NPL CF Women's Grand Final Preview
For the second time in a row, Belconnen United and Canberra Olympic face each other on the biggest stage on Saturday at Deakin Stadium. A lot has changed in 12 months for both outfits, yet we find them in the Grand Final again. The Blue Devils have confirmed the talent their youth showcased in 2022 by getting their hands on the Federation Cup and were in the lead on the ladder for most of the season.
Two untimely defeats in the final week of the season cost Scott Conlon the League, however they seemed to have recovered well two weeks later, when they outclassed Olympic in the Qualifying Final at Riverside (2-0).
Talia Backhouse and her teammates were surprised finalist last year, after a thrilling preliminary final, but this season there are expectations on the young group. Conlon and his staff have been able to get the most out of their squad, reaching a point where changing tactics and personnel from week to week has seemed to have minimal impact on their performance.
Not in the starting line-up at the start of the season, the impact of Maddie Steinacker and Sofia Palywoda on the tail-end of the season, peaking with that Qualifying Final, shows just that. They will need their full squad to live up to their success against the League Champions last Wednesday if they want to grab a trophy that has been last won when Antoni Jagarinec was seating on the bench.
Nicole Begg at Canberra Olympic went into the 2023 season with her fair share of expectations too, after lifting two trophies last season. The inaugural defeat in the Charity Shield was soon forgotten, but they seemed to have found their nemesis in Belconnen United, the only team against whom they could not score until that fateful last week of the season.
Once the important game won, they failed to find the back of the net again last week. Their show of force against Canberra Croatia certainly corrected that, but the potential loss of Madelyn Whittall is a stain on last Sunday that Olympic did not need.
The task will be harder for Begg’s team if her absence is confirmed, but the likes of Michaela Thornton, Nicole Jalocha, Leah Carnegie to only name them, know what it takes to win trophies. Olivia Gurney and her ability to create something out of nothing will likely be one of the main dangers again for Olympic.
The defensive work of the League Champions, everywhere on the pitch, has made the difference so many times this season. Getting past the several lines of disciplined press is always the main challenge for their opponents.
Victoria Jamieson, the captain that has been through thick and thin in the blue jersey, will ensure her teammates know they need to show up one more time, to keep the hard earned 2022 trophy in O’Connor.
Saturday 23 September
Belconnen United v Canberra Olympic (Deakin Stadium, 16:00)
Saturday 23 September
Canberra United Academy v Canberra Olympic (Deakin Stadium, 10:00)
ADMISSION – covers all four Grand Finals
Concessions: Gold Coin
Official Program: $2