With Northern grafting a 1-0 victory over two-time winners and defending champions Capital Football in last Saturday’s semi-final and Auckland Football – holder of six titles – falling at the conference stage, there will be a new winner of the national league for just the third time since it was first run in 2002.
Last season’s beaten finalists Waikato-Bay of Plenty coasted to a second straight final appearance with a emphatic 6-1 demolition of Southern Conference top seed Mainland Pride at ASB Football Park in Christchurch.
Honours were shared between the finalists in their two conference encounters with Northern claiming a 4-2 win in Auckland and Waikato-Bay of Plenty triumphing 6-2 in the return match in Mount Maunganui.
Those results have been the only blemishes on otherwise impressive national league campaigns, although Waikato did drop points in their matches with Auckland.
And with 14 goals scored in the previous two encounters, Northern coach Gordon Forrest isn’t ruling out another high scoring affair despite the understandable tension of the match being a final.
“It’s hard to say how it will go, both sides have very good players who are capable of creating opportunities, but at the same time it could be a tense affair,” said the Scot.
“We’ve prepared for this match the same way we have all season, but we may look at doing a couple of things to work on the mental preparation of playing in a final,” Forrest added.
It took a clinical free kick from Caitlin Campbell in the 35th minute after Football Fern Hannah Wilkinson was fouled on the edge of the box.
While Waikato-Bay of Plenty ran away with a 6-1 win over Mainland Pride including a late double from Olivia Chance assured Waikato-Bay of Plenty of a second straight final appearance.
Chance’s brace took her season tally to 12, just one shy of Northern’s Hannah Wilkinson in the golden boot race with the two clashing head-to-head in Sunday’s final to determine the winner.
Northern Football v Waikato-Bay of Plenty
Parrs Park, Auckland
Sunday, 4 December 2011
Referee: Anne-Marie KEIGHLEY
The players: Expect the experience of current and former Football Fern’s Pam YATES, Liz MILNE, Hannah WILKINSON, and Rebecca O’NEILL to come to the fore in the final.
Squad list (from): 1-Erin NAYLER (gk), 2-Liz MILNE, 3-Jessica INNES, 4-Megan LEE, 5-Caitlin SMALLFIELD, 6-Hannah CARLSEN, 7-Hannah WILKINSON, 8-Rebecca BURROWS, 9-Rebecca O’NEILL, 10-Stephanie SKILTON, 11-Katie ROOD, 12-Claudia CRASBORN, 14-Caitlin CAMPBELL, 15-Briar MCNAMARA, 16-Pam YATES (gk), 18-Chloe KNOTT, 20-Tayla O’BRIEN, 24-Katie MCDONALD – two to be omitted
Coach: Gordon FORREST
Waikato-Bay of Plenty Football
The players: The talented attacking talents of Sarah MCLAUGHLIN, Holly PATTERSON, Helen COLLINS and Olivia CHANCE could be the key to success.
Squad List (from): 1-Naomi-Beth CARTER (gk), 2-Emma BAKER, 3-Opal SHAW, 4-Kylie JENS, 5-Kate CARLTON, 6-Brianna STEWART, 7-Holly PATTERSON, 8-Sarah MCLAUGHLIN, 9-Rachel PORTEOUS, 10-Laura PHILLIPS, 12-Tessa LEONG, 13-Kate LOYE, 14-Libby WILLIAMS, 16-Olivia CHANCE, 17-Eileish HAYES, 18-Issy COOMBS, 20-Georgia BODEN, 21-Helen COLLINS – two to be omitted
Coach: Simon MEAD