The race for the Westfield W-League Finals: how the last three rounds decides the Premiers
Has there been a closer race for Westfield W-League glory?
Five clubs are scrapping it out for the Premiership in a thrilling and absorbing climax to the 2018/19 Season.
There's just three rounds left of action, and with the top four and Golden Boot winner still to be decided too, here's an overview of how things could play out.
But first, this is how the table looks as we head into Round 12.
Melbourne Victory (1st, 19 points, +5 GD)
Jeff Hopkins’ table-toppers are the narrow Premiership favourites heading into the final stretch.
Victory are two points clear of second-placed Brisbane Roar and are in control of their own destiny – win all three remaining matches and Melbourne will be crowned Premiers.
They haven’t finished in the top four since 2014, and that feat will likely be achieved if Victory win their next two fixtures.
However, with two losses in their last three, and with the chasing pack still in the mix, there’s still very little room for the front-runners to slip up.
The run home: Canberra United (a), Sydney FC (h), Perth Glory (a)
Brisbane Roar (2nd, 17 points, +1 GD)
The reigning Premiers are hot on the heels of Victory, trailing the leaders by two points and firmly within a sniff of back to back titles.
For that to happen, Brisbane would need to win all their remaining matches and hope Victory lose one of their next three.
If Roar get nine points from their remaining three matches and Victory accrue seven, Brisbane could pip them to the Premiers Plate on goal difference should they overturn their current four-goal difference deficit.
With away matches to fellow finals-chasers Sydney FC and Adelaide United to come, Roar can seal a top four position with two wins in these crucial fixtures.
The run home: Sydney FC (a), Canberra United (h), Adelaide United (a)
Perth Glory (3rd, 16 points, +5 GD)
Perth may have played one game more than the Premiership contenders around them, but they’re still in with a shout.
For Glory to take out the top prize, they’d need to win their remaining two matches – one of which is against Melbourne Victory in Round 14 - and both Victory and Brisbane Roar both lose two of their remaining three.
Should that scenario play out, Glory would also need to rely on Sydney FC and Adelaide United – both currently one point behind - not winning their remaining three matches in order to claim the title.
First things first though, Bobby Despotovski’s side will want to nail down their top four position – a fate which is out of their hands given the match in hand both fourth-placed Sydney FC and fifth-placed Adelaide United have on them.
But, with both Sydney FC and Adelaide playing third-placed Brisbane Roar on their run home, Glory could still finish in the top four should the Sky Blues and the Reds win their remaining three, and with their free-scoring attack led by Sam Kerr, you wouldn't bet against them.
The run home: Western Sydney Wanderers (a), Melbourne Victory (h)
Sydney FC (4th, 15 points, +9 GD)
Sydney might be four points off top spot but have hit form at the right time – and have their Premiership fate in their own hands.
This is because Sydney play both Brisbane Roar and Melbourne Victory on their run home, and should the Sky Blues pick up victories in these matches and against Melbourne City, they stand a great chance of taking out the title.
Goal difference could well come into play – if Sydney FC win all their games, including their crucial Victory match up, and Victory win two of their remaining three, the two teams will be equal on 24 points.
With Ante Juric’s side boasting a better goal difference than their Big Blue rivals by the score of four goals, the Sky Blues might end up clinching the Premiership on goal difference.
The run home: Brisbane Roar (a), Melbourne Victory (a), Melbourne City (h)
Adelaide United (5th, 15 points, +1 GD)
You can’t rule Adelaide out of the title race either.
The Reds are four points off the top but could still clinch the Premiership if they win all three of their matches and hope Melbourne Victory drop at least one.
Goal difference would then come into play, as would Sydney FC’s run of results. Adelaide have never made the finals before – but with having accrued their best ever points tally and with all three remaining matches played at home, the momentum is there for the Reds to secure a maiden top-four berth.
To do so, they would have to have to win their next two matches while hoping for slip ups elsewhere – with their final home match against Brisbane Roar likely to be decisive.
The run home: Western Sydney Wanderers (h), Newcastle Jets (h), Brisbane Roar (h)
Melbourne City (6th, 13 points, -1 GD)
Melbourne City are out of the title race but have a slim chance of sneaking into the top four.
They would need to win their remaining two fixtures and hope that their best-possible points total of 19 is enough to secure a position.
The run home: Newcastle Jets (h), Sydney FC (a)
Canberra United (7th, 12 points, -2 GD)
Similarly, Canberra United’s aspirations rest purely on the teams above them dropping points.
Heather Garriock’s side must win their remaining two matches against Melbourne Victory and Brisbane Roar and hope that their best-possible points total of 18 is enough.
The run home: Melbourne Victory (h), Brisbane Roar (a)
Newcastle Jets (8th, 10 points, -3 GD)
Newcastle also have their flickering finals fate out of their hands.
The Jets will need to win all three of their remaining fixtures and hope a slew of results around them fall kindly in order to crack the top four.
The run home: Melbourne City (a), Adelaide United (a), Western Sydney Wanderers (h)
The Golden Boot race
It’s going to be almighty tussle in the race for the Premiers Plate and top four, and the battle for the Golden Boot is similarly tight.
Perth Glory striker Sam Kerr currently finds herself in pole position with 10 goals – two ahead of Melbourne Victory’s Natasha Dowie and Veronica Latsko of Adelaide United.
Here's what's in store for the contenders in the final run home.
Sam Kerr – 10 goals
Reigning Golden Boot winner Sam Kerr finds herself in pole position ahead of the run home.
Perth Glory’s striker sits on 10 goals – two ahead of Natasha Dowie and Veronica Latsko, but plays one fewer game than her opponents.
However, with Kerr taking on the league’s leakiest defence in Western Sydney Wanderers in Round 13, the Westfield Matildas striker might well fancy her chances at establishing an unassailable deficit.
Kerr’s run home: Western Sydney Wanderers (a), Melbourne Victory (h)
Natasha Dowie – 8 goals
Natasha Dowie trails Kerr by two but on the basis of her sterling performances for Melbourne Victory this season, there’s every chance the English marksman is capable of making up the ground.
With Victory aiming to maintain their Premiership advantage, Dowie will need no further motivation to keep delivering in front of goal.
Her visit to Perth Glory on the final day could prove to be a straight shootout against Kerr for Golden Boot honours.
Dowie’s run home: Canberra United (a), Sydney FC (H), Perth Glory (a)
Veronica Latsko – 8 goals
However, you just can’t discount Veronica Latsko either.
The Adelaide forward has made a huge impact for the Reds in her maiden season Down Under, with her heroics in front of goal landing the Reds within touching distance of a maiden finals berth.
And with all three of her remaining fixtures at home, Latsko has a great chance to leapfrogging both Dowie and Kerr en route to Golden Boot glory.
The run home: Western Sydney Wanderers (h), Newcastle Jets (h), Brisbane Roar (h)
Caitlin Foord – 7 goals
The Westfield Matildas attacker might trail her teammate Kerr by three, but given Sydney FC’s red-hot form Foord should not be ruled out of the equation.
Foord has notched seven goals this season, including a brace against Western Sydney Wanderers last time out, and with the Sky Blues entering the run home in league-best form she will fancy her chances at making a late dash toward individual glory.
The chasing pack (all on four goals each): Princess Ibini (Sydney FC), Alyssa Mautz (Perth Glory), Jasmyne Spencer (Melbourne City), Rachel Hill (Perth Glory), Rhoda Mulaudzi (Canberra United)