Samantha Lewis’ greatest Westfield W-League moments

Remarkable goals, unstoppable teams, global megastars and unforgettable games: these are the pieces of Westfield W-League history that live long in the memory.

Read on as Samantha Lewis takes you on a trip back through time to bring you her ten greatest Westfield W-League moments!

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Canberra United’s historic season

In the 2011/12 Westfield W-League season, Canberra United made history by becoming the first club to go an entire season undefeated. Having not won a single trophy since the league’s inception in 2008, United would put together a dazzling squad of current and former national team players, culminating in an unprecedented 7-3-0 campaign on the way to a Premiership-Championship double.

Spear-headed by eventual Golden Boot winner Michelle Heyman, Canberra’s team was heaving with names that have become part of Australian football folklore: Ash and Nicole Sykes, Caitlin Munoz, Sally Shipard, Lydia Williams, Ellie Brush, Grace Gill, Caitlin Cooper, Hayley Raso. Heyman was particularly prolific that season, scoring 15 of Canberra’s 23 goals, including a sensational hat-trick against Perth in Round 2, a crucial 83rd-minute winner against Victory in the Semi Final, and a brace against defending Champions Brisbane Roar in the Grand Final.  

Canberra’s record would stand for four seasons until Melbourne City’s inaugural season in 2015/16, in which they would also go on to win the double undefeated. However, in its broader context – specifically that Canberra remains the only stand-alone professional club that’s not affiliated with or financially supported by an A-League side – their achievements will be remembered as all the more remarkable. 

Canberra United

Last-gasp chaos: Brisbane defeat Sydney FC in 2011/12 Semi Final

Brisbane Roar and Sydney FC were the undisputed heavyweights of the early Westfield W-League, having each won three trophies in the three seasons between 2008 and 2011. 

There was a special buzz around their 2011/12 Semi Final meeting, particularly after Brisbane had narrowly defeated Sydney in the final round thanks to a Teresa Polias own-goal. But Sydney’s Renee Rollason put the Sky Blues ahead in the 18th minute, forcing the Roar to work for an equaliser. Brisbane goalkeeper Casey Dumont kept her side in it, as did a fortuitous offside call that denied Sydney striker Kyah Simon a chance to go two goals ahead. 

But as the match crept into second-half stoppage-time, all hell broke loose. After Sydney played the ball out of touch so one of their own could get medical attention, Brisbane used the following throw-in to launch a counter-attack. Moments later, in the 95th minute, Roar substitute Emily Gielnik equalised, taking the match to extra time.

 But the chaos didn’t stop there. In the first period of extra time, Simon received her marching orders after lunging out at Brisbane’s Vederana Popovic. Sydney head coach Alen Stajcic flew out of his chair and addressed Popovic on the ground, leading referee Casey Reibelt to send him from the field for the rest of the match, too. Two more sensational saves by Dumont would see the match eventually go to penalties, which the Roar would win 4-3, becoming the first club to appear in four consecutive Westfield W-League Grand Finals.

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Brisbane Roar

When it rains, it pours: Sydney FC 5 – 7 Perth Glory 

It’s half-time in Round 9 of the 2012/13 season. Sydney FC are leading Perth Glory 2-1 at Allianz Stadium. It is, as far as Westfield W-League games are concerned, a typical match between two talented sides. Westfield Matildas legend Lisa De Vanna opened the scoring for Perth in the 13th minute, while Kyah Simon and Kiwi international Emma Kete would put the Sky Blues in front. 

But something happened in the change-rooms of both sides during the half-time break that would result in an astonishing nine goals scored over the next 45 minutes.

The first came from Glory midfielder Aivi Luik in the 56th minute; a goal that lives up to the cliché of “opening the floodgates.” Six minutes later, it was 3-3 thanks to two goals in two minutes from Perth’s Elisa D’Ovidio and a reply by Sydney’s Lillie Billson just after the hour.

Both nets continued to ripple as the sides exchanged blows: De Vanna for Perth in the 72nd, Caitlin Foord for Sydney in the 81st, De Vanna completing her hat-trick in the 87th followed immediately by a goal from team-mate Kate Gill in the 88th. A young Sam Kerr scored the final goal for Sydney in the 92nd minute.

The match would end 5-7, and to this day remains the highest-scoring Westfield W-League game in the history of the league. 

The best Grand Final goal ever scored?

Before joining Perth Glory, Sam Kerr was surrounded by future Westfield Matildas team-mates at Sydney FC and had developed a particularly deadly strike partnership with Kyah Simon. In the 2012/13 season, after finishing 4th on the ladder, Sydney travelled to AAMI Park in Melbourne to take part in their third Grand Final in four seasons. 

