Dylan Homes (left) and Adelaide United Captain Isabel Hodgson celebrating a win against Wellington in season 2021/22. (Image: Dylan Holmes)

A-League Women season 2021/22 was a big success for multiple reasons for Adelaide United. The overwhelming triumph was that the club, after 14 years of disappointment along with a couple of extremely close calls, finally earned the right to appear in finals football.

Unfortunately for the Reds, a spectacular Nanako Sasaki free kick was not enough to prevent them from falling in a semi-final to eventual champions Melbourne Victory, a vastly experienced side.

Despite the disappointment the big day had in store for her side, Adelaide United midfielder Dylan Holmes reflects on it as a learning experience.

“For us, we’ve learned from it,” Holmes stated at the A-League Women season launch.

“I think the final that we lost last year, we mainly lost due to a lack of experience in those types of games that Victory had.”

Holmes is confident that her side will be more mentally prepared to attack the 2022/23 season partly due to its newfound belief in being able to get the job done on any given day. She said after years of struggling for consistency, the last couple of seasons of success has given Adelaide United the confidence to show up to games, “expecting to win.”

Along with that mentality, a huge advantage the Reds have over some of the other squads in the competition is that the majority of their squad has been retained. This will see talented players like Holmes, Chelsie Dawber, Fiona Worts, Emily Condon, and Isabel and Emily Hodgson resume playing in an environment where success has been built on the back of a high level of chemistry.

“The core group of this team has been together for three or four years now. We are getting to the point that we have some really good experience under our belt,” Holmes said.

“A lot of us have made the move to Europe or the US and have come back with some new experiences. So I think retaining that core group, we know exactly how each other plays, that chemistry is already there and we want to work for each other as well.”

The two significant off-season losses in Adelaide’s side both come at centre back, with the freshly-capped Matilda McNamara and Kayla Sharples leaving a gaping hole in defence.

In the past, this issue may have not been adequately addressed by an operation running on a shoestring budget, but Holmes was full of praise for her club and its ever-increasing investment towards its women’s side.

In search of defensive cover, the Reds signed South Australian-born defender Jenna McCormick and Maruschka Waldus, both former players and the latter a club Player of the Season winner.

Despite losing two reliable teammates, Holmes is excited to see familiar faces return to Adelaide which in her eyes is further confirmation the club is trending in the right direction.

“The club has invested in the squad more so than any other year,” Holmes shared.

“Losing Matilda (McNamara), a local Adelaide girl, is a huge loss for us, but in saying that the club has done really well to bring another South Australian girl in Jenna (McCormick). Maruschka (Waldus) was with us a couple of years ago and she really wanted to come back after her stint at PSV.

“It’s awesome that the club is able to recruit these girls, but it is also awesome that they want to come back and be a part of what we are doing at Adelaide United.”

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When quizzed about her side’s expectations for the new season Holmes pulled no punches, her attitude showing that the tag of perennial league cellar dwellers is something that will remain in the past for Adelaide.

“For the club, our expectations are finals at a minimum,” she said.

“They’ve recruited really well; this is the strongest team I’ve been a part of I think at Adelaide United so there’s a genuine belief that we can win the whole thing.”

The Reds kick off their season at Service FM Stadium on Sunday and will be taking on back-to-back Grand Finalists Sydney FC. A potential win at home is sure to be a show of quality and a statement of intent by Adrian Stenta’s side.

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