Could the Matildas be Australia’s most-loved national team?
There is certainly a wave of positivity surrounding the squad that very few other Australian sides can match, across all codes, and the Matildas are hoping that support spurs them on to an unprecedented Olympic medal in Rio de Janeiro.
The Matildas, ranked fifth in the world and coming off an eye-catching run to the 2015 World Cup quarter-finals, are aiming to become the first Australian football side to claim an Olympic podium spot.
“We’re striving to become a world-class team,” coach Stajcic said after the draw in April.
“I think we’re close.
We’re on the verge of being a truly world-class team, and by that I mean winning medals at Olympics and World Cups. That pressure’s internal and intrinsic.”
Unlike the Australian cricket team, the Wallabies or the Socceroos, who all enjoy widespread support but must endure a constant ebb and flow of public esteem, the Matildas have accumulated nothing but goodwill due to their ferocious-but-honest playing style and ever-improving results.
Only the likes of Dan Ricciardo or the Diamonds occupy the same rarefied air when it comes to unequivocal love from the Australian public.
Can the Matildas turn the love into precious metal?
Still in high spirits on the back of a successful Olympic Qualifying campaign and promising performances against New Zealand in June, the side is well aware it is going to have to raise the bar again to compete at the pinnacle.
The tight bond the team has forged over recent years is vital to the team’s on-field cohesion with much of the squad now playing in foreign leagues.
Stajcic has been instrumental, instilling an aura of positivity and a family vibe among the players.
Striker Kyah Simon said this mindset is reflected on the pitch.
“We’ve worked from the bottom up in terms of our team tactics, everyone being on the same page and putting the work in to make sure we go out and play with pride and to our potential,” she told ABC Grandstand.
It is that fierce pride that gives Australia an edge over its opponents, according to Simon.
“We fight for one another, we fight for our families, friends, coaches and people who have supported us to get to were we are today,” she said.
Like the rest of her teammates, the thought of an Olympic medal gets Simon very excited.
“It brings a smile to my face and kind of gives me butterflies to think of it,” she said.
Key players to watch in Rio
Lisa De Vanna
The only player with Olympics experience in the current Matildas squad needs no introduction.
She has over 100 caps for her country, was the first Australian to score in three consecutive World Cups and is also ranked inside the W-League’s top six all-time leading goal scorers.
The forward converted the winning penalty goal in last season’s Brisbane v Melbourne semi-final, securing City’s spot in the grand final in their inaugural season, a side she built from the ground up with coach Joe Montemurro.
De Vanna can lay claim to being one of Australia’s most passionate athletes, and has been happy to announce publically she does not intend to leave Rio without a medal.
Named in the all-star squads at the last two World Cups, Elise Kellond-Knight has undoubtedly emerged as one of the key cogs in the Matildas machine.
Operating from the base of midfield, ‘K-K’ shields the back four with her energetic running and tough-tackling, but it is in possession she offers most value.
Extremely comfortable with the ball at her feet, the 25-year-old Turbine Potsdam star – who developed her game at the Brisbane Roar – acts as the hub of most of Australia’s passing moves, distributing the ball with precision and, when needed, a touch of flair.
The battling spirit of the Matildas is perfectly epitomised by one player; 87-cap veteran Clare Polkinghorne.
This aggressive, hard-running, no-nonsense defender somehow manages to be intimidating to opponents while always maintaining an air of calm control.
The co-captain will be as hungry as any member of the squad for success in Rio, too, having not played a minute at the 2015 World Cup after picking up an injury just before the tournament.
On the record books as the first indigenous woman to score for Australia, the experienced Simon has proved her calibre on the big stage time and time again.
She picked up a hat-trick in the Matildas 9-0 onslaught of Vietnam back in March and makes a huge difference to the side, whether as a starter or an impact substitute.
The coach: Alen Stajcic
Two-time W-League coach of the year Alen Stajcic spent six years coaching Sydney FC Women’s side.
