Canberra Olympic claimed Grand Final glory to go alongside their League Championship trophy in a seven-goal thriller at Deakin Stadium as they defeated Belconnen United 4-3 in a superb Women’s National Premier League Grand Final to lift their fourth trophy in the past two seasons.
Against an ever-threatening Belconnen side, Nicole Begg’s players impressed once again by their efficiency and collective strength. The two teams had met four times already this season, with Olympic succeeding once only, to secure the League Championship.
Ten days ago, at the Riverside Stadium for the Qualifying Final Olympic, for the third time in 2023, were not able to find the back of the net against the Blue Devils. Yet, when a trophy is in play, this O’Connor side seems unstoppable.
The better start was arguably for Belconnen United, with an early chance from Keira Bobbin stopped by Janet King. Canberra Olympic happily weathered that storm, and when they found finally found their rhythm, they ended up scoring three times in 14 minutes.
Firstly, Player of the Match Madelyn Whittall stole the ball in the feet of Maddie Steinacker and sent Olivia Gurney in space. The winger did enough to escape Stefi Leijins before lodging a left footed effort in the opposite side net. Ten minutes later, Whittall was the quickest to pounce after a header from Vanessa Ryan was parried away by Ellie Summers, doubling her team’s advantage.
Summers conceded for a third time four minutes later, misjudging a free kick from distance taken by Ali Cook, but punished for three lapse of concentration, and understandably shaken, the Blue Devils still found the strength to answer before the break to keep the reigning champions under pressure.
As often the case, the captain Talia Backhouse led the way, with a shot from the edge of the box that King let slip under her side. Back from the break, Scott Conlon’s team knew to keep the intensity high to come back into the game. Their reward came five minutes in, when Reilly Yuen’s superb pressing allowed her to steal the ball from Cook, before a powerful shot was deflected in her own goal by King.
With only a goal between the two powerhouses, the momentum could have shifted, but just like last week against Canberra Croatia, Nicole Begg’s team showed their experience in tense moments, and regained a two-goal advantage three minutes later.
An unorthodox combination between Gurney and Whittall led the former to cross a low ball towards Ryan. The winger executed the perfect striker move, using her body to expertly pivot around Sofia Doumos and send the ball near the post, out of Summers’ reach.
Belconnen United never gave up, creating several opportunities, either stopped by King, or the combative return of an Olympic defender. A wondergoal from Bessie Riethmuller in injury time proved too little too late but showed the mindset of the team coached by Scott Conlon, Federation Cup winners and worthy runners-up to a superb Olympic team for the two other trophies. Nicole Begg and her players could celebrate their fourth trophy in two years, the second consecutive Grand Final success for a team who had never reached that stage before.
The solid collective performance of Begg’s group once again was the difference, helped undoubtedly by the experience and the talent of the players in royal blue.
Saturday 23 September
Belconnen United 3 (Backhouse 45’, Yuen 51’, Riethmuller 90+2’) Canberra Olympic 4 (Gurney 21’, Whittall 30’, Cook 35’, Ryan 55’)
Belconnen United: 1. Ellie SUMMERS, 3. Lauren PRESTON, 6. Madeliene STEINACKER, 7. Stefi LEJINS (4. Sophia DOUMOS 46’), 8. Sofia PALYWODA, 9. Talia BACKHOUSE, 10. Hattie CRAM, 11. Keira BOBBIN, 18. Isabella HINDMARSH (21. Pearl TEIN 56’), 22. Reilly YUEN (12. Bessie RIETHMULLER 66’) 28. Lisa CARY (24. Marija RATHOUSKI 80’)
Substitutes not used: 33. Jade EMMS
Canberra Olympic: 1. Janet KING, 4. Olivia GURNEY (21. Arusha CHEW 67’), 5. Madelyn WHITTALL (7. Brittany FIORESE 90+4’), 6. Vanessa RYAN (15. Tia BURRIDGE 83’), 8. Micheala THORNTON, 9. Elke AITLOU, 10. Katrina PERIC, 17. Nicole JALOCHA (22. Jazmine ZABEL 83’), 23. Victoria JAMIESON, 26. Madison CACHIA (19. Leah CARNEGIE 46’), 34. Alexandra COOK
Match Officials: Aisha STRUTT (Referee), Lara SMITH (Assistant Referee 1), Nicholas JORDAN (Assistant Referee 2), Scott BOON (Fourth Official)
Discipline: YELLOW CARDS: 11. Keira BOBBIN, HC: Scott CONLON (Belconnen United), 10. Katrina PERIC, 22. Jazmine ZABEL (Canberra Olympic)
Player of the Match: 5. Madelyn WHITTALL (Canberra Olympic)
GRAND FINAL: ACADEMY EDGE PAST OLYMPIC IN RESERVE THRILLER
Canberra United Academy shocked Canberra Olympic for the second time in the 2023 finals series, winning the Women’s National Premier League Reserve Grand Final with a 2-1 triumph thanks to a brace of first-half goals.
