With so much happening in women's football right now, where do you begin?
Women’s football has such an interminably long off-season if feels as though we’re always in it. So I’m not quite sure where to begin writing about a huge week in women’s football, with much happening on the pitch and off it in the W-League and beyond, and that which hasn’t yet happened also likely to be crucial.
With just two rounds played, the W-League took a hiatus, but only to bring us two friendlies in which the Matildas trumped the always-dangerous China twice.
Former Matilda and newly elected FIFA Executive Committee member Moya Dodd added another leadership role to her repertoire by being elected to the International Council of Arbitration for Sport (ICAS).
That’s a body comprised of 20 distinguished international lawyers with sports and arbitration experience called in to settle sports industry disputes. Equally momentous was that Dodd was also re-elected to the FFA board and is now joined by a second female board member, Cheryl Bart.
Both accomplished women’s appointments are outstanding news for football generally and exceptional news for women’s football specifically. Worth noting too is that with Bart’s appointment we see the number of female FFA board members immediately double.
This week the Asian Cup draw was finally drawn so we now know which teams the Matildas will have to face to defend the title. They’re in the tougher Group A with World Champions Japan, host nation Vietnam, and Hesterine De Reus’ former charge Jordan.
When we finally got around to the W-League, it issued some cracking firsts.
Be-ribboned forward Hayley Raso scored her first goal for Brisbane Roar and Katrina ‘Miinii’ Gorry, who’s stepped up her already solid, terrier-like performances a noticeable notch both domestically and internationally, scored her first hat trick for the club.
Adelaide recorded their first win both of the season and under the stewardship of Ross Aloisi (and showed us it’s aiming not to be in the running this year for the wooden spoon).
In the match-up between Perth and Melbourne—two teams that were agonisingly unlucky to miss out on the final last season—Welsh international Jess Fishlock celebrated her W-League return with a goal dinked past the ‘keeper long-range, low, and to the right. God help her opponents when she shakes the jetlag.
Meanwhile the one thing that didn’t happen in women’s football this week is likely to prove crucial to the W-League’s result. That’s the match between current league leaders Canberra and Sydney.
Sydney is off playing world club championships in Okayama, Japan*, which means the slated Canberra v Sydney match has been rescheduled for Wednesday 29 January.
The game in hand is going to confuse us (or perhaps mostly just me) and give a false result until late in the season. I’m calling it early and saying when it is finally played, this match will be the semi final before the semi finals and may well determine which teams finish where (or if) in the top four.
I’m also going to say this match might give us a true sense of the W-League lay of the land.
Canberra outclassed an off-form Brisbane in Round 1, while Sydney started even stronger against a shellshocked Melbourne.
I mean no discredit to either Canberra or Sydney—they’ve clearly had comprehensive pre-seasons and are playing brilliantly—but it’s difficult to gauge just how far ahead they are given that neither the normally strong and benchmark Brisbane nor Melbourne were, in Round 1, entirely on their games.
If I’ve read the W-League draw correctly (and it’s entirely possible I have not), the 12-week, incomplete home and away draw will not see Canberra and Sydney meet until that catch-up game on 29 January (and then again on soon after on 9 February, the final round). Which makes the make-up match all the more highly anticipated (we could, after all, be previewing the grand final).
In the interim, Brisbane will get a do-over crack at Canberra next week in Round 4, and Melbourne a chance at tackling Sydney the following week in Round 5. To say I’m looking forward to these fierce, possibly interim benchmark, matches in an understatement. How good is it that we’re no longer in the W-League off-season? And is there any way to stretch the season out?
*Sydney got up 1–0 over Japanese team Beleza courtesy of an Emma Kete strike in the 61st minute and will now meet Chelsea in the semi final on December 4.