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W-League review: Good news for Melbourne clubs but Brisbane toil

The W-League weekend in 280 characters or less

City stay undefeated with 2-0 win over Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth forced to settle for a 2-2 draw, Victory claw their way into the top four with 2-1 win over Newcastle, and Canberra's game against Sydney is postponed due to bushfire smoke.

JUMP TO: Winners | Losers | Here's the tea | Is there a gif of that?

Melbourne City celebrate after Aivi Luik scored against Brisbane Roar.

Winners

Melbourne's clubs

As a Sydneysider (and a Sydney FC supporter), I've often been loath to compliment Melbourne and everything that exists there. But this past weekend has made me reconsider.

- U.S. viewers can stream W-League games live on ESPN+

On the pitch, both Melbourne teams impressed. Melbourne City leapfrogged Western Sydney (who still have a game in hand) with a 2-0 win over Brisbane Roar, while Melbourne Victory got themselves back into finals contention after defeating a solid Newcastle Jets side 2-1. Both teams are growing into their systems and becoming more familiar with each other as the season rolls on, making for much more entertaining football to watch.

This is especially true of City, who recorded their first win by more than a single goal this week (and it probably should have been more, but Steph Catley missed a penalty). Meanwhile, Victory seem to have finally shaken off their AFC hangover and are finding their stride. International import Darian Jenkins, who'd been somewhat underwhelming so far, had a ripper game down the wing, while new midfielders Hayley Hanson and Annalie Longo continued to show their quality.

But it's off the pitch that the Melbourne clubs really shone this week. As Australia is gripped by its worst bushfire season in history, the three Melbourne-based football organisations (including Western United, who don't have a W-League side yet) presented themselves as a rare united front, calling on members to turn out in force to support their fundraising initiatives where $2 from every ticket sold across all the Melbourne-based games was donated to the Bushfire Disaster Appeal. 

Other clubs around Australian football swiftly followed suit, as did dozens of individual footballers, the players' union, state federations and, finally, Football Federation Australia. At a time when the game feels as fractured as ever, it's a moving reminder of how powerful football can be when it comes together for a single cause.

Losers

Brisbane Roar

It's two steps forward, one step back for Brisbane this season. Their 2-0 loss to Melbourne City on Thursday night, coming off the back of three wins and a draw in four games, was their latest stumble towards another finals appearance.

City looked vulnerable at times and the Roar will be kicking themselves for three clear missed opportunities to keep in touch with the top three. The first was a chance for Tameka Yallop, Brisbane's stand-out player so far this season, almost lobbing City keeper Lydia Williams after intercepting an under-hit pass from American Lauren Barnes, but her attempt was weak and floated fairly easily into the keeper's arms. The second came through Hayley Raso, who received a slicing pass from new recruit Isobel Dalton that took out several City defenders, but her left-footed shot was tame and aimed straight at Williams. The third was a penalty that Raso almost certainly should have won after she nipped away from Steph Catley in the box and was bundled over off the ball. However, the referee waved away Raso's and Yallop's calls for a spot kick.

Brisbane Roar struggled to find answers against Melbourne City.

The stats tell the same story: despite an identical number of passes (499 vs. 499, which is bonkers!), the Roar were more accurate, crossed more, and had 10 more shots than the visitors (20 vs. 10). Victory's win over Newcastle means the Roar now sit in fifth, on equal points with Canberra United (and equal in all other stats until yellow cards) and with one of the toughest runs into finals to boot (Western Sydney, Sydney FC, Perth, Canberra and City).

Adelaide and Perth

Both of these teams would have come into their must-win match on Friday night with an extra spring in their step. Neither team has won a game so far this season, and there was an opportunity for Perth, who sat on one point, to possibly overtake Newcastle on the ladder. It's not because these teams haven't been playing good football it's that, for the most part, they've been disastrously unlucky (especially Adelaide in recent games).

Imagine the feeling, then, when Adelaide strode out to a 2-0 lead over Perth at half-time, only for Perth to come back to draw in the second half, which included a wildly questionable penalty (luck, see?) buried by Morgan Andrews. Both teams now stay where they are on the ladder, with Perth in 8th on 2 points and Adelaide rock bottom on 1.

Here's the tea

I live in the south-west suburbs of Sydney. For months, my city has been regularly shrouded in thick blankets of smoke generated by the massive bushfires burning to the north and the west. As the new decade ticked over, fires continued raging across the south-east corner of the country, destroying an area the size of some European nations. U.S. readers who were close to the California wildfires may be familiar with this feeling: a general background hum of anxiety that only sleep, art or substances can alleviate. Social and mainstream media in Australia has been one constant red alarm bell for weeks.

It's been hard to think about football during all of this, but it's been even harder to write about anything else, particularly when the heat and the smoke has started to directly affect W-League games.

In round 7, Western Sydney head coach Dean Heffernan questioned the decision for his side to play against Canberra United as the city was affected by bushfire smoke, saying in a postmatch interview that the referee asked him to keep an eye on players with asthma. Two games this past weekend -- Canberra's game against Sydney and Adelaide's game against Perth-- were postponed and delayed respectively because of the hazardous smoke and high temperatures.

I've written in this column before about the possibility that the W-League (and all Australian football) may have to switch to a winter calendar as the climate crisis worsens. But in the grand scheme of things, that's the least that football will have to do as it confronts the hazy, fire-scorched road ahead. It's no longer about simply moving a calendar to the cooler months and continuing on as we always have. Sport, and football in particular, needs to look itself in the mirror and recognise its own contributions to climate deterioration as an industry.

According to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, transport is one of the highest sources of global greenhouse gas emissions. In a single W-League season, a player will travel over 10,000km across Australia, taking anywhere between six and 12 separate flights. That's not counting finals or the flights needed for international players to arrive and depart Australia.

A report produced by FIFA hinted at how big a role flights play in football: of the total amount of emissions produced during the 2014 men's World Cup, 83.7% (or just under 2.28 million tonnes of CO2) was used for the transport of players, staff, officials, guests and fans.

This doesn't even begin to address the pollution produced by the wider industries football relies upon such as sportswear and equipment manufacturers as well as infrastructure construction and maintenance.

Football has always pretended that it's an escape from the problems of the world, but that false reality is starting to come crashing down. The climate crisis is bigger and more serious than sport seems to have planned for. Like the rest of us: if it wants to survive at all, it's going to have to take its own contributions into account before it's too late.

Football has always pretended that it's an escape from the problems of the world, but that false reality is starting to come crashing down. The climate crisis is bigger and more serious than sport seems to have planned for. Like the rest of us: if it wants to survive at all, it's going to have to take its own contributions into account before it's too late.

Is there a gif of that?

Technical flair doesn't seem to be encouraged much in the W-League these days, so I'm thankful for Brazilian import Lais Dos Santos Araujo's bicycle kick for Adelaide against Perth on Friday night. She didn't score from it, but props to her all the same.

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