After Canberra Olympic striker Anna Vandenbroucke had lobbed the first-half chance of the final over the crossbar, getting a half-metre on the defence, the Academy struck midway through the opening half.
Awarded a free-kick on their left-flank, Bonnie Young whipped over a pacey cross that proved too hot for Isabella Williams to handle, the ‘keeper palming the ball into the air only for Tamara Cochrane to nod home from a yard.
It didn’t take long for Olympic to level however, a pass behind the Academy defence freed the speedy Alexia Cerne who got to the ball ahead of Eliza Evans and finished in off the base of the ‘keeper’s left-hand post.
The Academy were back in front in six minutes before the interval when they were awarded a penalty for handball. Tiana Ruberto took the responsibility and struck her penalty low into the net, Williams getting a hand on the ball but unable to prevent it entering the goal.
There were chances for both teams in the second-half, Evans had to be alert to deny Cerne and Tehya Aspland, the goalkeeper in excellent form on her way to winning the Player of the Match award, whilst Cochrane almost grabbed a second, lifting her shot over Williams but seeing it rebound off the crossbar.
However, with Evans in fine form, Olympic were unable to find a way through and the Academy recorded a well-deserved success.
Saturday 23 September
Canberra United Academy 2 (Cochrane 22’, Ruberto 38’ (p)) Canberra Olympic 1 (Cerne 28’)
Canberra Academy United: 18. Eliza EVANS, 5. Maddison SAWKINS, 7. Nina ZAREVAC (25. Maya OSMOND 69’), 8. Tiana BOOTS, 10. Perri NASH, 11. Tiarna RUBERTO, 19. Sienna SCARANO (31. Holly MCPHERSON 61’), 20. Alissa BARBOUR (9. Elisha WILD 69’), 21. Angelina BABIC, 28. Bonnie YOUNG (4. Natalie CHANG 84’), 29. Tamara COCHRANE
Substitutes not used: 59. Uma OSBORNE
Canberra Olympic: 20. Isabella WILLIAMS, 7. Brittany FIORESE, 10. Isabella SHEA (49. Jasmine VIKAN 67’), 11. Chloe RUDD, 14. Rhiannon DAVIS, 15. Tia BURRIDGE (53. Emily VAN DER DRIFT 84’), 24. Isabella WALLACE (51. Sienna NESS 67’), 25. Anna VANDENBROUCKE (48. Lily D’ADDARIO 59’), 27. Alexia CERNE, 29. Tehya ASPLAND, 31. Kiara GASPARI (35. Laura BERRY 67’)
Match Officials: Nick BLAIR (Referee), Thomas MCGLADE (Assistant Referee 1), Harold SPANNER (Assistant Referee 2), Harrison CRACKNELL (Fourth Official)
Discipline: YELLOW CARDS: 5. Maddison SAWKINS (Canberra United Academy), 25. Maya OSMOND (Canberra United Academy), 35. Laura BERRY (Canberra Olympic)
RED CARDS: None
Player of the Match: 18. Eliza EVANS (Canberra United Academy)
23 Brittany PALOMBI (Canberra Croatia)
14 Hattie CRAM (Belconnen United), Bessie RIETHMULLER (Belconnen United)
13 Talia BACKHOUSE (Belconnen United), Tatum MAZIS (Canberra Croatia)
