Women's NSL - Season 2003/2004

Women's National Soccer League

Supplied by AWSA and transcribed by Thomas Esamie

Queensland Sting 1082037926
NSW Sapphires 10640321022
Adelaide Sensation 10415192513
Canberra Eclipse 1024491210
Victoria Vision 1023514329
Northern NSW Pride 1002815382
Top Two sides (Sapphires and Sting) play the championship final.

Home Teamv Away Team
Grand Final (played December 20)
Venue : Lions Stadium, Brisbane
Queensland Sting
Belinda Kitching, Sarah Garven (Sarah Walsh 76), Karla Reuter, Pam Grant, Jessica Mitchell (Heather Garriock 55), Alicia Ferguson (Ellen Beaumont 82), Kate McShea (c), Bryony Duus (Kim Carroll 82), Lana Harch, April Mann (Elissia Canham 76), Belinda Dawney
Goal : Belinda Dawney 90
1 - 3 NSW Sapphires
Cassandra Kell, Emma Davison, Lisa Gilbert (Julia Bazi 89), Danielle Brogan (Briony Holcombe 85), Sally Shipard, Taryn Rockall (c), Kylie Ledbrook (Katie Hilder 89), Leah Blayney, Jo Burgess (Belinda Ristevski 74), Michelle Carney, Catherine Cannuli
Goals : Sally Shipard 39, Michelle Carney 55, Leah Blayney 85
NSW Sapphires are the WNSL champions after a solid 3-1 victory over favourites Queensland Sting in tonight's grandfinal in Brisbane, finally reversing their fortunes after three consecutive grandfinal losses.

The young NSW Sapphires, with six 15 to 18 year-olds in their starting lineup, were hungry to get the result and they met the challenge in fine style against the widely internationally experienced Queensland Sting. The win is Sapphires' third national league crown. Queensland, the defending champions, saw their perfect grandfinal record come to an end, having won three titles from three appearances.

In a game which saw both sides enjoy a share of the possession and chances on goal, NSW in the end deserved their victory, making the most of their opportunities and displaying sharp combinations all over the park, fantastic intensity and hunger. Sting squandered some solid chances on goal, but were at times half a step behind their opponent.

Sapphires started the championship decider in early attacking mood, although it was Sting with the first good chance in the 3rd minute when Belinda Dawney sent her shot from wide on the right sailing over the bar. Not long after, NSW almost grabbed the early lead after an error in judgement from the home side goalkeeper.

Being played at a frantic pace, the situation then evened out with play switching from one end to the other for a while, before Sting then took the ascendancy to create several shots on goal. April Mann's attempt in the 20th minute ricocheted off a defender but the certain goal was cleared off the line in almost bicycle-kick style by NSW defender Lisa Gilbert. Five minutes later, Mann laid the ball off square for Dawney whose first time strike flew well over from 12 metres. In the 35th minute, Dawney was released with a through ball and set off on goal, but ambitiously tried to curl the ball around the keeper who had come out off her line and the ball went well wide.

After holding out against Queensland's run of attack, NSW then snatched the lead six minutes before halftime. A quick break found Michelle Carney within range of goal but unselfishly sprayed the ball back out to the left into the path of the unmarked Sally Shipard who drove home into the open net from 14 metres.

Ten minutes into the second half, NSW doubled their lead, which silenced the hometown fans. A scramble inside the box saw the defence clear the ball only as far as Sapphires captain Taryn Rockall just outside the 18-yard box who sent in a neat chip over the top for Carney to win the race between herself and the outrushing goalkeeper to get her toe in for the shot.

Sting's Heather Garriock, sidelined for several matches due to back injury, was immediately brought into the action, and several chances were created in their desperate mission to get back into the game, but Dawney, Mann, and Garriock still had no luck finding their range on goal.

In the 85th minute, NSW put the nail in the coffin when Kylie Ledbrook released Catherine Cannuli up the left but her two chances in quick succession were both saved by goalkeeper Belinda Kitching leaving teammate Leah Blayney on hand to put away the loose ball from 8 metres.

In stoppage time, Queensland scored a consolation goal, catching out the defence with a switching ball out to the left and Garriock's cross was met with a volley by the unmarked Dawney.

Sapphires coach Alen Stajcic was relieved to have broken the team's run of outs, and delighted with the performance. "For the girls who've been here for the four years, this win is a big weight off their shoulders. It's great to have broken through that barrier."

"As individuals they all played well. And in this one-off grandfinal, a number of them played their best game I've seen them play - Lisa Gilbert, Taryn Rockall, Leah Blayney all had great games. It's fantastic the team's pulled out their best game at the most important time."