FEATURE | Character, Culture and Stunning Performances: Three crucial results that shaped Essendon Royals' senior women's team's season
Regardless of the outcome of Sunday’s Women’s State League 2 North-West clash between Essendon Royals and FC Clifton Hill, the Royals have had a season to be proud of.
From the bottom of the ladder after three rounds, the Royals have risen spectacularly to find themselves in second place on the ladder heading into their final match of the season against Clifton Hill.
A win means promotion is guaranteed.
So, how did the Royals turn their season around so dramatically?
Coach Johno Clemente has always said that good culture will bring good results and the proof is in how good the team’s results have been.
As we look forward to the final game of the season - and a chance to secure promotion back to State League 1 - we look at three of the most important results which got us here.
These three performances highlight what an exceptional season the girls have had.
ROUND 10 - Essendon Royals SC 2 Spring Hills FC 2
The Essendon Royals went into this game on the back of a five-game winning streak and a vastly more confident team to the one which lost to Spring Hills FC in round one.
Spring Hills came into this game yet to drop a point for the whole season.
This was the first senior match to take place at Cross Keys Reserve following the completion of the fantastic new facility and the girls gave it a brilliant opening contest.
Spring Hills raced to a 2-0 lead and what looked like a 10th-straight win of the season, only for the Royals to mount an awe-inspiring comeback.
If there was a game that truly confirmed this team’s potential, this was it.
Goals from Eiilan Nissan and Talia Jane were enough to hold Spring Hills and saw them drop their first two points of the season.
Speaking after the game, coach Clemente was full of praise for the character his team displayed.
“It just shows the character of this team,” he said.
“We went 2-0 down against a side like Spring Hills who haven’t dropped a point all season and the girls dug deep and didn’t stop believing.
“Once again this group of girls continue to prove everyone wrong.”
ROUND 11 - Essendon Royals SC 4 Hume City FC 1
If the Royals do manage to clinch promotion on Sunday, this will no doubt be remembered as the most crucial result of the season.
Still on a high from the heroics of the epic Round 10 come-from-behind draw against league leaders Spring Hills, this Round 11 contest at Cross Keys Reserve pitted the Royals against the team which would prove their direct promotion rival.
The Royals did not disappoint, putting on a clinic to win the game 4-1.
Hume City FC came out of the blocks on fire and quickly took a one-goal lead. Truth be told, the Royals did well to limit the damage to just one goal.
In fact, it was a Hume own-goal which offered the Royals a glimmer of hope as the first half came to a close.
With confidence in their step, the Royals took the game to Hume in the second half and piled on three goals. Steph Pantazopoulos finished the game with a brace, with Lydia Schifferegger scoring the other.
“The girls lifted again and just showed there class, it was no tactical changes, no big motivational speech at half time, it was just this incredible group of girls,” Clemente said after the game.
“They stepped it up and in the end, they deserved the three points.”
ROUND 13 - Essendon Royals SC 6 St Albans Saints FC 0
Essendon Royals came into this game on the back of a loss to FC Clifton Hill and a disappointing draw against Melbourne University SC.
With their promotion hopes looking to be waning, the Royals knew they needed a big result to get their momentum back.
They delivered in spades.
Pantazopolous scored four goals in an awe-inspiring display, with Jane adding a brace of her own to seal the rout.
The win saw the Royals leap-frog Hume City into second spot on the ladder.
“This performance was coming, we’ve had a frustrating two weeks of results and we always knew we’ve got this quality to play like we did today and I’m glad the girls brought back there best today,” Clemente said after the game.
“We played some quality football, we were confident and we were a joy to watch.
“We switched our focuses on our development rather than results and I think that made a massive difference.
“If everyone improves their own performance and understands what’s needed in their role then the whole team benefits, it’s a step-by-step process and we’ll try to repeat it next week.”
Be at Cross Keys Reserve on Sunday, September 1 to cheer the girls on as we celebrate a season to remember for our women's team.