Warners Bay and Jets striker Jenna Kingsley will come up against her former Wallsend teammates for the first time in a Women’s Premier League grand final rematch at John St Oval on Sunday. Elsewhere, Merewether welcome back Sarah Halvorsen from injury for their clash with Adamstown at Evans Park, and Mid North Coast host South Wallsend.
RENEE VALENTINE’S WPL PREVIEW
Warners Bay v Wallsend
John Street Oval, Sunday, 2.15pm
Last start: Warners Bay beat Adamstown 4-2; Wallsend had the bye
Position on ladder: Warners Bay third, three points; Wallsend fourth, nil points
Squad news: Warners Bay will field the same starting side while Wallsend will be without Kalista Hunter, who is suspended after being red-carded in last year’s grand final. The Red Devils will take the field minus several players from their grand final side after some heavy losses in the off-season. Sophie O’Brien is the only player in the squad in doubt due to injury but will be given until game day to prove her fitness.
What the coaches say: Warners Bay coach Cassidy Davis will ask her team to show more urgency across the park.
“We definitely need to be better,” she said. “Last week we let them just run through a lot of our players and we need to be more ruthless across the park.
“We need everyone to put in that bit more of an effort. I haven’t seen Wallsend yet but I think they will be good; they’re always physical so we need to make sure we’re ready for that physical battle.”
Wallsend assistant coach Strat Kapalos said the players were “itching to get back on the paddock after a pretty long off-season”.
“The girls are all pretty keen to play and you always want to get off to a good start to the season,” he said.
“We will have to keep our eye on Jenna [Kingsley], she has come off a good training environment with the W-League Jets.”
Bottom line: It is the grand final replay from last year, which Warners Bay won 1-0, but there have been several changes to both line-ups. W-League Newcastle Jets attacking player Jenna Kingsley was among the leading scorers in the league last year and has made the switch from Wallsend to Warners Bay and this will be the first time she lines up against her former teammates. Similarly, Kally Lewis has gone from Warners Bay to the Red Devils and will need to be contained or she will cause headaches for the hosts. The length of the grass at John Street Oval was a topic of conversation after last weekend’s clash and may also have a bearing on the game again.
Merewether v Adamstown
Evans Park, Sunday, 2.15pm
Last start: Merewether beat South Wallsend 6-0; Adamstown lost 4-2 to Warners Bay
Position on ladder: Merewether second, three points; Adamstown fifth, nil points
Squad news: Adamstown will have the same players available as last weekend while Merewether welcome Sarah Halvorsen back after she missed the opening round through injury. United will, however, be without goalkeeper Alison Logue, who is unavailable. She will be replaced by 18s shot-stopper Tayla Naismith.
What the coaches say: Merewether coach Cassie Koppen was expecting a typical, tough hit-out against their cross-city rivals.
“We always love playing Adamstown - they are probably our biggest rivals and you always know you’re in for a tough game,” Koppen said.
“It is always played in good spirit and they are a team you can never take lightly.
“They have lost a few from last season but they’ve still got some experienced players and we expect them to be a little bit physical.”
Adamstown coach Ben Herron has been reiterating to his squad this week the importance of playing positive football after he felt that let them down a little last week.
“I assume Merewether will be the same as usual,” he said.
“Their major strength is at the back; they have a very solid, reliable backline and it is going to be a big challenge for our girls.
“But we don’t really focus on other teams. We just need to look at ourselves and set our own goals and if we stick to that we will be right.”
Bottom line: These two sides remain the only foundation clubs still playing in the WPL and a healthy inner-city rivalry has developed over time. Merewether looked faultless in their 6-0 demoralisation of South Wallsend while Adamstown could be disappointed not to at least get a point out of their 4-2 to loss to Warners Bay. Rosebud were in with a fighting chance until a late penalty swung momentum towards the hosts. Merewether off-season signing Rhali Dobson was Adamstown’s leading scorer last season. She was on song for United last weekend but may get a hostile reception from her former teammates on Sunday.
Mid North Coast v South Wallsend
Taree Zone Field, Sunday, 2.15pm
Last start: Mid North Coast beat Thornton 8-0; South Wallsend lost 6-0 to Merewether
Position on ladder: Mid North Coast first, three points; South Wallsend sixth, nil points
Squad news: Mid North Coast will field the same 11 which started in last weekend’s convincing win over Thornton. Experienced players Erin Wilson and Naomi Abbott came on in the second half for South Wallsend last Sunday and are expected to have more impact this weekend after both pulled up well. South Wallsend also have former W-League player Stacey Day on their books this season but she is coming back from a serious knee injury and is still out at this stage.
What the coaches say: Mid North Coast Mick Day was not reading much into South Wallsend’s six-goal loss in round one and was expecting a tough game.
He also highlighted the importance of his team not getting ahead of themselves after their own convincing victory on Sunday.
“South Wallsend have a great player line-up and I expect a good game,” he said.
“Our win on the weekend, against a quality team, was great, but we need to stay focused on our goals and carry that through the entire season.”
South Wallsend coach Gary Wilson said his squad was “upbeat” despite the six-goal loss in the season-opener.
“This will be a good test for us,” Wilson said.
“They have picked up a few players and I am expecting them to be fairly decent.
“We’ll continue to be a bit of a work in progress until we have everyone back on deck.”
Bottom line: Mid North Coast have already scored two-thirds of their total goals from last season in just one game. They indicated in the performance they have the quality to be a top-four contender but will need to refocus on the game at hand. It would be easy to look at South Wallsend’s six-goal loss and assume another big win could be on the cards, but the Wolves have a quality line-up. Erin Wilson carried an injury into the season and only came on for the second half against Merewether last weekend. She had an immediate impact and is expected to play a bigger role this weekend. Wilson indicated he would make some slight formation changes to the side which leaked six goals. This match could end up an arm wrestle between two quality sides.