During that time, Sydney finished as semi-finalists three times, grand finalists once and champions twice, with a third place at the 2013 FIFA Club World Championships.
He was appointed head coach of the Matildas after leading them to the 2014 AFC Women’s Asian Cup final on short notice as caretaker coach.
Since then the Matildas’ progression has been both rapid and impressive, and they now head into the Rio Games as one of the sides to watch.
Group E opponents
Australia’s group is by no means a cakewalk, but the format of the competition means it can remain optimistic about progressing to the knock-out stages.
A total of 12 sides in Rio will form three groups, with the top two teams in each group and the two best third-placed teams all moving through to the quarter-finals.
With eight out of the 12 sides going through, the focus is likely to be on who can win the groups and earn an (on paper) easier quarter-final match-up.
Canada (August 4)
Led by legendary striker Christine Sinclair, who has an unbelievable 162 international goals to her name, Canada is growing as an international force.
The Canucks romped their way through the qualification process, with massive wins over the likes of Trinidad and Tobago and Guatemala, and impressed at the 2015 World Cup on home soil in making it through to the quarter-finals.
If Australia can take three points from this opening game, however, it will go a long way to setting up a successful tournament.
Germany (August 7)
Three-time bronze medallist Germany is currently ranked number two in the world, looms as one of the tournament favourites and is likely to be Australia’s toughest opponent in the group stage.
Influential captain and 2014 world player of the year Nadine Kessler recently retired due to injury, but there is plenty of talent remaining, in midfield especially, to trouble any side in the competition.
Zimbabwe (August 10)
The 95th-ranked Africans should, in theory, not pose a problem for the Matildas, and present the best opportunity to claim all three points.
The Zimbabweans had a rough passage to Rio and were even thrown out of qualifying at one point for not travelling to Ivory Coast, but they were later re-instated, before the Ivorians themselves withdrew.
They did defeat African powerhouses Cameroon over two legs to qualify, though, so should not be taken too lightly.
As it has been for so long in women’s football, the USA will be the team to beat in Rio. And it can thank Australia for eliminating one of its great rivals, Japan, in qualifying.
If anything, an influx of young talent should revitalise the side and potentially lay the foundations for a new era of dominance.
Ranked third in the world, France boasts a battle-hardened squad that is looking to improve on tournament results and establish itself as a power in the women’s game.
The French showed their potential at the 2015 World Cup, coming through a strong group to advance to the quarter-finals, where they dominated Germany but ended up losing in a penalty shoot-out.
They are good enough to be ranked as a tournament dark horse, if they can make it safely out of a tough group that includes the US and Colombia.
This powerhouse has dominated South American football but often fallen just short in World Cups and Olympic tournaments.
The only time it failed to make the semi-finals at the Games was last time around, in fact, but with home advantage in Rio, it could be hard to stop.
The Brazilians, led by the brilliant Marta, will also be looking for revenge against the Matildas, who sensationally beat them in the round of 16 at last year’s World Cup.
Can the Matildas do it? Keys to success
Australia is one of the more all-purpose teams in the competition, and this should be used to its advantage. Against sides that like to maintain possession, the Matildas can use their energy and toughness to get in their faces and disrupt flow. When facing a team that likes to play more direct football, like Germany or Canada, they have the technique to keep the ball for long periods in order to frustrate and wear the opponents down.
Likewise, the Matildas have excellent depth, even taking into consideration the relatively small squad sizes in Rio. The setup of the team can be altered from game to game, or even mid-match, by rotating the roster and utilising this squad strength. When pace on the counter attack is required, there is plenty of speed available, while there are also an abundance of strong defenders when it is time to shut up shop.
The Matildas have perhaps been guilty of tactical naïveté in the past, at least in comparison to the traditional footballing powers. The ability to carry out the coach’s instructions to the letter, then switch tactics or formation when required, for a full 90 minutes without losing shape or concentration, is what separates the quarter-finalists from medal contenders in big competitions. With the level of professionalism constantly improving among the playing group, which now has plenty of overseas experience, this Olympic Games could be where the side steps up in that regard.
