Dunedin Technical heads into Saturday’s massive Knockout Cup semifinal as underdogs, but coach Graeme Smaill believes that his in-form side can cause another upset.
Tech will host Glenfield Rovers at the Caledonian in the country’s premier Women’s competition, and the visitors are one of the most distinguished sides in the country. Incredibly, Rovers have reached the grand final in five of the past six years – winning it on three of these occasions.
“This week is going to be a big step up for us without a doubt”, said Smaill yesterday. “They’ve got the best recent history in the Knockout Cup, and we know they always have a lot of internationals and age grade players. I had a look at their game in the quarterfinal and I would describe them as a high energy team, both in and out of possession, they’re always working hard off the ball.”
“You’re talking about one of the best three sides in the country that plays top teams every week. Thankfully for us, they’ve just lost Katie Rood who’s been signed by Juventus so that’s a positive for us I suppose, but I know they’ve got a couple of quality players coming back into their side too.”
Smaill’s team is in great form themselves, having just won the Kingsgate Football South Women’s Premier League for a fifth consecutive time, unbeaten so far this year in that competition. The coach’s belief in his team comes from ten years of hard work developing the players as they progressed through the ranks.
“I’ve coached some of the girls for ten years now. The first two years were with an all-girls Football South team which went to the rep tournaments and played in a local boys comp. After a couple of years, we thought these girls needed to be aligned with a club and they ended up at Tech and we’ve been there ever since.”
“This is the eighth year with the team now at Tech. It’s just been a progression, like any coach you set yourself short and long term goals and we had a long term goal to win the Premier League in our third year but we dipped out, getting beaten by Roslyn Wakari. But we won it the following year and have managed to hold onto it since then.”
The girls now want to prove that they can compete with the very best teams in the country – and the Knockout Cup is the perfect stage for that.
“The team wants to do as well as it can in the Knockout Cup, because it’s the next step and the real indication of where you are on a national scale. We’ve had some success at U17 national club level, but that includes a mixture of girls from other clubs as well. Certainly at senior level its always a step up but it was a big thrill for the girls when they got that result in the quarterfinal.”
The 3-2 quarterfinal win over Christchurch’s Coastal Spirit was well deserved by Technical, and gave them the belief that they can compete on this stage. Unfortunately, Smaill’s side is missing a couple of key players heading into the semi, with player depth the biggest disadvantage compared to the Northern sides.
“Our biggest issue is just numbers. That’s what we’re finding in the lead-in to this game, we’ve lost a couple of players. Kate Guildford’s now gone on scholarship, Kelsey Kennard’s gone over to London for a wedding, and we’ve been struggling with a few injuries of late so we’re keeping our fingers crossed they can all front up for the weekend. We’ve been keeping them in cotton wool and some haven’t trained for a couple of weeks.”
Smaill is also excited to have been announced as the new Assistant Coach of the Southern United National Women’s League team. He’ll be working alongside Head Coach Terry Parle, who is a familiar face to the local football community with a distinguished coaching record.
“I think Terry will be a great addition to have back down here. He’s been involved in girls and women’s football previously and he’s always been really positive about it and relates well to the girls.”
Smaill is also confident that more of his champion Tech side will be involved in the national league this season.
“A lot of our better players just haven’t played national league yet for various reasons, but this year they’re all pretty keen to be involved. I’m certainly looking really forward to being involved”.
As to what the future holds for the game in the region, Smaill is positive – “who knows – in the future we might even have a South Island league for the women as well as the men?”.
For now though, his attention is on Saturday, in what is undoubtedly the biggest game ever for a women’s club team from the region. Smaill is delighted at the fantastic support his side has received.
“There’s been a lot of great support from the entire football community which is really refreshing. Hopefully we can perform this weekend. A key component for us is who we can get out on the pitch but we’d like to put on a good display for the whole community”.
Make sure you get down to the Caledonian on Saturday afternoon and support Dunedin Technical as they’re only 90 minutes away from creating history with a grand final appearance.
WOMEN’S KNOCKOUT CUP SEMIFINAL
Dunedin Technical vs Glenfield Rovers
Saturday 26th August, 12:30 kickoff
– by Morgan Jarvis