Perth Glory have already made a mockery of the dire pre-season predictions but coach Alex Epakis knows the toughest tests are still yet to come.
Glory were winless from 12 games last A-League Women season on the way to collecting the wooden spoon, but they have transformed into a finals contender this campaign.
Perth sit in fourth spot with four wins, two draws, and two losses to their name, and they’ll be aiming to make it three victories on the trot when they take on winless Canberra United at Viking Park on Saturday.
On paper, Glory should be able to swat away Canberra with ease.
But the going gets much tougher after that, with Perth scheduled to take on third-placed Adelaide United, second-placed Melbourne City, fifth-placed Melbourne Victory, and the ladder-leading Sydney FC in the next four games.
“It’s a really great opportunity for us as a group,” Epakis said of the tricky fixture.
“We want to be able to compete with those types of teams. So to have them all lined up one by one over the next couple of weeks is something I’m really looking forward to.
“But first we’ve got to perform against Canberra.”
Glory’s rise up the ladder this season has been all the more remarkable given that the team has been locked out of Western Australia for all bar their season opener.
“We’re in the hunt, and I don’t know if anyone really expected that other than ourselves,” Epakis said.
“Where we are at right now is where we want to be, and we want to defend that position in the top four as best as we can.”
Forward Gemma Craine will miss the rest of the season with a broken wrist, while Leena Khamis, Isabella Wallhead, Tijan Sally Mckenna, Alana Jancevski, and Susan Phonsongkham are other Glory players currently unavailable.
US import Cyera Hintzen returned from an adductor tear to score a crucial goal in last week’s comeback 3-2 win over lowly Wellington Phoenix.
Hintzen revealed she caught COVID-19 during her recent injury lay-off, and said her and her teammates were disappointed to hear WA’s border would be remaining shut for at least a while longer.
“Definitely at first when we heard the news it was upsetting for some,” Hintzen said.
“But we’ve all come together and done a really good job being there for each other. And getting these past two wins have helped a lot, so spirits are pretty high.”