Jamie Harnwell is in a purple patch right now, and while it’s not for the first time in his football career, this time he’s calling the shots.
Perth football has seen its share of glory over the years. 2004 saw Harnwell’s mens team take the honours in the last NSL final against Parramatta Power - the second time Perth had lifted that trophy. After his retirement, the most recent Hyundai A-League final also featured the Glory men in full flight. The women, however, have waited a long time for accolades of their own.
This year though, with Perth’s favourite son at the helm, the Perth Glory women are in prime position to make their mark. With just four rounds of the regular Westfield W-League season remaining, they sit in top spot - two points clear of former title holders Sydney FC who they meet again on Saturday.
It’s in stark contrast to last season, where poor preparation showed as Perth struggled for a victory and finished the season near the foot of the table.
This year, Harnwell has had a full pre-season with the ladies side and is understandably positive about the difference it has made.
“We had a good preparation and were able to put together a strong side. Having Collette McCallum back in the W-League, Kate Gill returning after a year out with a knee injury and Lisa De Vanna heading back here to the west, has strengthened the side and obviously the strike force”.
It’s not just the veteran Matildas though that are propelling this side to the top and the coach agrees that the whole team is stepping up.
“Local girls Marianna Tabain, Ella Mastrantonio and Elisa d’Ovidio have proved themselves again this season and having Aivi Luik move over from Brisbane has been great for us as well”
The Queensland influx has proved lucrative for the Glory, with not just Luik and De Vanna but also the emergence of Rosie Sutton, who announced herself in Round 5 when the Sky Blues came to town. With both sides missing their internationals Sutton slotted a hat-trick, more than justifying her selection in the side.
“Rosie has been fantastic, she got herself over here for a try out and showed some real raw talent, she applies herself in training and now is reaping the rewards”.
It’s been a fast learning curve for Harnwell. After hanging up his boots in 2010, he went to work for Football West at the National Training Centre. When Nicola Williams departed, he was offered the reins for the Glory Women and grasped the opportunity with relish.
“To be offered a job as Head Coach in a national competition just six months after retiring as a player, it was too good to turn down”.
“In my first season, I was a bit naïve. I think perhaps I underestimated the rest of the league and had to get my head around dealing with 20 players. When you are a player yourself, it’s pretty much all about your own contribution and performance but as a coach you have to consider everyone as a whole”.
His coaching career almost came to an abrupt end when the Hyundai A-League club talked of jettisoning the women’s side to cut costs.
Fortunately state federation Football West stepped into the breach and thus far, Harnwell has repaid the faith. It’s a fact not lost on the man who served Perth Glory well for over a decade.
“Football West have been so supportive of us and it’s wonderful to be able to show them that this team is worth it”.
The table is congested though and there is no chicken counting going on.
“It can be a bit of a lottery, we play well for two weeks and then if we take our foot off the pedal the points are gone and they may prove the
difference. Two more victories should see us safely into the play offs”.
The coming weeks aren’t going to be easy, a third away trip on the trot sees the Glory travel to Sydney FC, before welcoming reigning champions Canberra to Intiga Stadium before the Christmas break.
They finish the regular season though, with matches against Newcastle and Adelaide who sit at the opposite end of the table, so there is a sense that Jamie Harnwell’s side may earn an inaugural finals appearance and bring more glory to Perth.