W-League: Harnwell urges Perth to stay glorious

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Perth Glory coach Jamie Harnwell hopes to retain the bulk of his record-breaking W-League squad next season, even if he is not at the helm.

The likes of Sam Kerr, Caitlin Foord, Alanna Kennedy and Mackenzie Arnold joined Glory this season, helping the club win the league by 10 points as they set new marks for the most points (30) and most goals scored (39) in a single season.

Glory was outclassed in the Westfield W-League Grand Final by Canberra United last Sunday, but Harnwell was hopeful most of the players would reunite next season to have another crack at winning a maiden championship for the club.

“I spoke to them all about five or six weeks ago just to ask if they were enjoying it, what could we do, we want you back, and this was before we’d even won the premiership as I knew we were on the cusp of big things,” Harnwell said.

“They’re all happy and they’ve all enjoyed themselves this year but it’s just such a long period of time between now and the start of the next season, so I’d love to say everyone is going to be back but it’s a funny game, football, so we’ll just have to wait and see.”

Glory will have to make at least one change to its roster with veteran attacker Elisa D’Ovidio hanging up her boots after the Grand Final.

Canadian international defender Shelina Zadorsky is set to entertain offers to play in the USA and Europe, although both player and club are understood to be keen on a return next season.

Golden Boot winner Kate Gill, 30, is also yet to confirm whether she will play on next season and is likely to wait until after the World Cup in June before making a decision on her playing future.

Harnwell could also be on the way out as he seeks a full-time coaching gig, but he is more than happy to remain in charge of the Glory women’s team if his ambitions are not fulfilled in the near-term.

“I’ve made no secret I want to get into full-time coaching and if that opportunity arises then I might have to leave,” Harnwell said.

“If it doesn’t, well, I love that group of girls and I have so much respect for them. I’ve loved working with them, they’re great to be with and I’d have no hesitation of doing it again next year.

“The hard thing, of course, is getting them all back again when the season doesn’t start for another eight or nine months.”

Harnwell was at a loss to explain his side’s shock defeat to Canberra in the Grand Final despite his team going into the match as red-hot favourites.

The absence of injured attacker Kerr was evident while senior players such as Gill and captain Collette McCallum struggled to have an impact as Canberra surged to their second championship in four years.

McCallum netted a brilliant equaliser from a free kick in the 63rd minute to keep Glory’s hopes alive, but Canberra striker Ashleigh Sykes then scored twice in four minutes to steal the match away from Perth.

In between Sykes’ heroics, the ever-reliable Gill missed a penalty she would usually have converted, but Harnwell refused to put the blame on any one player for the loss.

“Kate’s been fantastic for us all year and she’s had the courage to step up for us in a Grand Final, and this time it doesn’t go in,” Harnwell said.

“I can’t put finger on (what went wrong). Nerves would play a part, but everyone is nervous going into grand finals.

“For 30 minutes we gave the crowd value for their money and if we had done that in the first half we would have won the game.

“They’ve been the best team in the league by far, but on the day we were beaten and that can happen on any day in football.

“I’m still so proud of the girls … there’s no one can deny who the best team is, we just couldn’t be the best team in the Grand Final.”

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