MATCH PREVIEW | Final game a chance to celebrate epic Essendon Royals season

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Essendon Royals have the chance to seal a brilliant Women’s State League 2 North-West campaign with promotion on Sunday when they take on FC Clifton Hill.

It would be a fitting end to a season which has defied all expectations.

Coach Johno Clemente has always believed that good culture would always bring good results but even his belief was shaken heading into the campaign.

With limited players at trials, Clemente wondered if he’d even have enough players to see out a season.

How things have changed.

Heading into the final round of the season with a slender one-point advantage over third-placed Hume City FC, the Royals occupy the all-important second spot on the ladder with their fate in their hands.

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But in a lot of ways, this season has been about so much more than just wins and losses and potential promotions. For Clemente, this season has taken on a greater significance for the Royals.

“This season has been an absolute roller coaster and I’m so grateful for the experience we’ve all shared together,” Clemente said. 

“This year, we’ve not only been performing well as a team but, we’ve been rebuilding an entire club’s women’s program. 

“No ladder position, no promotion can ever take that away from this team and that achievement is the best of them all, reviving a whole women’s program, making the club a destination for future players, proving everyone - even perhaps the players themselves - wrong on what they could achieve.

“Building a team takes patience but looking at this team now after a full season I couldn’t be more proud of what we’ve managed to achieve.”

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The Royals were stuck at the bottom of the ladder after three rounds, before a 5-1 triumph over St Albans Saints SC in the fourth round sparked a five-game winning streak launched a complete turnaround of the team’s fortunes.

Steph Pantazopoulos has scored goals for fun and been eagerly supported by the likes of Tahlia Jane, Marcela Marques, Eiilan Nissan and Lydia Schiffergger, while at the back Michelle Vidanoski has been a pillar of strength.

This has truly been a season built on squad success, with every team member playing their part.

The girls’ exploits have attracted plenty of media attention too, which Clemente said is ample recognition for the quality they have displayed all season.

Clemente said the team deserves a big showing of support on Sunday to recognise their performances this season.

“The media attention these girls have received isn’t a fluke, the praise they receive doesn’t come by accident, it’s because of there hard work and they deserve to be appreciated by all the Royals fans on Sunday,” he said.

“The result on Sunday is irrelevant to me, we’ve reached all our goals and more this season and no points tally can ever change that. 

“We’ve competed in the top-four against three teams that have been together for a few years and got promoted together in Spring Hills, Hume City and St Albans and we took points off them all, even when we were bottom of the ladder after round 3. 

“The future is bright for women’s football at Essendon Royals and nothing changes that, more success is around the corner for this group and club on and off the field.”

Be at Cross Keys Reserve for a 3.15 pm kick-off this Sunday, September 1 to cheer the girls on and celebrate what has been an incredible season.

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