For Sydney FC and their captain Teresa Polias, lifting the Westfield W-League Premiers Plate once again was 10 years in the waiting.
A 2-1 triumph over title rivals Melbourne Victory at Cromer Park on Wednesday saw the Sky Blues anointed Premiers for the first time in a decade, the same season Polias – now the competition’s record appearance holder – signed for the club in 2010/11.
But lifting the coveted trophy means even more than that for the 30-year-old midfielder. It was a symbol that Ante Juric’s side had powered through the rough patch that jeopardised their early-season surge to glory.
Sydney FC strung together an irresistible run of six straight wins to open the campaign, but won only two of their next five, before taking the final leap to get over the line and seal their third Premiership crown on Wednesday night.
"It’s hard to describe really but I’m just over the moon for the group, I’m absolutely happy," Polias told w-league.com.au
"We made a really, really bright start to the season. As teams found their feet, we started to struggle a bit towards the end with our form.
"We’ve been working on the training pitch to tweak a few things and get our confidence back."
"[Wednesday night] was a show to say that we’re back."
Sydney’s last push towards the Premiership was kick-started through an unlikely source.
In her 145 Westfield W-League games, all-action midfield general Polias had only scored four goals – until she stepped up to dispatch a stunning 20-yard free-kick in the 29th minute to break the deadlock in the Harbour City.
"I’ve been having a few goes at training and they haven’t been very good at all," Polias admitted.
"I thought 'you know what, this is my one opportunity, I better take it now'.
"I tried to zone in on what I had to do and thankfully it went in."
Princess Ibini netted from the penalty spot in the 73rd minute to double the advantage after Remy Siemsen was brought down, meaning a late consolation from the dynamic Kyra Cooney-Cross was not enough for Victory to launch what would have been one of the all-time great smash and grab trophy raids.
But the Sky Blues’ celebrations may be fleeting as unfinished business awaits in the Finals Series. Canberra United held Sydney to a goalless draw in Round 13 to prolong the Sky Blues' wait to capture the Premiers Plate and skipper Polias has the competition’s fourth-placed finishers in her sights ahead of Monday’s Semi Final.
Polias said: "We had a 0-0 draw last week so we’re keen to get back on the field against them and right our wrongs from that game and hopefully get the win."
By then, either runners-up Brisbane Roar or Victory will have already punched their ticket to the Grand Final on Sunday, 11 April, with the second and third placed sides squaring off in the other Semi Final on Sunday at Lions Stadium in Richlands, Queensland.
Westfield W-League Finals Series 2020/21
Semi Final 2 – Brisbane Roar (2) v Melbourne Victory (3)
Sunday, 4 April 2021
Venue: Lions Stadium
Kick-off: 4pm AEST
Semi Final 1 – Sydney FC (1) v Canberra United (4)
Monday, 5 April 2021
Venue: Netstrata Jubilee Stadium
Kick-off: 3pm AEST
Grand Final – Winner Semi Final 1 v Winner Semi Final 2
Sunday, 11 April 2021
Kick-off: 4pm AEST