The presence of Lisa de Vanna, an experienced Olympian among a squad of fresh faces, is a hugely important factor. With a smattering of young stars in the mix, it will be up to her and several other older heads to keep them calm, but focused.
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With 30 days until Australia’s opening match for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, Matildas head coach Alen Stajcic has named the 18 players who will participate in women’s football tournament.
The roster will not be made official until submitted with the International Olympic Committee on 18 July 2016, which is the deadline for the nomination of athletes.
“We’ve shown in the past 12 months or so that we’re a competitive team now on the world stage and it’s up to us now to prove that we can take that next step and genuinely compete for medals,” Coach Alen Stajcic said
“We are in a very tough group with Canada being the reigning bronze medallists, Germany are a powerhouse and Zimbabwe are a bit of an unknown but having come through the African qualifiers we know they will be tough, powerful and unpredictable.”
For 17 of the 18 players it will be their first participation in the Olympics with only co-captain Lisa De Vanna having previous experience.
Stajcic has kept faith with the bulk of the squad that saw Australia qualify for the Olympics for the first time in 12 years, with only Sam Kerr and Larissa Crummer (who were both injured) making their way into the 18.
At an average age of 23.5 years it is one of Australia’s youngest squads for an international tournament. However, with an average appearances of 46.8, it is the most experienced squad Australia has named since 2009.
“Probably for the first time in this team’s history we are leaving out players that are in good form who could genuinely play and start in this side.
“We’ve got to a point where there is a strong amount of depth in the team meaning good players miss out.”
The roster comprises:
16 members of the table topping 2016 AFC Women’s Olympic Qualifiers (Arnold, Alleway, Butt, Carpenter, Catley, De Vanna, Foord, Gorry, Heyman, Kellond-Knight, Kennedy, Logarzo, Polkinghorne, Simon, van Egmond, Williams)
16 members of the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup Squad (Arnold, Alleway, Butt, Catley, Crummer, De Vanna, Foord, Gorry, Heyman, Kellond-Knight, Kennedy, Kerr, Logarzo, Polkinghorne, Simon, van Egmond, Williams)
An average age of 23.5
The Australian based players will depart on Tuesday morning for a pre-tournament training camp to be held in Fortaleza in northeastern Brazil. They will be joined by the international contingent – Alleway, Catley, Kellond-Knight, Kennedy and Simon – later in the week.
The Matildas will conclude their Olympic preparations with an international against hosts Brazil on 23 July 2016 in Fortaleza.
Australia is scheduled to face world no. 2 Germany, reigning Olympic bronze medallists Canada and Zimbabwe in Group F at the Rio 2016 Olympics. The Matildas opens against Canada on 3 August at Arena Corinthians, São Paulo, followed by Germany on 6 August in São Paulo and Zimbabwe on 9 August in Salvador.
The 2016 Rio Olympic Women’s Football Tournament runs from 3 – 19 August 2016 with Australia’s matches to be broadcast on Channel 7.
2016 Matildas Olympic Roster (by position)
Goalkeepers: Lydia Williams (Houston Dash/Canberra United), Mackenzie Arnold (Perth Glory)
Defenders: Clare Polkinghorne (Brisbane Roar), Laura Alleway (Orlando Pride / Melbourne City), Alanna Kennedy (WNY Flash / Sydney FC), Stephanie Catley (Orlando Pride / Melbourne City), Ellie Carpenter (Western Sydney Wanderers)
Take a look back at the Westfield Matildas’ memorable Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Japan.
The Westfield Matildas have remained in 5th in the latest FIFA Women’s Rankings released yesterday.
Australia surged into the World’s top 5 back in March after a superb Olympic qualification campaign which saw Alen Stajcic’s side remain unbeaten to qualify for the Games.
The Aussies played a two-game friendly series against New Zealand earlier this month with the Matildas enjoying a 2-0 win in Ballarat before being held to a 1-1 draw in Melbourne three days later.
