“I’ve spoken to Prinny [Ibini] a little bit. She needs to deliver. I think she realises it,” Sydney coach Ante Juric said.
“She’s not 18, 17 any more. She needs to be the person who steps up … if she plays well for us, she’ll go to the Matildas and potentially World Cups and Olympics.
“She knows what’s at stake for her. She stood up today, was mature, did the right things, worked hard defensively – I can’t be happier. I hope it continues. It’s her time now.”
It’s been difficult to judge how this W-League campaign will pan out, with every squad ravaged by an exodus of top-line Australian internationals to European clubs and a shortage of foreigners because of coronavirus travel restrictions.
Indeed, there wasn’t a single visa player on the team sheet for either side at Bankwest Stadium, and only a handful of players capped at senior level for Australia.
For Western Sydney in particular, the turnover has been damaging. Powered last year by a glut of high-profile American imports – including US national team striker Lynn Williams and Julie Dolan medallist Kristen Hamilton – only one member of their starting XI, Courtney Nevin, also played in last season’s opening match.
Vine did too, but she has since traded red and black for blue. In the 27th minute, she pounced to give Sydney FC a thoroughly deserved lead, the team’s pace and clever combination play having tied the hosts in knots. The Wanderers had attempted to play out from a goal kick but coughed the ball up in a dangerous area. Within seconds of the turnover, Young Matildas striker Remy Siemsen had teed up Vine for a simple finish.
Siemsen’s assist made up for her own failure to convert a golden chance from point-blank range two minutes earlier. Vine’s dink over the top of Western Sydney’s defence put Siemsen through one-on-one but, from a narrow angle, she tried to go over instead of around Courtney Newbon, and her shot smacked the crossbar.
Siemsen probably should have had another earlier in the match, from another Vine pass, but side-footed her finish directly at Newbon.
The Wanderers resumed the second stanza in promising fashion but Ibini’s long-distance rocket on the hour mark stopped them dead in their tracks.
Ibini scored again in the 86th minute, latching onto a through ball from substitute Allira Toby and prodding it into the top-left corner. Not only did that goal seal the three points, it also capped a thrilling, dynamic individual display in attack from a player who seems ready to take the next step up.
Western Sydney, meanwhile, have just two days to get ready for their next outing on Saturday night against the Newcastle Jets. Both Georgia Yeoman-Dale (knee) and Leena Khamis (eye) are in doubt after being withdrawn at half-time due to minor injuries.
“Everyone’s disappointed, because we all know we’ve been so much better than that this pre-season,” coach Dean Heffernan said.
“We haven’t had W-League opposition to play against in the trial games but we’ve just been better with the ball, in most areas of the game. It’s not a nice way to lose a game of football, like that, but it’s actually a good thing in a way as well because we’ve got so much more in us than what we showed tonight.”
Vince is a sports reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.