Melbourne City capitalised on a Sydney FC capitulation to lift their third Premiers Plate on Sunday, their 2-1 win over Perth Glory through Rhianna Pollicina and Shelby McMahon ensuring they leapfrogged the Sky Blues into first on the A-League Women’s League table at the conclusion of its final week.

Earlier on Sunday, Sydney’s 4-0 loss to Melbourne Victory had been their second opportunity to seal what would have been their fourth-consecutive Premiership, having lost to Canberra 1-0 in midweek. Prior to that, they’d been unbeaten in eight matches to earn top spot and favouritism.

Instead, it is City who salute for the first time under manager Dario Vidosic, the former Socceroo who played for the club’s Men’s outfit and succeeded his father in City Women’s top job. It’s a first Premiership for the Club since 2019/20, when they also won the Championship.

‘In Dario’s second year as head coach, taking over from his father, it was never going to be easy but they stuck to their guns and philosophy in the way they wanted to play, loved playing out from the back – all up they recorded 1100 passes at 80% accuracy’, four-cap Matilda Cath Canulli told Box2Box.

‘Some didn’t like their style but regardless, they had a good balance in the squad. At one point they did lose Caitlyn Torpey and goalkeeper (Lysianne) Proulx, who took off for a record fee to the NWSL and people thought the wheels might fall off there. Holly McNamara [injured] was also a huge loss.

‘But they found their feet, signed 35-year old goalkeeper Barabara from Brazil, which was massive. Perth didn’t make it easy on Sunday, either, but they hung in there and everything fell in their favour. Credit Dario, and the City Group who continually invest in their female squad.

City and Sydney will play the winners of this weekend’s elimination finals between Western United and Newcastle Jets (Tarneit, Saturday), and Melbourne Victory and Central Coast (La Trobe University, Sunday). The Victory and Jets, in particular, enter the finals in sizzling form.

Victory won the Championships of 2021-22 & 2022/23 from final League positions of third and fourth – both times at Sydney’s Grand Final expense – and know how to peak at the right time under Jeff Hopkins. The Jets have a less storied finals history, but have scored fifteen goals in their last three games, including an 8-0 win over Adelaide, to rattle home into sixth position.

‘The Jets have been unbelievable. When Sarina Bolden (twelve goals) arrived she gave them an edge and energy that she brings to any team she goes to, as we saw last season at Western Sydney. And Melina Ayres, for me, is one of the most talented strikers we’ve got in Australia.

‘If I was Tony Gustavsson I’d be making sure we do everything in our power to sort out her injury crisis and get this girl on the pitch week in, week out. She’s got an eye for goal – what she did against Victory last week was freakish, and she makes it look so natural.

Rounding out the finals are Emily Husband’s Central Coast Mariners, in their first season reinstated in the competition after their 2010 collapse, who will be dreaming of toppling the Victory at the new home of the Matildas at La Trobe University.

They appear outsiders amongst the storied A-League Women’s finals titans of City, Sydney and Victory, but operate off the same base that see their Men’s side continue to defy expectation, and Canulli doesn’t see why they can’t continue their dream return season beyond this week.

‘Why not? Everybody wrote them off but the work Husband and her team did behind the scenes before they kicked a ball [was significant]. Signing Kyah Simon, coming in late, that was a gamble knowing she was injured and wouldn’t be part of the squad until later but that’s worked a treat for them.

‘Structurally, Emily sets up the Mariners really well. Everyone knows their roles and responsibilities, every time they take the pitch you can see they’ve bought into what she’s trying to produce. They have this harmony between them, celebrating recently in the corner together rowing the boat, and that symbolised this team, togetherness, all pulling together and rowing the boat in the same direction.’