NPL Women's NNSW Round 20 Preview: Azzuri determined to take the premiership out from Magic’s grasp for another week

Match of the Round: 
Broadmeadow Magic FC v Charlestown Azzurri FC 
Magic Park, Friday 8:15pm  

Broadmeadow Magic have the chance to claim the premiership this weekend when they host Charlestown Azzurri this Friday night at Magic Park.  

Magic are sitting five points clear at the top of the table with two games to go, meaning that a victory this weekend will secure the silverware for the club. But Magic draw or lose, they will have to wait another week to get their hands on the premiership. 

Magic’s coach Jake Curley was pleased with his side’s gritty win over Maitland FC in their last match and says the confidence has grown within the squad after beating the other top three teams in the last two rounds.   

“I thought it was a good performance, the girls did very well to stay in the game. They competed well and got the result,” Curley said. 

“I think the self-belief has increased within the group which is good”. 

This will be Magic’s third round in a row going up against a top-four team, which they want to make a three-win streak from but know the challenge that Azzurri will pose.  

“Charlestown always provide a good challenge for us, it will be a tough game for us,” Curley said.  

“We will just focus on what we need to do. 

“We have been working on creating chances and finishing them.”  

Curley is not getting ahead of himself in the fact that his side could be walking away with three points and the premiership this Friday night but is proud that the club will hopefully be adding to their trophy cabinet in the coming weeks.  

“We are just focusing on the game, you need to win the game before getting the premiership but if we do this weekend it will be a good experience for the girls,” Curley said. 

“At Magic, we want to finish first or second, we want to win silverware and that’s want we want to keep trying to achieve in our women’s program.” 

Magic will be without Gemma Harrison this weekend due to a quad injury but is hopeful to return in time for finals.  

Azzurri are also guaranteed a spot in finals football which coach Niko Papaspiropoulos believes is an advantage for his side heading into this weekend’s match as well as the motivation to delay Magic from claiming the premiership.  

“It’s good to know that we have secured our place in finals,” Papaspiropoulos said. 

“We play with a little less pressure and a little less worry which can be a good thing and allow us to take some more calculated risks. 

“We obviously want to go and win. 

“We could potentially delay Magic in winning the premiership.” 

Azzurri’s gaffer was pleased to have a weekend off to be able to work hard on little issues that have cost the side in recent weeks as well as prepare them ahead of the final weeks of the regular season and finals football. Papaspiropoulos believes playing against the number one side this weekend is another way of helping to prepare the squad.  

“We have had some extra time with the break in preparing ahead and extra time training, working towards strengthening some areas,” Papaspiropoulos said.  

“It’s about setting all of the right habits heading into the business end of the season and building momentum.” 

“They are a team that we will potentially play in finals. These games hold a bit of value in that it isn’t about points but the experience of playing against the top side. 

“They are a quality side that we have had two tight games against this season. I am expecting another entertaining game. 

“We know what we have to offer and we have a gameplan. It’s just making sure that as a unit we focus on what we want to achieve as a team but also be aware of their threats.” 

Azzurri are hoping that Nicole Jones makes an appearance on Friday, returning to training on Thursday after struggling with a calf injury for several weeks.  

Unfortunately, it is confirmed that the Blues will be without Newcastle Jets player Lara Gooch due to her ankle injury being “worse than originally thought”. It is uncertain if Gooch will return in time for finals or at all this season. 

Both teams will have players that will need to be mindful this Friday as if they receive a yellow card in the match, they will be suspended. This is the case for Broadmeadow’s Lucy Jerram and captain Kalista Hunter as well as Azzurri’s Lori Depczynski and Charlize Whyte.  

But the prospect of suspension is unlikely to impact the intensity of Friday night’s game, with all to play for in preparation for finals football in the following weeks.  

Warners Bay FC v New Lambton FC  
John Street Oval, Sunday 4pm 

Both teams will be looking to finish their final games of the season on a high when Warners Bay host New Lambton at John Street Oval on Sunday afternoon.  

Warners Bay will be hoping to secure a point in the final two rounds as they continue to sit at the bottom of the table in what has been a disastrous season.  

The Panthers were in the fight against Mid Coast in Round 19, narrowly going down 1-2 after finishing the match with nine players.  

Defenders Dana Neaves and Jada-Lee McBride were sent from the field in the late stages of the match, meaning that they will miss this weekend’s clash.  

New Lambton will also be missing personnel this weekend as attacker Lauren Allan is suspended after receiving a red card for a dangerous tackle on Newcastle Olympic player Jorjia Hogg in Round 19.  

The Golden Eagles are unable to make the finals, sitting ten points outside the top four teams in fifth position on the table but the side will be eager to continue to pick up as many points as possible to finish out the season. 

The last time these two sides met Warners Bay suffered one of their worst defeats of the season as New Lambton thrashed them 17-0. The Panthers will be hoping that history won’t repeat itself and that they can find their way to three points.  

Newcastle Olympic FC v Adamstown Rosebud JFC 
Darling Street Oval, Sunday 4pm 

Newcastle Olympic will be hoping to keep the good times rolling when return to Darling Street Oval to go head-to-head with Adamstown Rosebud this Sunday.  

Olympic fought it out in wet and cold conditions against Maitland for 110 minutes plus penalties to claim the inaugural Women’s League Cup last Sunday evening.  

Olympic coach Neil Owens is looking forward to returning home on a high after the Cup victory after an extensive period of away games due to construction at Darling Street Oval.  

“We haven’t been at home for a while, we have had a lot of games away,” Owens said.  

“It will be good to get back home this weekend after the victory.” 

Owen’s focus has now shifted to this weekend’s important clash and the importance of picking up three points. 

“It's really important to finish in that top two now,” Owens said.  

Adamstown will be coming into the match after a weekend off which may be an advantage to the side.  

Rosebud are coming into the match off the back of a 3-3 win against Charlestown Azzurri, with a strong performance and Jenna Doyle standing out in attack.  

The last time these two sides met in Round 13 they shared the points with a 1-1 draw but with the extra motivator of finishing in the top two, Olympic will be hoping to walk away with all three points this Sunday.  

Maitland FC v Mid Coast FC 
Cooks Square Park, Sunday 4pm  

Maitland will be hoping to bounce back when they take on Mid Coast on Sunday at Cooks Square Park.  

The Magpies have suffered two recent defeats after their impressive ten-game unbeaten streak, going down 2-3 to Magic in Round 19 and losing the Women’s League Cup final match on penalties to Newcastle Olympic on Sunday evening.  

Injuries have impacted the Magpies over the past few weeks and will continue to do so this weekend. Goalkeeper Imogene Tomasone will remain sidelined with a back injury as well as Tahlia Gossner with a hamstring injury. Madeline Howard was forced from the field in the Cup final with an ankle injury and will also not be returning this weekend. 

Maitland’s coach Keelan Hamilton is aware of the toll that playing the most games out of all teams in the competition has taken on his side but continues to believe that the depth that he has in his squad have the ability to get the job done and finish second on the table. 

“The focus for us is to win every game that we play,” Hamilton said.  

“We have played the most games by far out of everyone. We went all the way in the finals of the Women’s State Cup and Women’s League Cup, we have been involved in every league game. So it’s going to about managing some bodies and making sure that we mentally pick ourselves up as we have had two tough losses in a row now in tight games where it could of gone either way. 

“We want to go and win the last two games and try and get second spot if we can.” 

Mid Coast  are sitting seventh on the table on 12 points and will be eager to make it back-to-back wins after defeating Warners Bay 2-1 in Round 19.