9 Isabella BARAC (Canberra Croatia), Nicole JALOCHA (Canberra Olympic), Darby WHITELEY (Gungahlin United), Madelyn WHITTALL (Canberra Olympic)
8 Olivia GURNEY (Canberra Olympic), Michelle HEYMAN (Gungahlin United), Ginger OLIVER (Gungahlin United)
7 Sharon CHAO (Gungahlin United), Charli MITCHELL (Canberra Croatia)
6 Tamara COCHRANE (Canberra United Academy),
5 Keira BOBBIN (Belconnen United), Maddison CACHIA (Canberra Olympic), Arusha CHEW (Canberra Olympic), Alyssa DI-CAMPLI (Canberra United Academy), Michaela THORNTON (Canberra Olympic), Own GOALS
4 Sienna BIRNIE (Canberra Croatia), Jade BROWN (Gungahlin United), Tia BURRIDGE (Canberra Olympic), Lauren HALL (West Canberra Wanderers), Alyse JENSEN (West Canberra Wanderers), Rainey NILES (Tuggeranong United), Roxie SWART (ANU WFC), Pearl TEIN (Belconnen United), Samantha WOOD (Tuggeranong United), Sarah WHITFIELD (West Canberra Wanderers), Kayla WRIGHT (Gungahlin United), Reilly YUEN (Belconnen United)
3 Elke AITOLU (Canberra Olympic), Ella-Rose BROWN (Gungahlin United), Sofia CHRISTOPHERSON (Canberra United Academy), Alexandra COOK (Canberra Olympic), Natalie DE MARCO (Gungahlin United), Rhiannon FENSOM (Canberra Croatia), Erika PENNYFIELD (Gungahlin United), Katrina PERIC (Canberra Olympic), Vanessa RYAN (Canberra Olympic), Zoe TERRY (Tuggeranong United), Kate WALKER (West Canberra Wanderers)
2 Jaya BOWMAN (Canberra United Academy), Cara CERUTI (West Canberra Wanderers), Sofia CHAVERRA (ANU WFC), Rachael CORBETT (Gungahlin United), Edith FORDYCE-CROKER (ANU WFC), Isabella HOPKINS (ANU WFC), Sheridan MCELLIGOTT (ANU WFC), Riley MCQUEENIE (Canberra United Academy), Peri NASH (Canberra United Academy), Alexandra NEALAND (Canberra United Academy), Sofia PALYWODA (Belconnen United), Madeleine PERCEVAL (Gungahlin United), Nikita PERRY (West Canberra Wanderers/Canberra Croatia), Marija RATHOUSKI (Belconnen United), Madeleine STEINACKER (Belconnen United), Kayla WRIGHT (Gungahlin United)
1 Tehya ASPLAND (Canberra Olympic), Latisha BABIC (Canberra United Academy), Jamie BERKELEY (Canberra Croatia), Amy BONGIORNO (Canberra Croatia), Ellen BROWN (West Canberra Wanderers), Alexia CERNE (Canberra Olympic), Jade EMMS (Belconnen United), Emma DOUGLAS-OLIVEIRA (ANU WFC), Charli GREGSON (Tuggeranong United), Isabella HINDMARSH (Belconnen United), Abby HURMAN (Tuggeranong United), Ashlyn LEWIS (Tuggeranong United), Sarah MATTHEWS (Tuggeranong United), Ailish MCDONAGH (ANU WFC), Maya OSMOND (Canberra United Academy), Ella PALFRAMAN (Belconnen United), Alina ROBERTS (Belconnen United), Alexandra SERRAS (ANU WFC), Michelle WIENECKE (Gungahlin United), Elisha WILD (Canberra United Academy), Juliet WILLIAMS (ANU WFC), Zoe WILLIAMS (Tuggeranong United), Jasmine ZABEL (Canberra Olympic)