If Canberra United didn’t have the competition’s attention after their historic win last weekend against Melbourne City, they certainly have it after dominating the highly regarded Brisbane Roar 5-1 on Sunday in Gosford.

The first ten minute of the game were unsettled with neither team able to grip control of the ball, and the match risked being vaguely unwatchable with the number of unforced errors and turnovers.

It was Nickoletta Flannery, the 17 year old who provided the final pass for Karly Roestbakken in Canberra’s historic win over Melbourne City last round, who broke the deadlock in the 13th minute, turning the ball back on the inside and shooting low and hard past Mackenzie Arnold who perhaps didn’t expect such a precocious move from a player she may not yet recognise.

Brisbane had just missed an earlier chance with Gielnik, the best for the Roar, flooding down the right wing, and sending in a ball that just about turned Jenna McCormick inside out as she headed it clear.

There’s nothing quite like being there, seeing the game unfurl in person, watching runs off the ball that the TV doesn’t capture. Our usual menu of radio and twitter coverage, although gratefully received, doesn’t stand a chance against watching IRL (in real life - keep up olds).

Players of influence

Yukari Kinga stood out as the player to watch - the stabilising influencer on the game. She inserted herself when needed, filling in gaps out wide when she saw that others had drifted to central positions, but as soon as attack broke down, she retreated to fill the space in front of either the back three or four, depending on the phase in the game.

When asked how important Yukari Kinga is to the team in attack and defence, Dower was glowing.

“Kinga’s just brilliant - she’s played her entire career as a right back but she knows the game so well, she’s such a smart footballer. Her touch on the ball, she’s that perfect link person in that number 6 role. She can break down the attack then look to launch the counter - her passing is exquisite at times. The timing of her tackles, she’s everything you want from a good number 6.”

For Brisbane, Clare Polkinghorne was that player, seeking out opportunities to inject herself onto the game, especially when it was still winnable in the first half. Tameka Butt played high up the park, and was often exposed without support as the delivery of passes to her was not clinical enough to allow the team to progress up the field and pressure Canberra. Too many balls from Brisbane were sent long up the guts, too easy for Trudy Burke to gather.

Polkinghorne mused after the match “We let ourselves down in a lot of key areas. We didn’t do ourselves justice and we know we can improve. We have a quick turnaround - we have Sydney on Friday so we’ll get back to the drawing board and fix up a few key things."

"In all our games this season we’ve created a lot of chances. The chances weren’t there so much today. In our final third we were poor defensively.”

When asked how Katrina Gorry held up after her knee injury last week, Polkinghorne was full of praise. “Gorry is a tough little player - she’ll play through anything and she gave 100 per cent today.”

Canberra finding confidence

After their first goal, Canberra lifted and were unlucky to have Michelle Heyman ruled offside for a goal directly after kick off when a ball played back by a defender was intercepted and Heyman tucked it into the net.

Quick ball movement through Celeste Boureille, Grace Maher, Ash Sykes, Michelle Heyman and Nikki Flannery characterised the rest of the game. Stephanie Ochs was dangerous with strong shots from outside the box, and Clare Hunt made a fine debut at centre back alongside Hannah Brewer and McCormick, in place of the injured Ellie Brush who was missing only her fifth game in the history of the W-League.

Sykes’ trademark move of pushing the ball past the defender and running onto it served her well again this weekend, and Flannery is showing she has a similar move, using it to good effect and earning a penalty for Canberra’s second goal.

The second half was all Canberra. Brisbane came out with intent early, but the league leaders have shown that their ball movement on a good pitch is second to none this season, allowing them to turn defenders around at will. Young Matildas’ captain Grace Maher played a tremendous ball through a loose Roar defence for Sykes to latch onto for the third goal. Their fourth was thanks to another big play from Maher who sent a perfect ball down the field for Flannery to run onto and win a corner. Maher sent in the perfect corner that gave Canberra a few chances, including Flannery’s right footed volley home. The fifth was a Heyman-Flannery-Sykes combination, with Sykes clinical again in front of goal.

Gielnik scored a consolation in the final minutes as a reward for her effort all match, just to give Canberra something to think about leading into the Christmas run of matches.

Canberra kids continue season's growth

Player of the match Flannery was full of credit for her team mates. “It was a great performance by the team. We had a task, and although we have had a few injuries that have set us back a little bit, we came out today with the task to win and we did it.

"The depth in our squad is something that’s a force to be reckoned with. The trust that we have in our younger players - we had three 17 year olds starting and two 15 year olds coming on."

"We dropped one goal in the end but it means nothing - the overall performance was fantastic. We’re a huge family - I respect every one of them… I think that’s what makes us the strong team in this league. Last week it was teamwork that got us through the big Melbourne City win, and again today. We all worked hard for each other and got the win. I’m happy with my performance and I wouldn’t change anything. A hat trick would have been nice but I didn’t want to be too greedy I guess!”

