Red & Black Turnaround
Photo credit: KLZ Photography

For Western Sydney Wanderers, it’s been a tough slog over many years. A finals berth has been out of their grasp, just like that box of cereal sitting on top of the kitchen cabinet that requires a stool to reach. Finally, after eight years of toil, there’s been a breakthrough. It’s a special moment for the club, coaches and players, but perhaps most importantly it’s a milestone best celebrated by the Wanderers faithful, the fans who have stuck around since day dot. To speak on just how that feels Beyond 90 spoke with The Ladies League and Wanderers die-hard Christina Trajceska to find out.

Photo Credit: Stephanie Meek Photography
Photo Credit: Stephanie Meek Photography

Out of the gates, describing what it meant for the club to reach the finals, Christina admits, “I can’t find proper words for it. I’m very excited, that’s definitely one thing. I also can’t believe it’s happening, so I still feel like it’s a dream.”

Western Sydney Wanderers weren’t an inaugural member of the W-League, meaning the wait hasn’t been as long as establishing member and still finals-less side Adelaide United. However, the experience out west has still been riding the wave of “a good seven, almost eight seasons, of pain and bloodshed and tears,” as Christina puts it.

Following a sluggish and difficult season last time out, it’s been a total turnaround for the Wanderers. Big signings signalled intent, and fans threw their support behind it from the first match.

“The fan experience has been amazing this season … it’s been quite constant in attendance for the women’s game, especially for the Wanderers,” Christina reflected generally, before honing in on the first home match at Marconi Stadium against Adelaide United.

“I remember attending that with Teressa, along with another friend in the RBB, who came to the first W-League match. And we just enjoyed it thoroughly.

“What had happened was, the younger kids actually started one of the RBB chants. And because one of our mates who attended the game was the drummer of the RBB, she started drumming on the seats, and I followed through and then the rest of the crowd also followed through. So that was a great start to the season.”

The support followed the Red and Black throughout the season, as the RBB attended the final home match against Melbourne City. While an incident that set fire to the stadium was admittedly a mistake, Christina talks positively of seeing the active support from the A-League turn up for the W-League.

“I think it will grow, and it’s definitely a good thing for the game. The men are struggling at the moment, and we’re looking to the women to sort of boost the club. They’re doing it so well, especially looking at this season.”

The increased visibility of the Wanderers “one club” approach becomes clear with the shared facilities at the side’s new training centre at Blacktown.

“I’ve been to the facilities myself … it’s miraculous. I love it,” Christina admits.

A number of factors can be considered the reason behind the success of this Western Sydney outfit. Dean Heffernan and the coaching staff had a successful offseason, signing star American names Kristen Hamilton and Lynn Williams, along with the W-League’s favourite Irishwoman, Denise O’Sullivan. They also balanced this with both young and experienced Australian talent.

Just as important is the chemistry within the squad, according to Christina. “They’ve just gelled so well together, not just on the field but off the field too. You can see the Instagram stories and see their social media. They’re always together, they just bond so well together, they play very well together. They all have these great strengths individually, but when you put them on the field, it works so well.”

Racing out of the gates early, the end of season canter turned frantic following three defeats on a trot, with the final match against Perth set to decide the fate of a Wanderers top four spot.

“In typical Wanderer fashion, we always go 10 steps ahead and then just completely crumble, but thank God we didn’t crumble all the way through,” Christina speaks of the experience.

“I’m thanking the football gods for that, they had some sort of mercy on us that day. It was nerve wracking to see Perth come back within minutes. I just thought, ‘Oh, here we go’. This isn’t new. We’re going to miss another season of the finals, but as soon as the whistle blew … I think I was just as excited as the rest of the team that was on the field that night, looking at the photos of them all doing backflips and you know, Ella [Mastrantonio] going mental in the majority of the photos. I have to say, my excitement levels probably matched theirs.”

Even for the most die-hard of Western Sydney Wanderers supporters, predicting a positive result against the undeniable team of the season Melbourne City is difficult. That doesn’t mean hope goes out the window.

“I’m hoping and praying, as horrible as this sounds, 80% of the Matildas are Melbourne City players at club level right? I think they’d be very, very tired with the return to Sydney [after the Matildas match against Vietnam] … that’s going to probably take a strain on them … probably. I hope it works, and they fall apart on Sunday, and we take the finals,” Christina hopes, searching for an answer on how City may be defeated this season.

“I’m hoping for a Sydney Derby final. That’s what I’m praying for.”

When asked what a spot in the finals would mean, Christina replied, “I’ve been in this position so many times before and it’s never worked out, but for the women’s team, it would just, it’d be unreal. It would mean so much as a supporter of the club, born and bred western Sydney resident.”

“It’s just amazing to see how far the women’s team has come, to book [a spot in] the finals after the countless bad luck that we’ve had over the last couple of seasons … I don’t know, I can’t find any other words other than proud.”

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Molly is a Contributing Editor for Beyond 90 who endeavours to provide quality analysis of the game and telling a compelling story. Getting her start through her own blog at Molly’s Footy Rants, Molly has since become a match reporter for Football Federation Tasmania and has covered the 2018/19 W-League season with The Women’s Game. She also works at Channel 7 Tasmania in television news.