan, won our individuals battles and started creating opportunities and asking some questions of UWA defence. We showed our resilience and desire to play football but we need to concentrate our young team and start playing from the first whistle. UWA were good value for at least a point tonight. It was rough on Arthur and the boys to have played so well and walk away with nothing, but overall lots of positives from a young Queens Park outfit.”
In the other game in the group North Perth United made it two wins after a comprehensive 5-0 win against Joondalup United at the Ellenbrook Sport Hub on Sunday evening. First goal came after great interplay led to Terry Berard bursting into the box and driving the ball hard and low across the keeper. It was 2-0 when Dave Musa broke down the right wing, crossed into Alfa Sherif at the front post who shinned it home. They added a third when Ago Mujic pressed their defender, pinched the ball, made a 40-yard run into the box, shaped to square it, sold the dummy then slide past the goalkeeper. Mujic added the fourth, after receiving a pass from a short corner on the edge of the box, he shifted onto his left foot and bent it into the far post. It was 5-0 after Steve Foolchund eased past two defenders and curled a great strike into the far corner from 25-yards. North Perth coach Alex Carter was happy with the performance. “I was great intent shown by all 11 players from the very first whistle.”
In Group B Wembley Downs were made to work hard for a 1-0 win against Kwinana United at Wanneroo Reserve on Friday evening. The only goal of the game came when the ball was played down the right from Glenn Brooks to Matt Devereux, who sent Cameron Davies down the left, and he sent a high looping cross-shot that evaded the Kwinana keeper. “I thought it was pretty even game and Kwinana were unlucky not to get something from the game,” Wembley Coach Mike Ford said. “But again, our defence with keeper Jeff Cornez and the back four led by Juraj Galba was exceptional. Again, a good all-round team performance - there’s been a real change in players at Wembley this year and we’re still gelling together. Kwinana have a good team who play well together and will be tough opponents during the coming season.”
In the other game in the group Quinn’s won for the first time in the competition with a strong 4-1 victory against a ten-man South West Phoenix at Edinburgh Oval on Saturday afternoon. Quinns controlled the game well with Ryan McCready bagging a brace and the game was made harder for Phoenix when they went down to 10 men after 35 minutes. David Long made it 3-0, converting from a corner, before Phoenix pulled one back. But Quinns substitute Ash Woodrow added the fourth to seal the win. “We have plenty of opportunities to put the game to bed but for some wasteful shooting,” Quinns coach Dave Ashworth said. “But overall, it was a good performance from our boys and now we look forward to Kwinana next week.”
Finally, in Group C current holders Leeming Strikers beat Maddington White City 2-0 at Edinburgh Oval on Saturday evening. Tom Grasser opened the scoring midway through the first half, firing home from 10 meters, before James McDaid long-range strike after half time sealed the win. “I thought we played well and stuck to our game plan, defended well as a team and probably should have put more chances away up top,” Strikers skipper Ben Greaves said. “But that area will improve further into the night series, but we’re happy with result and looking for three points next week to progress into the semifinals.”
In the other game in the group Jaguar FC bounced back from last week’s loss against Maddington to beat Hamersley Rovers 4-3. It was Rovers who opened the scoring on 20 minutes, Liam Hudson turned his marker and raced one-on-one with the Jags keeper before firing home. Their lead only lasted a minute when Jags skipper Juma Wade spotted the Hamersley keeper off his line and lobbed him from almost half way line. Jags took the lead three minutes later when striker Kuol Raik did well to turn his defender and found the bottom corner from just outside box. Jags went close to a third just before the break Luqman Abdirahman broke through on the wing and cut inside the box before cutting the ball back to Riak who shot over the bar from six yards out.
After the break both teams had their chances, Riak heading over the bar from Abdirahman cross, but with 25 minutes to go Hamersley found their equaliser with Declan Hudson on target. But within minutes Jags retook the lead again, this time from Gojan Nyoun corner fell to Kuol Riak and he fired home his second of the game. But five minutes from Hamersley again restored parity, with Gabriel Viera scoring. Jags looked for the winner and Ibrahim Hamad had his shot well saved by the Rovers ‘keeper, but Riak was quickest to react to score rom the rebound to complete his hat-trick and seal the three points.
KERR LEADS MATILIDAS TO BIG WIN AGAINST VIETNAM
Australia will take a five-goal advantage to Qu?ng Ninh Province for next Wednesday's second leg after defeating Vietnam 5-0 in Newcastle on Friday evening. First-half goals from skipper Sam Kerr, Chloe Logarzo and Emily van Egmond helped the Westfield Matildas establish a commanding three-goal lead before Clare Polkinghorne scored a fourth and Kerr a fifth from the penalty spot to secure a confident home leg victory.
