W-League season preview 2020-2021

Credit: wleague.com.au

Can Sydney FC prove that they can do it all again or will it be a season to remember for another club? The W-League is back.

Adelaide United

Last Season’s Result: 8th

What to Expect This Season: 

United are the only team since the inception of the W-league to have failed to finish in a top four position, meaning they have never tasted finals football. In 2020/21 the Reds will no doubt be looking to put an end to the drought and with other sides struggling to adapt to a covid-affected season, this might be their best chance yet. 

Last year’s top scorer Mallory Weber has rejoined the squad, again on loan from US outfit Utah Royals. Teenager Mary Fowler has departed for France, leaving room for NPL golden boot winner Chelsea Dawber to attempt to establish herself in the Reds pecking order up front. Chilean international Cote Rojas also joins the squad and her experience will no doubt be pivotal in the Lady Reds pursuit of a top four finish. 

United will miss experienced defender Amber Brooks as she departs for OL Reign after being a mainstay in the Reds starting 11 for the past two campaigns. The Reds have also lost the services of goalkeeper Sarah Willacy who has made the move to W-League rivals Western Sydney Wanderers. These two along with Fowler are the only main departures that manager Adrian Stenta will have to contend with which is definitely something other teams will envy, with a number of departures across the league. The Reds face defending champions Melbourne City twice however also take on the Newcastle Jets multiple times, the only team to finish below them last time around. 

Key Ins: Sian Fryer-McLaren, Annalee Grove, Meleri Mullan,Cote Rojas

Key outs: Sarah Willacy, Mary Fowler, Amber Brooks

Ben Lennon

Brisbane Roar

Last Season’s Result: 5th

What to Expect This Season: After a slow opening to the 2019/20 campaign, the Queenslanders struggled to recover and came up just short of the top four for only the third time in their 12-year history. The two-time champions and three-time premiers have never missed the finals in consecutive years so a strong start to the 2020/21 season is essential. 

Returning fan favourite and ex-Bayern Munich star Emily Gielnik is set to make her first appearance in Roar colours since the 2017/18 campaign. Gielnik is only one of five players in the Roar squad with Matilda’s experience, and one of six to have represented their country at the top level, with New Zealand international Olivia Chance earning her shot in the W-League. 

The Roar have also added some homegrown talent to its squad with midfielder Rebekah Horsey signing from Canberra United. Horsey is coming off the back of a strong campaign after finding success with Mitchelton FC in the NPL QLD. 

With coach Jake Goodship adding the likes of Kim Carroll to bolster defensive leadership and Emily Gielnik as a goal scoring threat, don’t expect the Roar to miss out on finals again.

Key Ins: Rosie Sutton, Emily Gielnik, Kim Carroll, Morgan Aquino, Leticia McKenna, Mariel Hecher, Billie Murphy, Sharn Freir, Olivia Chance, Rebekah Horsey

Key outs: Natalie Tathem (Melbourne Victory), Indiah-Paige Riley (Fortuna Hjørring), Hollie Palmer (Melbourne City)

Tom Lusk

Canberra United

Last Season’s Result: 6th

What to Expect This Season:

Canberra started the 2019/20 season comfortably before a string of horror 4-0 losses ruled them out of finals contention in a few weeks they would rather forget. With the addition of both young and old faces, as well as plenty of leadership, they’ll be looking to put up a more consistent campaign.

The losses of young gun Karly Roestbakken to Norwegian team LSK Kvinner and Nikola Orgill to the Western Sydney Wanderers has the potential to leave large gaps in their defence, an area in which they already struggled in their previous season.

Canberra’s new additions have addressed exactly this, however. These include their new captain, Kendall Fletcher, as well as vice-captains Michelle Heyman and Grace Maher. All three are returning from stints at other clubs, having previously played for Canberra.

Fletcher has previously played 34 games for Canberra as a defender, as well as making W-League appearances for Melbourne Victory and the Western Sydney Wanderers. She also played one game for the United States national team in 2009.

