Right from the start, Jaime Gomez had an eye on the future. It was October last year when the coach had just been handed the reigns of the Bulls FC Academy women’s team. They had just been promoted to the top division of the NPL NSW and instead of thinking of survival, he set about aspirations far greater.
He looked at a style of play that would be attractive. One that would get results and a system that would enable his young talent to continue to flourish into future professionals, perhaps future Matildas. Less than a year since his appointment, that was rewarded with a shock finals berth few thought was possible for a promoted side.
“It means a lot because of the effort that’s been put in by the club, coaches and players is a just reward. It’s a nice reflection on the year’s work,” he said.
A 2-1 win over NWS Spirit on Sunday sealed fourth place for the Bulls and a ticket to the finals, setting up a showdown against minor premiers APIA Leichhardt on Wednesday night at Lambert Park. It’s a match the Bulls may enter as outsiders but are brimming with confidence just three days after sealing their top-four spot. Much of that assurance stems from the burning ambition within the squad.
One of the competition’s younger sides is filled with promising talent, yet balanced by senior leaders. Their sights aren’t just set on NPL success but long careers that could take them abroad.
“You would have seen a lot of youngsters; we played most of the season with a lot of players under the age of 20 and we believe it’s the future of the club, having that balance of young and old,” Gomez said.
“A lot of our recruitment was finding good people who have aspirations to play for Matildas and in the A-League.”
Among those is Young Matilda Avaani Prakash, a gifted midfielder with a superb touch. Another Young Matilda Peta Trimis is already bound for the A-League, joining Central Coast Mariners next season, while the experience of goalkeeper Trudy Simmons and defender Jess Seaman provided the guidance to emerge as this year’s dark horse.
“Since day one, the girls have bought into what we wanted to do and when you have a close group working towards a similar goal, anything is possible,” Gomez said. “I felt we were in finals contention despite going ahead with bigger clubs with bigger names. Yes, we left it to the last round, but I think we quietly knew we could play finals.”
They face a great test in the premiers, APIA Leichhardt, who Gomez describes as “well-coached” and boasting “quality across the park”. However, for all their strengths, APIA are yet to beat the Bulls this season having been held to two draws.
It gives the Bulls confidence to pull off another shock, hopeful of a hangover from APIA’s celebrations last Sunday. It’s a match that’s another major stepping stone in the progress of the Bulls women’s program. From the second tier to the first division’s finals in 12 months, helping teenagers reach Australia’s youth team on the path to the club’s long-term goal of fielding a team in the Liberty A-League women’s competition.
“I honestly do think these girls will kick on in the A-League. Hopefully that’s with us when we get an A-League licence,” Gomez said.