By Tim Klingbiel
The weather finally played into the hands of the Victory on the weekend as a cool afternoon at Connell Park with a healthy dose of precipitation set the scene for a tough matchup against an Orara side who had picked up a win and a draw in their first two games. Coming off the bye, the girls looked as if they hadn’t quite readjusted to the swing of things as they conceded inside the first minute.
It was an uphill battle for the Victory but they responded positively with a number of organised plays coming to fruition in transition from defence to attack, though the resolute Orara defence were able to snuff things out in the final third on each occasion. Orara began to attack more again and forced the Bellingen defence to work hard. Despite their tireless efforts, Valley were able to breach the line again in the 30th minute and doubled their advantage with an exquisite lob over the Bellingen keeper.
The heavens really opened in the second half and with the Connell Park surface now comparable to a tub of Vaseline, traction was at a premium and there were more stacks than a Julia Gillard subcontinent sojourn. Eventually, the Bello resistance began to fall away as the Dingoes only grew stronger, and some top finishes left the Victory custodian with no chance as four more strikes found their way into the net.
Victory’s Deb Baigent was proud of the fight displayed by the girls despite the 6-0 final score, and says they looked at the fixture as just another part of their learning curve this season rather than being disconsolate. She noted that the spirit of football was well and truly alive as both teams performed with respect and decorum throughout.
This weekend sees the black and white travel to Maclean Street to take on the mid-table Lionesses in what is sure to be another challenging encounter. Coach Kim Barker will no doubt have organised some productive training sessions for her ladies as they continue to gain invaluable experience batting up the order each week against ex-1st Division opposition.
Both Eagles teems travelled to the patch to take on their Raiders counterparts, as Team 1 looked to consolidate their lead on the table and Team 2 aimed to move into the top four. Team 2 opened the afternoon of football and coach Fiona Clancy said her girls were slightly uneasy, knowing the strength of their opposition would be a gruelling test for their bare squad of 11 on a warm afternoon. However, this apprehension cooled once they took the field, as the Raiders showed up even more understaffed and were unable to field a full XI.
The Eagles ‘2’s made their numerical advantage count with a display of relentless attacking football for the first 45, with Kath Vail burying the opener and settling the nerves for the girls in white and maroon. The Eagles’ stand in goalkeeper, who had never previously stood between the sticks, was delighted when she went to the break having not had to touch the ball at all, and even though there were more Eagles than Raiders present at the Patch, credit must still go to the Boambee girls’ defence for remaining as steadfast as ever and protecting their inexperienced custodian flawlessly.
Coming out for the second half, Eagles ‘2’ showed no signs of letting up, and it was Vail who once again proved the difference with two more finishes to complete her hat trick. The defensive line was only breached late on as a Raiders speculator from outside the box eluded the Eagles’ new keeper, but that would be that and the full time whistle blew with the score at 3-1.
It was an encouraging start for Boambee on the afternoon and Eagles ‘1’ were fired up to make it two from two against Trevor Martin’s Raiders. Coach Glenn Bennett was slightly concerned at first the prospect of facing a strengthened Urunga squad, who had recruited well in the off season, but reminded his girls that they are a great team as a group and can beat any side by playing the ball to feet, keeping it on the ground and starving their opposition of possession.
That they did, coming away with an authoritative 5-1 victory to consolidate their position atop the competition ladder with three wins from three, 17 goals scored and just 2 conceded. Kylie McDonald and Ella Shaw each chipped in with braces, while Jasmin Kruger recorded her second consecutive strike. Bennett was very impressed with the way the Eagles held their formation, and the only goal they conceded all afternoon came from a dead ball where keeper Di Walker was only able to parry the initial piledriver into the path of a Raiders attacker who buried the rebound.
But the resounding success the top Eagles side have had in recent years comes down to the high standards to which they hold themselves and they will be perpetually searching for improvement and identifying tiny areas of weakness they can shore up on the training ground. Bennett will undoubtedly be continuing to sharpen the approach of his girls, who have already cemented their reputation as competition favourites for another season but will need to contest with opposition sides who aim up every week and attempt to knock them off their perch.
