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W-League Grand Final and attendance review

This week we review Sydney FC’s 4-2 Grand Final victory over Perth Glory, discuss the leading candidate to be named the interim head coach of the Matildas’ and look at the 2018/19 season attendances. 

Sydney FC defeats Perth Glory 4-2 in the 2018/19 Grand Final

Sydney FC won their third W-League Grand Final championship with a 4-2 home win over Perth Glory on February 16th. U.S. international Savannah McCaskill (Sky Blue FC) was named the Player of the Grand Final, scoring two goals and assisting on the other two by Sofia Huerta (Houston Dash) and Chole Logarzo (just signed by the Washington Spirit on loan for 2019). Huerta gave the Sky Blues the lead in the 6th minute with a brilliant, long-range strike into the upper top corner of the net past Australian international goalkeeper Eliza Campbell. After McCaskill’s brace (41’ and 61’), Logarzo scored her own stunning goal from a snap shot in the penalty box for the final two goal margin.

Sam Kerr (Chicago Red Stars) scored her 17th goal of the season—a W-League record including the playoffs—after being bundled over in the penalty box in the 22nd minute, while her fellow Red Star teammate Alyssa Mautz scored her fifth goal of the season in the second half (68’). McCaskill finished her first W-League season with 5 goals while Huerta had 4 as did Logarzo. The six total goals were the most ever in a W-League Grand Final. Sydney FC has tied Melbourne City with the most Grand Final wins, after titles in 2009 and 2012/13. Perth, who have never won the title, now is tied with Sydney FC and the Brisbane Roar with the most Grand Final losses with three.

The game between #3 seed Sydney FC versus #4 Perth Glory—with both sides dispatching the higher seeds on the road on February 10 in the semifinals, #2 Brisbane Roar and #1 Melbourne Victory respectively—drew a Grand Final record attendance of 6,127 to Jubilee Stadium, just besting the 6,025 who saw Melbourne City defeat Sydney FC last season at Allianz Stadium.

Note: In addition to taking Logarzo on loan from Sydney, the Washington Spirit has acquired have fellow midfielder and Australian international Amy Harrison (22).

Ante Milicic is selected as Australian women’s international national team interim head coach

Football Federation Australia (FFA) named Ante Milicic as the Matildas’ interim head coach on February 18, replacing Alen Stajcic, who was terminated last month. The FFA received a number of applicants, including one from a former national women’s team head coach in Eastern Europe. Milicic, a former Socceroo’s international who played in Australia’s National Soccer League and A-League as well as in the Netherlands, Croatia and Malaysia, has been a FFA men’s staff coach for five years, including as an assistant to former men’s national team coach Ange Postecoglou. He has coached the Olympic side and is the current manager of the men’s U-20 national team.

Milicic said about his appointment: “I’m a coach that really wants to improve them and get them up to a level where I feel we can achieve some great things moving forward. I’ve worked with great Australian teams in the past and I look forward to sharing my knowledge with this group because it’s very, very talented and it’s got the potential to do something special….It’s a massive honor. It’s being identified as someone that will carry the flag for the footballing nation around the world. It’s a proud moment and a great opportunity.” Australia hosts New Zealand, Korea Republic and Argentina in their first Cup of Nations tournament, which begins on February 28 in Sydney.

2018/19 W-League Attendance Review

The Westfield W-League attracted its second highest regular season attendance total and average in 2018/19, with a total of 93,414 attending 52 matches (with attendance figures not available for two games) for an average of 1,796 per game. These figures surpass every regular season in league history except for 2017/18 when 115,479 (average 2,139) went to the games. Last year’s figure accounted for 24 doubleheaders with Hyundai A-League men’s side, which has increased from (2) in the first year of 2008/09 and bottomed out at only one in 2012/13. In 2018/19, there were 15 doubleheaders, almost identical to the number from two seasons ago (16), and still the third highest number of A-League doubleheaders ever.

It becomes a little difficult to really pinpoint the attendance figures for these doubleheaders as some of the announced figures certainly are far above the actual attendance at the start of the women’s game and sometimes even at the end, thus seemingly skewing the numbers inordinately high.

Four clubs averaged more than 2,000 fans for their home games this season, led by Sydney FC (2,543) and followed by Melbourne City (2,297), Melbourne Victory (2,205) and Brisbane Roar (2,204). Perth Glory (1,141) and Adelaide United (898) had the lowest averages.

The W-League did set a record this year for the Finals Series with 8,599 at the Melbourne Victory vs. Perth Glory semifinal, won by the Glory 4-2 in overtime, and part of an A-League doubleheader. 4,271 saw Brisbane fall at home to Sydney FC (2-1) in a fine crowd for a W-League stand-alone match. For the three playoff games, including 6,127 at the stand-alone Grand Final, the W-League shattered its playoff-only attendance record, with 21,469 total and an average of 7,156 in 2018/19, far ahead of 2015/16’s total of 13,588 and 4,529, respectively. For the regular season and playoffs figures combined, the league drew 112,411 for an average of 2,043, again second to the 2017/18 season totals of 127,866 and average of 2,244.

Most feel that the 2018/19 season was the most competitive and exciting in history, with six teams vying to the end for the four playoff spots and exciting international imports attracted to the league. The 2019/20 season should continue to push attendance records, television audiences and general interest in the league.

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