If on-field performances are anything to go by, South Melbourne FC senior women’s team can feel justified it’s made a strong case for joining the WNPL competition next season, after completing the State League 1 NW title and grand final winning double.
They did it in style too, clinching the state league 1 NW title with a 5-0 win against Eltham Redbacks a fortnight ago, followed by a 4-0 grand final triumph over Bundoora Eagles for the overall State League 1 Championship, last Sunday at Knox.
South’s triumphs followed its surprise failed application for a WNPL licence to join the upcoming inaugural season of the competition. But it gets a second chance at re-applying following the FFV’s announcement to expand the number of clubs in the WNPL by one, from the current nine to 10, for next season.
So with a licence up for grabs, South’s on field success couldn’t have come at a better time for the club whose ambition is to play at the top level.
Certainly the players themselves feel they’ve achieved what they set out to do this season.
Speaking on SMFC TV after the grand final triumph, captain Alex Cheal said: “It’s a privilege to win another championship and have another one under our belt. Not only winning the league but then winning the championship against another division, out of 24 teams, shows that we belong in the NPL and we’ll do everything we can to get back in there. I think it definitely makes a statement.”
Senior coach Socrates Nicolaidis had the task of regenerating the team following an exodus of players to other WNPL clubs before the start of the season.
He himself resisted offers to coach from three of the new WNPL, deciding instead to remain at South.
“As much as I wanted to coach in the WNPL, I just felt as a professional, I want to be coaching in a professional and elite environment … we’ve got everything we need to be an elite club, so there was no reason for me to leave.
“For me it was all about regenerating the club and our average age was around 17.5 years. We have a very young team … The girls did a fantastic job − we lost three games, two of them to Melbourne Uni and that was because they play very hard, very aggressive, they’re an older bunch of girls. So we win the league, we score the most goals, we win the grand final, have the best goal percentage in both the NPL and state 1. We did whatever we needed to do to show the football public that we deserve to be playing at a higher level.”
An admirer of the style of football his former teammate Ange Postecoglou introduced with great success as coach of the Brisbane Roar, Nicolaidis says: “We’ve got a certain style we’ve been trying to develop at South Melbourne, which is dominating possession, and then breaking up opposition defences with quick combinations, movement and then when we lose the ball, we tenaciously win it back as quickly as possible.”
The coach believes South Melbourne deserves to be considered one of the front runners for the new WNPL licence.
“Well I would like to think we are,” he says. “I don’t know what other clubs are going to apply. I know that the current clubs, reading on Facebook and talking to fellow coaches, in the WNPL, they seem to think there’s not enough quality players out there to warrant having a 10th team. But I disagree …”
With the FFV stating they’re looking for a well-established club to join, Nicolaidis says: “Our U14 community team won the league, our U16s won the league, our reserves came second and our seniors came first and won the grand final. There’s a strong case.”