Hannah Wilkinson playing against Melbourne Victory last season. (Photo: Melbourne City/Twitter; Design: Will Cuckson)

Despite injuries and international call-ups hindering Melbourne City’s season, they were still among one of the best teams in the competition in 2021/22. However, it was a disappointing finals series as they lost to both grand finalists.

Last season:

Second (11 wins, zero draws, three losses)

After finishing seventh in season 2020/21 and missing out on finals for the first time in their existence after entering the league in 2015, many pundits expected Melbourne City to again finish in the bottom half of the table. However, they would exceed pre-season expectations to finish just short of a Grand Final berth.

Melbourne started the season with a bang, winning five of its first six games, with its only loss coming against cross-town rivals Melbourne Victory. City continued their strong form after that stretch, only losing two more games for the season.

City put themselves into a prime position to win their third women’s premiership if they could round out the season with three wins from their last three games. These were against the Brisbane Roar, Newcastle Jets, and Western Sydney Wanderers.

It was a battle between Melbourne and Sydney FC and unfortunately, due to injuries and player unavailability due to national team selection, Melbourne dropped points to Brisbane, losing 1-0 and handing the advantage to Sydney.

City were able to win their last two games, winning both 2-0 against the Jets and the Wanderers which put plenty of pressure on the Sky Blues to secure a positive result in their final game. However, Melbourne would narrowly miss the premiership by two points with Sydney defeating Adelaide 1-0.

Melbourne entered the finals series in good form off the back of two wins to finish the regular season. City’s squad was near full strength, Holly McNamara the exception after suffering a season-ending ACL.

But it would end in heart-breaking fashion, going down to both grand-finalists Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory in the semi-final and preliminary final respectively.

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Biggest in:

Young Matildas star Bryleeh Henry is one of Melbourne City’s biggest offseason recruits, departing the Western Sydney Wanderers for the blue, red, and white.

Not short of attackers already, the signing of Henry just adds more depth to an attacking group that already includes Hannah Wilkinson, Rhianna Pollicina, and Holly McNamara – who is currently recovering from an ACL injury.

As aforementioned, Henry has already spent time in the A-League Women competition, having made 21 appearances over her two seasons with the Wanderers. She also made her Matildas debut in October last year.

The 19-year-old is coming off a campaign with the Young Matildas squad at the FIFA U20 Women’s World Cup, where she was playing under Rado Vidošić, who was the team’s assistant coach. Henry started in all three contests and even got on the scoresheet in a 3-1 win over Costa Rica.

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Biggest out:

Tyla-Jay Vlajnic has been a staple in the Melbourne City team since 2015, making over 50 appearances over her seven-year stint in City blue.

However, the experienced campaigner has departed City and signed with the competition’s newest expansion side Western United, in a move that completely shocked fans.

Vlajnic had a very accomplished career at Melbourne. The defender won two premierships, four championships, and is currently third on the club’s all-time women’s appearance list, playing 55 games.

The 31-year-old had been a key piece in City’s side over the years due to her versatility on the pitch, being used at fullback or further up the ground.

Despite playing most of her time at left-back, Vlajnic often found herself setting up most of City’s attacks – coach Vidošić will miss the Australian-born Serbian.

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What to expect:

Melbourne City was among one of the highest-scoring teams in the competition, finishing the season third for goals scored with 29 goals in 14 matches. Sydney FC and Adelaide United were the only teams ahead of them with 36 and 33 respectively.

Last season, Melbourne scored two or more goals in 10 of its 16 games. It had a strong but thin attack with Hannah Wilkinson, Rhianna Pollicina, and Holly McNamara leading the charges upfront.

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In her first season in the A-League Women competition, New Zealand striker Wilkinson finished as Melbourne’s highest goal scorer and second in the league with 15 goals in 12 appearances. Pollicina and McNamara also proved to be solid foils in attack, scoring seven and five goals accordingly.

With the addition of Matildas and Young Matildas young gun Bryleeh Henry, expect Melbourne to continue its goal-scoring ways again this season, as she adds depth to its already potent attacking group.

With McNamara still out and recovering from her knee injury, expect Henry to take her spot in the starting XI. Once the youngster returns, opposing defences will be kept on their toes, as City will have four strong forwards who can score at any time.

Starting XI:

Melbourne City’s predicted line-up ahead of the 2022/23 season. (Design: Will Cuckson)

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