In what was the team's first match in Newcastle since November 13, 2018, Ante Milicic's side proved too strong for the nation ranked 32 in the world and are now 90 minutes away from booking a ticket to the 2020 Tokyo Olympic games. The away leg takes place next Wednesday, 11 March 2020, and should Australia qualify, they will join host nation Japan and the winner of the other AFC play-off between Korea Republic and China PR at the world footballing showcase in July and August.
"We planned for it," Kerr said of Vietnam's strategy. "We knew it was coming and it was a little bit slow because they had five or six at the back but we planned for that and just had to keep our patience, and we knew the goals would come and they did. We weren't as sharp as we would like to have been at some points... but five-nil a good performance by a lot of the girls. I thought Polky [Clare Polkinghorne] had an outstanding game and it's always nice to get a clean sheet."
Head Coach Milicic made two changes from the eleven which started Australia's 1-1 draw against China PR on February 13, the team's final 2020 AFC Women's Olympic Qualifying Tournament Third Round fixture. Tameka Yallop made two substitute appearances in the tournament but was stationed in a defensive midfield role next to Emily van Egmond, while Kyah Simon, who finished the Third-Round tournament with two goals and two assists, took up a role behind a three-pronged strike force of Caitlin Foord, Sam Kerr and Chloe Logarzo. Elise Kellond-Knight and Hayley Raso were the two who dropped to the bench.
A packed five-player Vietnam defence - with an old-fashioned sweeper patrolling behind it - made a fortress of red for Australia to break down in Newcastle but nerves were settled inside the opening 10 minutes. Having seen her initial cross blocked by the Vietnam defender, Ellie Carpenter whipped in a superb cross for Kerr to plant a bullet header past Vietnam goalkeeper Tran Thi Kim Thanh. That was Kerr’s 40th goal in Green and Gold, and one which saw her close in on Kate Gill (41) and Lisa De Vanna (47).
The Westfield Matildas continued to ask all the questions after breaking the deadlock and after van Egmond flashed a header wide of Kim Thanh's goal, Logarzo doubled the advantage. Foord's cross was flicked on by van Egmond, and the Bristol City player was first to react and apply a smooth finish on the half-volley for a two-goal buffer. Vietnam issued a reminder of their set-piece threat when Nguyen Thi Bich Thuy's free-kick whistled past Lydia Williams after Carpenter's foul on Ngan Thi Van Su, and the Westfield Matildas were denied in a goalmouth scramble when Kim Thanh and defender Luong Thi Thu Thuong kept out Foord and Simon from close range.
However, the visitors could not keep Australia at bay for long, and it was hometown girl van Egmond who headed in the Westfield Matildas' third. Catley's cross was met by the Novocastrian at the near post and via a deflection off Tran Thi Phuong Thao, the Westfield Matildas had three. Foord could have added a fourth after latching on to Kennedy's clever, incisive pass from deep but for some brave goalkeeping from Kim Thanh, as Australia entered the half time break with a handsome three goal advantage.
Kim Thanh denied van Egmond with a super close-range stop five minutes into the second half. Foord cut inside from the byline and found the Melbourne City star's late run into the box but her volley was parried, and the follow up hit the outside of the post. Vietnam steadied the flow of Australian pressure and Hayley Raso was introduced on the hour mark to inject a fresh dimension of pace to the Westfield Matildas attack.
But it was in fact veteran centre half Polkinghorne who gave Australia their fourth. The two-time Olympian was on hand to score her 10th goal for the Westfield Matildas after a cleverly worked corner routine involving Catley and van Egmond saw the former's cutback tucked away from close-range. Elise Kellond-Knight came in for Yallop as Nguyen Thi Van gave the Westfield Matildas backline a scare on 70 minutes, but Australia inflicted another blow when Raso drew a foul from Tran Thi Phuong Thao soon after. Kerr stepped up the spot and smashed the penalty in off the post and was swiftly replaced by Bayern Munich forward Emily Gielnik, who came close to adding a sixth seconds after coming on but could not bury Logarzo's headed pass. Foord also hit the post after rounding Kim Thanh in a spell of late Australian pressure. All eyes are now on Wednesday's second leg.
Matildas: GK Lydia Williams, 2 Ellie Carpenter, 4 Clare Polkinghorne, 6 Chloe Logarzo, 7 Stephanie Catley, 9 Caitlin Foord, 10 Emily van Egmond, 13 Tameka Yallop (8 Elise Kellond-Knight 70?'), ?14 Alanna Kennedy, 17 Kyah Simon (16 Hayley Raso 59?'), ?20 Sam Kerr (15 Emily Gielnik 82?') – Subs not used: RGK Mackenzie Arnold, RGK Teegan Micah, 3 Aivi Luik, 5 Karly Roestbakken, 11 Jenna McCormick, 19 Katrina Gorry
Vietnam: GK Tran Thi Kim Thanh, 2 Tran Thi Hong Nhung, 6 Luong Thi Thu Thuong, 7 Nguyen Thi Tuyet Dung, 11 Thai Thi Thao, 12 Pham Hai Yen (9 Huynh Nhu 59?'), 13 Ngan Thi Van Su, 15 Pham Thi Tuoi, 16 Duong Thi Van (18 Nguyen Thi Van 46?'), ?17 Tran Thi Phuong Thao, 19 Nguyen Thi Bich Thuy – Subs not used: RGK Khong Thi Hang, 3 Dung Dinh Thi Thuy, 4 Hoang Thi Loan, 5 Nguyen Thanh Huyen, 8 Ho Thi Quynh, 10 Nguyen Thi Tuyet Ngan Attendance: 14,014
SECOND PLACE UP FOR GRABS FOR GLORY
It’s second v third on Sunday afternoon when Perth Glory host Melbourne City at HBF Park, in week 22 of the Hyundai A-League. (3pm) Tony Popovic’s side will be looking to bounce back after suffering their first loss in 11 games at Newcastle last week, while City leapfrogged the Glory into second after a 1-0 win against Brisbane Roar last week.
Popovic is quietly confident that, aided by a vociferous home crowd, they can get back to winning ways. "It's a big game, and I think we've shown through the years and especially through this great run that we've had, that we treat every game as a big game and that's why we had that great run of ten matches without defeat,” he explained. "When you look at it, it's the business end of the season, Melbourne City is having a very good year and we're right up there with them.
"They [City] have been around that second place all year. They have high expectations and so far this year, they're managing those expectations very well. We feel that Melbourne City has always been a good side and one that you have to be wary of and one that has some very dynamic, very good individuals. We've had two good matches against them, tough encounters and we expect this one to be no different.
“We're at home where we haven't been for quite a while, so we're happy to be back in Perth and the players are really excited about this match, and to have our home support behind us, who have been deprived of football for a little while now. Hopefully they'll come out in big numbers and really get behind the team which should help us throughout the match."
Popovic insisted that Glory's defeat last week in Newcastle, their first in the Hyundai A-League since late November, needs to be kept in perspective. "There's not too much to worry about," he said. "The key component is that we're creating chances and when we're doing that, we always feel that we can beat anyone. That hasn't changed. The chances are still there.
"Brisbane is a tough trip with the conditions and the heavy pitch and it's the same in Newcastle. We dominated both matches in the first half against two in-form teams which shows how well we're going, but I feel we didn't get enough reward for those two games. So, the football needs to continue, and we just need to be a bit more clinical when we get those chances."
In terms of early team news, defender Greg Wuthrich returns to selection contention for Glory this week, leaving long-term absentees Dino Djulbic and Chris Ikonomidis as the only senior players unavailable. City, meanwhile, have included exciting young attackers Ramy Najjarine and Stefan Colakovski in their extended squad. The visitors have failed to score in four of their last five meetings with Glory and have lost on nine of their 11 most recent visits to HBF Park.
