Canberra Olympic claimed Grand Final glory to go alongside their League Championship trophy in a seven-goal thriller at Deakin Stadium as they defeated Belconnen United 4-3 in a superb Women’s National Premier League Grand Final to lift their fourth trophy in the past two seasons.
Against an ever-threatening Belconnen side, Nicole Begg’s players impressed once again by their efficiency and collective strength. The two teams had met four times already this season, with Olympic succeeding once only, to secure the League Championship.
Ten days ago, at the Riverside Stadium for the Qualifying Final Olympic, for the third time in 2023, were not able to find the back of the net against the Blue Devils. Yet, when a trophy is in play, this O’Connor side seems unstoppable.
The better start was arguably for Belconnen United, with an early chance from Keira Bobbin stopped by Janet King. Canberra Olympic happily weathered that storm, and when they found finally found their rhythm, they ended up scoring three times in 14 minutes.
Firstly, Player of the Match Madelyn Whittall stole the ball in the feet of Maddie Steinacker and sent Olivia Gurney in space. The winger did enough to escape Stefi Leijins before lodging a left footed effort in the opposite side net. Ten minutes later, Whittall was the quickest to pounce after a header from Vanessa Ryan was parried away by Ellie Summers, doubling her team’s advantage.
Summers conceded for a third time four minutes later, misjudging a free kick from distance taken by Ali Cook, but punished for three lapse of concentration, and understandably shaken, the Blue Devils still found the strength to answer before the break to keep the reigning champions under pressure.
As often the case, the captain Talia Backhouse led the way, with a shot from the edge of the box that King let slip under her side. Back from the break, Scott Conlon’s team knew to keep the intensity high to come back into the game. Their reward came five minutes in, when Reilly Yuen’s superb pressing allowed her to steal the ball from Cook, before a powerful shot was deflected in her own goal by King.
With only a goal between the two powerhouses, the momentum could have shifted, but just like last week against Canberra Croatia, Nicole Begg’s team showed their experience in tense moments, and regained a two-goal advantage three minutes later.
An unorthodox combination between Gurney and Whittall led the former to cross a low ball towards Ryan. The winger executed the perfect striker move, using her body to expertly pivot around Sofia Doumos and send the ball near the post, out of Summers’ reach.
Belconnen United never gave up, creating several opportunities, either stopped by King, or the combative return of an Olympic defender. A wondergoal from Bessie Riethmuller in injury time proved too little too late but showed the mindset of the team coached by Scott Conlon, Federation Cup winners and worthy runners-up to a superb Olympic team for the two other trophies. Nicole Begg and her players could celebrate their fourth trophy in two years, the second consecutive Grand Final success for a team who had never reached that stage before.
The solid collective performance of Begg’s group once again was the difference, helped undoubtedly by the experience and the talent of the players in royal blue.
Saturday 23 September
Belconnen United 3 (Backhouse 45’, Yuen 51’, Riethmuller 90+2’) Canberra Olympic 4 (Gurney 21’, Whittall 30’, Cook 35’, Ryan 55’)
Belconnen United: 1. Ellie SUMMERS, 3. Lauren PRESTON, 6. Madeliene STEINACKER, 7. Stefi LEJINS (4. Sophia DOUMOS 46’), 8. Sofia PALYWODA, 9. Talia BACKHOUSE, 10. Hattie CRAM, 11. Keira BOBBIN, 18. Isabella HINDMARSH (21. Pearl TEIN 56’), 22. Reilly YUEN (12. Bessie RIETHMULLER 66’) 28. Lisa CARY (24. Marija RATHOUSKI 80’)
Substitutes not used: 33. Jade EMMS
Canberra Olympic: 1. Janet KING, 4. Olivia GURNEY (21. Arusha CHEW 67’), 5. Madelyn WHITTALL (7. Brittany FIORESE 90+4’), 6. Vanessa RYAN (15. Tia BURRIDGE 83’), 8. Micheala THORNTON, 9. Elke AITLOU, 10. Katrina PERIC, 17. Nicole JALOCHA (22. Jazmine ZABEL 83’), 23. Victoria JAMIESON, 26. Madison CACHIA (19. Leah CARNEGIE 46’), 34. Alexandra COOK
Match Officials: Aisha STRUTT (Referee), Lara SMITH (Assistant Referee 1), Nicholas JORDAN (Assistant Referee 2), Scott BOON (Fourth Official)
Discipline: YELLOW CARDS: 11. Keira BOBBIN, HC: Scott CONLON (Belconnen United), 10. Katrina PERIC, 22. Jazmine ZABEL (Canberra Olympic)
Player of the Match: 5. Madelyn WHITTALL (Canberra Olympic)