2022 WNPL SA Grand Final Preview: Will City spoil West Adelaide's treble pursuit?
After both sides enjoyed successful seasons, rivals Adelaide City and West Adelaide will meet in the 2022 WNPL SA Grand Final. Will West Adelaide complete a historic treble on the day, or will an Adelaide City side in transition upset the juggernaut of 2022?
West Adelaide celebrate a goal in their 2022 Major Semi-Final win over Adelaide City. (Adam Butler/80Kms)
The WNPL SA competition is historically synonymous with Adelaide City. Over the years, City has been the premier women's club in local South Australian football, having made five Grand Finals in a row before 2021. But the competition has caught up and anointed three different champions in the last three seasons: Adelaide City in 2019, Metro United in 2020, and Salisbury Inter in 2021.
Should Tracey Jenkins and West Adelaide have their way, the competition will have its fourth champion in four years and an inaugural one in the form of Hellas.
West Adelaide has been phenomenal in 2022, winning the premiership by seven points and a seismic +63 goal difference. Hellas won the WNPL & WSL Cup Final against Adelaide City and are now aiming to complete a treble by defeating Angelo Paul's side in a Grand Final for the second time in less than two months.
West Adelaide will not underestimate the occasion. They had a strong 2021, swinging the tide and crushing City in the Preliminary Final. But they surrendered the lead twice to Salisbury Inter on its big day to fall at the final hurdle. They also have first-hand experience in 2022 of the danger of underestimating this Adelaide City side.
West Adelaide Hellas Women celebrate winning the WNPL & WSL Cup at the expense of Adelaide City. (Adam Butler/80Kms)
West Adelaide may have been dominant throughout the season. But their one blemish came in the first round against its upcoming opponents. On the first day of the season, City breached the Hellas net five times to claim a 5-3 win and the three points.
West Adelaide has not lost since, beating City three times since the season's opening day. Although they have failed to replicate their opening day feat, City has largely been the better side during its subsequent encounters against West Adelaide. They have often threatened to cause an upset.
A fortnight ago, Adelaide City took on West Adelaide for the first ticket to the Grand Final. Although City lost by three goals, the match was closer than the scoreline suggests.
The underdogs, Adelaide City, had the premiers on the ropes for a half of football. The floodgates opened in the second half when West Adelaide got a lucky break and opened the scoring. A moment of brilliance by City in the first half could have spelled a different story.
City now finds itself on the opposite side of the coin than what it was on in 2020. The Black and Whites lost their first game of the season that year to Metro United. They marched into the Grand Final via an undefeated run, the same spot West Adelaide currently finds themselves in.
On the day, the heavily favoured City shockingly fell to a Metro United side that finished a modest fourth on the table. Angelo Paul's side might be in transition. But it possesses enough quality in its experienced and youth stocks to hurt any opponent.
Isabel Hodgson and Daniela Di Bartolo have returned from their overseas travels and are slowly building towards their devastating best. City fired its warning shot in the Preliminary Final, defeating last year's treble winners Salisbury Inter 6-2, which West Adelaide definitely would have noticed.
Whichever way the Grand Final goes, spare a thought for the Dylan Holmes household. The South Australian midfielder also hosts fellow Adelaide United teammate Annalee Grove. What do the pair do during the A-League Women off-season? They represent opposite sides of the Adelaide City and West Adelaide Derby, with Grand Final week creating an interesting conundrum in the household.
West Adelaide will be full of confidence and fully backing itself to complete its first-ever treble. After its opening day defeat, Hellas has been close to faultless and has the belief it lacked in 2021. They have beaten their Grand Final adversary during the season, unlike its misadventures with Salisbury in the lead-up to last year's finale.
Rating West Adelaide's chances is one thing, but dismiss Adelaide City at your peril. The Zebras have been the flagship South Australian club for many years because of the quality within their ranks. Many players who helped build that reputation will take the field on Friday.
Along with City's experience, the next generation of South Australian footballers will be looking to write their names in the history books. City youngsters Katie Bowler and Zoe Tolland have had exceptional seasons and recently signed scholarship contracts with Adelaide United.
Whoever wins on Friday night, less than a year from hosting Women's World Cup fixtures, South Australian football is the big winner. Whichever way you look at it, two great sides in Adelaide City and West Adelaide will challenge each other for the ultimate prize.
West Adelaide faces Adelaide City in the 2022 WNPL SA Grand Final tomorrow at 7:30pm at ServiceFM Stadium in Gepps Cross.
To read more about Adelaide City Women Head Coach Angelo Paul and his team, click here.