W-League review: Hamilton makes history, attendances flat-line, and won't someone give Adelaide a break?
The W-League weekend in 280 characters or less
Western Sydney are three from three after 3-1 win over Brisbane, City scrape a 1-0 win over Adelaide, Canberra cement fourth spot with a 3-2 win over Newcastle, and Sydney go top on goal difference with a 3-1 win over Perth.
Kristen Hamilton has had quite a year. The American winger signed for Western Sydney off the back of her best-ever season with NWSL heavyweights North Carolina Courage, where she scored nine goals in 24 appearances, including two hat tricks. Her sensational form saw her earn her first call-up to the United States women's national team just weeks after they had secured their second-straight Women's World Cup, which says all you need to know about how in-form she's been.
Against Brisbane Roar on Friday night, Hamilton showed exactly why everyone's been raving about her. Not only did she score another hat trick to mark the Wanderers' best start to a W-League season in their history, but she was arguably the stand-out performer in a team of stand-out performers on the night. Her first touch to take the ball around fellow American and NWSL player Celeste Boureille before rifling it over the bewildered fingertips of Matildas goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold and into the roof of the net to secure her hat-trick was *chef's kiss emoji*.
By contrast, Melbourne City's Kyah Simon has had a bit of a shocker this year, plagued by various injuries from her hamstring to her ankle. She barely featured for City last season, only playing four games for a total of 275 minutes. Her injury troubles also affected her season with the Houston Dash in the NWSL and, perhaps more devastatingly of all, saw her miss July's World Cup.
So when Simon scored City's winning goal against Adelaide United on Saturday, it came as a welcome relief. Despite playing just 60 minutes, she looked dynamic and determined in the final third, involved in a number of attacking moves (including starting the one that resulted in her own goal) and taking seven shots, the most of any player on the park. City have struggled to find the back of the net in the opening three rounds, so if Simon's load can be managed effectively and she works her way back to fitness, the team will be all the better for it.
You know how sometimes it's just "one of those days" for a team? They can fight tooth and nail, they can look dangerous across the park, they can defend with their lives, but the ball just doesn't want to go in the net? Well, Adelaide have been having "one of those days" for three weeks now. They sit dead last on the ladder despite having looked decent in each game they've played, especially against the Wanderers and Sydney FC. But for all that, they've only scored a single goal, which came from a penalty in the opening round. It's not through lack of trying: they've had 41 shots across the three games, with forwards Mallory Weber and Mary Fowler coming into Round 3 sitting first and equal second in the most shots taken across the competition so far.
But luck just doesn't seem to be on Adelaide's side. Case in point: they could have come away with a 1-1 draw against City this past weekend after Amber Brooks scored following a free kick, but it was cancelled out due to a questionable offside that none of City's players even called for. All three games they've lost have been by a single goal, too, which almost makes it worse. Here's hoping the ball decides to do them a favour sometime soon.
Young player to watch
She flew out of the gates in Round 1 with a brace in the Big Blue derby against Melbourne Victory. Now 20-year old Sydney native Remy Siemsen leads the Golden Boot race after scoring another quick-fire brace against Perth Glory on Sunday afternoon to secure Sydney's third consecutive win of the season and take her team to the top of the ladder.
The striker has been given a new lease on life after returning to Sydney following a disappointing 2018-19 season with their cross-town rivals Western Sydney Wanderers; not only is she finally being given the minutes she deserves, but she's also being deployed in the way she is most dangerous: as a focal point in a front three, playing with her back to goal, running off shoulders, and pouncing on opposition mistakes. If she continues her form, a call-up to the national team seems only a matter of time.
Here's the tea
Where is Australia's World Cup bump?
We all saw what happened in the weeks after the Women's World Cup final. Attendances boomed in domestic competitions around the world, especially in the NWSL and England's Women's Super League, as fans flocked to see their World Cup stars return home. Although the Matildas fell short of expectations, there was a feeling that we'd see the same thing in the W-League this season; Australia's national women's team are still the most popular and most loved national sporting team in the country, and 20 of the 23 players who went to France had signed on for the 2019-20 W-League season.
And yet the competition hasn't experienced that attendance bump. In fact, it's flat-lined, with barely a few hundred more in attendance compared to the opening three rounds of last season. Why? The football on the pitch is better than ever as players have experienced back-room improvements to things like salaries, resources, and training facilities. And as more than 1 billion viewers for the World Cup this year showed, women's football is more popular than it has ever been. So why aren't we seeing that translated in the W-League?
Is it the fact there's been next to no marketing outside of a video aimed at kids ("Where Heroes Are Made") and a single free-to-air TV spot that bundles the competition in with the A-League? Is it that the delayed draw and late signing announcements gave fans little time to get hyped? Is it that games have been kicking off at inaccessible times (5pm on Friday afternoons? Really!?) or at inaccessible stadiums (City played Adelaide in Shepparton, for example, which is almost a two-hour drive from Melbourne)?
It's probably all of these things (and more) which have combined to create a perfect storm of disinterest. It's not that fans don't care about the Dub, though; it's that the people who control the league off the field have made caring about it increasingly difficult. Perhaps we can put their numerous eyebrow-raising decisions down to the fact that the league is currently in a transition period away from FFA and into the hands of the clubs themselves, and a recently-announced $1 million marketing campaign suggests the clubs see the same problems that fans do. Whether they'll act upon them in the right ways, though, remains to be seen.
Is there a gif of that?
Kyra Cooney-Cross vs. Brisbane Roar
Scoring a hat trick is one thing, but you can't score goals without someone getting the ball to you first, and Kyra Cooney-Cross' backheel assist for Hamilton's third goal almost made me fall off my chair.
The 17-year old has been given much more game time at Western Sydney than she ever had at Melbourne Victory and this moment, following her debut goal in Round 1, was a glimpse of how playing the kids can really pay off.