hawkesby goal  [1296x518]
hawkesby goal [1296x518] (Credit: Scott Gardiner/Getty Images)

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The first leg of the A-League Women's semifinals couldn't have panned out more differently.

One is perfectly poised after two powerful goalkeeping performances. The football wasn't as pretty as the backdrop in Gosford but the drama was high with 34 shots between the teams and a lone Mackenzie Hawkesby goal separating them.

Mariners custodian Casey Dumont made four stops including a gilt-edged chance from Cortnee Vine, while Sydney shot-stopper Jada Whyman recorded six saves, including one to deny Kyah Simon, catching the ball between her knees.

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The other semifinal didn't pan out in terms of closeness but had its own highlights. The 6,836 people in attendance were hoping for a Newcastle win but helped set a Jets crowd record for a women's game and it became the third most attended standalone ALW fixture ever.

Melbourne City flexed their premiership-winning muscle and clinical finishing in a 3-0 win with 17-year-old Daniela Galic and 15-year-old Shelby McMahon finding the back of the net.

Neither final was more deserving of a television presence and all its perks than the other and up until Thursday neither game was set to be on TV at all.

But Sydney's first leg semifinal win over the Mariners joined Western United's Unite Round clash with the Sky Blues in January, and the first round Sydney derby as the only three A-League Women games which have had a free-to-air television presence this season.

All three games were broadcast on 10Bold in addition to being streamed on 10Play and Paramount+. That's three out of 136 games so far this season.

The decision to place that semifinal on TV wasn't made by any sort of metric or even a coin flip. It was the weather.

Extraordinary rain and flooding in Dubai prevented the Mariners men's team from returning home for their A-League Men clash against Adelaide United after midweek continental football in a timely fashion.

The game was scheduled to kick off before the women's game in a Gosford double header and occupied one of the men's leagues TV slots, the other being on Saturday night.

But with a blank space now to fill, the decision was made to move the women's game forward and put them on TV.

For the broadcaster, few to no logistical plans needed to be changed. Equipment and personnel would all head to the same place they were always scheduled to be. The biggest difference would be the actual teams running out on the pitch.

The game would receive all the bells and whistles usually afforded to a men's game. A three-person panel dissected the game at half and full-time rather than a countdown clock which usually keeps ALW fans company during the break.

A sideline reporter provided context for why the broadcasted grandstand was empty and why Sydney FC captain Princess Ibini was substituted at half-time.

In the immediate aftermath fans got to hear Vine label the win as "massive" and explain how her side needed to be "mongrelly" as they search for a seventh straight grand final appearance but only a third title in that same run.

Simon spoke about the goal her team conceded and immediately placed the blame on herself for not being tidy enough in possession and turning the ball over. These are insights that ALW fans typically don't get this quickly. Sometimes, they don't get them at all.

The entire match was scored by two commentators who told the tale of a fascinating contest expertly and the undeniable atmosphere created by the 4,014-strong crowd. Overall, it was a production worthy of a finals match.

Next week, Sydney FC will look to make it to yet another decider. The Mariners will try to overturn the current 1-0 deficit and extend their first season back in the league a little longer.

Down in Melbourne, City will aim to return to the final game of the season for the first time since 2020. Newcastle will need a miracle in the form of at least three goals and will hope for a first ever win over City in league history.

But everything will return to the status quo broadcast-wise.

Neither game is scheduled to be on regular TV. Neither game is being promoted as having a panel dissecting the action at half-time or analysing the grand final matchup as it is determined. Neither will bring viewers the immediate thoughts of the players and coaches. And it feels wrong.

In a season that has been characterised by growth, it feels deeply unfair that this league will continue to be packaged up in a way that doesn't reflect its value.

And that growth has been undeniable. Crowds are up 108% on last season, a tangible result of the Matildas effect. As such, the league has broken its own attendance record, thanks in large part due to this season becoming the first to have a full home-and-away schedule, and has its sights sets on becoming the most attended women's sports season -- regular and finals -- in Australia ever.

Club memberships are up 611% on 2022-23 with fans wanting to put their money where their mouths are, while broadcast viewership hours are up 133%.

But as with everything else in Australian football, nothing is ever simple and complaining about the lack of broadcast equality feels petulant in the same season when the league's broadcaster production partner went into administration and there was a real threat of matches not being shown at all.

Wanting more when the leagues' awards night has been axed; Canberra United has only just seemingly scrapped enough money to exist for another season; Newcastle's future remains uncertain; this all smacks of failing to see the forest among the trees.

But promises of broadcast equality haven't come to fruition and that is an undeniable disappointment. It must change next season.