“Protect the players”: Coaches unite to slam W-League scheduling

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Perth Glory boss Bobby Despotovski puffed out his cheeks and let out a sigh of relief after his side defeated Sydney FC, but his relief wasn’t due to the dramatic comeback victory.

“It was hot, the first half was ridiculous,” Despotovski said.

“Honestly, I don’t know how that was on TV for people to watch, but for us coaches on the bench there was no energy, nobody was chasing anything.

“To be honest it was probably not enjoyable for some people, because of the heat.”

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The heat the players, coaches, referees and spectators at nib Stadium were exposed to was a 37-degree scorcher in the middle of a summer day.

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Despite a sumptuous Alanna Kennedy free kick goal and a clinical double from Sam Kerr both coaches were quick to make the weather the focal point of their post-match discussion, with Sydney boss Ante Juric criticising the lack of foresight used in scheduling the game.

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“At the end of the day I don’t know why they put it in mid-December at 3:30pm in Perth,” Covic said.

“You know it’s going to be hot, make it a later time.

“Both teams handled it well I thought but it was so open, it was really end-to-end because of the heat.

“It might be a good spectacle, but it’s not really great in my view.”

The effect of exposure to the intense midday heat took its toll on referee Kate Jacewicz, who needed to be replaced at half time due to dehydration.

Not even two drinks breaks in the first half could stop Jacewicz falling victim to the brutal heat, and you can only imagine some of the players were on the verge of suffering the same fate as the temperature climbed from 36 to 37 degrees as the game went further into the day.

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With three points in the bag Despotovski was quick to point out winning the game did nothing to distract him from the issue at hand.

“Now I’m going to sit here and say ‘we won, it’s all rosy’ but it’s not,” Despotovski said.

“We have to do something about this.

“They’re not going to do anything because of what the coaches are saying, they’re going to do something if somebody gets hurt.

“So let’s not come to that, let’s do something before that and protect the players.”

After the women slogged it out under the unforgiving, cloudless sky, Glory and Sydney’s A-League sides walked out under the shade of the stands and the setting sun to kick off in much more bearable conditions.

The A-League game became a far more comfortable affair once the sun quickly disappeared and the floodlights kicked in.

The heat was still sweltering, but the conditions were bearable, and for the first time throughout the day, playable.

A 3:30pm kickoff in Perth on a summer day will rarely be defined as playable conditions, and as a former player Sydney boss Juric could empathise with the players, commending their dedication in adverse conditions.

“Everyone knows it’s going to be hot so what are you going to do? Just play,” Juric said.

“Both teams handled it well I thought, but it was so open. It was really end-to-end because of the heat.

“I used to play in that heat a lot of times, to me it didn’t feel that bad playing in it, but when you see it you sort of realise they’re really fatigued.”

Featured image credit: Vision Inspired Photography.

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Matthew Comito
Football nut, student journalist and firm believer that Berisha dived in the 2012 A-League Grand Final. Covering Perth Glory for the 2018/19 season.