It didn’t end the way it had been hoped, but the Wanderers Westfield W-League squad, coaching, and associated staff can still proudly hold their heads high after what was a remarkable, history-making season.
After seven seasons, the Red & Black finally came of age in the W-League, smashing all sorts of records on the way to qualifying for the finals for the first time.
To understand the eye-opening achievements of this team, just look at the club records that fell:
- First time in the W-League finals
- First team in W-League history to finish last the previous season and make finals the next season.
- Finished in the team’s highest position ever on the ladder (fourth)
- Highest points in a season (22)
- Most wins in a season (7)
- Most wins in a row in a season (3)
- Best start to a season (6 games unbeaten)
- Longest unbeaten streak in games (6)
- Most goals in a regular season (24)
- Conceded least goals in a regular season (20)
- First time finished season with a plus goals for and against record
- Recorded biggest ever win in a Sydney Derby (5-0 v Sydney FC)
- Recorded biggest ever score and winning margin against any team (5-0 v Sydney FC)
- First Golden Boot winner (Kristen Hamilton, seven goals)
- Club’s first W-League hat-trick (Kristen Hamilton)
- Beat the highly regarded Chinese national team in a friendly (1-0)
Obviously the result in the Semi Final against unbeaten Premiers Melbourne City didn’t go the way of the Red & Black, but it in no way detracts from their season.
With the incredible support of the Board and Senior Management, head coach Dean Heffernan, his assistants Catherine Cannuli and Michael Beauchamp and their behind-the-scenes staff worked tirelessly in pre-season and the season proper to help produce a team that made everyone sit up and take notice.
The players responded magnificently, taking advantage of the world class facilities at the club’s Centre of Excellence while throwing themselves into the task of making the Wanderers a force to be reckoned with in the national competition.
The difference in attitude and the desire and hunger was there for all to see in the opening six rounds of the season as the club carried all before them in an unbeaten six-game run in which they played an exciting brand of attacking football.
It was clear then that this was going to be a Wanderers side like no other in the club’s W-League history.
And if you are talking of major highlights, then one stands out - the 5-0 win over arch rivals Sydney FC in the Sydney Derby at Bankwest Stadium on 20 December.
The Red & Black went into the game with just one win in seven previous seasons against the League benchmarks but, some 90 minutes later, they were walking on air after destroying Sydney.
Then there were the individual performances, notably American star Kristen Hamilton’s seven goals for the season that saw her eclipse Wanderers legend Catherine Cannuli’s record (six goals) for most goals in a season.
In her first season with the club, Hamilton proved to be a remarkable competitor, driving the team with her hard work ethic and fierce determination. Her nose for goals was a vital element of the success of the team.
Hamilton’s combination with fellow American and US international Lynn Williams, while she was here, up front was exciting and caused problems for every defence in the League.
At the back, American goalkeeper Abby Smith was confident, safe and assured while Alex Hyunh, Caitlin Cooper and American Sam Staab were resolute in defence.
In midfield, the emergence and development of Kyra Cooney-Cross and Courtney Nevin was a huge positive for the club as was the steadiness and fighting qualities of Ella Mastrantonio and Irish international Denise O’Sullivan.
Unfortunately, long term injuries, suspensions and the loss of O’Sullivan and Williams midway through the season did not help as the team suffered a bit of a slump to slip out of top two contention.
However, they got themselves out of it, securing a much deserved berth in the finals with a 3-2 win over Perth Glory in the final game of the regular season.
Unfortunately, they came up against a red hot and ruthless Melbourne City side boasting a myriad internationals in the Semi Final.
Still, when the girls and staff sit down and reflect on the season, they will be able to put aside that disappointment and take huge comfort in what they were able to achieve.
You wouldn’t want to wager against these girls bouncing back bigger and better than ever next season.
Bring on the 2020/21 season.