W-LEAGUE GRAND FINAL
Getting it in the neck ... Caitlin Foord, of Sydney, right, and Tameka Butt, of Brisbane Roar, contest possession during the team’s semi-final in Brisbane. Photo: Getty Images
SYDNEY FC will have to defy all the odds to come away with the title in Sunday's decider against Melbourne Victory at AAMI Park.
But they've also had to overcome the worst of odds just to get there. Plenty of W-League observers believe the Sky Blues were lucky to make the finals, let alone get a shot at the most coveted prize in women's domestic football.
Heading into the final round of the season, the fifth-placed Sky Blues needed a minor miracle to qualify. A point behind reigning champions Canberra United, Sydney faced up to a derby against the Western Sydney Wanderers. While the Wanderers had been nudged out of finals contention the week before, they were desperate to end their inaugural season on a high note with a win against their cross-town rivals.
Matildas star Caitlin Foord opened the scoring for Sydney but Louise Fors equalised midway through the half. The talented Sam Kerr, a big-name signing from Perth Glory in the off-season, put Sydney back in front before the main break.
But with 16 minutes to play, Fors was hauled down in the box. She converted the penalty and the match seemed destined for a draw. It appeared that wouldn't be enough for the Sky Blues, who entered the game with a goal difference five worse than Canberra.
Enter Nicola Bolger. Two minutes after coming on as an 81st-minute substitute for Alanna Kennedy, a chance came her way. The 19-year-old connected with an effort that gave goalkeeper Thora Helgadottir no chance, securing a win for Sydney.
That wouldn't be enough, however, if Canberra could repeat their heroics of the previous season when they defeated Roar in the grand final. Nobody told the Roar, however, as they raced to a 3-0 lead before the main break, eventually running out 5-1 winners. The Green Machine slipped from fourth to fifth, swapping places with Sydney FC.
The Sky Blues would then get the opportunity to thank Brisbane Roar in person the following week at the Queensland Sport and Athletics Centre. It was the same venue where the two teams met a year before, in the same semi-final. It may be remembered as the W-League's most sensational - or infamous - match.
Brisbane scored a last-minute equaliser to force extra time, with the fall-out from the goal leading to Sydney striker Kyah Simon being sent off with coach Alen Stajcic.
The furore was caused by an injury to Kylie Ledbrook, who lay on the ground, but Brisbane's players refused to knock the ball out of play. They went on to score, incensing the Sky Blues, who had stopped playing after the incident.
A year on from feeling hard done by, there's a different feeling this time around. Maybe destiny is on their side.