It will be a special occasion when Western Sydney Wanderers feature in front of the TV cameras this Sunday against champs Canberra United, but it will be a particularly unique occasion for midfielder Helen Petinos.
When not donning the red and black hoops, Petinos can invariably be found high up in the stands at Central Coast Stadium. The reason? Her partner is none other than Central Coast Mariners midfield ace and one-time high-school sweetheart Anthony Caceres.
The pair have been dating since their days at Westfields Sports High School, but never before have they had an opportunity to play on the same pitch in consecutive matches in front of a nationwide TV audience.
“I’m normally watching Anthony from the stands so it will be good to get down the field as see it how it feels first-hand,” says Petinos with a smile in her voice. “The field looks absolutely beautiful. I can’t wait.
“(Anthony) said to me we will try and get a photo on the field if we can. And being the TV match brings that extra excitement. I can’t wait to play."
When not enjoying her new life as a primary school teacher after graduating from Western Sydney University in July, Petinos can be found down the park honing her skills. “(Anthony) normally trains most days, but whenever he has a day off we will go down the park and muck-around,” she says. “He suggests it even on his day off."
Life is equally good at the Wanderers who are enjoying a bright start to their Westfield W-League campaign. Few rated the Wanderers hopes, but that is just how they like it at Wanderland.
“We had a very long and hard pre-season so I think that has prepared us for the season,” says Petinos. “Over the past couple of weeks we have really found our form and have started to win games. Pre-season was long and hard but it was worth it.
“We do have a young team but we are doing really well. Last year we only had a few weeks of pre-season. We are more prepared, we are doing all the right things and we can see the results from that.”
The Wanderers might be light on for headline-names, yet they currently sit third on the Westfield W-League ladder. And a win this weekend could see them move second for the first time in the club’s history.
The side have no players away this weekend with the Westfield Matildas squad in Korea, while Canberra will be without Lydia Williams, Michelle Heyman and Caitlin Munoz. Wanderers captain Caitlin Cooper was in the national squad last month only to suffer a leg injury that will keep her out for the season.
And Petinos says club culture at the Wanderers is part of their success: “We get really excited if someone gets included in the Matildas squad or the like, because there are not a lot of us that have been there and done that.
“We have something different (here), we have own spark. It is good for us to gel when most of us are on the same level, and I like the team we have this year.”