A-League Women 2021/22: How is your side doing at half time?

Some of the standout players from the first half of the competition. Cortnee Vine, Jessie Rasschaert, Hannah Wilkinson, and Lily Alfeld.

We are technically at the halfway point of the A-League Women 2021/22 season, even though the number of games played for each team is uneven due to COVID-19 related postponements.

The Inner Sanctum has looked at each team to evaluate their season so far (above expectations, as expected or below expectations), who the standout players have been, and what can be expected of them in the second half of the season.

Sydney FC

Points: 19 (6-1-0)

Standout players: Cortnee Vine, Remy Siemsen, Mackenzie Hawkesby

The Inner Sanctum TOTW appearances: 15

Evaluation: As expected

Starting off the A-League Women’s season undefeated, Sydney FC is in a dominant position. Scoring a whopping 23 goals while only conceding one, the three standout players identified by The Inner Sanctum have scored 14 of those goals.

Cortnee Vine and Remy Siemsen have been rewarded for their strong seasons with Sydney FC with a call-up into the Matildas squad for the Asian Cup. Taylor Ray was supposed to join them until testing positive for COVID-19 ruled her out.

A strong first half of the season should set Sydney up for an even better second half, eyeing a second straight league title. With Paige Satchell and María José Rojas stepping up to take over from Vine and Siemsen until they return, Sydney FC is the team to beat this season.

Melbourne City

Points: 15 (5-0-1)

Standout players: Hannah Wilkinson, Holly McNamara, Melissa Barbieri

The Inner Sanctum TOTW appearances: 14

Evaluation: Above expectations

After a disappointing season in which they missed the finals for the first time, City have bounced back in a big way with some key off-season recruits, including Hannah Wilkinson and Holly McNamara.

An injury to keeper Sally James has not slowed the team down either, with veteran Melissa Barbieri coming up massive in goals.

The absence of McNamara during the Asian Cup could hurt the team a little in the back half of the season, but Melbourne City has a bit of depth that can step up and bring something to the team, even if it is not a like-for-like replacement.

The key matches for City will be both games against Sydney FC. A loss in either of those two would be disastrous for City’s chances at silverware during the regular season.

Melbourne Victory

Points: 12 (4-0-2)

Standout players: Polly Doran, Claudia Bunge, Alex Chidiac

The Inner Sanctum TOTW appearances: 12

Evaluation: Below expectations

Last season’s grand final winners somehow managed to make their already strong squad stronger, bringing in the likes of Alex Chidiac and Lynn Williams (on a short-term deal).

Melbourne was expected to be competing neck and neck with Sydney FC, but instead, has fallen into third place with a seven-point gap between two sides.

With Williams’ short-term deal expiring, as well as losing Kyra-Cooney Cross and Courtney Nevin for an extended period due to the Asian Cup, it could be a rough second half of the season for Melbourne Victory.

The biggest match-up of the second half of the season will come on January 25 against Sydney FC. A win there and Victory can put a massive dent in the gap. A loss and it will be nearly impossible to close it down.

Victory should still make the finals, but they might have to do it on the road again this year if they want to repeat last season’s success.

Adelaide United

Points: 9 (3-0-3)

Standout players: Chelsie Dawber, Fiona Worts, Matilda McNamara

The Inner Sanctum TOTW appearances: Eight

Evaluation: As expected

After narrowly missing the finals last season, Adelaide rounds out the top four as it currently stands at the halfway point.

The return of Dylan Holmes for the second half of the season is massive, and with Chelsie Dawber and Matilda McNamara having great seasons, they should be able to remain in a finals spot.

This is especially given that Adelaide is the only team currently inside the top four that have not been impacted by a Matildas call-up.

The Reds play most of their remaining games against teams currently below them in the table. Their biggest fixture comes in what is currently scheduled to be their third last game against Melbourne Victory. A win there would be massive to ensuring that place inside the top four and playing finals football. 

Newcastle Jets

Points: 8 (2-2-1)

Standout players: Emily Van Egmond, Elizabeth Eddy, Tara Andrews

The Inner Sanctum TOTW appearances: Three

Evaluation: Above expectations

Finishing near the bottom of the table last season, Newcastle has already matched its win total and exceeded its points total from last season in only five games.

Some good recruiting to cover some key off-season losses has helped Newcastle sit just outside the top four with games in hand.