With the scores locked at 1-1 at half-time thanks to goals from Sydney’s Nicola Bolger and Victory’s Petra Johansson (nee Larsson), both sides came out with added ferocity in the second half. And three minutes after the restart, Kerr and Simon would combine for what might be the greatest goal ever scored in Westfield W-League finals history.

After some aggressive counter-pressing by Simon saw her win possession, she spotted Kerr streaming in towards the far post and sent a lofted, looping cross into the box. Kerr, judging the speed and trajectory of the ball in the air, launched herself head-first into the space beyond, connecting perfectly with Simon’s cross – while she was almost parallel with the ground.

Kerr’s diving header would put Sydney in front, while Simon would score a late penalty to seal the Championship win for Sydney. Of course, Kerr followed up her goal with the now-characteristic backflip celebration; an early glimpse of the talent that has seen her become one of Australia’s greatest ever players.

Sam Kerr

Melbourne Victory’s fairytale final

As the 2013/14 season kicked into gear, no one could have guessed that Melbourne Victory – who were thumped 5-1 by Sydney in the opening round – would be anywhere near finals contention. But that’s exactly what happened, with the club becoming the first Victorian side to win a Westfield W-League trophy in the process.

The road there wasn’t easy, though. After going 7-2-3 in the regular season, Victory finished third on the ladder, meaning they faced the same stacked Sydney side who defeated them in the Grand Final the previous year. However, the memories of that loss seemed to fuel Victory’s 3-2 win over the Sky Blues, with each side exchanging goals until American defender Lauren Barnes slotted home a penalty in the 71st minute. 

There was drama on the other side of the draw, too, with Brisbane Roar defeating Premiers Canberra United in the second Semi Final, resulting in the first Grand Final meeting between Victory and Brisbane since the league began. 

Brisbane were no push-overs, though; not only did they contain almost a dozen Westfield Matildas, they also had the reigning FIFA World Player of the Year, Nadine Angerer, in goal. But Victory, determined not to finish second-best once again, did not buckle. Instead, they capped off a miraculous finals run with a comprehensive performance over Brisbane, with a 38th minute goal from the scintillating Lisa De Vanna followed by a thunderbolt strike from Barnes securing the club’s first ever Championship trophy.

Melbourne Victory 2014

Introducing: Melbourne City

Nobody knew what to expect from the new kids on the block at the start of the 2015/16 season, but after Melbourne City’s first match against Sydney FC, the entire league took on a new complexion.

Coming into the season without their full fleet of internationals, with Jess Fishlock and Kim Little yet to arrive, City’s first 45 minutes in the Westfield W-League saw them go 4-0 up with goals to Lisa De Vanna, Beattie Goad, and a brace to Larissa Crummer, who would go on to win the league’s Golden Boot.

Marianna Tabain and Melina Ayres would add insult to injury after the break, taking City’s tally to six against a Sydney side filled with big-name players like Alanna Kennedy, Kyah Simon, Leena Khamis, Jasmyne Spencer and Michelle Betos.

The arrival of Fishlock and Little only confirmed what that opening game implied: absolute dominance. City would become just the second club to go a full season undefeated, while also taking out the Premiership-Championship double. 

 They conceded just four goals while scoring twelve more than the next best team (Canberra), with Little and Tabain racking up 8 and 7 respectively, once again thumping Sydney in the Grand Final 4-1. City’s first loss would come in Round 6 of the following season (losing 2-1 to Canberra), ending their record-equalling 18-game unbeaten streak, though they would go on to win the Championship three more times in the following four seasons.

Melbourne City

Teresa Polias’ first goal, ten years in the making

In November of this year, former Westfield Matildas midfielder Teresa Polias celebrated her 10th anniversary with Sydney FC. The all-time Westfield W-League appearance record holder first joined the Sky Blues from the now-defunct Central Coast Mariners in 2010, earning the captain’s arm-band four seasons later. However, Polias had never captained Sydney to a trophy. Nor had she ever experienced the moment of jubilation that comes from scoring a goal for your club.

 That is, until Round 4 of the 2018/19 season, where Sydney faced Melbourne City at Allianz Stadium. Having never defeated City before, the Sky Blues knew they had a job on their hands. With the scores locked at 1-1 at half-time, City struck early in the second-half through Larissa Crummer and, predictably, were dominating possession. A third seemed within their grasp; the goal that likely would have put the game to bed.

