Crisis has created a W-League opportunity for Sydney FC.
Before this season the majority of the Matildas moved to Europe while the COVID-19 pandemic made recruiting international players a difficult prospect.
So Sky Blues coach Ante Juric got on the front foot – quickly locking in most of the talent that made the 2019-20 grand final and bolstering the squad with some of the best young talent from other clubs.
That included Newcastle midfielder Clare Wheeler and winger Cortnee Vine – plus a shrewd recruit in NPLW defender Charlotte Mclean.
Now, Sydney’s unique all-Australian line-up has wrapped up the premiers plate and will look to complete the W-League double when they face Melbourne Victory in Sunday’s grand final.
“New South Wales has always had a lot of depth and talent there so, why not draw upon it?” defender Natalie Tobin told AAP.
“That’s also what’s amazing as well; you’re not seen as buying players, you’re seen as using homegrown talent.
“So that’s really amazing and I commend Ante for that, giving girls a shot who wouldn’t typically.”
For Tobin, injuries to Liz Ralston and Ellie Brush mean she has been shifted from midfield to centre-back and in the process become Sydney’s most experienced central defender.
And she has thrived.
“(Doing the double) would actually be incredible … the team we have is so special and I’ve actually never been in a team that gets along so well,” Tobin said.
“It would mean the world to everyone.”
Standing in their way is Jeff Hopkins’ Victory, who put six goals past Brisbane in their semi-final and have a lethal strike force of Lisa De Vanna, Melina Ayres and Catherine Zimmerman.
Hopkins said winning the grand final would be “even more special” given the difficult season in which Victory had multiple games shuffled around.
He believed his team had learned from their last-round 2-1 loss to Sydney.
“We understand what we need to do and what we need to do a little bit better,” Hopkins said.
“I’m more than confident that we’ve got the players to do that as well.”
The title would be Hopkins’ first championship as Victory coach and his first since leading the Roar to the 2010-11 title.
Victory’s first grand final since 2014 also culminates five seasons’ worth of work under Hopkins – with skipper Angela Beard among those to have built the club up from the bottom.
“It’s not just about this season on a personal level for me, it’s about the past four or five years of work behind the scenes with Jeff and the coaching staff,” Beard said.
“Myself … and a lot of the other girls have been working for countless years to get to a game like this.”