When watching the semi finals last week, I was so confident that Melbourne City would be champions that I put my dignity a little bit on the line. I think the exact promise may have been to eat my hat if City didn’t win. The hat hidden in my cupboard from the City W League membership would probably have sufficed.
I tell you what, for a good chunk of the contest, half of my brain was taken up by me devising ways to fit the hat into my mouth for a meme.
Alas, it was not required.
Of course, Melbourne City found a way. They have all season. They have managed to just find a way to win for the majority of their existence. This grand final was a return to their early season stodginess, manufacturing wins by the odd goal, looking like they shouldn’t be winning and yet always somehow winning. Giving teams hope and then taking it away. Of course they would find a way, once more, in the big dance.
Sydney looked good. They came out of the blocks hard. Latsko looked a constant threat and Huerta was busy making her presence known. Kennedy looked as if she was at her best, a ball playing defender who could create attacking opportunities for her own side as much as she would halt the advances of her opponents. The 15 minutes of the game belonged to Sydney. If they had made it count, I could well be sitting here writing an entirely different article.
They couldn’t make it count.
I’m a goalkeeper. Goalkeeping is my favourite thing in the entire world to do, probably because I’m a psychopath, but mostly because I find it’s more of a test of mental strength than anything else. You can do absolutely nothing for 89 minutes, but when you have to be there it is absolutely vital that you don’t fuck it up. You can have the best game of your life and still let in enough goals that your team loses. I love that aspect. It’s unique, and no other position in any other sport is quite like it.
I mean, the other sport that I played for a very long time was cricket, and I often thought about the mental aspect in a similar way to goalkeeping. You have to concentrate through some really boring periods. You have to be alert, much like how you have to be alert in the field for the one catch that might come to you.
Yet it’s not the same, is it? Dropping a catch has an impact on the game but it’s not the game. Maybe the batsman gets out next delivery. Maybe they don’t, but it’s not your fault if the bowler is crap. There are a million other moments. If I break concentration or make an error as a goalkeeper that leads to a goal, in a sport that averages only 2 and a bit of those per game, it can be catastrophic.
Unfortunately for Aubrey Bledsoe, she kind of did a bit of a Loris Karius, if you know what I mean. In a game with only one goal, it was the deciding factor.
It’s just one of those things. She’s in the conversation for one of the best and most consistent goalkeepers the W League has seen (certainly in recent seasons) and still is after this game. It’s the nature of the position, and on another day, we see extra time and penalty shootouts where she could have been the hero. When she let Catley’s shot slide underneath her into the back of the net in the 16th minute, it meant that it wasn’t to be.
She didn’t deserve it. Sydney FC didn’t deserve it. There were stages that this game was completely enthralling (even if Dowie thought the Melbourne Victory academy was more interesting to comment on during it) and I wish it had gone longer. I wish I could be sitting here writing about Latsko rounding Williams and putting it in the back of the net, rather than a Carpenter goal line clearance after an excellent Williams save. I wish I could be writing about Ibini thrashing it into top bins to level the scores with 10 minutes to go, rather than wondering if Siemsen would have scored had she not been substituted off.
It wasn’t to be, and that’s football, and that’s why we love it, but it’s also why we kind of hate it.
Instead, the City train rolled on to another trophy. They defended well for large periods and looked menacing in the attack. Ellie Carpenter, as usual, is a pleasure to watch bomb down the wing. Every game you know you’re going to get one or two passages of play where she is just unstoppable. Give her a few years in Europe and she’ll be one of the best wing backs in the world, although she is probably almost in the conversation already.
Steph Catley received player of the match for her goal and to be fair, while I focused on the fact that it shouldn’t really have been a goal, it was brilliant work by her to get a shot off. A quick one-two with Van Egmond left her dancing into space on the edge of the area and at the end of the day the more you challenge the keeper the luckier you’ll get. She did the rest of her job as she always does – incredibly well – and it was difficult to fault her performance.
Where to from here? It’s hard to know, is it. We’re all facing uncertain times and while it was incredibly disappointing to not be able to be at the ground today, we all understand why.
Whatever the W League looks like next season, both of these teams have set themselves up well. There is a chance that City will lose some of their players to Europe and may have to rebuild but if they can hold the core of the squad together there’s no reason why they can’t go back to back next year. Meanwhile, Sydney will be hoping that their mid-season losses of Foord and Logarzo is enough pain for them and that they can keep their young players together under the leadership of the brilliant Polias for another crack next year.
Of course, this all depends on the players surviving Rado Vidosic just COUGHING INTO HIS HAND CONSTANTLY LIKE A MAD MAN, FOR FUCKS SAKE RADO.
Bye, Dub. We’ll see you next season. Maybe.
By Taryn Heddo