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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 07 October 2017
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 7 OCTOBER 2017 27 SPORT South Melbourne players celebrate their grand final win. PHOTO: KOSTAS DEVES South Melbourne clinch W-NPL double after tense penalty shootout GEORGE STOGIANNOU South Melbourne FC women’s team completed their W-NPL Premiership and Championship double by defeating Geelong Galaxy United in a penalty shootout in the grand final at ABD stadium on Sunday. South made the front running in a thrilling final which ended 3-3 at the end of extra time. First half goals to Matilda star Lisa De Vanna and Canadian import Natalie Martineau had the Lakesiders in control at the break. However, after the break a gallant Galaxy fought back to equalise through a Laura Spiranovic penalty and a Kariah White goal, sending the match into extra time when South forward Caitlin Greiser put South ahead once again. However South couldn't shake off a resilient Galaxy who equalised once more through Al-Huneidi sending the match into a penalty shootout. The shootout had its own dramatic twists and turns with South leading before being overtaken by Galaxy. Crucially South keeper Mollie May Ramsay saved Galaxy's seventh penalty giving South's Caitlin Greiser the chance to score the deciding penalty goal which she did to the joy of the South team and the heartbreak of the Galaxy team, who lost their second consecutive grand final. For South it was their fourth championship in a row. The title win also completes a premiership - championship double in their inaugural W-NPL season. Speaking to Neos Kosmos, Coach Socrates Nicolaidis said, "It's very exciting, [we are] very honoured to be in a position where we can achieve this." He said that at the start of the season he set a goal for the team to finish on top and to be playing in the grand final. “But another goal was to score over 100 goals in the season, which we did." When asked what the title win means for the club's am- bition to be involved in the WLeague, Nicolaidis commented, "Some of the little things we discussed during the course of the year, with Lisa joining us, was that we have a [really] deep ambition to one day fill the grandstand with as many as a 1,000 or 2,000 [spectators]. That's something that the players are really destined to do. And I keep telling them, if we keep playing our football, keep playing exciting football, keep winning games and keep winning titles, Gabby (Giuliano) and Leo (Athanasakis) will do whatever they can for us to be involved in the W-League, and that's the next step from where we are." "The Matilda's co-captain (De Vanna), and Melina Ayres in the Australian Under-20s scored over 40 goals. We've got four players signing for W-League teams. Natalie is a Canadian international - but when she gets her permanent residency, I think there [are] six players in that squad that can play W-League. I think we'd do really, really well." After a first season in the WNPL, Nicolaidis believes that there is room for improvement for the overall NPL competition and recommends a couple of changes. He believes the FFV should look into raising the maximum quota of foreign international from two to four per team. "We don't yet have the top-end quality players to fulfil a strong 10-team league. By allowing an extra two visa players per team we will raise the bar, because the internationals will help improve young players. "The other thing they should look at doing is maybe starting the league a little bit earlier and finishing in line with Brisbane and NSW competitions. And then maybe we can play like an unofficial national championship at the end of the season. We can really expose the second tier. The timetable has to be more universal." Heidelberg United brings national championship trophy home to the Village GEORGE STOGIANNOU Out of the ashes of a failed finals campaign last season, Heidelberg United has risen to complete a remarkable record-breaking season capturing three of the four major trophies it contested in 2017. Heidelberg United crowned their marathon season last Saturday by winning the Australian NPL title in Brisbane, defeating Brisbane Strikers 2-0 in the final at Perry Park. There may have only been a crowd of just over 1000 to watch the match, but a significant number of the club's loyal supporters made the trip up to watch the Bergers become the first Victorian team to capture the national NPL title. Winning the national title also rewards the Bergers with automatic entry into the Rd of 32 in the FFA Cup next season. In Saturday's final, the Bergers struck late in the first half through a first time Adrian Zahra shot after the ball rebounded off Strikers' keeper Zac Speedy, who halted an Alex Schiavo run into the box. The Strikers' keeper was again in the thick of it for the Bergers' second goal when he dropped a high ball into the box under a Sean Ellis challenge. Ellis pounced on the spilt ball slotting the ball into an empty net. Ellis went on to receive the John Kosmina Medal for man of the match ahead of other Bergers' players who put in good performances, including centre back Jordan Wilkes and full back Josh Wilkins. Asked to comment on what winning the National NPL title means to the club, coach George Katsakis responded, just going to say it the way it is. It's the number one NPL team in the country. I think that's what we were playing for. We were playing for the Australian Championship and to be number one in the country. So undoubtedly , especially with the amount of success, I don't think anyone can argue with that." Bergers celebrate their third trophy win of the season. PHOTO: HEIDELBERG UNITED TWITTER "The grand final at local level could've capped everything off. But failing that, obviously this one being, what I believe is a bigger trophy and a bigger event, means the world to the whole club. It's historic because the records will show that Heidelberg is the first Victorian team to win the Aus- tralian Championship. You've won three out of four major trophies at NPL level. I mean there's a record there to be broken now and not many teams will be able to achieve that." On the question of where the national title win leaves Heidelberg in terms of national ranking, Katsakis says, " I'm There can be little doubt Heidelberg's season has been exceptional on all counts. The stats back it up. Three major trophies, they beat grand finalists after extra time in the Victorian NPL final, they were quarterfinalists in the FFA Cup all amounting to 40 games played in all competitions, 30 wins and 86 goals scored. And all that from a semi-professional club. Coach Katsakis believes "It's a plan [that’s] gone very well. It's something that we worked towards and set ourselves [as] a target. I certainly think the depth of the squad was the most significant factor. No doubt, not having played in the grand final last year (when Heidelberg lost to arch rivals South Melbourne in the semifinal of the Victorian NPL series) drove us further to that goal. All those things, if you put them together make the ingredients to want to win." So what's left for Heidelberg to achieve in future on the national stage? Short of achieving what seems a pipe dream of winning the FFA Cup, a second consecutive national NPL title would look more than impressive on a CV, when the FFA eventually decides to expand the league or allow ambitious NPL clubs the chance to compete in a second-tier competition.
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