The W-League weekend in 280 characters or less
Western Sydney win consecutive games for the first time all season with 1-0 defeat of Melbourne City, Sydney stay top after thumping Perth 6-2, Adelaide jump into third with 2-1 win over Newcastle, and Canberra stay in the hunt after 1-1 fight-back against Victory.
She announced herself towards the back-end of last season with a bullet header, but this year Hana Lowry has been given the chance to prove why she's been the talk of the town for some time.
Perth's clear-out in the offseason has seen the 17-year old start almost every game for Perth, and for good reason. Lowry is increasingly becoming a crucial cog in the Glory's midfield, growing in confidence, physicality and decision-making speed the more games she plays. She scored her first W-League brace this past weekend, slotting two of the fastest back-to-back goals in league history past a Sydney FC side that had conceded just six times until that point.
But what's more impressive is the fact that Perth were already 4-0 down when she did so, and it's that initiative and desire to continue to play attacking football that has supposedly impressed her coaches both at the club and in the Young Matildas.
Like many other youngsters this season, the more game-time Lowry is given, the more information she will soak up and translate into even better performances. There must be something in the air out west that produces a special kind of attacking flair and an almost stubborn refusal to give up in the face of overwhelming odds. And with just one point in six games, that's something Perth Glory need more than ever right now.
It's so close you can taste it. After 13 seasons without a single finals series appearance, Adelaide United are a step closer towards an historic milestone. You felt like things were starting to slip towards the end of January after they lost to Victory and drew with the Wanderers, but that crucial 2-1 win over Canberra and their slim loss to Sydney restored some confidence that the Reds could actually do the thing this season.
They're certainly not making it easy for themselves: their 2-1 win over Newcastle could've easily slipped into shared-points territory were it not for a few skewed free kicks and a handful of golden chances missed by Tara Andrews and Pana Petratos. Indeed, the Reds will need to kick it up a gear and be more clinical with the opportunities they do carve out for themselves given two of their remaining three games are against teams above them on the ladder: Sydney and Brisbane.
The draw between Victory and Canberra came in very handy for the Reds' top-four hopes, but Melbourne remain just two points behind them with a game in hand. Relying on the results of other games is never a fun feeling, but it does create a hell of a lot of drama as the league reaches its crescendo.
Although it was Leena Khamis who spared Western Sydney's blushes and secured their second win of the season over Melbourne City on Thursday, it was arguably Wanderers winger Teigan Collister who was the side's stand-out performer.
After moving from Newcastle Jets in the offseason, the whippet-like winger took some time to ease into her new club. The last few weeks, though, has seen Collister's increasingly impressive performances rewarded with consecutive starts which, in turn, she is paying back with even better ones. Her game against City on Thursday was arguably her best yet; spurned on, perhaps, by the fact she was up against her former Sydney University teammate Tori Tumeth, against whom she unleashed several shin-pad-clattering challenges and got the better of a number of times thanks to her frightening turn of pace.
While she relied on her speed at Newcastle, she has clearly improved the timing of her runs, her defensive responsibilities, and her final crosses and square-balls she sends from wide areas. Her assist for Khamis' goal in their 1-0 win over City -- which mathematically keeps them within touching-distance of a finals spot -- was all of that in a 10-second flash: receiving the ball out wide, she charges almost half the field, burning Emma Checker and squaring towards the penalty spot for Khamis to slam home. You love to see it.
TV viewers. Again.
As I sat down to write this week's column, I had to take several minutes to think about whether I wanted to address Fox Sports' broadcasting again. I'm starting to feel like a broken record: the last three times I wrote about W-League games affected by a "one-off" error -- the Hexagon of Death, audio and video cut-outs, and Tuba Guy -- nothing was done.
It always feels like the last time is the last time; the Tuba Guy incident in particular was a situation so blatant that Fox Sports (or whichever company is responsible for broadcasting these games now) simply couldn't continue with the same arrangement as before.
There were rumours that BarTV (the smaller, cheaper streaming service who were given the keys to the W-League when Fox Sports decided to move some games onto the main broadcast channels instead of just on Kayo) had been fired after that incident, but Perth Glory's home game against Sydney FC on Thursday night showed that doesn't seem to be the case.
Again, the game was filmed with a single camera with limited zoom capabilities. Again, there were no options for replays of crucial moments (and given it turned into a eight-goal game, there were quite a lot of those). Again, there were audio issues -- this time, almost the entire first half of the game had no sound whatsoever. Again, there were issues with the lighting that affected what viewers at home could see.
There is an exhausting paradox at work here: if the W-League community and football journalists and other leaders in the game don't continue to call out these pathetic broadcast displays, it's an almost tacit, defeated acceptance of the sub-standard treatment of the league.
On the other hand, constantly calling it out takes attention away from the thing we should be talking about -- the players and games themselves -- which we need to do if we want to attract more fans, more investors, and more eyeballs to the league.
I don't want to talk about this anymore. Nobody wants to talk about this anymore. But what other choice do we have? We must continue to demand better because we are the only ones, right now, who can.
Given the shortened preseasons, interrupted travel schedules, changing fixture lists and increased physical stress of games in quick succession, it is miraculous that there haven't been more season-ending injuries in the W-League this season.
Melbourne Victory's Nat Tathem was the most notable player to have her campaign ended by a knee injury in-game, going down in round 2 and not returning. Other players like Sydney's Liz Ralston developed injuries that have seemingly kept them out of the W-League before they'd even kicked a ball.
Sydney will be wondering what curse has been put upon their centre-backs because the serious injury list may have just added another name: Ellie Brush.
Having only just made her return to playing following a serious ankle sprain that kept her out for almost a month, Brush returned to Sydney's starting XI against Perth on Thursday. Towards the end of the game, she clattered into Perth's Isabella Wallhead and crumpled to the ground. After clutching her knee for several moments, she smacked the turf in the way that players do when they've felt this exact pain before.
Brush was quickly comforted by teammates, including knee-injury-veteran Taylor Ray, before limping off the field in tears. Now without their two first-choice centre-backs (Brush and Ralston), Sydney's potentially clean run home is looking a little less certain than before. We're thinking of you, Brushy.
The next gen
As one of only two clubs to have a girls' academy program and clear pathway to first-team football, Canberra United has helped produce its fair share of Matildas. Almost half of the national team that was selected for the 2011 Women's World Cup were from Canberra United, and a fair chunk of the current squad have also spent a number of seasons in green including Ellie Carpenter, Lydia Williams and Karly Roestbakken.
The club are continuing their proud tradition of nurturing the next generation this season, particularly giving young defenders an opportunity to step into the shoes of the players who secured overseas moves off the back of outstanding seasons for the club. Left-back Emma Ilijoski is one such player, signing her first professional W-League contract with the club after impressing as a train-on.
She has shades of her predecessor Roestbakken to her style of play, both in her ability to use her smaller-than-average frame to shield the ball as well as in making the right decisions under pressure and fatigue. Ilijoski has rarely looked out of place alongside more experienced defenders like Kendall Fletcher, nor in coming up against attackers twice her age and speed such as Lisa De Vanna.
Having been given her first real shot at senior football after she was called into the Matildas' Talent Identification camp in November last year, Ilijoski continues to improve and make the position all her own. Canberra United seems to have a knack for producing full-backs, so let's hope Ilijoski kicks on and puts her name up in lights come 2023.
Is there a gif of that?
You know the W-League is starting to gain momentum when people start making memes about it.
Shout-out to ABC producer Evan Morgan Grahame who came up with this absolute gem of a video taking the piss out of Fox Sports' broadcast bungles; the epitome of "if you don't laugh, you'd cry."