Perth Glory squad: GK Liam REDDY, RGK Tando VELAPHI, 2 Alex GRANT, 3 Jacob TRATT, 4 Greg WUTHRICH, 5 Ivan FRANJIC, 7 Joel CHIANESE, 8 James MEREDITH, 9 Bruno FORNAROLI, 12 Kim SOO-BEOM, 13 Osama MALIK, 16 Tomislav MRCELA, 17 Diego CASTRO, 18 Nicholas D’AGOSTINO, 20 Jake BRIMMER, 21 Tarek ELRICH, 27 JUANDE, 28 Gabriel POPOVIC, 29 Kristian POPOVIC, 88 Neil KILKENNY - *2-4 to be omitted* - Ins: WUTHRICH (promoted), MALIK (promoted) - Outs: Nil - Unavailable: 6 Dino DJULBIC (ankle – indefinite), 19 Chris IKONOMIDIS (knee – season)
Melbourne City FC squad: GK Tom GLOVER, RGK Dean BOUZANIS, 2 Scott GALLOWAY, 3 Scott JAMIESON, 4 Harrison DELBRIDGE, 6 Josh BRILLANTE, 7 Rostyn GRIFFITHS, 9 Jamie MACLAREN, 10 Florin BERENGUER, 11 Craig NOONE, 13 Nathaniel ATKINSON, 14 Markel SUSAETA, 17 Denis GENREAU, 19 Lachlan WALES, 20 Adrian LUNA, 21 Ramy NAJJARINE, 22 Curtis GOOD, 30 Moudi NAJJAR, 34 Connor METCALFE, 49 Stefan COLAKOVSKI - *2-4 to be omitted* - Ins: NAJJARINE (promoted), COLAKOVSKI (promoted) - Outs: Nil - Unavailable: 5 Jack HENDRY (knee), 40 Richard WINDBICHLER (hamstring) - Referee: Kurt Ams
NPL-WA NIGHT SERIES - FINAL PREVIEW
The first piece of silverware in the NPL is up for grabs on Sunday, when Floreat Athena and Perth SC meet in the 2020 Night Series Final at Perth Plasterboard Centre Stadium. (7.00pm) Floreat will be looking for third consecutive Night Series title, while Perth will go in search of their 20th preseason title. Both sides had to overcome sides in tight Semifinals, Perth beating Perth Glory 5-3 on penalties, after it was 1-1 at the end of full time. Floreat overcame a fast finishing Gwelup Croatia, with Liam Murray’s stoppage time goal gave them a 4-2 win to set up Sunday’s blockbuster.
Floreat coach Ante Kovacevic said the win against Gwelup was closer than it should have been, but he was pleased they got the job done and with Murray who scored the important fourth goal. “It was disappointing to have let Gwelup back in the game after being up 3-0, but they’re a good team with dangerous players, and I’m happy that we held out and scored the fourth goal and ultimately made the final,” he said. “Liam has been a fantastic addition to the squad. He’s very creative, can score goals and will be a mentor part of the team this season, and he’s already proven himself very valuable during the night series.”
Kovacevic said Sunday is a big game, but knows the importance of the competition with a third title in their sights, but he said their squad will be tested with a number of players missing. “The night series is a fantastic competition in preparation for the NPL season, but unfortunately, we have 7-8 players missing due to Dean Evans’ wedding,” he said. “But we’ve been working with a big squad all preseason and there’ll be an opportunity for a few youngsters to experience a cup final and hopefully impress. It will be great for the club if we manage to win a third straight night series final.”
Murray, who joined the club from Perth Glory this season, said last week’s win was huge, and he was delighted to bag the fourth to seal the win. “I thought the game was very even, both top teams played very good football. But the game got very scrappy towards the end with tackles flying in, that’s expected in these big games though, but was happy to come on and get on the score sheet to secure the win for the boys,” he explained. “Saturday, will be a very hard game for us mainly as we are missing majority of our squad but hopefully the young squad that we put out can dig deep and get the job done for three titles in a row.”
Perth SC coach Ramon Falzon said they rode their luck at times against Glory but was pleased with the resilience his side showed to win the game. “I thought the game against Glory was a game of two halves. I thought Glory had the upper hand in the first half, however after the break our performance lifted,” he said. “We kept the ball longer in the second half and spent most of the time in their defensive half, and it was good to see our boys be that clinical when taking the penalties and Ryan saved one too to secure our spot in the final.”
Falzon said Sunday will be another tight game against a good Floreat side but he is confident they can get the right result. “It will be an interesting final against Floreat because from experience, it is always a close game and usually only one goal ends up separating the sides,” he said. “I am sure both teams will be very careful to keep mistakes to a minimum. Floreat are in good form too so I think the difference will come down to who is more disciplined in their structure and clinical in front of goals.”
New Perth SC skipper Jordan De Leo said they had to fight all the way to beat Glory last week. “Saturday was definitely a hard-fought win for us, and I thought we came out lackluster in the first half and were slow to react to the lively Glory. You could see that those boys had just come off a youth season, because they were really linking well in the first 30 minutes. I think after that, we were able to compose ourselves and obviously get back in the game with the equaliser just before the half,” he explained. “The second half was polar opposites to the first and I think we really dominated and created many scoring chances. Unfortunately, we weren’t clinical in front of goals and the game extended into penalties, but our players accepted the challenge, stepped up and showed fantastic composure to send us through to the Grand Final.”