The Matildas are in camp at the AIS over the next fortnight ahead of the Rio Games in August.
The top nations in the latest rankings are USA in first, Germany in second and France in third.
– See more at: http://matildas.footballaustralia.com.au/article/westfield-matildas-steady-in-latest-fifa-rankings/15iu7bvxq6dig1hx254d7vum5y#sthash.YMCx5HgZ.dpuf
Read more at http://www.matildas.footballaustralia.com.au/article/westfield-matildas-steady-in-latest-fifa-rankings/15iu7bvxq6dig1hx254d7vum5y#5fYeUEyt4QIxQBRc.99
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The fans at Grindleford Reserve were treated to an absorbing contest as Balcatta ran out 1-0 winners over Melville City in yesterday’s Bankwest Women’s State League Premier Division clash.
Report by Kelechi Osunwa
The match boasted some of WA’s young talent with neither side fielding a player over 23 years of age.
Caitlin Doeglas gave Balcatta the only goal of the game in an end-to-end match in which coach Andrew DiCarlo claimed was their first consistent performance all season.
“It was the best we’ve played all year it really was,” he said. “It’s taken a fair bit of work.
“All year we’ve been doing it in patches, but not 90 minutes. We’ve been talking about it for a little while now and today it’s all come together.
“Today was about being consistent and playing 90 minutes of good football we usually play one good half and one bad half and today was about putting them both together and now the result has come.”
Balcatta started the game very brightly bouncing possession through the back four and into the midfield where Monique Godding dictated play but it was Melville who would create the first real chance on the break.
Lucy Jerram latched onto Shannon Turner’s through ball on the left wing but she had her angle expertly cut down by Gabby Dal Busco who would prove to be a thorn in the Melville side.
Jamie Duncanson and Steph Simmonds both had chances in quick succession to give Melville the lead.
Simmonds failed to get her feet set at a corner kick and fired a guilt-edged chance over the bar while Duncanson saw her goal-bound shot cleared off the line by some last ditch defending.
Melville coach Gabrielle Walker spoke about her side having issues converting their chances, before the game, and it looked to be the case when Jerram was set up by Tia Stonehill at the edge of the penalty area only to see her effort come back off the post.
Although dominant with the ball Balcatta were yet to create any clear cut chances but when they did they scored.
Melanie Doeglas breezed past her marker on the right wing and drove a low cross that found its way to the feet of sister Caitlin Doeglas at the far post to tap into an empty net.
The goal gave an already frantic game even more buzz as Melville pushed further forward for an equaliser while Balcatta would spring forward at every chance to great effect.
Balcatta almost ended the first half with a two-goal lead when Madisyn Olguin and Cass Harvey exploited open space and had Harvey try an audacious chip from the left wing that was kept out by the corner of the cross bar.
The second half continued in a similar vein as Melville started to take a foothold in the game with Stonehill, Simmonds and Jerram pinning Balcatta in their half.
Simmonds was free in the box and her low effort looked goal bound until Dal Busco right hand pushed the ball away for a corner.
Balcatta weathered the Melville storm with Chelsie Winchcombe steadying the ship with an immense performance.
Balcatta had a great chance to go 2-0 up in the 68th minute when substitute Ash Panaia laid a cross at the top of the keeper’s area for Olguin who could only fire over the bar.
Desperate defending from Balcatta and a commanding presence Dal Busco meant that Melville were kept at arms length as their final pass rarely resulted in any chances.
Panaia had a late chance to put the game beyond doubt but her effort on the counter attack was easily dealt with by Melville custodian Evie Gooch.
Despite the loss Melville assistant coach Steven Farrell looked at all the positives his young side can hope to improve on.
“We’re a little disappointed. I thought everyone worked very very hard but I think we just panicked a little bit and when you panic you start losing the ball,” he said.
