A tough road to Grand Final for Brisbane | (Credit: Getty Images)
Well they did it the hard way but regardless of how they got there, the Brisbane Roar have made their third consecutive Westfield W-League grand final.
An impressive feat from the Queenslanders but this Saturday they will be looking to set another record as the first team to win two championships.
Brisbane made their way into the decider courtesy of a gruelling penalty shoot-out win over Canberra United in plus 30 degree heat. Although it took a lot out of the team, coach Jeff Hopkins is certain that come Saturday, his side will be ready.
“The first part of this week was about recovery,” said Hopkins. “But by this time in the season, our fitness levels were about where we want them to be.”
For the first time in a long time, the Brisbane Roar come into the match as underdogs. Goals have been hard to find of late and that is a departure for a side that has traditionally been free scoring.
The final two games of the regular season were 0 – 0 draws to the Melbourne Victory and the Newcastle Jets but Hopkins is secure that his side are doing the right things to see them on the scoreboard.
“During both those games we moved the ball really well, we created lots of chances.”
“I’m happy with the style of play, the team is happy with style of play and the quality as well. We just understand that we need to finish off the moves a little bit more clinically.”
The key battle this weekend will be that in the engine room. Both sides have potentially damaging players and Brisbane’s midfielder certainly obtain more than their fair share of possession.
However, off late, the Roar have had trouble in capitalising on the hard work of Lauren Colthorpe, Aivi Luik and their cohorts. It’s something their coach is acutely aware of.
“Most probably the area we need to improve on this weekend if we are going to win the grand final is our final pass.”
“It has got to be a little bit better and we need to put our chances away.”
If they can get that right, well look out Sydney because the likes of Lisa De Vanna, Kennya Cordner, Lana Harch and Tameka Butt will be frequently at their doorstep.
“Knowing that we can attack well down the middle or just as well down the flanks, we can play short combination player or be a little bit more direct, is nice.”
“What we talk about is that it’s a numbers game. If we keep getting in there, we keep getting the right kind of balls into the area, making the right runs, the balls will eventually go in over time.”
“Hopefully our time will be this Saturday.”
While they may have been a little off offensively, you can’t find much to call them out on defensively. Once again this unit that includes the likes of Casey Dumont, Brooke Spence, Kim Carroll and captain Clare Polkinghorne has been close to impenetrable.
After conceding 4 goals in the first match, the Roar defensive wall has only been breached 5 more times in 11 games. Despite that stat, they are well aware that Sydney, in their current form, are a different proposition.
“Sydney are very good in their front third. They have sharp movements, good ball feed as well so our positioning has really got to be spot on.”
“We need to work as a team. It’s not just about our back four, we need to defend well right from the top. We will be concentrating on one or two things just to tweak the way that we defend as a team.”
In the end the grand final is really a contest between two evenly matched sides who know each other oh so well. Many are Matildas’ teammates, others grew up together, others still have been representative teammates for years. With so little separating the sides it will all come down to, as Al Pacino famously said, inches
“I think both teams are very, very evenly matched in all departments. It may be that the team has just that little bit something special on the day that are going to come good.”
“The edge might just be Kennya or Lisa De Vanna’s pace as the teams get tired so it may be the case as the game gets on, that little bit of extra pace that we have up front might have the edge for us.”
“That’s what I am hoping for anyway!”
FOUR KEY PLAYERS:
|ELISE KELLOND-KNIGHTOne of the hardest working footballers on and off the pitch. Kellond-Knight will be crucial against a very quick Sydney side. Whether coming out of defence or conducting traffic in the midfield, her decision-making is as good as any and the execution will need to be spot on against a side that can transition fast.||TAMEKA BUTTThis 19 year old really hasn’t put a foot wrong in the last three seasons. Butt has developed into the quintessential attacking midfielder. Good speed, passing range and the fearlessness to run at a defence, Butt is definitely a game changer. Most importantly, she stands up in big games.||KIM CARROLLWhen defensive stalwart Kate McShea retired, the question was "who could replace her". Well it wasn't long before we saw the Carroll would be the next lynchpin of he Roar defence. Strong, a true leader and difficult to beat in a one-on-one, Carroll has led the best defence in the League.||AIVI LUIKPlaying in the American football system, Luik is not easily flustered on the ball. Often when the game gets physical, she is at her best. Luik's potential dual with Teresa Polias will be one to watch all day. Again Luik is vital as she allows Lauren Colthorpe to press up the park and the midfielder is quick to drop back and assist the defence.|