Coach Rae Dower is also happy with the team’s progress at this stage of the season. “I’m really happy with the performance. The girls stuck to the game plan. There were some really well worked creative team goals, and the finishing was pretty clinically as well.”

Dower continued, “It was a great win last week but we said to the girls this was always going to be our hardest game of the season. Coming off the back of that, a lot of hype around the win from outside the squad, it was going to be a situation where we’d have a big target on our back and need to get in and push hard and get a result. The girls were great, executed the game plan really well and finished well. I’m a pretty happy coach.”

Dower spoke highly of the debutant. “Claire Hunt is a really smart footballer as well, she’s a young Matilda with a little bit of international experience. That was her first W-League start. She had a great game, she’s a very good 1v1 tackler, she’s very good in the air. Her distribution was really good today as well.”

With her first TV Player of the Game win, Dower reflected on Flannery’s performance.

"The good thing about Nikki is she really wants to learn and continue to develop and she’s really soaking it all up and taking it all in and taking a lot of really good cues from the other players."

“Nikki’s really come on in leaps and bounds. The girls give her a lot of confidence, playing with the older girls - they’ve got confidence in her. Her ability to beat players 1v1 is improving all the time, and today she finished up with some good goals - it’s onwards and upwards for her.

A quick word on the facilities

It’s fair to say neither team was overly impressed with the facilities provided at the Central Coast Stadium. Because the game was pushed back by 15 minutes to accommodate for the television schedule, TWG was informed there was a scramble to provide changeroom facilities for the teams. Last year’s option of having the women’s team prepare in the changerooms, then shift across to the Leagues Club for post-match showers, although not ideal, would have been preferable to this year’s set up. Two marquee tents were erected adjacent to each other, making pre-match and post match talks virtually impossible.

The venue provided lights when they realised there was no natural light in the tents, and industrial fans were brought in to assist with airflow. The teams can only be thankful the temperature had dropped to 22 degrees for the day from the previous day’s 36 degrees.


While we continue to be grateful that women’s football is played on the big stadiums, under the big lights of television, we can only ponder whether these conditions would ever be deemed suitable for a men’s top league competition in Australia.

De Vanna coup 

After the match, in the press conference room (ironically used by the game day mascots as a changeroom), Dower announced to Australia on live television that the club has signed perhaps the biggest name in Australian women’s football, Lisa De Vanna.

“Lisa De Vanna will be with the club on Monday night. She’ll take on number 32 and take on a guest role with the club, playing up to seven games. It’s a great opportunity for Lisa to get back into football. She just wants to come in and work hard."


"I think the style of play that we play will suit her and she just really wants to come into a really good structured football environment to get herself back and fit again and push for Matildas selection in 2017."

"How much of a great opportunity is it for the young ones? They’ve been bouncing off the older ones as it is, and now you’ve got someone in the top 5 Matildas we’ve ever produced as a nation - she had a really good long rest after a big year or two with the World Cup and the Olympic Games, and she’s back ready to work hard for the team.”

What Next?

Brisbane Roar will need to look within themselves to extract better performances across the park if they are to stay in touch with the top four. Canberra United fly into the Christmas run of matches brimming with confidence, and an enviable squad well balanced with experience and youthful talent, with plenty of big names to return to the pitch, if they can bear to nudge out the crew Dower calls ‘Generation Next’.

Canberra United 5 (Nickoletta Flannery 14’, 53’, Steph Ochs 28’, Ashleigh Sykes 50’, 56’)

Brisbane Roar 1 (Emily Gielnik 92’)

Sunday 18 December 2016

Venue: Central Coast Stadium

Kick-Off: 2:30PM (Local)

Referee: Lara Lee

Canberra United: Trudy Burke (gk), Yukari Kinga, Clare Hunt, Jenna McCormick, Grace Maher, Michelle Heyman (c) (Jasmyne Spencer 80’), Hannah Brewer, Celeste Boureille, Ashleigh Sykes, Nickoletta Flannery (Karly Roestbakken 69’), Steph Ochs (Laura Hughes 75’)

Substitutes: Georgia Boric (gk)

Cautions: Steph Ochs 39’, Yukari Kinga 54’, Hannah Brewer 77’

Brisbane Roar: Mackenzie Arnold (gk), Nina Frausing-Pedersen, Amy Chapman (Abbey Lloyd 71’), Clare Polkinghorne (c), Angela Beard, Kaitlyn Torpey (Brooke Spence 60’), Katrina Gorry (Allira Toby 60’), Tameka Butt, Summer O’Brien, Emily Gielnik, Madlyn Evans

Substitutes – Georgina Worth (gk)

Cautions – Summer O’Brien 37’, Amy Chapman 65’, Tameka Butt 89’