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  • Writer's pictureAntonis Pagonis

Tom Monsigneur's Adelaide Comets aim to take care of "unfinished business" in 2023

The Adelaide Comets are in the midst of their best-ever WNPL SA season, finding themselves at the league's summit with only one loss after 13 games. Head Coach Tom Monsigneur spoke to Front Page Football about what is driving his team in 2023.

The Adelaide Comets have only lost one game in the 2023 WNPL SA season. (Adam Butler/80kms)


Although it ended in disappointment, the 2022 WNPL SA season was encouraging for the Adelaide Comets. John Panagaris' side finished the regular season in fourth. But they were disappointed after being eliminated in the Minor Semi-Final by Salisbury Inter while also exiting the WNPL & WSL Cup in the Round of 16 at the hands of eventual Grand Finalists Adelaide City.


Having been Panagaris' assistant in 2022, newly appointed Comets Head Coach Tom Monsigneur acknowledged his predecessor's positive impact on the club, piecing the team together and turning them into contenders while highlighting the importance of his new role in the club's administration.


"I started last year as John Panagaris’ assistant; I have a lot to thank him for. I came in with him, and I was running a lot of the tactical things in training. John is more of a man-manager than a tactician; he put this squad together. But it was always a bit of a plan to transition someone into that role," Monsigneur said.


"It came across quicker than we probably thought, and John was happy to take on an administration role and do some work around the club, which you always need. I was really thrilled to take on the opportunity at the start of this season."


Since taking over as Head Coach, Monsigneur's side has only lost one league game. Meanwhile, they also boast a +33 goal difference at the summit, more than doubling the second-placed Football South Australia NTC side (+16). Being heavily involved as the team's assistant last year, Monsigneur feels his squad is fuelled by 2022's promise that ultimately ended in disappointment.


"I think from last year there was a fair bit of unfinished business, for example, when we got knocked out by Salisbury Inter, who were really good on the day in the Finals Series," Monsigneur said.


"We missed a few chances on that day, and the girls were really hungry to go that extra step, and basically, we go into every game wanting to win, we haven’t put any goals down, everyone wants to win silverware and get to the point that we are now, where we are in the last four of the cup and in the position that we are in the league. We want to win as much as we can.


"From the starting point, we wanted to build on last year and see improvement. But we probably didn’t see ourselves doing as well as we are now."


Monsigneur credits his side's strength in numbers to their success, which was developed during a brutal off-season. The Comets reached the WNPL and WSL Pre-Season Cup Final. But star Nano Sasaki was absent due to her Adelaide United commitments. The lack of such top-level quality would be hard to cover for most sides. But the bad luck continued for the Comets, with injuries hitting the rest of the squad in the build-up. Chantelle Reed received a red card in the Final, leading to Salisbury Inter trouncing their opponents by five goals.


Despite the brutal nature of his side's defeat, Monsigneur has admitted it opened the door for some of his young players to receive an opportunity. The players the coach has entrusted with minutes in the regular season have helped the side's dominant run ever since.


"When you look at our Reserves squad, it is sitting second and has beaten the top team. But five to six players there can slot into our Senior team and do a job straight away. We’ve given 5-6 girls their debuts, and we’ve seen 4-5 girls score their first goals in the NPL this year so that depth has been important," Monsigneur said.


"Consistency is important, and that is where it has been hard for our Reserves coaches because there are times when I will take 18-20 players to training, just so everyone is clear on what their roles are, and doing that throughout the season has been really beneficial because when one player misses out, the next one comes in knowing exactly what they need to do."


After their bruising defeat in the Pre-Season Cup Final, the Comets started the 2023 WNPL season in superb form, winning their first five games. But when they faced Salisbury Inter, Monsigneur's side faltered again, losing 4-2. The coach admits the match was a turning point in his team's approach.


"I think, before that day, we were relying on bits of brilliance to win us games, and we have seen some fantastic stuff. We probably had not seen the amount of team goals and movement we wanted in the first part of the season," he said.


"In the last six to seven games, we have seen a huge amount more. I watched the replay of that (the Salisbury Inter match) about five times before we got out to training and made adjustments to make sure we combine better as a unit instead of letting one person’s bit of brilliance pick up the slack."


The Comets regained Sasaki from Adelaide United and signed Ally Ladas and Alicia Nickolas to strengthen their squad further. The league leaders face Adelaide University tonight before taking on Salisbury Inter again on July 8. Monsigneur says his team will be ready for their third meeting this season.


"We will be ready when we play them again next; we have a few challenges before that, but I think we are a better side than when we played them last," he said.

 

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Monsigneur is delighted with his side's progress and that a big goal of any team is to compete for silverware. But his plan is also about ensuring the Comets are built to stay at the summit and not suddenly fall off their perch after a successful campaign.


"We want to make our success sustained; we don’t want to go and bring players in for just a couple of years, and then they leave. We want to make it sustained," the coach shared.


Historically, the Comets have not successfully won silverware in the women's game. While Monsigneur hopes his side bucks that trend, he stressed that the campaign is an overwhelming success.


Despite enjoying a successful season so far, the coach warns that silverware is not a foregone conclusion, with his team's attitude set to play a massive role in ensuring a positive campaign translates into much-coveted silverware.


"It would be a missed opportunity if we didn’t win something, but that doesn’t make it a foregone conclusion. We still need to work hard and ensure we do everything right, and in fairness to them (the players), they are," Monsigneur said.


"Before the King’s Birthday public holiday, I was tempted to give them the day off, but they all wanted to train! They are all very hungry, and it is important that we capitalise [on] this. But at the same time, if something did not go our way, it would not make it a complete failure of a season."


The Comets aim to remain at the WNPL SA summit before the Women's World Cup break and hope to defeat West Torrens Birkalla and reach the WNPL & WSL Cup Final. Knockout matches and the approaching Finals Series will be the real test for the Adelaide Comets, who remain a chance to win all three available trophies in what could be a historic year for the club in 2023.


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