Canberra set sail for W-League record

The records just keep coming in this season of Australian football and Saturday’s match in the W-League could see yet another entry for the history books.

The records just keep coming in this season of Australian football and Saturday-s match in the W-League could see yet another entry for the history books.

Canberra United is unbeaten so far with six wins and three draws in their nine-game streak. If they win or draw on the weekend, they will be the first W-League side to go through a regular season undefeated.

While admittedly the league is only in its fourth year and the women-s season is a short one with just 11 rounds before the finals, it is not an easy competition to settle into. Nearly all of this country-s female players have either fulltime work or study commitments to manage around training and match days, which often involve interstate travel as well.

Canberra have managed to maintain consistency and focus and if they avoid defeat at home to Adelaide on Saturday, the next goal will surely be to match the efforts of WNSL club side Queensland Sting who bagged the minor premiership and went on to take the title in 2000/01 without tasting defeat at any stage, albeit in a meagre five week season.

ABC commentator Alicia Ferguson , who was part of that all-conquering Queensland side, says this is a much bigger achievement for Canberra.

“The longer season and more professional nature of the league now, makes it much harder to maintain an unbeaten run," Ferguson said.

What the team from the Capital want to avoid, is the fate of that same Sting side who took the minor premiership undefeated then lost the grand final in 2003/04*, or the NSW Sapphires side who won that 03/04 final, perhaps learning from the 01/02 season where they were unbeaten in all 10 games in the home and away season before a grand final defeat to Canberra Eclipse.

Canberra United-s Caitlin Munoz scored the only goal in that 01/02 Grand final, ruining the fairy-tale ending for the Sapphires, so she is well aware of how hungry a record run can make the opposition.

“Definitely, everyone wants to be the side that beats a team who is undefeated”. Canberra coach Jitka Klimkova is determined her side will not go into this last match over-confident.

“We want to win, of course we want to be undefeated, but we need at least a point so the pressure is on us, not on the other team and that means they can always spring a surprise,” she said.

Acknowledging she was blessed with a team that already had quality, Klimkova says that made it easier to focus on the organisation and psychology to which she attributes the side-s success.

“One week we would work on principles in offence, one week in defence, then on set pieces and finally on the mental principles. We do it in training and deliver it exactly the same on the pitch,” said the Canberra coach.

And records aside, Klimkova has been coaching her side to take the season one match at a time, ever since her arrival in the Capital.

Part of the Canberra preseason involved an island cruise - sounds quite exotic doesn-t it? But before you picture the green United strip tearing up the South Pacific, this ‘cruise- was on a football pitch.

Each allotted ‘island- represented one round of the season, and involved a different task which had to be completed to achieve or conquer that island. There were even the requisite pirates and sharks - which one can just imagine circling in Sky Blue and Orange Strips…

“The idea was to develop communication and trust, which are the qualities we use during the season. We don-t look at the other teams or which week it is, we look at which island we need to conquer next”.

So with enough land masses conquered to create a small nation, is the focus turning to the finals?

Not so, Klimkova says “it-s just another island”.

If you can-t get to McKellar Park to see Canberra United make history, see all the action on ABC1 at 3pm.

*(NSW was also undefeated in 03/04 but finished second on the table due to a higher number of drawn matches).