In this week’s matches, there were wins for Heidelberg, Box Hill and Ashburton, with South Melbourne and Sandringham having not yet played at the time of writing. It was also a round of defensive mishaps, with three of the round’s eleven goals coming from players scoring in their own net!
Box Hill Inter booked its place in the WPL finals on Saturday, but the scrappy nature of its 3-1 victory over Bendigo Vipers suggests that the reigning premier has much work to do if it is to retain its title for another season. Bendigo has shown itself to be a much improved side in recent weeks, with narrow losses to three of the top four sides in the competition, and holding the fourth, Heidelberg, to a draw. It took the lead inside the first ten minutes at Wembley Park, through Haley Rickard, and it appeared another upset could be on the cards. Box Hill, however, was able to restore parity midway through the half. The home side came out firing after half time, and secured the three points with two quick goals in the first six minutes of the half. Belinda Pacella and Lauren Farrugia were on target for Inter, with Bendigo also contributing to its own downfall through an own goal. Box Hill’s victory was, however, somewhat soured, as Georgia Koutrouvelis was shown a red card shortly before the end of the game, and she will be nervously waiting this week to hear how much that dismissal will affect her participation in the finals. Inter finishes the weekend at the top of the ladder on 33 points, but could be overtaken by South, which plays on Monday night. Bendigo remains eighth, three points and a considerable goal difference ahead of GRFA.
Heidelberg United became the third team to qualify for the finals, defeating Casey Comets 3-1 at Olympic Village on Sunday afternoon. Melanie Camilleri kept up her push for individual honours as league top goalscorer, as she bagged all three of the home side’s goals. She opened the scoring midway through the first half, adding a second twenty minutes after the interval, and rounding out her hat-trick ten minutes later. Casey’s Alexandra Gummer scored a consolation effort for her side in the dying minutes of the game. The result has starkly contrasting consequences for the two teams, as it guarantees Heidelberg’s participation in the finals, while the defeat means that Casey is in serious danger of missing out. United climbs to second on the ladder, while Casey remains fourth, but it is now just one point ahead of Ashburton, which plays a comparatively easy match against Bendigo in the final round, whereas Casey must now get a result against Box Hill Inter.
Ashburton kept Casey Comets firmly within its sights with a 3-0 victory over Preston Lions at BT Connor Reserve on Sunday. Preston proved its own worst enemy in the match, with two of Ashburton’s three goals coming from Preston players putting through their own net. Christine Pfeiffer was the only Ashburton scorer on the day. Ashburton stay fifth on the ladder, but move to just a point behind Casey. Given that Ashburton’s final game is against Bendigo, it would expect to pick up three points, but with Bendigo’s improved recent form, that may not be as simple a task as previously thought. Ashburton still has a good chance of making the finals, but it needs to win, and hope that Box Hill at least holds Casey to a draw. At a push, a draw could be enough for Ashburton, but only if Casey was to lose by two goals or more.
At the time of writing, Sandringham’s slim chances of making the finals were still alive, but it needs to win its final two games and rely on both Ashburton and Casey losing, to sneak back into contention.
All matches in the final round of the WPL take place next Sunday at 1pm, and there’s plenty still at stake at both the top and bottom of the ladder. While three of the four finals participants have been determined, the order in which the teams finish has not, and so those qualified will be keen to win to try and secure a top two finish, and the double chance. The only team that will not have a say in that is South Melbourne, which has the bye, and it will be forced to sit back and watch the results, to find out where it will finish. Bottom side GRFA hosts Heidelberg United at Howard Glover Reserve in what is effectively its last WPL match as, unless there are upsets of astronomical proportions, GRFA will be returning to State League 1 next year. Match of the round takes place at Comets Stadium featuring two of the WPL heavyweights – Casey Comets and Box Hill Inter. The home side has to win to guarantee its place in the finals, while Box Hill will also be looking to win to snatch a top two finish. Ashburton will be fighting tooth and nail at Ashburton Park against Bendigo Vipers, in order to give itself the best possible chance of sneaking into the top four at the death. Finally, at BT Connor Reserve, Preston Lions will be looking to end any outside chances Sandringham may have of featuring in the finals, in its last game of the season.