Feature: Perth Glory’s New Era

Ben Gilby shines the spotlight on Perth Glory, a team that have been hugely successful in the W-League in the past and now are in a transitional period focusing on a large number of locally produced young players who are full of promise.

Perth Glory’s Westfield W-League team were formed in 2008 and initially struggled to make much of an impact. However, once they made the Finals (where the top four placed sides play-off for a place in the Grand Final) for the first time in 2012, they quickly made up for lost time.

They have claimed one Premiership – the title for the team who finishes top of the table at the end of the regular season – in 2014, but are yet win a Grand Final. They have come close on three occasions when finishing as runners-up to Canberra United in 2014, Melbourne City in 2016 and Sydney FC in 2019.

The club have been able to boast a number of hugely successful players who have thrilled the club’s fans. Kate Gill scored 36 goals in 47 games between 2009 and 2015. Then there is Matildas superstar Sam Kerr who debuted at the age of just 15 in 2009 and played her last game for Perth Glory in 2019 before moving to the FAWSL with Chelsea.

In terms of overall records, Shannon May tops the all-time appearances list with 120 and Sam Kerr’s 57 goals in 71 games make her the club’s all-time highest goal scorer, while Gill (twice), Kerr (twice) and Morgan Andrews have all taken out the W-League Golden Boot during their time in Glory purple.

[blockquote text=”Sam Kerr’s departure for England heralded the beginning of a transitional period last season. The situation was not helped by logistical problems which meant that the arrival of the club’s overseas players was delayed which undoubtedly contributed to a slow start to the campaign.” show_quote_icon=”yes” text_color=”#dd3333″]

Sam Kerr’s departure for England heralded the beginning of a transitional period last season. The situation was not helped by logistical problems which meant that the arrival of the club’s overseas players was delayed which undoubtedly contributed to a slow start to the campaign.

However, after picking up just two points from the opening eight games, Bobby Despotovski’s side secured three consecutive wins from their final four games to finish on a high note. In addition to a stellar maiden W-League season from US import Morgan Andrews, the season was notable for the emergence of teenage midfielder Hana Lowry who made a seamless transition to senior football and headed a spectacular first W-League goal against Newcastle Jets in Round Eleven at the age of sixteen.

Coming into this season, long-time head coach Bobby Despotovski departed. His replacement was announced as Alex Epakis who came directly from a hugely successful spell coaching Sydney University. Extremely driven and dedicated, meticulous in his preparation and an excellent communicator, Epakis has made a very positive impact.

The playing group has really bought into his philosophy and he looks to be developing what is a very young group. Epakis and his staff have created a no-excuse environment and taken a very proactive approach to the significant challenges they have been presented with.

Lots of new faces have come into the club this season. Goalkeeper Lily Alfeld has probably made the biggest impact so far – the New Zealander has twice claimed the W-League Save of the Week and has impressed in every game. Fellow Kiwi Liz Anton has also caught the eye in the centre of defence and scored her first W-League goal in the outstanding away draw with Canberra United.

Isabella Wallhead (back), Gemma Craine (pointing outwards), Deborah-Ann De La Harpe (holding badge), Hana Lowry (pointing up), Caitlin Doeglas (arms behind back with hair tied on two sides), Tijan McKenna (raising fist above where it says Perth Glory). Image: Graphics by PW

Gemma Craine, born in England but having played in Western Australia for a number of seasons now also showed great promise, but her season was sadly ended by a serious hamstring injury sustained against Adelaide United at Dorrien Gardens. Deborah-Anne de la Harpe has also made a good start to what is her first season in the W-League. Whilst not new arrivals, other key players this season are skipper Natasha Rigby, with her pace and physicality which have placed her on the fringes of the Matildas squad and Marianna Tabain, who has made a welcome return after a spell out of the game and has the pedigree to trouble any defence in the competition on her day and.

Nurturing home-grown talent has always been a cornerstone of the club’s W-League philosophy and the current squad contains a host of highly-rated local teenagers, including Hana Lowry, Tijan McKenna, Abbey Green and Isabella Wallhead.

As well as having a new head coach and a significant number of new, young players, things have been complicated further by the consequences of the tight restrictions which has seen the Western Australian state border closed for much of 2020. Pre-season preparation time was severely limited and recruitment itself was heavily influenced by the restrictions.

The ever-changing state border restrictions has also significantly impacted the club’s fixtures, as going into a hub in another state (as the men’s A-League players have done) is not an option given that the vast majority of the W-League players have day jobs. Consequently the club have only played three games so far this season, half that of some teams on the W-League. They made their eagerly awaited return to the 2020/21 season last Thursday after almost a month on the sidelines by travelling to Western Sydney Wanderers. A tough trip followed to the league’s only unbeaten side Brisbane Roar on the Sunday. The trip to Brisbane clocks in at over 2,242 miles one way and is just under five hours by plane in each direction.

Whilst the club have had great success in recent years, in the near future, the club’s aims are to be as competitive as possible while giving young Western Australian players opportunities to impress at senior level. The club are placing great emphasis on playing an attractive brand of football, ensuring that their players and staff are ambassadors for the game within the local community and be as competitive as possible.

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