“But all due respect to Balcatta they won it, I thought they deserved to win it today. [We] just needed a bit of calm and composure; that would hopefully come in the ladies as they gain more experience.”
Balcatta 1 (Caitlin Doeglas 40mins)
Melville City 0
Referee: Chris Milenkou
Northern Redbacks bounced back from last week’s loss against Queens Park, with a thrilling 4-3 win against Beckenham Angels in round nine of the Bankwest Women’s Premier League at Mills Park on Sunday afternoon.
Report by Peter Simcox
The visitors had raced to a 3-0 lead in the opening 16 minutes, with goals from Demi Vance, Nicola Williams and Nadene Caldwell, but the Angels hit back before half time to reduce the deficit to 3-2 at the break with Katarina Jukic and Marianna Tabain on target.
It was a see-saw second half with Vance adding her second on the hour to increase Redbacks lead, but Tabain added her second five minutes from time to set up a grandstand finish, but the Redbacks hung on to keep in touch with the league leaders.
Redbacks coach Tim Hodgson said it was a hard fought win, but it was good to bounce back from last week’s disappointment.
“It was great game today, with both sides who have been successful in the last couple of years,” he said.
“After a good start, we knew they would come back, and in the past we had a game against them when we three goals down and we hit back to win, so I was hoping deja vu wasn’t going to happen.
“They were up for the game today, and to stay in contention to defend their title, and they knew we had to get a result today and were delighted we have.
“Our strikers were outstanding today and I thought Nicola (Williams) showed her experience just in front of the back four, she has been a fantastic player for a number of years in this league and she was great for us today.”
The visitors made a great start and they were ahead after only 30 seconds, Vance racing into the penalty area and finishing low past Stacey Cavill.
The Redbacks doubled their advantage on eight minutes Caldwell’s free kick was turned home by Williams.
It was 3-0 on 16 minutes Vance’s free kick was only parried by Cavill and Caldwell was on hand to fire home the rebound.
The home side were shell-shocked but they hit back on 28 minutes, Tabain and Jamie-Lee Gale combined, and Gale’s shot was saved by Kathleen Waycott, but Jukic fired home the rebound.
The home side had lifted and Ella Mastrantonio shot straight at Waycott, before Jukic header was saved by the Redbacks custodian.
But in first half stoppage time the home side reduced the margin, Tabain curling home superbly from a free kick on the edge of the penalty area.
Both sides went close in the second half, but on the hour the visitors added a fourth. Jacinta Coleman sent Vance in on goal and she finished clinically past Cavil.
It looked to be game over but the home side had other ideas. Tabain fired inches wide, before Jukic’s long-range shot crashed of the post.
Then five minutes from time the home side reduced the margin, Tabain reacting the quickest after Waycott had saved the midfielder’s first shot.
Beckenham pressed late and Tabain’s shot from the edge of the box was well saved by Waycott, but time run out and it was the Redbacks taking home the points.
Beckenham Angels 3 (Jukic 28 mins, Tabain 45+ 4’, 85’)
Northern Redbacks 4 (Vance 1’ 60’, Williams 8’, Caldwell 16’,)
Sunday June 19 206
Venue: Mills Park Referee: JJ Krishanan
Football could be damaging its chances of finding the next Lisa De Vanna (Getty Images)
With women’s leagues for netball, cricket and the newly announced AFL Women’s League, football needs to do more to keep its players
Daily Football Show
19 Jun 2016 – 12:10 PM UPDATED 19 Jun 2016 – 12:15 PM
“Sports are either going to have to front up and start increasing their wages for their players or they will lose their players to opposite codes.”
Speaking exclusively to the Daily Football Show, that was the warning from former Matildas captain Melissa Barbieri in the wake of the news the AFL Women’s League.
While football is currently the number one participation sport for girls, Barbieri believes football shouldn’t be resting on it laurels as the competition comes thick and fast at the senior level.
In the past 12 months, netball and cricket have all announced changes to their senior women’s competitions that have provided greater remuneration to the top players.
