Gladesville Ravens celebrate NPL2 NSW Women's Championsip
Gladesville Ravens NPL2 Womens team celebrates its 2019 Championship triumph on September 2, 2019 at Valentines Sport Complex after defeating season Premiers, APIA Leichhardt Tigers, 1-0 in the Grand Final. (pic: DC Sports Photography)

By ANTHONY STAVRINOS

WOMEN’S football is thriving in TWT Territory – so it’s no surprise that after years of methodical planning involving continuous improvement both on and off the pitch, Gladesville Ravens’ senior women’s team are Champions in one of the state’s top tier competitions.

Before getting their hands on the 2019 NPL 2 NSW Women’s Championship silverware, they would first need to overcome newlycrowned Premiers, APIA Leichhardt Tigers, one of Australia’s most successful heritage clubs who’d only lost a single game all season.

But in the Ravens, APIA had met their match, or as it turned out, their Achilles’ heel. The Ravens, who finished the season a solid third on the ladder, had a psychological advantage ahead of the match – it was the side that inflicted upon APIA its sole defeat.

In its NPL 2 NSW Women’s squad the Ravens have a mix of fresh, up and coming talent, complemented by a healthy smattering of experienced campaigners.

Coaching staff ensured those key features of the squad were represented in appointing co-captains, Eleanor Lidbetter – who last year sat her HSC – and 20- year Ravens veteran Ashleigh Smith, who has decided to hang up her boots.

Whether she’ll be let off  the hook that easily is another story, with the club’s decision-makers determined to hang on to her footballing wisdom for at least another year.

Also part of the Ravens’ NPL 2 NSW Women’s squad are two women that have recently graced TWT’s pages – Carlie Ikonomou – daughter of TWT letters page contributor Tony Ikonomou – contributed her wealth of experience as a former W-League star.

Sixteen year old Alanna Fisher, 2018 Hunter Hill Sportsperson of the Year and a Grand Finalist in the TWT Club Six/Ryde Sports Foundation Sports Star of the Year Award, also added her talents to the mix.

The Ravens’ Director of Women’s Football, Janine Ligato, is one of a small group behind the scenes that has revolutionised the football offering for girls and women in Sydney’s north west.

Among the most impressive of the Ravens’ achievements is its partnership with Coerver Coaching, a world renowned methodology for skills improvement, in an arrangement that is limited to the Ravens’ female ranks.

The Ravens’ Girl’s Skills Acquisition Program – known as ‘The Nest’ – lays the foundations for early and accelerated player technical development, an innovation likely to attract new players from outside the local area.

Local boys hoping to access the Coerver method should not fret – Gladesville-Ryde Magic has also entered into a partnership with the school and Coerver has already scheduled several holiday camps to be held at Macquarie University.

“There’s been a huge commitment by the players who persevered with us while we made some really big changes on and off the field,” Ligato told TWT.

“Their faith has been rewarded. Another gamechanger is the increased access to Christie Park and this has enabled our NPL 2 Women’s players to have two sessions a week compared to one.”

She paid tribute to the club’s volunteers whose selflessness was a key factor in the Ravens’ ongoing success, not only at state representative level but also with our many junior amateur teams.

“In terms of what we’ve just achieved in taking out the NPL 2 NSW Women’s Championship, I can’t speak highly enough of the work being done behind the scenes by NPL Coordinator Shane Stevens, coach Alex Disciascio and our head coach, Albert Disciascio,” Ligato said.

Gladesville Ravens NPL2 Womens team celebrates its 2019 Championship triumph on September 2, 2019 at Valentines Sport Complex after defeating season Premiers, APIA Leichhardt Tigers, 1-0 in the Grand Final. (pic: DC Sports Photography)

Season Decider: How the Ravens did it

It took just ten minutes of play before it the football gods again made it clear they were to again smile on the Ravens and it would not be APIA’s day for retribution.

APIA was badly exposed in defence during an Emily Diaz-spearheaded Ravens attack and its custodian opted to recklessly take out Diaz and not the ball, earning a straight red card and an early trip to the dressing sheds.

APIA went into overdrive and created chances, but the Ravens’ numerical advantage and determination proved decisive.

The Ravens’ killer blow came via a “super sub” effort by Jade Pondt who came on with 30 minutes of the match to go.

Latching on to a loose ball in midfield, Pond evaded two challenges before unleashing a long-range shot from 30 metres, which floated over APIA’s substitute keeper and into the back of the net.

APIA came close as the clock ticked down in regulation time and for a further five minutes of nail-biting injury time, but the Ravens courageously held out to claim a deserved Championship.

Ryde’s unofficial ‘Minister for Sport’ Roy Maggio made the trip to Glenwood’s Valentines Sports Complex to witness the Ravens’ milestone.

“This is a big deal for women’s football,” Cr Maggio told TWT.

“The Ravens is one of those great, grass-roots success stories and the only way is up, especially with the foundations it has laid for improving girls’ technical skills through its Coerver partnership.

“Congratulations to the Ravens’ NPL 2 Women’s players and coaching staff – your achievements are thoroughly deserved.”

Gladesville Ravens 2019 NPL2 Womens Champions squad was: Eri Arikawa, Eloise Taylor, Ashleigh Smith, Alanna Fisher, Eleanor Lidbetter, Carlie Ikonomou, Emily Diaz, Emma Douglas-Oliveira, Zoe Zaczek, Annelise Schiraldi, Chloe Goldsmith, Kasia Wojtowicz, Annabelle Kinchington, Jade Pond, Hannah Gestier and Anja Seeto.