De Leo said Saturday is another challenge, but one they are looking forward too. “Floreat have proven in the past that they can go all the way in this competition and this Saturday will be another big game between the two decorated clubs,” he said. “We have had the edge over them in our last few encounters but they are a good side, with quality players, so we know we have to be ready and raring to go. That being said, this year our team runs deep and all the boys are excited for the big game. Despite our fantastic history, we as a club haven’t won the night series in some time, so we are determined to change that and bring home our 20th preseason title. I am confident in all our boy’s abilities to go out there and execute the game plan Ramon and Marc have set out and hopefully we are able take home the chocolates.”
STATE LEAGUE NIGHT SERIES - FINAL REVIEW
It’s the State League Night Series Final on Sunday evening when Olympic Kingsway host Western Knights at Kingsway Reserve. (7pm) Both sides eased into Sunday’s game with big wins in the Semifinal against Fremantle City and Forrestfield United, who meet in the 3rd/4th play-off prior to the main game. (5pm) Both the Knights and Olympic are unbeaten in the competition to date and both are scoring for fun so this one should be an entertaining game as they fight it out for the first piece of silverware of the State League season.
Western Knights topped Group D winning all three games and not conceding a goal. They beat Kelmscott Roos 3-0 in the opening game, before a 3-0 win against Joondalup United in round two. They made sure of winning the group with a 5-0 win against Joondalup City and then beat Wanneroo City 3-1 in the Quarterfinal before their big 7-1 win against Forrestfield United last week. Meanwhile Olympic Kingsway topped Group E, but started the competition with a 1-1 draw against Canning City, but hit back to beat Mandurah City 3-2 and won top spot with 4-1 win against Gosnells City. They then produced a great performance to beat Stirling Lions 4-1 in the Quarterfinals and topped that to beat Fremantle City 7-1.
The Knights, who will be looking for a return to the NPL after seven year absence this season, were outstanding last week to beat defending Night Series holder’s Forrestfield and Head Coach Ivan Zuvela was pleased with the all-round performance. “Our win last week against Forrestfield was our best performance so far this season,” he said. “We defended well as a team and going forward we were very clinical in the final third which was pleasing.”
Zuvela said Sunday’s opponents are similar to the Knights with a great tradition in the game in WA, and he’s expecting Sunday to be a good game. “Kingsway is a club that is similar to Knights. They have a proud history with a number of people that work hard behind the scenes,” he explained. “They were a very good team last year and I know they have made some strong additions to their squad this year.”
Olympic also produced a fabulous performance last week, thrashing A Fremantle City side who had won every game in the preseason competition and Head Coach Gary Williams said they will take a great deal of confidence from the big win, but knows the need to improve in certain areas. “I was very pleased with the win, bit I felt we could have been a bit braver before we scored our first goal as we were a little tentative going forward,” he said. “But once we scored, we seemed to gain confidence and went in three nil up after further goals from Elliot and Hamza.”
Williams said the Knights are a good side and will be a stern test for his side, but he hoping to win the cup for everyone who work so hard behind the scenes at the club. “Western Knights are a very strong team and it will be a great team to benchmark ourselves against. They have a big squad and competition for places and I think will be expected to win after their results to date,” he said. “It is a proud moment for our club as it is our first final in 40 years. It is a significant moment as we have a number of people at the club who have been loyal for a number of years, the council have invested in the club and the facilities are second to none. It will be a great night for the club and we look forward to the evening.”
AMATEUR LEAGUE NIGHT SERIES - WEEK TWO PREVIEW
It’s week two of the Amateur Night Series, with games all across the weekend. First in Group A newly-promoted Queens Park take on UWA Nedlands at Wanneroo Reserve on Friday evening. (8.30pm) Both teams were beaten in the opening round, but Queens Park coach Ricardo Flynn said it is still early days. “The defeat was a fair result against NPU, but there was not a lot of difference in ability on the day but NPU settled quicker and we gave away three soft goals and played a man down which didn't do us any favours,” he said. “For the last 30 minutes, we created some chances and were the better team with a man less on the pitch but NPU are a quality outfit and the back five were not as charitable as we were.”