NEWS OF THE DAY: Netball shakeup
After a week of intense speculation, Netball Australia has announced the end of the ANZ Championships and a new broadcast deal for 2017. We’ll have all the news and reactions as they unfold.
Australian cricketers’ huge pay day: salary increases and other benefits
Today, Cricket Australia (CA) announced a pay increase for Australia’s leading women’s cricketers with many set to receive six-figure salaries.
AFL threat looms
Following the success of 10 match exhibition series across the country and strong television numbers, the newly announced AFL Women’s League is set for only home-and-away six rounds and a two week finals series in 2017.
“This day has been a long time coming. The number of women and girls playing football has doubled over the last five years,” said AFL commission chairman Mike Fitzpatrick.
Melbourne Demons captain Daisy Pearce agreed: “It’s the biggest code and the biggest sporting body in the country and certainly here it’s a big part of the culture of Melbourne and to now have the opportunity to play this sport means a lot to girls.”
The AFL have also discussed the anticipated remuneration with the top players set to earn as much $25,000 for those eight weeks of football.
The women’s AFL revolution is happening at grassroots level
If the current plans for a February start to the AFL women’s national league hold true, there are only 11 months until the competition gets underway.
Melbourne born Barbieri believes that the new league will certainly pose some challenges for the well established sports on and off the field.
“The sports outside of AFL are going to have to step up,” she said.
“I’m pretty sure that our football (soccer) is one of those sports that is going to have to put up or shut up.”
“Unless you’re highly passionate about football – and you’d have to be extremely, extremely passionate about the game to rebuke the fact that AFL is going to have a really hefty pay packet.”
FFA must respond…and quickly
Although the AFL threat is present, Barbieri believes football has a lot of natural advantages to AFL. Top players set for the Matildas have the ability to play in international tournaments like the Women’s World Cup, the Asian Cup and the Olympics.
However, it is at the level below the Matildas, the W-League, where there could be some cause for concern.
In recent times players have been discussing the need for increased pay and conditions and it is those pay and conditions that could lure potential players.
“For me football is the most appealing because you can play anywhere in the world,” said Barbieri.
“But if you can play anywhere in the world for a measly penny, rather than playing in your home country, in front of your home fans … and earning a crapload of money, then the invitation playing anywhere in the world starts to becomes a little bit less glamorous.”
With the Matildas stocks high and the W-League gaining more attention, the 36 year old wants to see the governing body do more with the women’s football product.
“I’m looking at the big picture,” she said. “There is not enough thought going into it, it’s all about the men.”
“They [the FFA] just need to get smarter and leverage what they have and start to monetize what they have got, and you will see money will become available for the women’s side.”
“We never had that sort of pressure but now that we have these senior females (in AFL) have something to do, you know have to start thinking “how do we keep these girls, how do we keep them in the game?”
Melissa Barbieri: Women’s sport not bringing in same revenue talk is ‘bullshit’
Since the announcement of the AFL, some corners of football have been defensive in the face of the hyperbole of the AFL. Not so Barbieri.
She welcomes the entry of AFL into the women’s sport space.
“Any increase in participation for female athletes is a good thing,” she stated.
“The only reason why anybody would speak negatively against this edition for the AFL is because they know they can’t keep up. And they know that they’ll have to do something about it to make sure that our girls stay our girls.”
Still, Barbieri concedes that football, like netball and cricket, will have to get used to sharing its players with the AFL Women’s League. It will be made easier by the W-League and the AFL, summer and winter leagues respectively, having little cross over.
Already the AFL women’s exhibition matches have seen several W-League players taking part including Melbourne City goalkeeper Brianna Davey, Canberra United defender Jenna McCormick and Brisbane Roar defender Brooke Spence.
“A lot of the girls are very happy about that, so that they can still do both,” she said.
“For me, that means that those girls are going to be able to do both, but soon enough, it (women’s AFL) will start to grow, they’ll get more players in, and the league will start to grow quite quickly.”
