We’re now a couple of weeks into the 2018 National Women’s League competition, and it’s already shaping up to be a fantastic season. If you’ve never been along to a NWL match, you’re missing out. The federation-based competition is running over two full rounds for the first time this summer, so you can see every team from across the country in action in your town (umm, unless you’re a WaiBOP fan). If you can excuse the icky listicle nature, here’s seven good reasons to follow the National Women’s League this season:
1/ It’s family-friendly fun
Embarrassed about the last time you took your kids to a club football match, only to need to cover their ears throughout the entire match, before spending the car ride home trying to explain how a grown man could be rolling around in agony one minute and back up and sprinting the next?
Take the kids along to a NWL match instead! While the matches are obviously still extremely competitive affairs, there’s an inescapable air of fun evident that’s refreshing. There are more curse words in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang than in a typical NWL match. Along with less vulgar language, you’ll likely see less play-acting and time wasting (studies have actually shown male players tend to waste more time staying down injured and getting off the field when substituted than their female counterparts). There’s much, much less chance of witnessing violent incidents. Female players will often share a laugh rather than a shove amidst the action. All this makes for football that is simply great fun to watch.
To top it all off? At some venues, it won’t cost you a cent to take the family along.
2/ There are lots of goals
Sunday’s 0-0 draw between Northern Lights and Southern United was just the third goalless game in more than three seasons of NWL action. Since 2015, NWL matches have averaged more than 4.6 goals per match. Get along to a NWL game and there’s a good chance you’ll see plenty of goals.
3/ It’s high-quality football
Those goals are often spectacular!
There’s some remarkable talent on display. In fact, I’m confident that anyone who hasn’t watched a NWL game before will be pleasantly surprised by just how good the quality of the football is. In many respects it’s an entirely different beast to the Men’s Premiership and National Youth League – less frantic hustle and bustle, and yet it’s a captivating blend of speed and precision, where tactical decisions often come to the fore.
4/ It’s where Football Ferns are made
When NZ Football started using the #WhereAllWhitesAreMade hashtag for the men’s national league a couple of seasons ago, it felt a bit contrived, given the paucity of national league players past or present actually representing our men’s national side.
On the contrary, most of our Football Ferns have actually come through our domestic system, and a number of our best internationals can be seen in this season’s national league. The likes of centurion Annalie Longo, the experienced Sarah Gregorius, the versatile Steph Skilton, and young gun Malia Steinmetz, to name just a few, will all be in action for different NWL sides. Combined with the raft of talented teenagers on display, the #WhereFootballFernsAreMade hashtag fits nicely.
5/ It’s less predictable than ever before
In the past, a couple of teams have tended to dominate the league, with many match-ups fairly predictable in nature. This year, however, the competition seems more open than ever. At this early stage, it’s tough to split heavyweights Canterbury United Pride, Auckland, and Northern Lights, while Southern United are already breathing down their necks and looking to improve on last season’s first ever playoff appearance. Capital will no doubt be in the playoff mix too. While WaiBOP and Central have had tough starts to their campaigns, they’ll relish having two full rounds to notch some inevitable upsets. It makes for a fascinating competition.
6/ The competition’s more visible than ever
It seems like all of the teams are really upping their game this year, on and off the pitch. After a number of teams experimented with live streaming last season, that looks set to continue this season, with Northern doing a good job of streaming their match from McFetridge Park last weekend, and more matches set to be streamed online throughout the season.
Added to that, things have come a long way in the social media space. Southern United have already uploaded a couple of genuinely insightful videos with coach and players, Northern Lights have created an exciting new brand and kit, and Canterbury United Pride continue to set a high standard off the pitch with more than 1200 people following their Facebook page. NZ Football are doing their bit too and have stepped up their coverage of the league this season.
And that’s before we even mention the podcast that Ella, Helena, and Enzo have got up and running this season – be sure to check out The Return Fixture in the leadup to each weekend, find it on the In The Back of the Net homepage!
7/ Perception is reality
It has often felt like the National Women’s League has been living in the shadow of the men’s competition – having previously only been a two month competition, with no television coverage and a general lack of presence (so much so that some female players hadn’t even heard of the competition before they were playing in it).
As Helena pointed out in the opening podcast, we need to consider that perception is reality and we all have a part to play in making a difference. One of the common arguments for the lack of TV coverage and general presence of the women’s competition is a lack of interest from sponsors and crowds – but we need to turn that argument around on its head or else it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Improving that visibility is one of the reasons for this site’s NWL podcast and general coverage of the competition. You can do your bit by getting along to games, following all of the teams on social media, checking out our podcast, and even just chatting to your friends about the competition. Let’s create the buzz that the competition and players deserve, because it feels like the National Women’s League is at a bit of an exciting tipping point!
Here’s a link to this season’s draw (although be sure to check for any late changes to fixtures details)
Categories: NZ Women's National League