By Tim Klingbiel
The Victory took a week off after a tough 4-3 home loss to Nambucca where they almost pulled off one of the great heists seen at local level courtesy of a three-goal second half to breathe unexpected life into a game that looked dead and buried at 4-0.
Coach Kim Barker has been impressed with the junior base the club are building, but having only returned to senior women’s football three years ago after an eight-year hiatus, she says they still need a bit more experience which will come in time. Barker says her squad are very positive and enthusiastic, and its composition – players coming through from under 16s, older players returning to the game and brand new players signing up – provides a great balance of backgrounds. The over 30s side also regularly make themselves available on Saturdays to help out when required.
The bye should give Barker and her side a chance to regroup and focus on a tricky encounter with Orara on Saturday, again at Connell Park. The ladies are still getting used to the new team and structure and Barker says training sessions have been packed full of content as the Victory use these first few weeks of the season to assess their positioning and team cohesion and clock up some training games against the over 30s. A win over former 1st Division opposition would undoubtedly give the girls in black and white something to smile about, and with a long way to go in the season they will still fancy their chances of making an impact on the 2018 edition of the competition.
Heading into their home matchup with Nambucca shorn of two key players in Keira Plumbe and Bianca Oberleuter had Eagles ‘1’ slightly uneasy as personnel changes were something of a foreign concept for a team who have prided themselves on unwavering consistency throughout recent seasons. Uncharacteristically slow to start, things ultimately did click for the all-conquering Eagles, who came away with a 7-1 victory to consolidate their position atop the table.
Four goals to prolific striker Kylie McDonald – who also provided her team mates with much amusement when she bit the dust just as she was latching on to a through ball that would have had her one on one with the Nambucca keeper – two to Siobhan Deam – one of which would have been better measured in millimetres than yards as she profited from some lackadaisical defence from the Strikers while standing virtually on top of the right post – and a rare strike to Jasmin Kruger – who netted a composed low finish after the Strikers defenders were flummoxed by a dummy from McDonald that may or may not have been entirely intentional – meant coach Glenn Bennett walked away from this one pleased with the outcome and with Eagles ‘1’ maintaining their 100% start to 2018.
Eagles ‘2’ were as fired up as ever, as they took on a Macksville side with whom they had some history after last season’s finals controversy. The siege mentality worked wonders as a determined Eagles outfit turned on a vastly improved display from their round 1 loss to Wildcats ‘2’. It quickly became evident that this would be a bruising encounter, and though the Eagles did head into the interval with a narrow lead, coach Fiona Clancy opined that it was far from the highest quality football that could have been played, tiki taka making way for a more Wimbledon ‘Crazy Gang’-esque physicality.
The second half yielded much better play from the Eagles as they dominated possession, found their shape and ramped up their passing accuracy substantially. This translated into scoreboard dominance, with the ‘2’s running out 5-0 victors in a convincing performance that suggests last week’s loss was more of an aberration than a sign of things to come. With Kath Vail claiming a brace and Kim Martin, Jessica Evans and Kahla-Ann Craig chipping in with a goal each, Clancy would have been pleased with the diversity of her goalscorers on the afternoon and the fact that the Eagles are not overly reliant on a single source in this department bodes well for their chances going forward.
Both Boambee sides have tough games this weekend as they travel to Urunga to take on their ‘1’ and ‘2’ counterparts at the Patch. Both Raiders sides have shown some ominous form that will have had Bennett and Clancy putting their girls through their paces at training this week, knowing their very best displays will be required to come away with the points and keep moving forward.
Coffs City United Lionesses
After opening their season with a convincing 4-0 win over the underdone Corindi Breakers, the Lionesses were brought crashing back to earth as they took on Woolgoolga Wildcats ‘2’ at Forsyth Park and went down 4-0. There is no shame in losing to a Wildcats side who are without a doubt as good as half – or more – of the teams who nominated for 1st Division this season, but nonetheless the Coffs United camp will be disappointed and will need to regroup quickly to right the ship.
