Emily van Egmond set for first W-League grand final in week of chaos

IN FORM: Newcastle's Emily van Egmond will line up for her first W-League grand final in Melbourne on Sunday. Picture: Jonathan Carroll
IN FORM: Newcastle's Emily van Egmond will line up for her first W-League grand final in Melbourne on Sunday. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

It has taken Emily van Egmond nearly 12 years to play in her first W-League grand final this weekend and with world sport virtually at a standstill due to coronavirus the Newcastle 26-year-old plans to savour it.

Football Federation Australia announced on Wednesday that van Egmond's Melbourne City would host Sydney FC at AAMI Park on Saturday. It will be played behind closed doors.

Van Egmond was a fresh-faced 15-year-old when she signed for Newcastle in the inaugural W-League season in 2008-09. She has made 97 league appearances since, making semi-finals with the Jets and Canberra but never a championship decider.

"It's my first W-League grand final, so I'm obviously really excited for that despite everything that's going on in the world at the moment," van Egmond told the Newcastle Herald.

"We're just trying to shift all our focus and attention onto the game this weekend.

"It is what it is. As athletes we've been given the all clear and we're just treating it the same as what you normally would do. We're just wishing that everyone out there stays safe and does their part to obviously try to do what's necessary for what's going on at the moment. It's hard but there's not too much you can do."

The grand final comes after a hectic past six weeks for van Egmond, who was in outstanding form as the Matildas booked passage to the Olympics with an unbeaten run through the qualifying phase in Sydney then a 7-1 victory in the home-and-away play-offs against Vietnam.

Whether there is an Olympics this year is yet to be seen. But for now, van Egmond's focus is purely on Saturday and she was feeling "pretty buzzed" about it, even without the atmosphere of a crowd.

"We [the Matildas] played against Vietnam behind closed doors [last week] and throughout your career you play closed doors games under other situations ... you just have to approach it as any other game," van Egmond said.

"I know the girls are super excited for it. We've worked hard all year. We've had a good season."

City were virtually untouched on the way to the minor premiership. They only dropped points in an opening round draw with Newcastle, who van Egmond left to join the league heavyweights.

It is a move that has paid dividends for club and country. She is relishing a more attacking role and is City's equal leading goalscorer with Kyah Simon and Claire Emslie. Van Egmond was the Matildas' leading scorer during their past five Olympic qualification matches.

"It's been a good one for me individually ... to be in probably the best training environment in W-League, you can't ask for much more than that as a footballer," van Egmond said.

"I'm just grateful for the opportunity that Melbourne City has given me and to be able to play with some of best players in the world has been really, really enjoyable."

Emily van Egmond in action against the Newcastle Jets at No.2 Sportsground this season. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

Emily van Egmond in action against the Newcastle Jets at No.2 Sportsground this season. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

While City stormed into the grand final with a 5-1 semi-final win over Western Sydney Wanderers last weekend the Sky Blues had a much closer contest, beating Melbourne Victory 1-0.

City won 2-1 when they played Sydney in round four.

"In finals football, anything can happen," van Egmond said.

"It's definitely going to be a challenge, but one that we're up for and one that we're excited for. You don't get many opportunities to play finals football, so you've got to make the most of it."

As for what happens beyond this weekend, van Egmond said: "I'm honestly not sure."

The Matildas' upcoming friendlies against Canada and the United States have been cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic and most leagues around the world are suspended.

The grand final kicks off at 3.30pm Saturday and can be watched on Fox Sports, ABC TV, Kayo and the My Football Live App.

This story Emily van Egmond eyes W-League grand final in week of chaos first appeared on Newcastle Herald.