Team 2 now sit in fourth position after three rounds, but take on the table topping Team 1 in an intriguing intra-club derby this weekend. This will be a must see fixture as it’s not every day that circumstances draw together two teams from the same club in top flight senior football. Team 1 will no doubt have designs on maintaining their perfect start to the season and their unbeaten streak that stretches back to 2016, but Team 2 will come in with a chip on their shoulder and will look to prove that they are no pushovers, motivated by the potential to shake up the status quo and really become the talk of the town as they face a group of girls whose games they are intimately familiar with from training together week in week out. It’s a fascinating proposition to see how such a matchup will pan out and this one should not be missed.
Coffs City United Lionesses
The Lionesses started well as they overcame competition newcomers – after a lengthy hiatus – Corindi Breakers 4-0 in week one while on the road, though the highly impressive Wildcats ‘2’ put the brakes on the run of the girls in red and black as a 4-0 reverse brought their progress to a shuddering halt back home at Forsyth Park.
Another weekend at McLean Street yielded a more positive outcome for the Lionesses, who fought hard for a 1-1 draw against Rachael Oberleuter’s Scorpions that included a spirited second-half fightback to equalise and recapture the momentum of the game that had been vastly in Sawtell’s favour during the first period.
What would seem to be another even matchup awaits the Lionesses this weekend as they take on Bellingen Victory at home and look to improve upon their current ladder position of 7th, smack bang in the middle in a 13 team competition. The Coffs girls continue to improve each week and if they continue approaching games with the positive mindset shown in their first three rounds, they will cause some problems for more fancied sides further down the line.
The Breakers have had a tough start to life in their return to senior women’s football, going down 4-0 to the Lionesses and 14-0 to Raiders ‘1’ in the opening two rounds. Marooned at the table’s lowest rung with 18 goals conceded while still awaiting their first at the preferred end of the field, it was never going to be easy for the girls from Pacific Street to find their feet.
Things will only get tougher as Donna Smith’s girls entertain the powerful Wildcats ‘1’ side. Any semi-competitive scoreline would be considered a huge success for the Breakers in this one, as the two sides could scarcely be more disparate inexperience and pedigree at this level of local competition. But one thing the Breakers do not lack is heart, and they will be doing their damnedest to make life as tough as possible for one of the competition’s genuine top dogs.
The Stingers were, unfortunately, light on personnel heading into the weekend’s fixture against Wildcats ‘1’ at High Street, in what would likely have been a tough day at the office. Ultimately, they were forced into forfeiting on Friday, and that outcome leaves their current record sitting at three losses from three rounds of football, with 3 scored and 13 conceded – though only 10 of those have actually occurred on the field.
They travel to Toormina Oval this weekend to take on a constantly improving Sawtell Scorpions outfit in what should be a close and competitive game. The Stingers won’t have any easy outings this season, but now is as good a time as any to break the drought and they will need to be performing at their very best if they are to make that happen.
Saturday was a tough gig for the Strikers, who met a full strength Wildcats ‘2’ at their home ground of High Street. Taking a depleted squad up the highway due to the loss of a few key defenders as well as captain and chief playmaker Amie Goswell, they were always going to be up against it facing a packed Wildcats squad who had benefitted from the forfeit of the earlier game for their ‘1’ side.
The early exchanges of the match were fairly even as both sides exchanged attacks, but the Strikers gave away a penalty to gift the home side the lead. A swift counterattack from Zara Pastega and Sam Walsh, however, saw some excellent link-up play out wide culminate in a quality through ball to striker Anna Champion, who showed dogged determination to equalise for the travellers.
Ill-discipline proved the Strikers’ downfall once again, as they gave away a free kick which eluded keeper Carly Smith from some distance to allow the Wildcats to regain the lead. Defender Brea Walsh suffered an unfortunate injury which necessitated a backline reshuffle, and things began to look downhill for the determined but understaffed Strikers as Wildcats ‘2’ buried another two before halftime.
