Tuesday, December 5, 2023

NPL Women’s NNSW Round Four Preview: Olympic out to stop Magic sharpshooter in top of the table clash

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Match of the Round
Broadmeadow Magic v Newcastle Olympic
Magic Park, Sunday 4pm

Newcastle Olympic coach Neil Owens says his side will be focused on shutting down star Broadmeadow striker Adriana Konjarski in the match of the round on Sunday.

Olympic make the short trip to Magic Park on top of the NPLW NNSW table with a 100 per cent record after three games, clear of Charlestown and Broadmeadow on goal difference.

While it is only round four and far from being a potential premiership decider, the meeting between old rivals Magic and Olympic could still have a significant bearing on where the premiership trophy ends up this season.

And if Olympic are to get an early advantage in the premiership race they will need to stop Konjarski.

The 27-year-old left the Newcastle Jets midway through the A-League Women’s season to join Broadmeadow and has hit the ground running at NPLW NNSW level.

Konjarski has scored 10 of Magic’s 14 goals, with Broadmeadow also enjoying a perfect record of three wins from as many matches.

And Owens believes stopping Konjarski, who won the inaugural NPLW NNSW Golden Boot award with an incredible 38 goals for premiers and champions Warners Bay last season, could go a long way to securing the points for Olympic.

“AJ has come back from the Jets and looks really happy at Magic and is scoring a lot of goals,” Owens said.

“She seems to be their main goalscorer. Obviously that needs that extra bit of attention. She moves really well and scores a lot of goals.

“If we can shut her down then the pressure falls on others to score. Obviously she’s a threat and we just need to start really good.

“Last week [against Mid Coast] we were a bit slow into the game. We addressed it and spoke about it this week how important it is to get a good start, be sharp in your passing, moving [and] being mobile.

“That’s key when you’re playing good opposition, to be competitive from the start. One of the key things in my coaching is that when that whistle goes, we go.”

While Olympic have a number of quality experienced players, Owens has been delighted with the contribution of three of his younger players who have stepped up from reserve grade.

Sophie McDonald, Rosie Copus and Sophie Walmsley have shown calmness beyond their years as they have taken to the top grade, with Owens also particularly pleased with the fitness levels of his players so early in the season.

“The fitness levels are completely different to this stage last season. And that’s especially important when you’re trying to find your feet, you’ve got new players coming in and you might rotate the squad a bit. You have to rely on that fitness to get you over the line,” Owens said.

“It has been really pleasing and some of the girls have commented on how fit they are. Hopefully we can maintain that fitness and just get better and better as the season goes on.”

Broadmeadow coach Jake Curley was hoping to have Kobie Ferguson return this week, with Keziah White also closing in on a return, from serious knee injuries.

Curley said every game was important to helping Magic achieve their goals this season.

“Games against Olympic are good for us. They’re always a good contest between the two teams. Both teams have got good players, good coaches. It has always been tight and that won’t change,” Curley said.

“[The rivalry] actually goes back before Magic and Olympic to the old South Wallsend-Wallsend days and it has sort of continued on into the NPLW space. It’s good for the game to have that sort of feeling and rivalry. But the girls generally play it in the right way too.”

Magic will take some extra motivation from the way their 2022 campaign ended at the hands of their bitter rivals, with Olympic running out 3-1 winners in the preliminary final.

It was a frustrating end for Broadmeadow who had fallen three points short of the premiership, having been declared premiers in the COVID-shortened 2021 season.

“I think the girls the year before were very strong before COVID stopped us. The expectation at Magic is always to do very well and we want to maintain that,” Curley said.

“It’s a difficult thing to stay on top for as long as we have. Every time teams play against us they want to beat Magic. We have to be composed about it and understand and accept that challenge.

“We need to limit their chances. Jemma House is a good player and finishes goals. They defend well, they’ve got a good midfield. We need to defend well collectively and hopefully keep our scoring touch at the other end.”

Adamstown Rosebud JFC v New Lambton FC
Lake Macquarie Regional Football Facility, Saturday 7pm

Adamstown Rosebud will look to bounce back when they host New Lambton on Saturday night.