They take on the constantly improving Sawtell Scorpions this weekend in another home fixture, and will be hoping to avoid a repeat of the topsy turvy encounter they had just three weeks ago with the same opposition – pre-divisional restructure – where they relinquished a 2-0 lead to be staring defeat in the face at 3-2 down, a late goal allowing them to salvage a solitary point from a contest they would have felt they had in the bag. It will be intriguing to see how the rematch plays out and the game shapes as one of the more difficult to predict out of this round’s matchups.
A tough start in round one against the Lionesses was followed by a genuinely brutal second round matchup against one of the competition’s strongest sides in Urunga Raiders ‘1’. Despite the home advantage, the Breakers were always going to be very much up against it in this one and so it proved, the final score of 14-0 making for eye-watering reading for fans of the yellow and purple.
The bye this weekend will come at just the right time for the Breakers girls, who in all fairness should not be expected to challenge the top sides just yet having only just re-entered the competition after five years away from competitive senior women’s football and should be afforded some more time to gel and improve. The still-formative status of the competition means their opponents in round four are yet to be confirmed, but the Breakers’ primary goal will be experience and improvement rather than a total focus on the result.
The glory of 2017’s grand final triumph must feel some time ago for the Stingers, who have opened their 2018 campaign with two losses on the bounce. Last week’s 5-3 defeat to former 1st Division side Orara Valley Dingoes was a gallant display and likely expected speed bump, but the faceoff at Ayrshire Park with familiar foes Eagles ‘2’ would have been a fixture chalked down as carrying a strong potential to nab a result. It wasn’t to be though, as the rampant home side put five past the girls in red and white without reply, consigning them to 11th on the ladder after two rounds.
Pete and Deb Turner have returned as coach and manager of the Stingers this season, and the majority of the Championship winning 2017 squad have been retained, which lends an air of consistency to the new campaign and hints at their early run of form being a blip on the radar rather than a sign of things to come. The team were somewhat dismayed by the competition restructure due to being matched up against a higher standard of opposition than what would have initially been anticipated, but iron sharpens iron and these girls will surely be better for the experience by the time 2018 draws to a close.
It won’t get any easier for the Macksville ladies this week, however, as they travel to High Street to take on a competition colossus in Woolgoolga Wildcats ‘1’. A lesser margin of defeat than the one on Saturday just gone would be considered a resounding success, but the swashbuckling Stingers aren’t likely to sit back and will throw everything they have at Kim Batty’s girls.
Holding on in a nailbiter last week would have elicited mixed feelings amongst the Nambucca brains trust. Galloping out to a 4-0 lead away to Bellingen was a mightily impressive start to the season proper, but folding and letting the home side right back into the game with three unanswered goals to leave the result briefly hanging in the balance was a much more concerning sign.
Against reigning Premiers and Champions, Boambee Eagles ‘1’, there would be no such margin for error, and a 7-1 defeat showed that there is some way to go in the Strikers’ planned ascent to the division’s upper echelons. This was hardly unexpected, though, and there is certainly nothing for the blue, white and red to be disheartened about given the undeniable strength of their opposition.
To go to the break only 3-1 down and still in the contest, in a half of football underlined by an excellent display of goalkeeping from Carly Smith and a clinical finish from Kyiesha Cohen from one of the Strikers’ few opportunities, will be an encouraging sign for the coaching staff at Coronation Park. Relentless work from Emily Lane in midfield during the early stages of the second half kept the Strikers in the hunt, but the relentless attack of the Eagles ultimately saw the margin blow out in the final quarter as the home side’s resistance gradually eroded late on.
The Strikers travel to High Street this weekend to take on Wildcats ‘2’ in a fixture that should provide a better indication of where they currently sit in the divisional hierarchy. It won’t be an easy task by any stretch, but if they bring the enterprising play they showed in the first half against the Victory in round one and extend that quality for the full 90, there’s no reason they can’t snatch a surprise result.
Orara Valley Dingoes
Dairyville’s finest opened their season with a pulsating 5-3 victory over 2017 2nd Division Champions Macksville Stingers, and proved once more that they are not here to make up the numbers as they came away with a 1-1 draw against a quality Urunga Raiders ‘2’ side. Refreshingly for the Orara coaching staff, their defence appeared to have shored up after shipping three in week one, and they will look to go one better this weekend in search of that elusive clean sheet.