Flynn, who led the Park to promotion last season, said he will be looking for an improvement against UWA. “Tonight's game I expect an exciting expansive game with both teams desperate to rectify last week's results. I know what a good coach Art is and I expect a solid, well set up UWA outfit,” he explained. “We are concentrating on playing the way Queens Park play, but we have to do better and be more patient in the final third. Hopefully we will be a lot more solid in the back and a lot braver in the final third and also score a few goals.” The other game in the group sees both last week’s winners North Perth United and Joondalup United meet each other at Ellenbrook Sports Hub on Sunday evening. (7.00pm)
In Group B the opening game is also on Friday evening at Wanneroo Reserve where Kwinana United meet Wembley Downs. (6.30pm Wembley opened up last week with a hard-fought win against Quinns, while Kwinana were beaten 0-3 at South West Phoenix, but Kwinana coach Mark Purvis said the game a lot closer than the score line suggested. “I thought the 3-0 defeat wasn’t a true reflection on the game,” he said. “We played an hour with 10 men which is always difficult but we played some good stuff at times, however SW Phoenix took their chances well. There were plenty of positives for us to take from the game moving forward into the season.”
Purvis said Friday is another challenge they are looking forward too. “We’re really looking forward to the game against Wembley, we know it’s going to be another good test for us and how we want to play,” he said. “We have a lot of new players this year and seven weeks ago we didn’t even know each other’s name. Wembley have always been a strong side and we expect the same this season, we know it’s a preseason game but we are looking forward to the challenge.” The other game in group sees Quinn’s taking on South West Phoenix at Edinburgh Oval on Saturday afternoon. (5.00pm)
Finally, in Group C newly-promoted Maddington White City take on holders Leeming Strikers at Edinburgh Oval on Saturday evening (7.00pm) Maddington were impressive in the opening round beating Jaguars while Leeming were held by Hamersley Rovers. Maddington coach Cesar Gonsalez said last week was a good performance and against a strong Jaguars side. “It was a very challenging game against one of the premier league top teams, additionally they did a great season last year as they finished on the top three,” he said. “We knew that it would be a very tactical and physical game, and I thought we did a quite smart tactical game as we practiced at training. We did well line by line to get that great result against them.”
Gonsalez said it doesn’t get any easier, taking on the Night Series Holders this week. “They (Leeming) have been three times Night Series champions and I think Saturday will be a beautiful Game,” he said. “They drew on their first game against Hammersley, however all teams on this league are complicated to play against. We are ready to continue our main goal for this year, which is to get Night series and League Championship, and we need to go step by step and we have a very good team to face all these challenges.” In the other game in the group Hamersley Rovers meet Jaguar at Ellenbrook Sports Hub on Sunday afternoon. (5.00pm)
D’AGOSTINO EARNS YOUNG PLAYER OF THE YEAR NOMINATION FOR FEBRUARY
Perth Glory striker Nick D'Agostino's sparkling recent form has been rewarded seeing him named as the Young Player of the Year Nominee for February. The 22-year-old scored three times during his four appearances over the course of the month, opening his account for the club with a late equaliser against Melbourne Victory at HBF Park and then adding a brace in the 4-2 win over Wellington Phoenix. Along with his three goals, the versatile forward attempted 90 passes, with a 72.2% success rate and won ten of his 14 duels.
The award continues a memorable couple of months for the versatile attacker who played a key role in helping Australia Under-23s qualify for this year's Olympics in Tokyo. When informed of his nomination, D'Agostino was quick to acknowledge the contribution made by his Glory colleagues. "It's a huge honour," he said, "but it all goes down to the teammates, the coaching staff, the medical staff and everyone who has helped keep me on the field as long as possible and in the shape that I'm in.
"Going overseas with the Olyroos allowed me to come back with a lot of confidence and able to get into those positions to score goals. Once on the park, it comes down to teammates finding the right spots and putting yourself in the right position to put the ball in the back of the net. Playing games every three or four days [with the Olyroos] really helped with match sharpness and scoring goals gave me so much confidence which I was able to bring back to here to Glory. Everything is going to plan at the moment."
INJURY BLOW FOR JACKS NEW SIGNING
With the new NPLWA season only two weeks away ECU Joondalup have suffered a major injury blow with new signing Ellis Healing suffering a knee injury which will see miss up to four months of football. Healing joined the club from Gwelup Croatia in January, but suffered the injury in the clubs first Night Series game against Perth SC. After scans it showed the striker had damaged his ACL, and he is bitterly disappointed but will be doing his rehab and getting back playing as soon as he can.
“I initially didn't think my injury was that bad and I trained on it two weeks after it happened, and then I got an MRI and turns out I have torn my ACL,” he explained. “I spoke with a surgeon and he has informed me my knee physically looks pretty good for the extent of my injury and that I can recover without surgery, so that's the route I am going to take which is four months out.
“It’s extremely disappointing, as I try to look after my body as best I can and have very rarely missed a game through Injury since I was 17, especially after it happened 15 minutes into my first game for ECU and Kenny Lowe.
