The 2016-17 season for Melbourne City’s W-League team was a challenging one. Joe Montemurro had been promoted from manager of the women’s team to an assistant manager with Michael Valkanis’s men’s team due to the departure of John van’t Schip. That left the keys of leadership to a player on loan from the NWSL’s Seattle Reign: Jess Fishlock, who was a player-assistant manager with the team but had been groomed to take the initiative.
What followed was a thrilling regular season that saw Melbourne City finish fourth on the table with a record of 6-2-4 (20 points). Canberra United, under the management of Rae Dower, earned their third-ever premiership with a record of 7-2-3 (23 points), only superior to Perth Glory on goal difference (+12 to +4). City were flying high up until week six, when a change to the coaching staff forced Fishlock into the role of gaffer.
Melbourne City’s worst loss of the season came on Jan. 15, when they lost to Melbourne Victory 2-0 at Epping Stadium. The win would only be one of two victories for the worst team in the competition, while the loss would be the last for City for the entire year.
|1||Canberra United||12||7||2||3||33||21||+12||23||Qualification to Finals series|
|8||Western Sydney Wanderers||12||4||1||7||14||29||−15||13|
Rules for classification: 1) points; 2) goal difference; 3) number of goals scored.
The defending W-League Champions started the postseason on the road at GIO Stadium against Canberra United on Feb. 5. In an extremely tight arm wrestle, it was the player-manager herself that would go on to deliver the goods in the 107th minute of play, a career-defining 1-0 victory that would set the stage for the Grand Final on Feb. 12 at nib Stadium in Perth against Bobb Despotovski’s Perth Glory.
Perth were led by Vanessa DiBernardo, who led Despo’s charges in a stirring 5-1 rout of Daniel Barrett’s Sydney FC. Also on goal for Perth were Rosie Sutton (79′), Shawn Billam (90′ + 3′) and Sydney’s Alanna Kennedy on an own goal in the 58th minute. Kyah Simon scored in the 23rd minute for the overmatched Sky Blues.
However, with Perth listed as a favorite to dominate on home soil and achieve what their men have failed to do against Melbourne Victory in the FFA Cup months ago in defeating their Victorian rivals, it was up to the champions of Australia to prove that inspite of managerial flux, they were who the whole world knew they were.
Our girls are all class and what a season they've had. Ultimate professionals that deserve yet another trophy @MelbCityWFC
— TIM CAHILL (@Tim_Cahill) February 12, 2017
And Perth let them off the hook. Goals by Fishlock (45′ + 1′) and Beverly Goebel (72′) gave Melbourne City back to back Westfield W-League Championships, a historic achievement that built on their FFA Cup victory on the men’s side earlier in the 2016-17 A-League season. There is no question that this could bode well for Fishlock’s future as a manager in the game, and with the current uncertainty regarding the future of the NWSL and the well-publicized showdown talks between the league and its players regarding equal pay, a future as a full-time gaffer is a possible certainty.
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