On Sunday afternoon, Woonona Sharks hosted Shellharbour in a clash that dictated who would become League Champions of the Women’s Premier League for 2023.
A well-struck shot from Nikita Woods gave the Sharks a first-half lead, but an exceptional free-kick from Katelyn Leadbeatter evened up the scores in the 79th minute, securing a 1-1 draw at the full-time whistle.
However, with the home side already leading by two points on the table, a draw for Shellharbour just wasn’t enough, naming Woonona Sharks League Champions of the Women’s Premier League for 2023!
A back-and-forth start from the two sides showcased just how intense the match was going to be, when the first real chance at goal was created in the 20th minute of the match.
Shellharbour’s Tiana Reardon won the ball at the half-way line and headed toward goal before her angled strike was well handled by the hands of Ivana Peric.
Just three minutes later, Dharmini Chauhan sat in the front third where she snatched the ball off her opposition but was denied at close range.
In the 26th minute, a precise corner ball led to a dominant header by the Shark’s Sinead Bailey, but was shortly cleared by goal-keeper Alana Smith.
Reardon would set off once again with a bursting run down the right-hand side, beating several Woonona players and entering the box before seeing her strike head straight into the hands of Peric once more.
The 33rd minute struck and it was Woonona’s Nikita Wood’s who would grab the first goal for the afternoon.
A rebound ball fell into Wood’s feet, where a delicate touch to the right saw her impeccable brace fly over the head of Smith and into the top corner for a 1-0 lead over the visitors.
45 minutes had passed and the last attacking chance came from an eager Shellharbour side.
Christina Videla stepped up to the corner post, before sending her cross into the head of Katelyn Leadbeatter who’s effort would fly just inches off the near post, denying their chance at an equaliser at the half-time whistle.
It was a challenging start to the second period, with both side’s sitting exceptionally strong in their defence.
In the 53rd minute, a square ball from out wide was sent into the centre of the pitch where Chauhan would pick up the ball and take a strike at goal, only to be saved once again by an outstanding Peric!
The Sharks captain Jordan Wheatley had a fantastic opportunity to double their lead from the right hand side, but her shot was sent high over the cross bar.
In the 79th minute, Shellharbour’s Katelyn Leadbeatter stepped up for a free-kick way outside the 18-yard box, before her impeccable hit would head straight into the top right corner to find the late equalizer!
With just ten minutes left, the intensity began to rise with both team’s looking equally dangerous in the attack.
A strong Leadbeatter took command in the midfield, before sending a low ball in behind the Shark’s defence line where Nikola Wilson would look to get a touch at goal, but a brave Peric came sliding in with another excellent save.
Substitute Jessica Beale was dangerous up front for the Shark’s, grabbing three attempts at goal with just five minutes remaining, but was denied each time.
The final whistle blew and although it was a 1-1 draw, it was Woonona who already sat two points ahead, therefore, became the League Champions of the Women’s Premier League for 2023!
With a break from football for our Women’s teams this weekend, the Semi-Final series will commence on Sunday the 27th of August, where Champion’s Woonona will come up against UOWFC and Shellharbour will battle it out against APWE, in what will both be sudden death finals.
Date: 13 August, 2023
Venue: Ocean Park
Referee: Martin Rowney
Assistant Referees: Mark Bright
Report by Alison Dinh, on Twitter @alisondinh_