But in the 64th minute, up stepped Teresa Polias. Her first ever Westfield W-League goal was an absolute screamer from 20 yards out to put Sydney on equal footing with City once again. Young striker Remy Siemsen would score Sydney’s game-winner in the 91st minute, signalling the end of City’s dominance over the original Sky-Blue side. Polias would lead Sydney to their first Championship trophy under her captaincy that season, too.

So close, yet so far for Newcastle Jets

While a handful of Westfield W-League clubs have grabbed headlines for their success on the park, some of the league’s most memorable moments have come from teams that have no silverware to show for their efforts. The Newcastle Jets’ dream 2017/18 season – coming from relative obscurity to finish third on the ladder – falls into this category.

Newcastle met Sydney FC in the first Semi Final, having beaten them 2-0 and drawn 2-2 in their previous two meetings. Against this historic momentum, though, Sydney came out firing, taking a 1-0 lead in the 9th minute through Caitlin Foord, while a Kylie Ledbrook thunderbolt made it two in the 35th. To add to Newcastle’s woes, defender Hannah Brewer received a straight red card just before half-time after taking out Lisa De Vanna who was through on goal.

But Newcastle wouldn’t give up, with fan-favourite Arin Wright (nee Gilliland) nodding home a corner in the 52nd minute to keep their Grand Final hopes alive. As the second half unfolded, Sydney began to tire – and it was a series of calamitous errors by the Sky Blues in the closing moments of the match that saw Newcastle equalise. 

Extra-time then became the stage for one of the Westfield W-League Finals Series’ best ever goals: a Sydney counter-attack from a Newcastle corner was fed to the galloping American defender Emily Sonnett, who dribbled half the field before feeding the slicing De Vanna, who slotted past Britt Eckerstrom in the 97th minute. Cue pandemonium at Leichhardt Stadium.

GOAL de Vanna

Sam Kerr v Melbourne Victory

There’s nothing quite like an emphatic final performance before your curtain-call, and for Sam Kerr’s final game for Perth Glory ahead of signing with Chelsea FC, it was exactly what we’ve come to expect from the Westfield Matildas skipper. 

Having captained Perth since 2015/16, Kerr’s rising form coincided with Perth’s Westfield W-League resurgence. They finished runners-up behind Canberra in the 2016/17 season, losing to City in the Grand Final. The following season saw them dip to sixth, but 2018/19 had them back in Championship contention after finishing fourth on the ladder. 

They couldn’t have asked for a more difficult opponent, meeting first-time Premiers Melbourne Victory – who were in red-hot form – away from home, having lost to the side in the season’s final round. But Melbourne Victory didn’t have Sam Kerr. 

The striker almost single-handedly won Perth the match, coming from 1-0 down to score a hat-trick in the second-half, while American forward Rachel Hill added a fourth. It was, without question, one of the greatest individual performances in Westfield W-League history, and while Perth would go on to lose to Sydney the following week, that Semi Final will be remembered as the perfect sign-off for one of the league’s best ever players.


Westfield W-League dazzlers

The Westfield W-League has been a vibrant greenhouse for local players since its inception, but it has also been home to some of the biggest names in the global women’s game – even though they may have slipped under the radar at the time.

In 2011/12, for example, Sydney FC signed Megan Rapinoe for a two-game guest stint. True to form, she made a big impact in those 120 minutes, scoring in a 2-1 win against Melbourne Victory in Round 2, just a few months after the USA lost the 2011 Women’s World Cup Final to Japan. Indeed, two of Japan’s World Cup-winning squad have made appearances in the Westfield W-League, too: Yukari Kinga has played for both Canberra United and Melbourne City, while compatriot Yuki Nagasato had a dazzling season with Brisbane Roar in 2018/19.

The league has also seen dozens of World Cup players grace its pitches including Brazil’s Mônica (Adelaide), England’s Laura Bassett (Canberra) and Carly Telford (Perth), Germany’s Nadine Angerer (Brisbane) and Ariane Hingst (Newcastle), New Zealand’s Abby Erceg (Adelaide), Rebekah Stott (Brisbane, Victory, City) and Rebecca Smith (Newcastle), Scotland’s Kim Little (City), Rachel Corsie (Canberra) and Jennifer Beattie (City), South Africa’s Refiloe Jane (Canberra), and America’s Abby Dahlkemper (Adelaide), Lori Lindsey (Canberra), Jessica McDonald (Victory) and Emily Sonnett (Sydney) – marquee-level signings that helped make the Westfield W-League one of the most competitive and exciting women’s leagues in the world over the past twelve seasons.

Megan Rapinoe