The growth of the AFL is where the danger lies for football says Barbieri, particularly if football doesn’t take steps to make it as attractive and lucrative for female players.
“That’s when you might see the fact that those girls crossover, and might not be able to come back (to the W-League).”
“Once they (the players) have to start choosing, that’s when it’s going to start hurting the sport (soccer).”
ELLIE La Monte has returned from a national tournament in Canberra no doubt looking to be selected for Perth Glory again this year.
The High Wycombe teenager debuted for Glory last season as a 16-year-old before a back injury put her out for a few months.
She has not long returned to the field and scored for WA against Victoria at the Girls National Training Centre (NTC) Challenge.
Coach Jessine Bonzas said the performance of the WA team, which drew six of its seven matches, was further evidence of the state’s improving talent.
“The girls had a really good week and they come back in great spirits and ready to continue their development,” she said.
“We were competitive the whole week – the consistency was there – and that hasn’t always been the case in the past. There were some games where we absolutely dominated and we just couldn’t convert out chances.
“We drew with Northern NSW, who were the top team, and NSW, who were second, and it’s the first time WA has taken a point off NSW in an NTC Challenge, so there are a lot of positives.”
WA’s Roisin Connolly and goalkeeper Morgan Aquino made the Select Team, consisting of players identified as the best at the tournament and who have the potential to play for the Matildas.
Though most players at the championship were 16 and 17, the WA squad included five 15-year-old players, including Aquino.
Georgie Ireland, Rosie Lehane, Cheyenne Wise-Jarvis and Alexia Moreno also showed ability beyond their years.
“All of the younger players stepped up and we saw so much growth from them,” Bonzas said.
“It showed that investing in our young talent, giving them opportunities and fast-tracking their development is a very good approach.”
The girls attended a workshop from Matildas coach Alen Stajcic and former national team player Heather Garriock.
They also watched the Matildas train for the Rio Olympics and met with WA striker and Australia captain Lisa De Vanna.
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FIVE-STAR SHOW FROM JACKS ECU Joondalup put on a five-star performance to keep in touch with the top five in the PS4 NPLWA after a 5-2 win against Balcatta on Saturday afternoon Grindleford Reserve.
A stunning strike from midfielder Sam Pollard opened the scoring for the visitors before skipper Gordon Smith bagged two goals before half time.
Second half goals to Daryl Nicol and Tommy Amphlett put ECU in total control, but late strikes from Luccas Mello and Ben Meredith gave the scoreline some respectability for Balcatta.
ECU coach Dale McCulloch was delighted with the win, but was disappointed to concede two late goals.
“I thought we were very comfortable for the whole game and yes, we conceded two goals late, but we made three quick substitutions which upset us a little, and we have to learn from that going forward,” he said.
“We took our chances well and killed the game off early in the second half. We could have scored a few more to be fair, but a good win on the road and we move on to Tuesday in the FFA Cup against Dianella.”
ECU assistant player/coach Steven McGarry said it was a great result and picked out youngster Sam Pollard for praise.
“We started well today but we could have scored more so that is something we have to work on, and defensively we need to be better,” he said.
“Sam was excellent today, and he has been outstanding for us in recent weeks. It took him a couple of games to get used to playing at this level, but when he’s on the ball he’s dangerous and can score goals, and today’s was a cracker.”
In other Saturday matches, Sorrento conceded their first loss of the season in a physical match-up with Joondalup United at Percy Doyle Reserve, Inglewood claimed a 2-0 victory over Armadale at Perth Plasterboard Centre Stadium and Perth SC beat Subiaco 2-1 with a last-gasp stoppage time winner at Dorrien Gardens.
Floreat claimed a 2-0 away win over a luckless Mandurah City at Securitas Protect Stadium, Bayswater moved into the top four on the league ladder with a 2-1 victory against Perth Glory at Finance 365 Stadium, and Stirling Lions beat Cockburn City 2-0 at Macedonia Park to stretch their unbeaten run to five games.