Perth Glory have gone from strength to strength throughout the season and now they are on the verge of history as they take on Sydney FC in Saturday afternoon’s Westfield W-League 2019 Grand Final.
The Glory began proceedings in the best way possible for themselves and the league when they announced the signing of Sam Kerr on a marquee contract — the first of its kind for the Westfield W-League.
Bobby Despotovski’s decision was both a good omen and stroke of brilliance, with Kerr leading Perth to the big dance and claiming her second consecutive Golden Boot along the way.
Now, the Western Australian outfit are on the verge of history: they will be the first ever Perth Glory side for either the mens or women’s to win a Championship in the new era.
We take a look at how Perth got to this point.
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Stuttering start but goals flow
Perth began their campaign with draws against Brisbane Roar and Canberra United, and despite the lack of wins it’s hard to imagine Despotovski would have been concerned.
Perth scored five goals in those two fixtures, including four in their draw in the nation’s capital.
Their free-flowing football would bear fruit in Round 3 when Sam Kerr opened her goalscoring tally and Rachel Hill grabbed a brace in Perth’s 3-0 win over Western Sydney Wanderers.
Kerr went one better in Round 4 against Melbourne City, bagging a brace of her own in Perth’s 5-2 dismantling of the reigning Premiers.
Performances dip but Perth keep pace
Like their opening three fixtures of the campaign, the next stage of Perth’s campaign involved consecutive draws followed by a crucial win.
Perth were held 2-2 by Adelaide United and Newcastle Jets, confining them to a scrap in the middle of the table for that all-important top-four place.
However, a 2-1 win over Sydney FC put Despotovski’s side back on track and sent a statement of intent to the rest of the pack.
Melbourne Victory sent a statement of their own the week after: Natasha Dowie’s brace gave Victory a handy lead rendering Rachel Hill’s 90th minute strike a mere consolation.
The race is on
Despite Glory finishing their final third of the campaign with two wins and two losses, they were still in the mix for claiming the Premiership until their final fixture.
Samantha Kerr’s 85th-minute penalty buried Canberra United at Dorrien Gardens before Newcastle Jets sprung up one of the surprises of the season by downing Perth 3-1 at No.2 Sportsground.
That loss scuppered Perth’s hopes momentarily, before a 5-1 win over Western Sydney Wanderers — coupled with Melbourne Victory’s draw with Sydney FC — meant the Premiership was still a possibility.
The win also signalled Kerr's record-breaking exploits. In grabbing her 50th and 51st goals for Glory, Kerr became the league's record goalscorer.
Perth had to beat Melbourne Victory in the final round and hope Jeff Hopkins’ side would fall to Canberra in a catch up fixture the following Tuesday in order to retain their dream of the Premiership.
But Victory were too strong on the Friday evening, inflicting a 2-1 loss onto Perth and consigning them to fourth spot.
The loss was bittersweet for the Glory, as Kerr’s consolation goal brought her tally to 13 goals in 11 games and helped her clinch her second consecutive Westfield W-League Golden Boot.
Thriller Semi-Final, history beckons
Kerr wasn’t finished scoring, and Perth weren’t finished entertaining, when they travelled to AAMI Park to take on Melbourne Victory in the Semi-Final.
The game started in the worst possible way for Perth as Christine Nairn breached their fort within the first two minutes.
What happened next was simply unbelievable.
Goals from Kerr and Rachel Hill put Perth on the brink only for Grace Maher to net an injury-time equaliser and force the match into extra time.
That saw Kerr add two more goals to her tally to clinch a memorable hat-trick, and ensure Glory emerged triumphant with a 4-2 victory over the Premiers.
Star player — Sam Kerr
If there's one player capable of making the crucial difference in Saturday's clash it's going to be the deadly Westfield Matildas forward.
To be fair, Sam Kerr has had some quality support around her with the likes of Alyssa Mautz and Rachel Hill rounding out an all-star cast.
Hill and Kerr have assisted each other for a combined nine times, more than twice as many as any other duo in the Westfield W-League 2018/19 Season.
However, Kerr has stolen the limelight from her teammates with a colossal 16 goals in 12 games. Remarkably, Kerr claimed the Golden Boot despite not scoring in Perth’s first three games of the season — the first which she missed due to suspension.
That is now Kerr’s fourth consecutive league Golden Boot, having secured the honour in Australia and National Women’s Soccer League for the past two seasons respectively.
She will be tightly marked come Saturday afternoon, but if anyone’s going to lead Perth to silverware, you can bet Kerr will be up for the challenge.