Domestic Competitions ● Apr 27, 2017

Woodlands Eager to Build On Promising Debut Season


After an encouraging debut in the 2016 Football Association of Singapore (FAS) Women’s Premier League (WPL), Woodlands Wellington are keen to pick up where they had left off for the upcoming season.


The Rams – who previously competed as National University of Singapore before coming under the Woodlands Wellington fold as its women’s team – finished sixth out of 11 teams in the league and reached the FAS Women’s Challenge Cup final, where they fell 0-2 to double winners Warriors Football Club.


Reflecting on their previous season, Woodlands head coach G. Sivaraj felt that his side’s underdog status gave them the confidence to perform on the pitch.


“We wanted to finish in the top three last season, but we lost quite a number of points and ended up finishing sixth,” said the 34-year-old.


“The club did not set any expectations for us, but we want to do well because the team has been together for the past seven years, before we were renamed as Woodlands Wellington.


“It was a quite a long season, so I think fatigue started setting in towards the end. Our aim for the Challenge Cup was to reach the top four, so we were delighted to reach the final.


“Even though we lost to Warriors by two goals in the last few minutes, it was a good season overall.”


Looking ahead to the new season, Sivaraj points to Woodlands’ lack of goals as one of the areas that his side needs to improve on. They found the back of the net 57 times last year, which was only the fifth-highest in the league.


The need for goals has also become an urgent concern for Sivaraj as the WPL has become more competitive after it was reorganised to form a two-division structure this season. Warriors, Arion Football Academy, Tanjong Pagar United, Police Sports Association and Woodlands will battle for honours in the

top division, while the remaining teams from the 2016 WPL will be playing in the newly-introduced Women’s National League along with five new teams.


“Aside from aiming to finish in the top three this season and reach the Challenge Cup final again, we want to score more goals, which was one thing we did not do a lot last season,” said Sivaraj.


“We have been working on that a lot during training and if the goals start coming, I think we have a good chance of achieving our objectives.


“We have progressed a lot because we used to be a defensive team, depending a lot on counter-attacks. But as the team grew together, we started playing better football, retaining possession and not depending on certain individuals to get the goals.


‚ÄúWe are a team that attacks through the flanks, but when we see an opponent attacking us, we tend to sit back and play on the counter-attack. So I’m trying to teach them to be more penetrative in the centre and to take shots from outside the box.‚Äù


The two-division structure will see relegation introduced this season, but Woodlands captain Priscilla Tan believes that they have the quality to avoid the drop and was keen to stress that it is not on the players’ minds.


“Nobody wants to get relegated, especially when there are five very strong teams this year, but it is not an issue for us,” asserted the centre-back, who also plays for the Singapore Women’s National Team.


“We have the quality in the team to avoid relegation and achieve a top-three finish. Teams find it difficult to play us as we are one of the fittest teams around, so we are looking to use that as an advantage.”


Agreeing with Tan, Sivaraj added that he believes Warriors will emerge as champions again this year, leaving the other four teams to fight for a spot in the top three.


‚ÄúI don’t think introducing relegation this year will add more pressure on the girls because we try to be positive and talk about a top-three finish,‚Äù he explained.


“Warriors will still remain as our biggest threat, but the other teams are getting better. Tanjong Pagar is still our closest rival because games between us have always been close.


“If you asked me, I would say the fight for the second and third spots will be between us, Arion and Tanjong Pagar.”


Woodlands will begin their new campaign against Tanjong Pagar United on 21 May 2017 at the Jurong East Stadium.