Garriock: Victory have the X factor in attack to beat Sky Blues to Championship
Former Westfield W-League player and coach Heather Garriock says Melbourne Victory possess a trio of attacking match-winners capable of causing a Grand Final upset against Sydney FC, when the two sides meet in a Big Blue for the ages on Sunday, April 11.
The stakes are as high as they've ever been between these two bitter rivals heading into the 2020/21 Westfield W-League Grand Final.
The Sky Blues are intent on securing the Premiership/Championship double by beating Victory for the second time in 11 days, after the two sides met in a winner-takes-all Premiers Plate decider in Round 14, from which Sydney emerged with the silverware.
But Victory head into the Grand Final with momentum after annihilating Brisbane Roar 6-2 in the Semi Finals. It was a clash between third (Victory) and second (Roar) which the visiting side attacked with a merciless hunger for goals, as the youthful pairing of Kyra Cooney-Cross and Melina Ayres teamed up with veteran and serial winner Lisa De Vanna to outmuscle the Roar and book a spot in the Grand Final.
It was the type of performance which proved to Garriock just how deadly the three Victory stars can be on their day.
"I think it’s going to be tight, but I think it’s going to be a really high-scoring game," Garriock said.
"The W-League has been high scoring this year. I talk about being unpredictable, it has been unpredictable because you’ve got the inconsistencies of young players coming in and wanting to perform and improve, and then not starting the next game.
"I do think it’s going to be tight, but I see a lot of goals within the game."
Garriock continued: "I back Victory.
"From an X factor point of view, you’ve got young Cooney-Cross, the in-form Melina Ayres and the experienced De Vanna.
"That’s formidable in my opinion.
A quick look at the stats put up by the three Victory stars against Brisbane Roar in the Semi Finals provides a clear insight into their effect on Victory's fortunes.
Brisbane were not without chances to get back into the contest, but the relentless scoring and creative power of Victory in the front third meant any mistake or chance not taken by the Roar would be punished down the other end with goals.
Cooney Cross provided a crucial assist for Victory's second goal, took four shots and created four chances, while Ayres bagged a hat-trick secured by a pair of late goals which turned Victory's big win into an absolute domination.
De Vanna, meanwhile, scored twice by opening the scoring and proceeding to put Victory up 4-1 on the hour mark, winning 10 of her 14 duels in an outstanding individual performance.
The 36-year-old was at her brilliant best, after netting just one goal through the regular season. Garriock says it's a simple display of De Vanna excelling in her natural habitat: the biggest moments.
"She’s a big moment player. She’s just cruised throughout the season, in my opinion," Garriock said.
"Then next thing you know, she’s got to step up for the big game and she’s done it on the international stage, and she continues to do it on the Westfield W-League stage.
This is her time, this is the moment but for her it will be about the team and the team lifting that trophy."
Garriock added: "I just think when you’ve got a player of the experience of Lisa… I would see a player like that (and) I’d be scared to be playing a player like that.
"It’s big moments, big matches but this is what you play for, this is what you live for.
"For a player like Lisa, she’ll be champing at the bit to get out there and lift that trophy for the team."
Sunday's Grand Final will be the second time the two sides collide in an 11-day period, after Sydney beat Victory 2-1 at Cromer Park to lift the Premiers Plate.
It's a similar scenario to the one both sides faced in the 2019/20 Westfield W-League campaign. Victory edged the Sky Blues 3-1 in the final round last season, setting up a Semi-Final showdown the week later which Sydney triumphed in to book a spot in the Grand Final.
Garriock says it would have stung Jeff Hopkins' Victory to see their bitter rivals lift the Premiers Plate at their expense, but that result will only make it more of an enticing prospect to get back at the Sky Blues on the Westfield W-League's biggest stage.
"I think there’ll be one thing on their mind - and that’s revenge," Garriock said.
"Knowing you’ve played them the week and a half before that and you ultimately could have won the Premiership.
"I just think it’s revenge. They’ll be confident, Victory will be confident but like I said, Sydney FC have always been like that.
"Even when I played for Sydney FC, we always found a way to win. We always knew we could win, it (didn’t) matter what the score was, because we were Sydney FC.
"I think it’s good for a team like Victory, because they want revenge but it will also help with confidence in terms of Sydney FC because they know that they’ve just played them, they know how they can I guess counter Victory."
Westfield W-League Finals Series 2020/21
Grand Final – Sydney FC v Melbourne Victory
Sunday, 11 April 2021
Venue: Netstrata Jubilee Oval
Kick-off: 4.05pm AEST
Tickets available from 9am AEST on Tuesday, 6 April from finals.w-league.com.au