“I was excited being at a new club with a new manager of Ken's quality, and after coming off a pretty good season last year at Gwelup. But it wasn't meant to be so I've just got to take my rehab program seriously for however long it takes.”
Healing will still be involved at the Campus, and I’m sure we will see him around the traps, this after he accepted a coaching role at the club with the younger teams, and he’s looking forward to it. “The club have been great, and they have given me the chance now to help out with some of the coaching of the younger lads whilst I’m recovering from my injury, which I am excited about,” he said. “It gives me a good chance to test my skills as a coach as I’m always moaning and telling people what they should have done different anyway.”
SOCCEROOS WORLD CUP QUALIFIER UNDER THREAT
The Socceroos World Cup qualifier with Kuwait at Perth Oval on 26 March is under threat because of the coronavirus spread. A decision on the future of the match is expected on Monday when the Asian Football Confederation have a second round of emergency meetings to discuss the situation.
Sources say the match is 80-90 per cent likely to be re-scheduled with all Asian qualifiers set to be postponed. Australian football officials are waiting for new guidelines but have guaranteed that if the fixture is re-arranged it will be still be played at Perth Oval. The Socceroos last played in Perth in 2016 when they beat Iraq 2-0 in a World Cup qualifier.
'PLAYING BRISBANE IN SUNCORP IS A NIGHTMARE' ADMITS NEVILLE
Brisbane Roar defender Scott Neville is preparing a hot reception for Western Sydney Wanders in tomorrow’s genuine six-pointer in the A-League finals race. And the 31-year old knows first hand how horrible a trip to Suncorp Stadium can be for an A-League club.
Neville is eager to make sure Friday's trip to Queensland for the Wanderers is as hostile as it can be. "From previous experience playing against Brisbane in Suncorp it's a nightmare, I'm not going to lie to you," said the former Perth Glory, Newcastle Jets and Western Sydney Wanderers player.
"It's hot. It's humid. It's a big stadium and we're a team that keeps the ball. If we can keep the ball and get on the board early, it'll put a lot of pressure on Western Sydney and that's what we'll be looking to do."
Friday's game is a pivotal one in the A-League finals race. A loss last time out has left Brisbane sixth on the ladder, holding on to a finals position by just two points. Western Sydney's win over Sydney FC has them eighth, level on points with seventh-place Western United.
Friday's game is one of five at home in Roar's final seven matches of the regular season. "That's huge for us and if we can continue the form we've been on, bar last week where we got beat ... win as many games as possible, we'd love to shoot up that ladder," Neville said.
GLORY'S CHAMPIONS LEAGUE GAMES RE-SCHEDULED
Some of Perth Glory’s Asian Champions League games have been re-scheduled because of the coronavirus outbreak. The Asian Football Confederation has agreed to extend the dates of the knock-out rounds to allow more time to complete the disrupted group stage fixtures.
Already re-arranged fixtures including Glory’s games against Ulsan on 18 March and 17 April are expected to go ahead as planned along with the 6 May home game with FC Tokyo. Other group matches scheduled for March and April, including Glory’s against Shanghai Shenhua, will be re-scheduled to 19/20 and 26/27 May and 16/17 and 23/24 June.
AFC said if the coronavirus outbreak continues matches can be played in July while any outstanding matches have to be played played before August. That means the round of 16 matches will be played on 11/12 August, the second leg on 25/26 August, and quarter-finals on 15/16 September with the return legs on 29/30 September.
POPOVIC EXPECTS GLORY TO RESPOND FOLLOWING SURPRISE LOSS
Perth Glory coach Tony Popovic said his side need to bring a killer instinct to their game after Saturday’s surprise loss to lowly Newcastle Jets. Glory went down 2-1 after dominating the first-half but failing to take a grip after the break.
Popovic has clear air to prepare his side before Sunday’s crucial clash with Melbourne City after the mid-week Asian Champions League match with Ulsan was postponed because of coronavirus fears. “We’ve got to be a little bit more ruthless,” Popovic said.
“The last two performances away from home have been very good but we probably haven’t been clinical enough in our chances. The first half we were clearly the dominant side and should have been two or three up at half-time. Just the final ball, maybe the final decision wasn’t quite right.”
“The first-half was probably as good as we have played in a little while so it’s disappointing not to get the points when you play so well away from home ... It hurts but we have to accept it and make sure that we can improve and get those little details even better.”
Glory had plenty of chances before falling behind to a 30-metre blockbuster strike from Nikolai Topor-Stanley with the equaliser coming from a Neil Kilkenny penalty. Roy O’Donovan fired home from close range after the break.
