Perth Glory will head into Sunday’s Westfield W-League Grand Final against Canberra United as warm favourites to claim a maiden championship and cap a remarkable turnaround in fortunes.

The perennial strugglers of the W-League had made the finals just once before the start of this season but all of that seemed to be forgotten once the new campaign kicked off in September.

Jamie Harnwell’s side has not skipped a beat since stunning two-time champions Brisbane Roar in the opening round, breaking record after record – including most points and goals scored in a season – on their way to winning the league by a whopping 10 points.

READ THE PREDICTIONS OF THE OTHER W-LEAGUE COACHES HERE.

It would take a massive upset to deny Perth from taking hold of the trophy on Sunday but Harnwell knows all too well how something that seems so inevitable can suddenly be ripped from one’s grasp.

Harnwell was a member of two losing grand finals for the Perth Glory men’s side in 2000 and 2002 after dominant seasons, only to be cruelly denied in heartbreaking circumstances at the final hurdle.

Whether Harnwell uses his personal agony to motivate his players before they take to the nib Stadium pitch on Sunday remains to be seen but he is adamant his charges are well-equipped to handle the weight of expectations.

“We’ve had to deal with pressure and expectations since the first four or five games of the season,” Harnwell said.

“Coming into the semi-finals there was a lot of talk we were already through to the grand final which we were quick to squash.

“Canberra are a strong side and we’re not going to have it all our own way so I don’t think there will be too many problems in terms of the girls getting carried away.”

Canberra is one of only two teams to beat Perth this season, upsetting the premiers 2-1 in the final game of the regular season to book a spot in the finals.

Liesbeth Migchelsen’s side then won through to Sunday’s Grand Final after triumphing in a penalty shootout against Melbourne Victory last weekend and will certainly be no pushovers despite heading into the match as rank outsiders.

Temperatures are forecast to hit 31C on Sunday but Migchelsen denied the Perth heat would be an issue for her team.

“It was also hot here in Canberra this week and last weekend in Melbourne it was more than 30C on the pitch so the girls are used to the heat,” she said.

“We did some very hard sessions in very hot conditions during the pre-season and season so the team is used to the heat and they are fit enough to handle it in Perth on Sunday.”

Both teams will be without key players in Sunday’s Grand Final. Glory attacker Sam Kerr suffered a serious knee injury when the two teams last met a fortnight ago and won’t take to the pitch for another three months.

US import Kendall Fletcher has also returned home after finishing her seven-game guest stint with Canberra and would have been the perfect foil for negating Golden Boot winner Kate Gill and the dangerous Caitlin Foord.

The battle at the other end of the pitch will also be vital to the outcome of the match as Canberra’s experienced pairing of Michelle Heymann and Ashleigh Sykes confront the formidable defensive duo of Alanna Kennedy and Shelina Zadorsky.

Perth captain Collette McCallum and fellow seasoned campaigners Marianna Tabian and Shannon May are sure to have an intriguing midfield battle with Canberra stalwart Grace Gill and the retiring Lori Lindsey.

Glory veteran Elisa D’Ovidio will also hang up her boots after the match and Harnwell was confident she would be farewelled on a winning note.

“A lot of these players have seen some pretty lean times so it’s great reward for them to be in a grand final,” he said.

“I know what it’s like to win a grand final and I just hope the girls get to experience that as well.”

Migchelsen, however, was equally confident her team could cause an upset and add a second championship title to Canberra’s trophy cabinet.

“It was an amazing season for us with all the ups and downs and now we end up in the grand final so we are very proud of this team,” she said.

“Last weekend we played in extra time and after 120 minutes I think we showed that we were the fittest team on the pitch. We’ve recovered well this week with good training sessions and everybody is ready to go, so we will see what happens on Sunday.”

You can watch the Grand Final on ABC 1 this Sunday. Times are below.

Western Australia: Midday (live)
NSW, ACT, Tas & Vic: 3pm (live)
QLD, SA, NT: 3pm (delayed)

Follow live Twitter updates on our Twitter account: @TheFootballSack

SHARE