After a tough 2017 campaign where it seemed like they couldn’t buy a result, there is a renewed buzz about the Dingoes, and they will go into this weekend’s trip to Bellingen with genuine optimism about retaining their undefeated record. It’s sure to be a tight contest and it really is anyone’s game, so you could do much worse than jump in the car for a drive to Connell Park for Saturday’s 1pm kick off and see how this one plays out, perhaps grabbing a latte at one of Bello’s many quaint cafés after full time.
A 7-2 defeat might not look great at first, but there were some very encouraging signs for Rachael Oberleuter’s Scorpions as they took on one of the competition’s genuine top dogs in Woolgoolga Wildcats ‘1’. Opposition coach Kim Batty went out of her way to praise the improvement and spirit of the girls in green, who fought right to the dying seconds of the match and put two late goals past a normally watertight Wildcats defence.
With a squad that seems to be constantly rotating due to widespread player unavailability for a myriad of reasons, Oberleuter has been up against it in terms of being able to eek out some semblance of consistency week to week, but she has still done an admirable job in the wake of adversity and her side will fancy a result this weekend against a Lionesses outfit they were only ten minutes away from defeating just three weeks back after a stirring comeback from two down. There is excellent potential in this Scorpions squad and by the time 2019 rolls around, it’s hardly farfetched to suggest they will be there or thereabouts in the picture of competition contenders.
Trevor Martin’s Raiders continue to look a powerful proposition, and ‘1’s commanding 14-0 evisceration of the Breakers on Saturday, in particular, showed they mean business. After sitting out round one with the bye, a clinical, destructive and ruthless performance followed for Morgo Street’s favourite daughters as they travelled up the highway and razed the village in the manner of their pillaging and plundering Scandinavian namesakes.
‘2’ were not quite as omnipotent, following up a 2-0 first round victory over Sawtell with a 1-1 draw at Dairyville against the vastly improved Dingoes, and a home encounter this weekend with Boambee Eagles ‘2’ will present an equally stern test for them to negotiate. ‘1’ take on Eagles ‘1’ straight after that game, and the afternoon at the Patch promises a truly mouth-watering doubleheader with almost certain title implications given the strength of all four teams.
The Wildcats had a successful afternoon out on Saturday despite simultaneous kick offs for ‘1’ and ‘2’ at different grounds. Combined with school holidays, player availability was at a low and some late recruitment from under 16s saw both teams scratch together enough bodies to take the field.
Kim Batty, who has done so much for the club that a bronze statue being commissioned outside High Street seems well overdue, has taken the reigns once again with the ‘1’s and was somewhat underwhelmed with her side’s performance despite taking home the chocolates with an imperious 7-2 win. Batty knows what success looks like in this competition, having taken the Wildcats to the 1st Division grand final in 2017 where only a penalty shootout separated them from the fancied Eagles in what was a thriller for the ages, and she holds her girls to a high standard being so keenly aware of the limited margin for error against the top sides.
Wildcats ‘1’ suffered a couple of losses over the offseason, with some instrumental squad members moving away, and Batty says they are still doing their best to fill those gaps, which is proving a tricky task. She admitted that they were not on their game against Sawtell and have had to go back to the drawing board at training this week, but gave their opposition full credit for their enterprising play and unrelenting heart, which caused the Wildcats more than a few headaches on the afternoon.
Wildcats ‘2’ were coming off an excellent 2-0 win in round one against Boambee Eagles ‘2’, but faced a reinvigorated Coffs City United Lionesses side who were themselves coming off a strong round one victory. Though the opening exchanges of the match were slightly lethargic from the Wildcats, they didn’t take too long to settle into their rhythm and were ultimately able to slot three before halftime. A further strike in the second half put the icing on the cake for a convincing 4-0 victory that sees them sitting equal top after two rounds, and Batty noted that the girls displayed a strong defence and a great flow of play when the ball was kept on the ground.
Both Woopi sides stay at home this week, the blustery climes of High Street playing host to a pair of travelling southern clubs – the Strikers at 1pm against ‘2’ and then the Stingers at 3pm against ‘1’. The ladies in blue will hold high expectations for themselves and won’t be satisfied with anything less than a combined 6 points for the afternoon, but the Strikers, in particular, will be out to upset the apple cart and may well prove a fly in the ointment for the undefeated Wildcats ‘2’.