“It’s a wonderful goal,” Popovic said of Topor-Stanley’s stunning long-range strike after only 12 minutes. “We responded very well because we just continued to play the way we were playing. We got a reward with a penalty.”
“We probably should have made more of opportunities we had after the equaliser. That’s probably where we let ourselves down. We should have been in front clearly. We clearly dominated the first-half. We gave them a chance to stay in the game.”
Popovic said fatigue and other factors played a big part in Glory’s second half fade-oit. “This one of our most difficult trips with travel, heavy surface. In general we looked tired in the last 15 minutes,” he said.
“Second half we looked a little fatigued, the game became stretched. We couldn’t take our half chances and they took one of theirs. The way the game was so open, it became a little bit end to end, and could have become anyone’s game.”
WILLIAMS URGES INDIGENOUS INVESTMENT
Matildas goalkeeper Lydia Williams says she might well have become an AFLW star had she remained in her hometown of Kalgoorlie, so dominant was the code amongst the area's Indigenous youngsters. Williams, whose father is of Aboriginal descent, says it was only due to her famiy shifting to Canberra when she was 11 that she was exposed to the world game.
And Williams' experience, she says, is why Football Federation Australia and the A-League clubs should put more effort and investment into trying to attract Indigenous girls and boys to the global game in the face of overwhelming cultural dominance by Australian Rules.
That is even more the case now that AFLW is growing in influence. "I am happy to say I am a footballer not an AFLW player, I couldn't have gone to World Cups, so I definitely chose the right sport," Williams said. "But if that was presented in these rural communities I definitely would have been an AFLW player."
Football had made, and continues to make in-roads into attracting young Indigenous players - female and male - to the game. Williams is happy with that start but stresses there is still a lot more to be done. "To do welcome to country and have that recognition is amazing," she commented.
"The fact that clubs are starting to do that now is incredible. We just need to get it into a national curriculum. Hopefully down the track we will have a jersey. Every other sport has a jersey that celebrates Indigenous round so that would be really exciting if it got to that."
Williams believes that Indigenous players can bring something unique to football. "A lot of Indigenous players have that X factor that you can't really teach or coach, and the love for sport comes out in different ways. I think football is losing that race a little bit," she said.
It needs to be long-standing commitment. Just running the odd coaching clinic or recruitment drive will not work, Williams added. "It's creating relationships. You can't just go out there and say come and trial here. You have to put in the time and effort. That's something that is beginning and a couple of years down the track you will see the fruit of that," she said.
"We were growing up in outback WA, I didn't know anything about football, it was all footy. West Coast Eagles came out to my town a lot and I got to be around a lot of AFL and it wasn't until I moved to Canberra where there was no AFL that I actually started playing football."
"It's just about creating programmes in Indigenous areas, it's about getting that exposure to the game. It's got so much potential, you get to travel the world, you get to go to different places that AFL and rugby don't tend to do. If you get more Indigenous footballers it would be something really remarkable."
Williams has certainly grabbed her chances. She has played in Australia, the United States of America and Sweden at club level. And internationally she has represented Australia on 86 occasions, including at four Women's World Cups and the 2016 Olympic Games.
NTC AND FREMANTLE MAKE INAUGRUAL NPLW WA NIGHT SERIES FINAL (Courtesy of Football West)
The inaugural NPL Women’s Night Series final will see Fremantle City and the Football West Hyundai NTC go head to head next week, following a dramatic night of semi-finals at Dorrien Gardens on Sunday. In the first game NTC let slip a 2-0 lead against Murdoch University Melville before prevailing following a marathon penalty shoot-out.
Then Fremantle dispatched Northern Redbacks 3-1, with captain Mikayla Lyons scoring twice.
NTC went ahead on 19 minutes went Ella Lincoln struck and they extended that advantage through Judy Connolly 11 minutes into the second half. Six minutes from time Baxter Thew gave MUM a lifeline and soon afterwards Ellie La Monte snatched an equaliser. That sent the game to penalties, which NTC eventually edged 9-8 thanks to Monique Prinsloo’s second successful conversion.
The second game on Sunday got off to a flyer with Lyons scoring inside five minutes. That is how it stayed until half-time, yet within a minute of the second half Redbacks were level through Renee Leota’s effort. But this was Fremantle’s night and Courtney Butlion re-established their lead on 63 minutes, before Lyons made the game safe 10 minutes from the end. It sets up a final at Perth Plasterboard Centre Stadium on Saturday – kick off 5pm.
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This page was last updated on the 28th February, 2020