W-League review: Casey Dumont's early contender for game of the season, referees in the spotlight
The W-League weekend in 280 characters or less
Victory volley their way to three points with 3-2 win over Brisbane, Wanderers make it two on the trot with 1-0 defeat of Newcastle, Sydney just scrape a 1-0 win in Adelaide, and City get their first win after defeating an unlucky Canberra 2-1.
After an underwhelming performance against Sydney FC in Round 1, Melbourne Victory had just four days to find a different gear as they travelled back up the east coast to face last season's runners-up Brisbane Roar. Copping three goals in the opening game couldn't have been fun for any Victory players, but especially not for goalkeeper Casey Dumont, who would have come into Thursday night's game against Brisbane feeling like she had a point to prove.
And prove it she did; Dumont's shift in goal is already being touted as one of the best 90 minutes of any goalkeeper this season. Not only did she save a Tameka Yallop penalty in the first half as Brisbane were on the ascendency, but she also made a number of reflex double-saves in the second half, especially in the final 10 minutes when the scores were at 3-2 and the Roar were dominating. Despite Brisbane's late surge, which saw youngster Indiah-Paige Riley score the Roar's second in the 80th minute, Dumont's eight-save haul ensured her team flew home with their first win of the season.
I know what you're thinking, but hear me out. Yes, Canberra lost to Melbourne City 2-1. Yes, they conceded a clear penalty in the 92nd minute. And yes, they broke their seven-game home undefeated streak. But the gals in green will take plenty of confidence from their performance against Matildas FC, in the same vein as Newcastle celebrated their 1-1 draw against them last weekend.
For the amount of player turnover head coach Heather Garriock dealt with in the offseason, Canberra were the team that looked far more convincing where it counted. Sure, City dominated the stats in terms of possession, shots, corners, and crosses, as they are wont to do, but it was Canberra who dominated defensively, making more tackles, clearances, and duels, and forcing City to go backwards or sideways more often than not. This defensive solidity, coupled with the emerging chemistry between their front three internationals of Simone Charley, Camila, and Katie Stengel -- all three of whom looked consistently dangerous, with Stengel scoring their only goal, and Charley and Camila having shots saved or come off the post -- will have Garriock feeling confident that more points aren't too far away.
Friday night's game between Western Sydney and Newcastle was memorable for all the wrong reasons. As a thunderstorm crackled overhead, two controversial refereeing decisions dimmed the light of what should have been a celebration of the Wanderers' regeneration.
In the 30th minute, Western Sydney striker Lynn Williams tapped home her first W-League goal only for it to be ruled offside, although replays showed Williams was onside by at least a metre.
But the most questionable decision happened in the 80th minute. As Newcastle forward Teigan Collister raced onto a long ball, Wanderers keeper Abby Smith flew out of the box to clear the danger, subsequently clipping Collister's knee as she thumped the ball away. The winger remained sprawled on the turf as play continued for almost a minute before the whistle signalled the stop. As the physios were tending to Collister, Newcastle head coach Craig Deans was seen speaking to assistant referee Sarah Ho on the sidelines. Two minutes later, Deans was shown a yellow card by referee Kelly Jones -- presumably for questioning the decision not to award Collister with a foul for Smith's high boot. But Jones then presented Smith with a yellow card for dangerous play and awarded a free kick to Newcastle anyway.
The media box was as bewildered as the crowd, and a number of senior Matildas watching the game from home made their feelings known on Twitter, including Sam Kerr who tweeted the refereeing is "one thing I won't miss" when she moves to England in January. Big yikes.
One thing I won't miss 👀👀— Sam Kerr (@samkerr1) November 22, 2019
Here's the tea
Bringing VAR to the W-League could be a good thing
After Friday night's game, Western Sydney's star import Williams questioned why VAR wasn't being used in the W-League when it was being used in the A-League.
"I think anything the men's teams have, the women's teams should automatically have," she said. "If that is VAR, whatever stance you take on VAR, if the men's side has it, the women's side has to have it.
"They [the A-League side] just had a goal called for VAR and we didn't have the option to even look at it. I just think it should be equal."
The lack of VAR in the W-League opens up a wider conversation about the deeper inequalities between Australia's top domestic competitions.
The first relates to the quality of stadiums. In a media report tabled over the weekend, an FFA spokesperson confirmed that VAR isn't used in the W-League because of the varying quality of the venues used for the women's games, as a number of smaller, suburban grounds don't have the facilities required to operate the system. On top of the lack of facilities, these smaller stadiums have been regularly criticised in the past for poor pitch quality and accessibility issues for fans.
The second issue is the quality of refereeing. We saw VAR used in this year's Women's World Cup, but even then -- despite the fact that the referees had been given a months-long crash-course in the technology -- there were many questionable decisions when it came to VAR decisions. Given W-League refs aren't fully professional and only two have had any training in the technology, it's safe to assume that VAR would experience far more hiccups in the W-League than what we've ever seen before.
But introducing VAR to the W-League might actually be a good thing for exactly these reasons. Specifically, if VAR is to be used for women's football in Australia, it follows that every W-League game must be played in better-quality stadiums that have VAR-appropriate facilities, and must be operated by experienced, trained referees, which would surely improve the game overall. So, even with all its marginal errors and subjective interpretations, introducing VAR to women's football may actually be a good thing in the long run if it forces these wider inequalities to be addressed.
Is There A Gif Of That?
Natasha Dowie is a baller. We've known this for a while. She finished equal third on the Golden Boot ladder last season with nine goals, leading the line as Victory charged to their first-ever Premiership, and she was at her scintillating, acrobatic best against Brisbane, pulling out this sensational volley to win Victory's first game of the 2019-20 season. Get outta here.