Rosebud suffered its first defeat of the season against heavyweights Broadmeadow last weekend, going down 5-2.

It was a disappointing result for Adamstown who had flown out of the blocks with convincing wins over Mid Coast and Warners Bay to start their campaign.

Adamstown were able to take some positives out of their defeat to Magic, namely two quality strikes from Eva Donnelly and Ellyse Lynch.

But Rosebud will need to tighten up defensively against a New Lambton side desperately in search of its first points of the season.

The Golden Eagles arrive at the Lake Macquarie Regional Football Facility having suffered three defeats from its opening three matches, including being kept at arm’s length by Maitland in their 2-0 loss last weekend.

Warners Bay FC v Maitland FC
John Street Oval, Sunday 4pm

Maitland coach Keelan Hamilton will not be taking Warners Bay lightly when the Magpies travel to John Street Oval on Sunday.

The reigning premiers and champions are a shadow of the team that dominated the 2022 campaign, having lost almost its entire senior playing squad to rival clubs during the off-season.

The Panthers have suffered heavy 16-0, 8-1 and 15-0 defeats to Newcastle Olympic, Adamstown and Charlestown to start their season and will be desperate for a change in fortune.

But it will not be easy against a Maitland side coming off its first win of the season, a comfortable 2-0 victory over New Lambton.

The Magpies could very easily have been heading into this weekend with a 100 per cent record, having fallen to single-goal defeats to Charlestown and Olympic despite having chances late in both games with the score level.

Hamilton said while Maitland would be out to build on last week’s result, he was pleased with his side’s overall start to the season.

“There definitely wasn’t any panic from myself around the first two performances. I thought there was some really good signs there,” Hamilton said.

“We’re a team that’s evolving. We want to be competing right there at the top end of the competition. I don’t think we’re quite there yet. I think some of those other teams have had a little bit more time together than we have ahead of us.

“If we can continue to improve in those little areas and those smaller details I think that can add to us. At the minute the overall is ok but there are a couple of areas we could make things a bit easier on ourselves.”

Hamilton said Maitland would prepare for the match like any other despite Warners Bay’s place on the table and opening three weeks of results.

“We definitely won’t take Warners Bay lightly. We’ll do our analysis and make sure we prepare properly again,” Hamilton said.

“But I think the big thing for us is consistency of performance. We’ve got some things we need to work on in terms of that final pass into the front third, a little bit more cutting edge in that finishing. And a couple of times our positioning I thought in the box [against New Lambton] we were sort of behind people and not getting across our defender when we should.

“So there’s things for us to work on and [the win over New Lambton] won’t count for anything if we don’t go and perform again next week. Every game has its challenges and we’ll prepare as well as we can and put our best foot forward again.”

Charlestown Azzurri v Mid Coast FC
Lisle Carr Oval, Sunday 4pm

Charlestown Azzurri will sense an opportunity to claim top spot on the table for themselves when they host Mid Coast FC on Sunday.

Azzurri are the third side with an unblemished record to start the season and, with Broadmeadow hosting Newcastle Olympic, could climb to the summit alone with victory over Middies.

Niko Papaspiropoulos’ side have started impressively with wins over Maitland, New Lambton and Warners Bay and will look to continue that run against a Middies team looking for its first point of the campaign at Lisle Carr Oval.

Mid Coast have suffered defeats to Adamstown, Magic and Olympic but will see player-coach and former national league player Emma Stanbury return from a one-match suspension.

Meanwhile, the draw for the inaugural NNSW Women’s League Cup was conducted on Tuesday.

The eight NPLW NNSW clubs were drawn against each other in the quarter-finals to be played on the Easter long weekend.

All teams at each club, including under-13s, 15s, 17s, reserve grade and first grade teams, will feature in their own competition.

In the quarter-final draw, Mid Coast FC will host Maitland FC, Newcastle Olympic will welcome Adamstown Rosebud JFC, Broadmeadow Magic make the short trip to face New Lambton FC while Warners Bay FC travel to Charlestown to face Azzurri.

The semi-finals will follow midweek between 15 and 19 May. The final will be played on the weekend of 5-6 August during the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023.

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