South Melbourne FC women’s team completed their W-NPL Premiership and Championship double by defeating Geelong Galaxy United in a penalty shootout in the grand final at ABD stadium on Sunday.
South made the front running in a thrilling final which ended 3-3 at the end of extra time. First half goals to Matilda star Lisa De Vanna and Canadian import Natalie Martineau had the Lakesiders in control at the break. However, after the break a gallant Galaxy fought back to equalise through a Laura Spiranovic penalty and a Kariah White goal, sending the match into extra time when South forward Caitlin Greiser put South ahead once again. However
South couldn’t shake off a resilient Galaxy who equalised once more through Al-Huneidi sending the match into a penalty shootout.
The shootout had its own dramatic twists and turns with South leading before being overtaken by Galaxy. Crucially South keeper Mollie May Ramsay saved Galaxy’s seventh penalty giving South’s Caitlin Greiser the chance to score the deciding penalty goal which she did to the joy of the South team and the heartbreak of the Galaxy team, who lost their second consecutive grand final.
For South it was their fourth championship in a row. The title win also completes a premiership – championship double in their inaugural W-NPL season.
Speaking to Neos Kosmos, Coach Socrates Nicolaidis said, “It’s very exciting, [we are] very honoured to be in a position where we can achieve this.”
He said that at the start of the season he set a goal for the team to finish on top and to be playing in the grand final.
“But another goal was to score over 100 goals in the season, which we did.”
When asked what the title win means for the club’s ambition to be involved in the W- League, Nicolaidis commented, “Some of the little things we discussed during the course of the year, with Lisa joining us, was that we have a [really] deep ambition to one day fill the grandstand with as many as a 1,000 or 2,000 [spectators]. That’s something that the players are really destined to do. And I keep telling them, if we keep playing our football, keep playing exciting football, keep winning games and keep winning titles, Gabby (Giuliano) and Leo (Athanasakis) will do whatever they can for us to be involved in the W-League, and that’s the next step from where we are.”
“The Matilda’s co-captain (De Vanna), and Melina Ayres in the Australian Under-20s scored over 40 goals. We’ve got four players signing for W-League teams. Natalie is a Canadian international – but when she gets her permanent residency, I think there [are] six players in that squad that can play W-League. I think we’d do really, really well.”
After a first season in the W-NPL, Nicolaidis believes that there is room for improvement for the overall NPL competition and recommends a couple of changes. He believes the FFV should look into raising the maximum quota of foreign international from two to four per team. “We don’t yet have the top-end quality players to fulfil a strong 10-team league. By allowing an extra two visa players per team we will raise the bar, because the internationals will help improve young players.
“The other thing they should look at doing is maybe starting the league a little bit earlier and finishing in line with Brisbane and NSW competitions. And then maybe we can play like an unofficial national championship at the end of the season. We can really expose the second tier. The timetable has to be more universal.”