Words: Matthew Williams
Canberra Olympic Head Coach Nicole Begg has big plans for the 2022 season and early indications are those plans are building nicely. After an impressive win in the first round, seeing off Wagga City Wanderers away, and scoring double figures in the process, Olympic looked to continue their winning streak against Tuggeranong United, and did so, winning comfortably once again.
Last season, Olympic finished 5th with 25 points (8-1-8), but Begg hopes that her heavy recruitment in the off season has put herself and her side the best position to challenge for the title in 2022. With Canberra Croatia and Belconnen United fielding strong teams yet again, Begg hopes her new signings, and aggressive playing style will allow her a successful campaign in the 2022 season.
Begg had a busy off season, bringing in several players to her squad in hopes of building a championship winning side. Most of the players came looking for a new change and, perhaps most significantly, Michaela Thornton was added to the squad and Begg couldn’t be more pleased with her new acquisition.
Thornton, who is one of the most decorated and experienced players in the WNPL was on the score sheet against Tuggeranong and showed her quality, holding out Tuggeranong’s midfield and stopping several of their attacks. Thornton herself has over 15 years’ experience and had won more than ten Grand Finals/Championships. She is also one of the only midfielders to be in the top ten goal scorers for the WNPL and shows no sign of slowing down as she enters this coming season.
Constantly changing how her side set up and play, Begg sent Olympic out on Sunday with an aggressive press right from the start, pressuring the Tuggeranong players and consistently stopping their build up play, and creating several goal-scoring chances throughout the match. This is also something that the WNPL saw in round one as Olympic took on Wagga City where Olympic were ruthless in their playing style.
As Easter gives all of Canberra an early-season break, Begg is focusing on round three and four as her side will take on an in-form Belconnen United, followed by the reigning champions, Canberra Croatia. Both sides claimed six points from their first two matches meaning that Olympic, Belconnen and Croatia are all undefeated. Begg believes that these will be the biggest games of the season, as they have usually found it tough to win in the past fixtures between these teams.
“They are a couple of really tough fixtures, they’ve had the wood over us for a few years now so they are big games for us to turn up and see what we can pull together as a new group,” she said. “I think they have both has really good results so far at the start of the season and shown that they are teams to chase, so it’s going to be tough, but we are looking forward to it.”
Considering the tough competition that Olympic will face this year, the importance of goal difference is yet again in question with it still being the deciding factor if teams are even on points at the end of the season. Begg believe that the teams each side have fielded this season will allow for tough fixtures, meaning each team will be kept to low scoring games.
“I don’t think it will come down to goal difference,” Begg admitted. “I think it might be similar to last year in that there will be five or six teams that will push you every game you turn up to play so I don’t think it will come down to goal difference like it’s a long season, I think it will even out.”
With the 2022 season in full swing, each team will head into the Easter break ready for Round 3. Begg knows the importance of the next two games on the calendar and hopes that her new squad, filled with important singings such as Thornton and more will have what it takes to knock the crown off Canberra Croatia and claim the title.
IMAGE: Soccer Snaps by Sal