The top three may now be set, but a furious, three-way race for the fourth position has emerged as preparations begin for what will be a thrilling conclusion to the 2019 NPLW Season.
Premiers Calder United, FC Bulleen Lions and Alamein FC have all already punched their tickets to the coming slate of finals football; Nike FC Cup Champions Calder United celebrating what has already been a silverware laden season by receiving the NPLW Victoria Premier’s Plate on their home field following their 2-1 defeat at the hands of FC Bulleen Lions on Saturday.
With a goal difference of +106 – 35 goals better then next best Bulleen – it truly has been a season of dominance for Calder; Saturday’s dead-rubber defeat against Bulleen, just their third of the season.
However, despite the somewhat dubious stakes riding upon it, Bulleen will no doubt take heart from their ability to knock the championship-favourites off on their own turf heading into the coming finals campaign.
The Lions staged back-to-back upsets in the 2018 NPLW Victoria finals to lift the Championship – including a 4-0 defeat of Calder in the semi-finals – and will no doubt, with a line-up featuring a menagerie of talented players, fancy their chances of beating anyone come finals time.
The Lions' victory against Calder has also confirmed the fist fixture of the 2019 finals; confirmed second-placed finishers Bulleen now locked into hosting confirmed third-placed finishers Alamein FC at the Veneto Club in week one of the knockouts.
Alamein, nonetheless, will hold no fear heading into that contest having dispatched Bulleen 2-1 in Round 21 of the season after goals from Emma Checker and Katherine Goff.
Calder’s future opponents, though, remain unknown heading into the season’s final week.
South Melbourne, Box Hill United and Heidelberg United all remain alive in the race for that all-important finals slot, with the Bergers – despite whiffing on a chance to all but seal finals football after a 2-0 loss against Box Hill on Saturday – able to place themselves firmly in the driver's seat when they take on Southern United in a catch-up fixture on Wednesday evening.
Should they win that fixture against bottom-placed Southern United, Heidelberg will move into the fourth position on the NPLW Victoria table with 44 points – one point clear of South’s 43 and two clear of Box Hill’s 42.
Set to meet Hellas on Sunday afternoon at Lakeside Stadium, Alexander would only need to take a single point from that contest to realistically seal a place in finals football, with Box Hill – who play Southern on the final day of the season – currently +23 goals behind the Bergers on goal difference prior to Heidelberg’s midweek meeting with Southern.
The scenarios laid out, nonetheless, also means that Hellas also retains their own fate heading into the final week of the season.
The 2018 Premier’s and defeated Grand Finalists, South is yet to beat Heidelberg in their meetings thus far in 2019; going down 5-1 at Lakeside Stadium in Round Nine thanks to a Melissa Garcia hattrick and single strikes from Sidney Allen and Brydie Siryj and drawing 1-1 in a much-delayed Round 18 fixture on August 8.
Photo Credit: Matt Johnson