The double pendulum swing is one of the most well-known symbols of chaos theory. The lines traced by a double-jointed line, which makes sense when its creation is watched step by step from beginning to end, look a shemozzle when considered in its totality. Chaotic systems illuminate the notion that chaos and order need not be polar opposites, and can coexist in many systems.
In this way, so much of the conversations surrounding the W-League can be distilled to those centred on its players, and those concerned with the machinations of the league they have effectively become synonymous with; two parts of the W-League pendulum’s swing.
Some junctures of the pendulum’s swing can surprise – such as that of FFA’s head of leagues Greg O’Rourke, who chose an interesting week and way to laud what he described as a season of “outstanding” W-League performances.
“Much of that,” O’Rourke said, “can be attributed to the return of most of our much-loved Matildas combined with the high quality international players that have chosen to play in the Westfield W-League.
“These international players, alongside our Matildas and Young Matildas, have lifted the standard of the competition to a new level and the fans have welcomed this event with their engagement with the competition at a record high,” he added, seeing the pendulum ascend – nominally.
But. It’s a bit awkward, making such a statement at the end of a week in which another three Matildas have confirmed they won’t return to the W-League after the Olympic qualifiers, with the departures of Hayley Raso to Everton, Caitlin Foord to Arsenal and Chloe Logarzo to Bristol City almost doubling the number of Australians plying their trade in Europe.
The importance of these moves for the players in their technical and tactical development have been well canvassed – and so too the knock-on advantages for the Matildas. But as the pendulum has swung from international football being the driver for the growth of the women’s game to club football being its main proponent, the W-League needs to readjust and reposition itself quickly.
Within the larger chaos system that is the rapidly growing women’s game worldwide, this has implications for players not at the international level – certainly in terms of drawing a football wage just from their clubs.
In a round marked by the absence of the Matildas, non-internationals were able to take centre stage and dominate the conversation. And with it, the pendulum swung from the complexities of the system at large to the randomness and whims of a game itself; attention wrenched back from the more existential questions of the league, to the simpler matter of where three points might be heading at the end of 90 minutes.
Here chaos delights, as Newcastle and Young Matildas defender Tessa Tamplin found out after scoring her first of the season in the Jets’ 4-2 defeat to Perth Glory – from a wildly mis-hit cross. Her reaction during the game left nothing to the imagination – her post-match debrief even less.
“I saw everyone in the box, and so was like ‘great opportunity for a cross’,” she reflected, quite reasonably, during a post-match interview with Tara Rushton. “Then I hit it and was like ‘oh fuck’ – oh sorry! – I was like, ‘damn I shanked it!’. I turned around, I didn’t even want to watch it, I was so… ‘what a rookie!’. And then I heard the crowd go wild, and I turned around and the ball was in the back of the net and I was like ‘…I’m sorry? What!?’”
This endearing series of events – from the camera’s capture of Tamplin’s initial frustration to the extent that she missed seeing her goal go in, and the post-game reflections punctuated by an f-bomb which she scrambled to hide – revealed the very real, very humanness of the sequence.
The chaotic energy that pulsed throughout this bottom-of-the-table clash infused the rest of the round which, perhaps unsurprisingly, turned out to be a little bit bonkers. Bottom of the table Adelaide United’s first win of the season against high-flying Western Sydney Wanderers was a case in point, making the play-off hopefuls look thoroughly ordinary in a dominating first half display.
For all that the round swung back on-script through Melbourne Victory’s dispatching of Canberra United, it’s difficult not to conclude that the round before the W-League’s full break was a timely reminder to its fans, advocates and administrators that there’s more to the league than the Matildas, and that there is further fascination to be had in football’s chaos.