The W-League weekend in 280 characters or less
Western Sydney bounced back from their first-round loss by defeating Newcastle Jets 2-1, Canberra snatched a last-minute 2-1 win over Melbourne City, and Melbourne Victory kicked off their season with a 0-0 draw against Brisbane Roar.
As if to prove a point to this particular writer after last week's column, the Wanderers showed they're not as easy to write off as their Sydney Derby loss implied, recording their first win of the season with a 2-1 victory over the Newcastle Jets. And it was a player relegated to the bench last season who was largely responsible for it.
Rosie Galea, 20, who twice represented the Australian School Girls squad in 2016 and 2018, scored her debut W-League goal and recorded her maiden brace on Saturday night to lift Western Sydney to third on the ladder. The tenacious left-footed attacker wasn't given much of a look-in last season with the likes of Kristen Hamilton and Lynn Williams ahead of her in the pecking order, but -- as is the case across the league this season -- the lack of big-name players means the Galeas of Australian football are now being given their chance to shine.
"I'm feeling amazing," Galea said after the match. "It was a great performance by the girls and I'm super excited to be on the field and to get my first W-League goal was amazing.
"We've been putting in for the first six weeks of preseason and the girls are absolutely killing it, we're playing really well. Just to be part of this team is amazing, it's such an honour for me.
"Obviously without the internationals it's a bit of a different league but I think it's amazing for girls, especially the young ones like me that can come through and step up and show what we're really capable of. It's good for Australian football."
One of the defining images of Nicki Flannery's W-League career is not a happy one. In 2018, the winger was struggling to make an impact for Canberra in an away game against Adelaide and was substituted in the 34th minute. The image that has been seared into the minds of many Canberra fans is of Flannery bursting into tears as she reached the bench. She moved to the Newcastle Jets the following season, for her mental health as much as for her football.
But the youngster is back in green following the club's offseason clean-out and, just like her old friend Michelle Heyman, is playing with a newfound confidence that harks back to her earliest years with the club. In fact, Canberra's 2-1 win over Melbourne City on Sunday afternoon was a flashback moment for Flannery: she played a crucial role for Canberra in handing City their first ever loss in the 2016-17 season, teeing up fellow youngster Karly Roestbakken in the dying stages to win the game 2-1.
Flannery's sensational strike this past Sunday aside, her celebration after the full-time whistle was the celebration of a player who is back in an environment that is getting the best out of her. Long may it continue.
Look, I get it. Television is hard. There are a lot of buttons you have to press, dials you have to turn, and other things of that nature (I do not work in television). Fox Sports has been football's main broadcaster for the entire existence of the A-League -- over 15 years. You'd think they would know How To Do Television by now.
But in the space of 24 hours, they seemed to have forgotten just that. The first example was in the A-League on Saturday afternoon when Wellington Phoenix's equaliser against Sydney FC wasn't seen because the broadcast feed dropped out entirely. The commentary was fine, the score-line and clock graphics were still visible, but the screen was plunged into total darkness for one of the most important moments of the match. At least Wellington's official club account were good-humoured about it.
The second was in Canberra's W-League game against Melbourne City on Sunday. We didn't get static and darkness, though. Instead, television audiences were presented with a type of digital cataract in the form of a large hexagonal graphic that hovered right in the middle of the screen for several minutes. The camera-person did their best to keep the ball in the visible part of the screen -- namely the widest areas -- and luckily there were no goals missed as they were the day beforehand.
Not a great start for the game's broadcaster considering this was also the first W-League game simulcast live and free on ABC, the nation's biggest public broadcaster. Renegotiations can't come soon enough.
Natalie Tathem's knee
We know that women athletes, on average, suffer serious knee injuries at a more frequent rate than male athletes due to physiological differences. But something that's perhaps worth further discussion is how the shorter preseason provided to W-League players (4-6 weeks) compared with A-League players (2+ months) also impacts on the rate of injury Australia's top women footballers suffer.
Natalie Tathem is the latest W-League player to go down with what could be a season-ending knee injury, twisting in the turf and collapsing in tears less than half an hour into her debut for Melbourne Victory against her old club Brisbane Roar on Sunday night.
I'm obviously no expert, but it's a discussion that's been happening in the Premier League following a pandemic (pun intended?) of injuries that have swept through the league as a consequence of players' short preseasons and exhausting backlog of fixtures, which they are required to play despite their bodies not being prepared for it.
We also know that sports science is extremely slow in the women's space. Much of the historical research into knee injuries sustained while playing elite sport have been conducted on male players, with the results simply transplanted into women's sport. This has fundamentally affected the way women athletes are treated and rehabilitated when it comes to knee injuries, perhaps even ending careers prematurely because of misguided medical advice. So when we talk about expanding the length of the W-League season, thought should also be given to expanding the length of its preseason, too. The knees of women footballers everywhere depend on it.
Yes, technically Brisbane haven't lost a game yet. But given that, on paper, the Roar appear to be run-away favourites for at least one of the trophies on offer this season, two draws in their opening two games -- including a draw where they absolutely should have galloped away with a win against Melbourne City -- probably feels like a bit of a loss to them.
Their draw against Victory on Sunday night was more reasonable as the two sides seem to match each other fairly evenly across the park. And were it not for Gaby Garton in Victory's goal, as well as what appeared to be a small hurricane swirling across the pitch for the entire 90 minutes, they may very well have claimed their first three points of the season.
As it happened, though, the Roar will have to go about their desired return to the top of the table the hard way, already needing to make up four points on ladder-leaders, Canberra.
The Next Gen
Margaux Chauvet has had a wild two months. After being plucked from NSW NPLW powerhouses Illawarra Stingrays for her first W-League contract with Western Sydney, the 17-year old was quickly invited to join the Matildas' first ever Talent Identification Camp in November last year.
Few fans outside of state league circles knew anything of Chauvet's talent coming into the 2020-21 season, but after two consecutive starts with the Wanderers, they're starting to understand just what the young centre-back can do.
With Stingrays teammate and Wanderers captain Caitlin Cooper by her side, Chauvet has displayed a composure and game-smarts in central defence that has sometimes rivalled her Matildas-capped counterpart. A handful of tired decisions against Newcastle on Saturday aside, Chauvet was assured on the ball and disciplined off it.
With centre-backs in short supply at national team level, it will be fascinating to see how much further this young Australian-French dual-international can go.
Is there a gif of that?
While there were some Goal of the Season contenders this round, there were also some Save of the Season ones, too. This stop by Victory custodian Garton against an Emily Gielnik strike in the 85th minute to ensure Victory snatched a point against a strong Brisbane Roar will surely be one of them: