Can the Victory make it three from three this season? (Image: A-League Women/Twitter; Design: Will Cuckson)

Coming into the new campaign once again as the defending champions, Melbourne Victory will be looking to create history and pull off the three-peat.

Last season:

Fourth (seven wins, three losses, four draws)

Having limped their way to the finals, Melbourne Victory saved their best football for when it mattered most. They would once again go on to beat Sydney FC to become back-to-back A-League Women Champions.

Like last season, the Victory would win the championship the hard way. Having started the season out strong, winning six of their opening nine games, the side would just scrape through to the finals.

They’d make up the final spot of the top six in the final round of the season, and were without a win in five games heading into their elimination final against Adelaide United.

With injuries to key players and the chaotic fixture, the squad was stretched. In the end it would matter little, with the Victory overcoming all obstacles put in front of them to cap off another brilliant season.

Biggest in:

Having been very active during the off-season in building their squad ahead of another championship defence, the biggest acquisition for the Victory was the signing of experienced Newcastle Jets defender Gema Simon. She comes across to bolster the Victory’s defensive stocks.

The 32-year-old is a good fit for Jeff Hopkins’ side. She is a player who is creative, dynamic and possesses the ability to transition the ball quickly from defence and break the lines.

She’s also proven throughout her career she’s more than just an attack-minded defender, showing her versatility and proving she can also be effective when deployed further afield as a winger.

Having been a reliable contributor for the Victory during the 2014-15 campaign, the club will be hoping her second stint is as fruitful.

Having registered 93 appearances for the Jets between 2008 until last season in addition to stints the Ottawa Fury, Suwon and Avaldsnes, Simon brings a lot of experience to an already quality side.

While she made just the three appearances with the Jets last season due to injury, Simon will be looking to get back to her best and make an immediate impact for her new, old side.

Biggest out:

Though the club has managed to retain the bulk of its championship winning squad from last season, they will be without one of the top players from the past two seasons in Kyra Cooney-Cross. With nine players departing during the offseason, none leave a bigger void than the 20-year-old.

Playing beyond her years, Cooney-Cross was a dynamic midfielder who could break the lines and create chances, while also having the capability to play deeper as a holding midfielder.

Having registered 28 appearances for the Victory during her two seasons with the club, she registered an impressive 14 goal contributions. Registering either a goal or assist every other game, Cooney-Cross has proven to be one of the most impactful midfielders in the league.

The scorer of the dramatic late winner in the 2021 W-League Grand Final, Cooney-Cross proved during her stint with the Victory that she was a big moments player.

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What to expect:

After taking out the title last season, it’s expected that the Victory will be thereabouts again on their quest to become three-peat A-League Women champions. Following the departures of Courtney Nevin and Cooney-Cross, the Victory could be doing it the hard way again from outside the top two.

Given the success Hopkins had with a 4-3-3 formation in the past two seasons, it will be expected he’ll go back to the well and structure his side in the same shape which has brought them success in the seasons prior.

Defensively the side will welcome back Kayla Morrison from injury, with Claudia Bunge and signees Gema Simon and Jessika Nash expected to come in and replace the outgoing Nevin, Polly Doran and Brooke Hendrix.

Having been stellar last year, being named as the goalkeeper of the season, Casey Dumont will be Hopkin’s number one choice between the sticks again.

Returning back to the victory, Beattie Goad will likely assert herself into the starting line up to replace Cooney-Cross in central midfield, with Hopkins likely to play her as a ball-winning midfielder. Youngster Alana Murphy could be expected to get some minutes in the senior women’s side this season.

With the club retaining its championship winning front three of Catherine Zimmerman, Melina Ayres and Lia Privitelli, they’ll be expected to lead from the front again. Hopkins will also be pleased to have Alex Chidiac return after her brilliant campaign last season.

Starting XI:

The Inner Sanctum’s predicted starting XI for Melbourne Victory. (Design: Will Cuckson)

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