The sparse bench of the Strikers cost them dearly in the second half as the Woopi girls ran away with the game, another three goals consigning Nambucca’s favourite daughters to a 7-1 defeat. Nonetheless, the girls had shown excellent heart for the full 90, with Simone Jordan, Jessica White and Cheree Chapman running hard throughout and 17-year-old Charlotte Williams producing a stellar performance.
This weekend sees the Strikers taking a well-earned rest, as the bye allows them to regroup somewhat having taken on three strong sides consecutively. The reality of the situation is that they still lie only three points outside the top four, so there remains great potential for the Nambucca Heads outfit’s season and they will only get better with their experience at this level steadily accrues.
Orara Valley Dingoes
Positive performances in the first two rounds had the Dairyville coaching staff purring about their prospects for the remainder of the season, and Helen Moseley’s girls travelled to Bellingen on the weekend full of confidence and positivity. It proved well founded, with a first-minute strike getting them off to the best possible start. Another in the 30th minute had them two to the good at oranges, and further blows in the 52nd, 60th, 72nd and 80th minutes blew the margin out to an imperious 6-0 at the final whistle.
Beyond just the magnitude of the scoreline, Moseley will be encouraged by the manner in which her girls crushed the Victory – disciplined structure, cohesive team interplay and intelligent decision making both on and off the ball led to a shedload of attacking raids culminating in several top corner gems straight out of a footballing textbook. It was as ruthless a display as these girls had mustered for the better part of two years when they eviscerated Grafton United Sirens 16-0 in round 16 of the 2016 2nd Division competition.
The Dingoes now sit third with three rounds gone but face an altogether different level of challenge on Saturday as they host the Urunga Raiders ‘1’ side. The ladies in yellow will need to step their game up to another gear yet again if they are to compete with an outfit who have traditionally been one of the stronger 1st Division contenders in recent years. Though last year’s meetings between the two sides saw Urunga deliver 11-0 and 12-2 hidings, the 2018 Dingoes are a much-improved proposition and will be aiming to make the Raiders work much harder for the three points, having held Raiders ‘2’ to a draw in round 2 of this season.
Coming off the back of two tough losses in the opening rounds to Raiders ‘2’ and Wildcats ‘1’, the Scorpions were hoping to take to their season with a defibrillator in a third-round matchup with Coffs United. After an exhilarating 3-3 draw with the Lionesses prior to the consolidation of the women’s competition, Saturday proved to be more of the same as another stalemate saw the sides play out a 1-1 at Forsyth Park.
The Scorpions started well in tough conditions as they dominated the first half and created several quality chances. A combination of last-ditch Lionesses defending assured goalkeeping and wasteful finishing meant they could only secure a 1-0 lead at halftime through Jill Lihou. Momentum shifted the way of the home side in the second half and they began to fashion multiple opportunities of their own, which ultimately paid dividends with an equaliser off the back of sustained offensive pressure.
Oberleuter was satisfied with her girls’ display and said both sides deserved the point in a game that could easily have gone either way. The ladies in green now look ahead to this weekend’s home fixture against the winless Macksville Stingers. Their solitary outing at Toormina Oval this season ended in a tough defeat against the always quality Wildcats ‘1’, but they will hope to make it a happier hunting ground as they meet a Stingers side down on their luck and suffering a heavy hangover after last season’s underdog triumph in 2nd Division. There’s no better time for the Scorpions to capitalise and Oberleuter will hope player availability is on her side to build a modicum of consistency in a season that has thus far been defined by regular lineup changes.
Raiders ‘1’ and ‘2’ each had a weekend to forget as a home double header against the Eagles sides saw them come out on the wrong end of both results – Raiders ‘2’ going down 3-1 to Eagles ‘2’ and Raiders ‘1’ falling 5-1 at the hands of Eagles ‘1’. The results leave ‘2’ precariously placed at one win, one draw and one loss after three games with an even goal difference, good for 6th spot on the ladder, and ‘1’ crashing back to earth after their systematic 14-0 destruction of Corindi Breakers to sit on three points after two games – having had the bye in the opening round – still with the league’s third-best goal difference of +10.
