Clubs may come and go, but community stay the same. What we realised in Sydney FC's 3-0 derby thumping of Western Sydney Wanderers.
WESTERN SYDNEY DON'T DO 'HALF MEASURES'
With three losses in their last four, the decline of Western Sydney has been little short of breathtaking.
Of every W-League side, they've been hit the hardest by the transfer window, length of contracts and foreign departures. To lose Vesna Milivojevic in the past week on top of Lynn Williams' international absence, the departure of Denise O'Sullivan, and the injuries to Erica Halloway and Abby Smith...well, it's been colossal.
The impact on the club's fortunes has been justifiable and yet still disheartening. Unlike Sydney, who couldn't have predicted at the beginning of the season that Caitlin Foord and Chloe Logarzo would set sail for England just before the finals series, Western Sydney would have known that their best players were set to leave.
Between Ella Mastrantonio, Amy Harrison and Kyra Cooney-Cross, they still have arguably the finest Australian midfield in the competition. So why does the exit strategy now seem like a mess?
The question becomes; how much praise did Dean Heffernan deserve for the Wanderers' early season success, and how much pressure should he face for their end of season decline?
The scary part is it could get worse. For a club that had offered so little in the W-League until now, perhaps a finals appearance should be savoured as they look to learn key lessons for next season.
But without Kristen Hamilton for their next match, they're going to have learn much sooner than that. Otherwise, it could be pretty ugly.
WHILE ONE DOOR'S SLAMMING SHUT, ANOTHER'S CREAKING OPEN
Unfortunately, no one really believed Ante Juric when he said Sydney were still hunting down the Premiership. Melbourne City have too proud a tradition in this competition to let this one slip.
But they should. Sydney were incredibly efficient tonight, putting so few steps wrong despite the ordeals they've faced this transfer window that you can't help but feel they are 'the other' serious threat come finals.
The defence was incredible at both ends, Ellie Brush steaming her way through all before her at both ends. This little tactical switch ups that surprise opposition are a trademark of Juric and we expect to be surprised by Sydney all the way to the grand final.
Strength in part, lies in depth. Now they have Lindsay Agnew and Veronica Latsko up front, that really takes the pressure off Remy Siemsen, creating this brilliant interchangeable array of attacking talent at their disposal.
With a rock-solid backline behind them, experienced creatives like Sofia Huerta and a midfield that - much like its leader, Teresa Polias - simply chugs away with tenacity and precision, it's hard to pick many faults.
We saw tonight just how easy it is to impact a game with a decent substitute; Princess Ibini, springing off the bench, nearly taking on the entire deflated, exhausted Wanderers' lineup.
We saw the Sky Blues take the foot off the pedal as early as the 20th minute and they never really felt the need to get going again, which is perhaps a shame because they were capable of a payback 5-0 drubbing tonight.
But there is a lot to be excited about.
Not a bad way to start a #SydneyDerby! Less than two minutes on the clock before we opened the scoring thanks to @V_Latsko12 👌👌— Sydney FC (@SydneyFC) February 15, 2020
Second half coming up...#SydneyIsSkyBlue #WeAreChampions pic.twitter.com/82V6C0rkKR
SMALLER AMBITIONS PAY DIVIDENDS
It's reassuring to see how nice an atmosphere can be created with a relatively small crowd.
The difference between 1,000 people through the gates and the 2,300 that made Manly's Cromer Park sing tonight may seem relatively slight, but at the end of the day, it can make or break a derby.
We saw a similar story with the just over 5,000 that packed into the Matildas against China.
We don't need huge crowds to build an atmosphere at football matches, we have that luxury of being able to focus on the game-day experience instead, pay less for smaller venues and set our sights on a feel good, family dynamic.
To watch kids playing football up on the hill behind the goals may seem like a discouragement to the level of professionalism that these players offer. Certainly, the standard shown by Sydney tonight was excellent.
Female football is undergoing a transitional phase, where the true audience potential of the Matildas and by extension this league remains somewhat unclear.
We all want to see NWSL attendances verging from the 4-5,000 mark all the way up to the Portland Thorns esque 20,000 that packed out BankWest. Double headers in big stadiums. The lot.
But in the meantime, it is a comfort to know that by setting our expectations lower and focusing instead on providing that relaxed sense of community that other sports can't, the W-League already occupies a unique place on the Australian sporting calendar.
And what a place it is.