SD Raiders coach – and former Matildas striker – Catherine Cannuli watched anxiously as her team shot for consecutive Women’s State League titles against premiers APIA Leichhardt Tigers FC on Sunday.
She watched nervously as APIA launched countless raids on goal after the Raiders were reduced to 10 players after Dominique Caridad was sent off in the 34th minute.
She watched as her team – who had not conceded a goal since they lost to APIA 2-0 on August 6 – tried their best to launch second half counter attacks on tired legs.
She watched until she could watch no more.
So Cannuli did what she does best. Play – for only the second time this season.
Coming on as a substitute in the final stages of a 0-0 game, Cannuli’s showed her class in extra time and after narrowly missing over the bar with her first shot, she made no mistake in the second half of extra time to slot the 106th minute winner.
“I hurt my hip in the opening round so I haven’t played all year,” Cannuli told the Champion.
“Going into the grand final we lost a lot of players through injury so I threw myself on the bench as a last minute thing. With 10 minutes to go my assistant coach said “go and warm up” and I said “No”. He persisted and l went on and lucky for me I scored.
“Football is in my blood and something that comes naturally to me but full credit to the rest of the girls who never gave up.
“The girls have got a fight about them, where they don’t give up, which is something we built into the culture of this team and that really showed in the final.
“It was never going to be easy, we went down to 10 and we were playing like we had 11. Credit to the girls that kept disciplined and were more composed on the ball in the second half I felt our girls wanted it more and in the end and never gave up.”
SD Raiders finished the regular season in second place with 10 wins from their 18 games.
A 2-0 win against APIA in week one of the finals afforded them the week off before keeping the premiers scoreless for the second time in three weeks in the decider.