Having added the always dangerous Ash Mackie from last year’s cult heroes Dorrigo Cedars – who did not field a side for 2018 – as well as three players from the now-defunct Coffs Coast Tigers women’s side and some ex-Boambee talent to their squad, canny recruiting from Raiders ‘1’ still has them looking strong for the remainder of the season. Raiders ‘2’ unfortunately struggled with numbers on Saturday and failed to field a complete side, but the return of a couple of their unavailable players will give them a much needed shot in the arm going forward.
Trevor Martin has high hopes for these girls, and bearing the strength of their opposition on Saturday in mind, there is certainly no reason for alarm bells to be sounding at Morgo Street just yet. This weekend sees Raiders ‘1’ with a golden opportunity to atone as they travel to Dairyville to take on a Dingoes side who, although immeasurably improved from their less than stellar 2017 season, they would still expect to be able to get past. Nonetheless, they will be wise to avoid complacency, and Martin will surely have them primed to attack this one with the best possible mindset.
‘2’ stay at home as they play host to Wildcats ‘2’ at the Patch. This match will arguably represent an assignment of even greater difficulty for the Raiders, as Wildcats ‘2’ were able to defeat their previous opposition, Eagles ‘2’, 2-0 in their first-round encounter, en route to an opening streak of three wins from three that sees them occupying equal top spot on the ladder.
Wildcats ‘1’ bounced back well from their 5-0 round one loss to Eagles ‘1’ by accounting for Sawtell 7-2 at Toormina Oval last week. With a matchup against last season’s 2nd Division Champions Macksville Stingers scheduled for the weekend, coach Kim Batty would have been relishing the opportunity to keep the momentum rolling with another strong win as they returned home to High Street. However, a dearth of players available meant that the Stingers were forced to forfeit the day before the game, and the Wildcats had to contend with the slight disappointment of an enforced weekend off despite claiming the three points by default.
Despite ostensibly being an ex-2nd Division team, Wildcats ‘2’ have already proven they can mix it with supposedly higher level sides without major issue, having swept aside the ex-1st Division Coffs City United Lionesses 4-0 in round two and taken care of one of probably the next best 2nd Division side in Boambee Eagles ‘2’ 2-0 on the opening day.
Saturday’s home fixture saw them dismantle Nambucca Strikers by the same margin last season’s 1st Division Premiers and Champions, Boambee Eagles ‘1’ managed – 7-1. Aided by the fresh and full side they were able to field due to the forfeit in the earlier game, it was a highly impressive showing. Opening the scoring with an early penalty, then restoring the advantage after a Nambucca counterattack with a looping free kick from distance, the Wildcats’ dead ball game was on point in the opening exchanges and gave them a platform to begin really stamping their authority on the match.
Two more goals before the break had the Wildcats up 4-1, with their pace upfront coming into its own in the second stanza against a depleted Strikers defence and resulting in a further three goals. It was a powerful display from the Northern Beaches girls, who will now travel to the Patch this weekend for what should be a game of tighter margins against Raiders ‘2’.
Preserving a 100% record is motivation enough for the Wildcats, who could be forgiven for daring to dream of a potential finals appearance in a competition where they will rub shoulders with ex-1st Division sides on regular occasions. Batty notes that the pace of the game will pick up against the top sides but is certain the ‘2’s will give any of them a good run for their money, with the first three rounds giving them an excellent grounding in preparation for these tough encounters.
Wildcats ‘1’ make the short trip to Corindi to take on the struggling Breakers, and there really are no two ways about this one – anything less than a commanding win would be a disappointment for all involved at High Street, and this one will surely be pencilled in Batty’s season schedule as an opportunity to flex her side’s attacking muscle and remind the rest of the competition that they are a dominant force and remain one of the competition’s heavy favourites this season.