Campbelltown had endured six straight grand final defeats heading into Saturday’s encounter with Sydney City – including two straight open women premier league losses to the Eagles and four straight state title losses (twice to Eagles) – and with both making this year’s decider despite finishing behind Enfield on the competition ladder it seemed like destiny the two combatants would meet again to decide the 2011/12 women’s champion – and what a match it was.
Sydney City suffered a pre-game blow with the loss of star player Jodie Bain, who broke her toe in the major-semi final win over Enfield, and another player failed to turn up to give Roy Cowie’s side a limited bench for the end-of-season contest.
At the other end Campbelltown coach Thomas Thomson stuck to his game plan to run the pants off City’ and did a fantastic job in rotating his players to keep fresh legs on court.
To make matters worse for Sydney they conceded a soft goal five minutes in when the Eagles keeper fumbled a Laura Donnelly strike on her line to gift Quake an early lead.
City bounced back and drew level again through Heidi Makrillos only for Campbelltown to restore their lead on the quarter-hour when Leesa Thompson flicked a neat freekick to Sam Muscat who dribbled past two defenders and delicately placed her shot into the top corner.
However, the Eagles managed another equaliser just before halftime, Justine McLauchlin heading past a stranded Ashley Brown in goals for Quake to make sure the game was all even at 2-2 at the break.
Campbelltown put their noses in front a third time just after the restart when Donnelly beat one defender, tried to take on another, lost the ball, got it back, lost it again and with the ball breaking free took her opportunity well to place a decisive shot into the back of the net and put Quake 3-2 up.
With the game still in the balance City threw everything at Campbelltown, hitting the post three times and thwarted numerous times by Brown who was having a blinder in goals, and it was Quake’s stoic defence that proved the difference in the end as the fulltime hooter sounded with the scoreline still at 3-2.
Campbelltown coach Thomas Thomson was delighted for his young side, most of who had been together for many years and part of so many close, fruitless efforts. He stated the obvious feeling the team expressed following their well-deserved victory.
“It was relief more than anything, after going close so many times,” he said. “I’m really proud of them. I’m proud that they’re all Quake girls through and through – I’m sure they have purple and orange blood in their veins.”
“What’s even better is these kids are just on 21 or younger, so the rest of the competition will have to chase them for some time yet as they won’t be getting old too quickly… only the coaches will.”
Thomson pointed to a true team effort as the centre of their win and held special praise for a committed defence.
“The last two year’s we’ve been premiers and went in [to the grand finals] a little bit lazy, so the prep talk this time was that we’d be more desperate, and from young Jemma Crane who’s in our 14’s and came on for five minutes while I rested a couple of other players, to Ashley [goalkeeper Brown] who I’ve coached since under 12s and is a real character, everyone did their bit,” he said.
“What’s funny is the last couple years it’s been on the opposite foot where we’ve always been the team behind and attacking, attacking, attacking and they’ve been scrambling hard in defence. This year was different as we were the ones scrambling, giving it everything, and we hung in there. There were definitely a lot of nerves in the last few minutes but I’m very pleased that the girls finally did it.”
The grand final defeat was the first in 12 years for Eagles coach and well-respected Futsal personality Roy Cowie, who could’ve been forgiven for getting used to seeing his teams lift trophies. It left a bitter taste but Cowie refused to take anything away from the terrific match and great Campbelltown win.
“I thought it was a really good game but, to be honest, I anticipated the result. We really missed [injured] Jodie Bain and Quake defended really well,” he said. “Their keeper had a very good game, I think she won them the game, but it was more because we had to chase them all game with a small bench and they just wore us down in the end.”
“I don’t take much notice of who scores goals because I believe Futsal boils down to defence, and they defended well. Their keeper did a double save and then a defender kicked it off the line, so you’ve got to give them their dues.”
“They’ve got very good, structured play from the sideline and corners, and they’re very hard to defend against because of their set plays – they’re a true Futsal side.”
The loss left Cowie contemplating the future but he dipped his hat to a City side that played their guts out in trying circumstances.
“This is the first time I’ve been beaten in a grand final in 12 years and I don’t like the feeling at all,” he said. “You’ve got to lose sometimes and you walk around thinking about wrong decisions, but we also had to restructure our team with the players out and Tommy [Thomson] had good tactics and kept making changes and it took the legs out of my players with all the running around they had to do.”
“But they played their absolute hearts out on that big court at Dural, and that was a huge effort. When it’s all said and done we lost our first four games of the comp and ended up making the grand final and winning the state title, so it was still a good season.”
Sydney City Eagles: 1. Melissa Khoury, 2. Renee Tomkins, 5. Fabiana Perfilio, 10. Heidi Makrillos, 3. Trudy Camilleri Subs: 11. Michelle Dingwall, 7. Helen Petinos, 9. Brooke Cowie, 12. Justine McLauchlin,
Scorers: Heidi Makrillos 7’, Justine McLachlin 24’
Campbelltown Quake: 1. Ashley Brown, 3. Claire Walsh, 5. Leesa Thomson, 6. Zoeie Redman, 10. Laura Donnelly. Subs: 20. Mel McCauley, 4. Stephanie Haim, 8. Justine Vella, 9. Sam Muscat, 11. Sharron Walsh, 2. Dana Buttigieg, 7. Jemma Crane
Scorers: Zoeie Redman 2’, Sam Muscat 18’, Laura Donnelly 27’.
Referees: D. Luttringer, D. Turner, G. South