It all came down to two teams and 90 minutes this weekend to determine the 2013-2014 W-League Champion. It’s been on heck of a season this year and I’ve been very happy to have had the opportunity to cover it for Our Game Magazine, so for one final time this season let’s get to the recap.
The Narrative: Melbourne came into this game looking for their first ever W-League title. Add in the desire to win for a coach on the way out, Dave Edmondson, who leaves for Bristol Academy of the FAWSL next season. And for revenge after losing last year’s final to Sydney FC, the story lines around Melbourne essentially wrote themselves. On the other side of the pitch is Brisbane. A team that’s seen their fare share of W-League Grand Finales (five to be exact) and has won two titles. They have the best ‘keeper in the world lining up between the posts and a young athletic group of midfielders looking to prove themselves. Plus they beat perhaps the hottest team in the league in Canberra to advance to the Grand Final. Both teams were the underdogs in their respective semi finals, yet managed to take out the two hottest teams in the league. All of this combined to set up an excellent Grand Finale at Lakeside Stadium.
After the final whistle blew, Melbourne not only notched their first win over Brisbane in a competitive W-League match, but they also grabbed their first ever W-League title. The dynamic duo of Lisa De Vanna and Jess Fishlock, as discussed last week, were seemingly of one mind, as they linked up and provided the first of two goals for Melbourne. Another NWSL player found herself on the score sheet in Lauren Barnes after her goal seemingly locked things up before the half. While Nadine Angerer made some great plays to keep Brisbane within striking distance, the shutout went to Brianna Davey, who was turning away the Roar all game long.
Melbourne was truly a shining example of the mantra “its not how you start its how you finish.” To open the season, they found themselves once again on the losing side of the score line against Sydney FC. While they didn’t see their opposition raise the trophy in that first match, the final score of 5-2 planted seeds of doubt about Melbourne. However they showed up when it mattered most in the playoffs and as a result the Melbourne Victory are your 2013-2014 W-League Champions.
The Player: There is absolutely no reason for me to disagree with the selection of Jess Fishlock as the player of the match. Not only did Fishlock find a way to assist yet another De Vanna goal, but she provided her trademark energy all game long. It seemed as if she lost no energy, whether she needed to sprint back to defend or push up into the attack. Fishlock heads back to the NWSL as, in my opinion, one of the best players in the W-League this season.
Worth A Shout: What a season for Brisbane. I would count myself among those shocked they made the Grand Finale, especially considering they had to get past Canberra. There is certainly no doubt that Nadine Angerer had another fine game in the net for the Roar, and the trio of Tameka Butt, Hayley Raso, and Katrina Gorry continually impressed all season long. It will be an exciting group to see continue to grow in the game of soccer.
Best Foreign International: Jodie Taylor scored eleven goals in this W-League season and took home the golden boot. Any time you’re the leading goalscorer on the highest scoring team in W-league history, that’s definitely going to help your chances. Regardless, Taylor still had an excellent season for Sydney. It seems that the English Women’s National Team head coach Mark Sampson agrees as well, as Taylor recently got her first call up for the team back in December.
Best ‘Keeper: Melissa Barberi of Adelaide United had herself a heck of a season. This was Barberi’s first year back after missing some time due to pregnancy and it seemed like she hadn’t lost a single step. Adelaide was a squad that made quite a few steps forward this season and surprised a lot of people. At one point this year they were legitimately contending for the fourth playoff spot and they finished with their most ever wins in a season this year. A lot of that had to do with Barberi’s fantastic play in goal.
Breakthrough Player: Hayley Raso is only 19 years old so let that sink in for a moment. Despite her age, Raso was an absolute stalwart for Brisbane this season. In games that Brisbane didn’t get Raso involved, or on the rare occasion she exited the match early, the Roar just didn’t look like a squad that was going to make the Grand Final at the end of the season. I know it’s hard to call any player that has won two W-League championships by age 19 a breakthrough, but this season was easliy Raso’s best season yet, and she still has a long way to go.
League MVP: We just talked about her above and with good reason, Jess Fishlock was an absolute catalyst for Melbourne this year and was a big reason why they went home with their first ever W-League championship. It seemed like anytime Lisa De Vanna scored a beautiful goal it was a Fishlock assist that set every thing up. Oh, and earning the player of the match in the Grand Finale isn’t too shabby either.