Elizabeth Eddy has stood out for Newcastle as a key player in the squad who will be integral to any success Newcastle might have this season, especially with the departure of Emily Van Egmond to the Matildas camp.

A mix of games against opposition at both the top and bottom ends of the table could make for an interesting back half of the season for Newcastle. If the Jets can go on a good run, they may be able to sneak inside the top four and secure finals football.

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Perth Glory

Points: 8 (2-2-2)

Standout players: Hana Lowry, Kim Carroll

The Inner Sanctum TOTW appearances: Four

Evaluation: Above expectations

After finishing in last place with only a single point last season, the only place to go was up for the Glory.

Some smart off-season recruiting, both early on and throughout the year, has been key for Perth and its success on the field this season. This could potentially be for seasons to come if coach Alex Epakis can keep the core of this playing squad together.

The unfortunate thing for the Glory this season, much like last season, is Western Australia’s COVID-related restrictions.

They will spend the remainder of the season on the road, playing home games out of neutral venues to finish out the season. Much like Newcastle, they have a mixed schedule for the remainder on the season, and a good run with some upsets could see them make a late push for a remarkable final’s appearance.

Brisbane Roar

Points: 7 (2-1-4)

Standout players: Jessie Rasschaert, Katrina Gorry

The Inner Sanctum TOTW appearances: Eight

Evaluation: Below expectations

Making the finals last season and dealing with some key departures including Emily Gielnik and Tameka Yallop, it was always going to be tough for Brisbane to replicate last season’s form.

Regardless, the side has been disappointing, only managing to pick up wins against a Melbourne Victory side that was leading 2-1 before Kyra-Cooney Cross was given a straight red card, and a late comeback against the Wellington Phoenix.

There have been some positives coming out of the first half of the season, with strong performances from Rasschaert in defence and Gorry in the middle of the park.

A strong schedule in the second half of the season with two games against both Melbourne City and the Newcastle Jets, as well as single games against Adelaide and Sydney, could see Brisbane struggle to make a late season run and will likely miss the finals.

Western Sydney Wanderers

Points: 6 (1-3-2)

Standout players: Libby Copus-Brown, Malia Steinmetz

The Inner Sanctum TOTW appearances: Seven

Evaluation: As expected

The Western Sydney Wanderers have not had a lot of success in the A-League Women competition in recent years, and this season has unfortunately been no different for the red and black.

Current coach Catherine Cannuli is in her first season as head coach after spending several years as an assistant following the departure of Dean Heffernan.

It looks like they will spend another year without finals football, with a strong schedule to finish the season off, which will be disappointing to a very loyal fanbase who expect more from their team. They play Melbourne City twice, with games against Melbourne Victory and Adelaide United as well.

Canberra United

Points: 2 (0-2-4)

Standout players: Grace Maher, Emma Ilijoski, Keeley Richards

The Inner Sanctum TOTW appearances: Two

Evaluation: Below expectations

After a finals appearance last season where they ran into a very hot Sydney side, Vicki Linton’s squad were expected to be competing again near the top of the table. With some good recruitment, the failure to do so has been very disappointing for Canberra.

COVID-19 related absences have played their part, and it has been tough to replace those players missing from the line-up. The shuffling around of players to cover those absences has left the side without cohesion, as well as the constant changing between a back three and a back four.

Keeley Richards stands out for Canberra as some fantastic individual performances by the keeper have secured Canberra two draws this season.  

The only saving grace for Canberra from a fixture perspective is that it only plays one team inside the top four once for the remainder of their season.

A mid-table finish would be a good result for Canberra, given where things currently sit. Pencil in the fixture against Wellington as a match that could very well decide who takes home the wooden spoon.

Wellington Phoenix

Points: 1 (0-1-6)

Standout players: Lily Alfeld, Alyssa Whinham

The Inner Sanctum TOTW appearances: Four

Evaluation: As expected

Very few people expected Wellington to have on-field success this season, given how quickly the team was put together for their first season of A-League Women’s football. Add to this the fact that they are spending the entire season on the road, and boasting a very young squad.

Despite all this, as a team they look fantastic, and are really building something special for the future.

As captain, Lily Alfeld is leading by example and rallying her team to never give up in any match.

It’s clear to see just how good of a team unit they are when they score a rare goal, all getting in on the celebration and knowing just how special the moment is for not only each player, but the entire team.

Wellington’s most important game of the season in the second half of the campaign will come against Canberra United, as that could be the match where they pick up their first win.

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