South Wallsend coach Brad Parkes was this week enjoying the headache of having a near-full complement of players to pick from for the Wolves’ first appearance in Herald Women’s Premier League finals.
They are set to host minor premiers Warners Bay in the first leg of their home-and-away semi-final at Walker Fields on Sunday.
The Wolves have one of the league’s strongest squads on paper but have lacked consistency due to a string of injury and unavailability.
Parkes described his squad “like a revolving door” during the first half of the season but the Wolves, who were boosted in the final round by the signing of Matildas defender Gema Simon, appear to be peaking at the right time of the year.
Key players Erin Wilson (seven games), Gemma Harrison (nine), Alesha Clifford (six), Olivia Kennedy (nine) and Sass Seaborn (three) have played only a portion of the 15 outings which counted towards the competition standings after Thornton pulled out but are all available Sunday.
Maryjane Mason is out with a broken toe and Maddy Searl sustained a season-ending knee injury in the first round.
“There might have been one game early in the year where we had everyone available but I think this is us as full strength as we can be without MJ and Maddy,” Parkes said.
While Warners Bay, who will be at full strength on Sunday, captured the minor premiership with 38 points, the Wolves snuck into fourth with 14.
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The Panthers trounced South Wallsend 8-1 then 7-2 in their first two exchanges this year but in round three only won 3-2.
“I find it hard to flash back to the first game of the year and the second time we played them,” Parkes said.
“The last time we played them, we were very competitive and played in a way that we wanted. That’s my expectation. In the back half of the year, we have had positive performances against the top sides without winning. Hopefully we can turn it around in the finals and get the wins.”
New Lambton host defending champions Merewether in the first leg of the other semi-final at Alder Park on Saturday.
Eagles coach Keelan Hamilton said midfielder Tahlia Gossner is the only player unavailable after she had hand surgery last week.
Merewether are still without key defender Jamee Ellis through injury, Hayley Griffin is out with a broken toe and Imogen Tusek unavailable.
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The sides have twice drawn this season and United won 3-1 in round three.
While Merewether have plenty of finals experience as a club this will be the Eagles’ first appearance.
“We know that it’s a huge challenge and I think that we’re big underdogs,” Hamilton said.
“They have finals experience and we haven’t beaten them this year and they’ve only lost twice. But we don’t doubt ourselves and we’ll go in full of confidence.”
The Saturday game kicks off at 2.45pm and Sunday at 2.30pm.