We are at the end of the road for the Women’s Premier League season matches for 2023, and what an exciting weekend we have installed for the last round before the final’s series kicks off.

After four years, our Women’s team’s were finally able to compete in a full season, in which we’ve seen all six clubs show nothing but confidence, dominance and exceptional football.

The last few years we have seen a very competitive league, however, it was reigning champions Albion Park White Eagles and University of Wollongong who would sit top of the table, consistently.

This year however, we have seen a massive change in contention with two different club’s sitting first and second place on the ladder!

Woonona Sharks bring quality football to the league each year, however, this year especially, they have proved themselves to be a massive threat. With their last four matches showing consecutive wins, the Sharks currently sit in first place on 28 points.

Sitting in second place on 26 points, are a team who have also shown great confidence this year, Shellharbour JFC. They recently snatched up a draw against APWE and UOWFC, once again, proving themselves against high contenders.

This weekend, the Woonona Sharks and Shellharbour JFC will come up against each other in the last round of the season in a match that will dictate who becomes League Champions for the Women’s Premier League for 2023.

The Sharks have shown great success overall this year sending all three grades into the final’s, with their Youth Grade securing second place on the table and their Second Grade side securing third place.

Meanwhile, Shellharbour’s Youth Grade have already become Minor Premier’s for 2023 and with the rest of the league’s heading into the last round of the season this weekend, the club are in with a chance to take out the League Championship in all three grades as both Shellharbour’s Second Grade and First Grade side’s will also be competing for first place.

Not only are our players ahead of this weekend’s clash excited to step foot onto the pitch, but the coaching staff are just as ecstatic!

“This is the biggest game for not only our women, but for our club and I know all of the girls are up for the challenge, especially considering just five weeks ago we got beaten by Shellharbour and thought for sure we’d be playing for second place,” Castle said.

“The last game of the season could not have been scripted better, first versus second for the decider and what an incredible game of football it will be.”

Woonona Sharks coach Neil Castle also believes that there have been a few changes this year that have led the girl’s into the position that they are in today.

“We have changed the coaching structure this year, but I think especially the girl’s as a whole believe that they are good enough, something that they lacked in the past,” Castle said.

“New quality additions like Fiona Leafe, Sinead Bailey and Sophie Heath have increased our depth, alongside having that NPL experience from Jessica Beale.

“Overall, we have definitely trained a lot harder and their commitment has been second to none and personally, I think this has been shown not just in the WPL, but also in the State League and in the Sapphire Cup where we definitely proved to be high contenders in the Illawarra and in the state.”

Shellharbour’s coach Ron Fogarty also felt that his team’s success did not just grow overnight.

“It is definitely a testament to the girl’s pathway, getting to the stage that we are in didn’t just happen overnight,” Fogarty said.

“This was all organically grown and it is a great reward and recognition for my team’s hard work and passion that they have shown all year.”

Fogarty has witnessed the team work hard for over many years now, but he believes that there have been some major positive changes within the 2023 season.

“I think with the new recruitment and the fact that we do have a few newer and stronger players from last year has helped us a lot this season, as well as having three co-captains Mikayla De Jong. Bella Fogarty and Rilee Wagner” Fogarty said.

“We have developed a great culture over here, especially having five coaches between three grades and with a strong relationship between all coaches and players, it really has shown that we all have a lot of history with one another that has blossomed over several years which I definitely believe has helped us understand each other more this year.

“Women’s football has come a long way and we have had a lot of ongoing support from our community which has been much appreciated by our girl’s and by our club!”

Unfortunately, this year’s final series has been cut short and has raised a bit of concern from coaches and players, especially from our top of the table coach Niel Castle.

“With there only being two semi-finals this year, it means that any team on the day could potentially have one bad game and therefore their final series is over, there’s no second chance for anyone,” Fogarty said.

“I feel as if there’s no reward for the top team’s and this decision has definitely upset some of the players, especially considering it’s been four years since we’ve had a proper season.”

Nevertheless, the two sides will fight to the end in Sunday’s battle where the Sharks will host Shellharbour, for the top of the table decider!

The remaining games will also be held on Sunday, where APWE will host Bulli FC and UOWFC will travel to Thomas Gibson Park as they come up against Thirroul!

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