NORTH Armidale United will be the first name engraved on the Northern Inland Women’s Premier League championship shield after completing an undefeated inaugural season in Sunday’s grand final.
After trailing 1-nil early, the Reds eventually overpowered East Armidale to win the grand final 4-1 at Phil Wheaton Oval and become the first winners of the new competition.
It was the expected result but North still had to work for it.
“At the end of the day it’s anyone’s game,” Reds coach Dave Griffiths said.
“We’ve had a very dominant season but we didn’t want to come out on the day and be complacent.
“We wanted to keep it simple and that’s what we did in the second half and we turned it around.”
East started well and soon had the first goal through Emily McCann.
It remained 1-nil for most of the first half and took a penalty to bring North level.
Jodi Harris was brought down in the box and her sister Amy stepped up and slotted the goal from the dot.
It might have been 1-all at the break except for a good strike from Jodi Harris just seconds out from the halftime whistle.
She chipped the keeper and the Reds went to the sheds up 2-1.
As the game progressed North’s dominance became more evident and it was from another set piece that the third goal came in the second half.
Amy Harris often threatens the keeper from free kicks but this time she lobbed it just inside the box for Hailey Williams-Farley to chase and, despite keeper Natalie Smith coming off her line to spoil, she couldn’t prevent the goal.
That made the task nearly impossible for East and when golden boot winner Grace Beissel chipped in number four for the Reds it was all over.
“It took us a long while to get on top of them,” Griffiths said.
“It was neck and neck.
“Thankfully in the second half we went back to the game plan .
“We started to create some opportunities and we took those opportunities.”
East was ecstatic with its start but found it harder and harder to keep up as the time ticked by.
“The first 20 was really good,” East coach Steve Davies said.
“They were shooting from outside 18 yards so they couldn’t get into the box.
“They weren’t dominating us.
“But in the second half we ran out of puff.
“We had a couple of opportunities to level it up in the first half.”
East never beat North during the year, in fact no one did.
Joeys FC managed a draw with the Reds but that was as close as the other teams got.
But East proved to be the next best during the year and was pleased to have given the Reds a competitive grand final.
“And look at the last (regular season) game, it was 2-1,” Davies said.
“We were losing 6 or 7-nil to them earlier in the year.
“We’ve improved against them.
“This was the best we’ve played against them this year.
He said Janaya Lockwood, captain Marilyn Munro and Sarah Stackman were among his side’s best.
For North it was clear that the Harris sisters’ skills set them apart but there were plenty of other strong players.
“Mimi Raymer had a great game at the back for us,” Griffiths said.
“She was very tidy and also gave us something down the right wing late in the second half.
“She was a standout.
“Grace Beissel was good up front and Amy Harris in the middle.
“They all played well.
“It was a good first season.”
Beissel received her golden boot after the game for her leading goal-scoring efforts and won the award just ahead of Jodi Harris.
The plan is to grow the women’s league next year to make it a five or six-team competition.