At the end of last year’s Westfield W-League Season, eighth-placed Glory were battered and bruised by injuries, as two Matildas neared the exit door.
Glory’s talismanic striker and Captain Samantha Kerr missed the majority of the season with a foot injury, followed soon after by a fractured collarbone to Matilda and then-Glory winger Caitlin Foord. The injuries disrupted the momentum of Glory’s season as the team finished 8th in the league.
The off-season saw Foord move to Sydney FC and Matildas’ goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold choose the orange of Brisbane Roar, tasking Head Coach Bobby Despotovski with rebuilding the team before the league kicked-off in early November 2016.
From there, Glory made key changes on and off the pitch, and just four short months later, our Perth Glory Women have emphatically earned their berth against reigning champions Melbourne City in the Westfield W-League Grand Final.
So what were the ingredients of our incredible turn-around?
Physical and mental resilience
This season, Glory have proved time and time again they’re arguably the hardest working team in the league. Despotovski put the girls through a rigorous pre-season fitness program and reaped the rewards. The team secured a home final with a stoppage time winner in a 1-0 victory against Western Sydney Wanderers away, before three goals in the final 15 minutes saw them demolish Sydney FC 5-1 in the W-League semi-final.
The semi-final also showcased the incredible mental strength and belief in the team. Eight players in Sydney FC’s starting 11 have appeared at national level for the Matildas in recent years, compared to Perth Glory’s two in Kerr and Kim Carroll. Glory controlled the game, played disciplined attacking football and were ruthless going forward in attack, taking every inch the Sky Blues afforded them.
Ask any player in the Perth Glory Women’s squad what their team’s greatest attribute is, and you’ll get the same answer; it’s the bond. Under the strong leadership of Matilda and proud Perthite Samantha Kerr, the team is united and is stronger than ever. You can see any combination of teammates having a conversation and enjoying each other’s company, which ultimately pays off on the pitch, with every player willing to put their body on the line for each other.
Super signings at home and abroad
It must be said that Despotovski, his assistant coach Jessine Bonzas and the backroom staff were superb in their off-season efforts to rebuild the squad. After losing Foord and Arnold, the coaches brought in a number of key performers this season from Australia and abroad, including international recruits Arianna Romero and Alyssa Mautz, talented striker Rosie Dee Sutton from Adelaide United and Margaret River born-and-raised Natasha Rigby to name a few. Each and every signing has made key contributions to Glory’s success and strong team spirit this season.
With the return of Kerr and goal scoring nous of Sutton up front, Despotovski was able to take a big part of the goal-scoring burden off the shoulders of talented American Vanessa DiBernardo. Internationals DiBernardo and Mautz were able to drop slightly deeper into midfield to receive the ball from American defensive midfielder Nikki Stanton and the centre backs, resulting in the creativity in the centre of the park needed to bring the wingers in on more goal scoring opportunities. This was seen throughout the season, as Glory’s US midfield engine often controlled the tempo of games.
Sam Kerr hitting form
Arguably this has been Sam Kerr’s best season in the purple and white of Perth Glory. Involved in 14 (10 goals and four assists) of Glory’s 27 goals during the regular season, Kerr has etched her name as the leader and talisman of Perth Glory’s Women’s side. She’s created several chances throughout the season and caused each and every defence in the league headaches with her pace and hunger to win the ball in the front third.
Healthy & fit season
A mix of good fitness and good fortune, our Glory girls have only suffered one major injury (a finger injury to goalkeeper Melissa Maizels) this season. Full credit must go to the Despotovski’s fitness program and the efforts of team physiotherapist Nafyn Pattiaratchi and broader medical staff of Perth Glory.
A super team
The comeback from this team cannot be downplayed in any way; Glory have battled every sort of adversity in the past 12 months and made it to the biggest game in women’s football in Australia. The grind and hard-work, coupled with the unmatchable team spirit and belief of this Perth Glory side is second to none, which has deservedly propelled Perth Glory into its first W-League final since December 2014.
Both Perth Glory and Melbourne City boast championship quality sides and this weekend is shaping up to be one of the most exciting Westfield W-League Grand Final match-ups in recent years. We’ve enjoyed a super Westfield W-League season but of course; the best is yet to come.
See you at nib Stadium at 4:30pm this Sunday!
Tickets available on ticketmaster here: http://bit.ly/2kN80GI and at the gate.