The addition of both youth and returning experience should see Canberra a more consistent unit in 2020/21. The targeting of primarily defensive players should help the side immensely, though they will still need to find a way to goal.

Key Ins: Paige Satchell, Kendall Fletcher, Grace Maher, Nicki Flannery, Jessika Nash, Clare Hunt, Michelle Heyman, Emma Ilijoski, Sasha Grove

Key Outs: Karly Roestbakken, Nikola Orgill, Taren King

Alex Catalano

Melbourne City

Last Season’s Result: Premiers

What to Expect This Season: 

City dominated the Westfield WLeague in season 2019-20 winning its inaugural title, although this year may prove to be a bit more difficult for Rado Vidisic’s side.

Every player who started the 2019-20 Grand Final for City against Sydney FC has now left the club meaning this season will be all about developing synergy and chemistry with a new look City outfit. 

Although all the premiership players have moved along, City have signed Matildas third-choice keeper Teagan Micah who will take over the gloves from Lydia Williams who left for Arsenal in July last year. 

The losses of Ellie Carpenter, Rebekah Stott, Yukari Kinga, Emily van Egmond and Kyah Simon will fill a big whole for City but a finals appearance with a totally different outfit will be something worth celebrating.

Key Ins: Teagan Micah, Jenna McCormick, Samantha Johnson, Hollie Palmer

Key outs: Lydia Williams, Steph Catley, Ellie Carpenter, Lauren Barnes, Emily van Egmond, Aivi Luik, Yukari Kinga, Claire Emslie, Milica Mijatovic, Kyah Simon

James Strebinos

Melbourne Victory

Last Season’s Result: 2nd (Lost semi-final to Sydney FC)

What to Expect This Season:

Victory will have spent the off-season seething after defeat at the hands of rivals Sydney FC in last year’s semi-final. As is the case with many sides across the W-League, there has been a high turnover of players at Victory and a more youthful team will take the field in season 2020/21. 

The loss of Grace Maher will no doubt be a difficult one to stomach for supporters as the number 10 heads across to Canberra, however the acquisition of Kyra Cooney-Cross will give fans a sense of relief. The teenager led the Wanderers to their first finals campaign last season and with Maher’s departure, manager Jeff Hopkins will be looking to Cooney-Cross to create out of that central midfield position. 

Victory had the third best defence in the league last season, conceding only 14 goals, that defence however will look completely different this campaign with the starting back three of the semi-final all moving on to different clubs. The club have moved quickly to replace the players headed for the exit door, however with only a twelve game season, the new look defence will not have much time to gel before we arrive at the pointy end of the campaign. 

Veteran forward Lisa De Vanna returns to the Victory and will bring a wealth of experience to share with this new-look young side. One of the most consistently high-finishing clubs in the league, Victory are a proud side and are poised for yet another successful campaign, albeit without a few familiar faces. 

Key Ins: Gaby Garton, Claudia Bunge, Kayla Morrison, Kyra Cooney-Cross, Lisa De Vanna, Catherine Zimmerman

Key outs: Laura Brock, Jenna McCormick, Emily Menges, Grace Maher, Hayley Hanson, Natasha Dowie, Darian Jenkins

Ben Lennon

Newcastle Jets

Last Season’s Result: Last 

What to Expect This Season: The goal is simple for the Newcastle Jets – move up the ladder. The Hunter-based club is coming off the back of a third wooden spoon – the sign simply struggles to find the back of the net to remain competitive. While the club does not have any players on international visas, the situation with COVID-19 has meant neither do a host of other clubs. Could a global pandemic help elevate the Jets?

Manager Ashley Wilson still has her work cut out however the squad remains relatively unchanged. The combinations on the pitch appear to be building with a host of players plying their trade together for the Jets and at NPL level. One of the biggest question marks on this season is if the familiarity will pay off or will it be another tough season for the Novocastrians?

The Jets have already claimed a major pre-season scalp after beating Sydney FC. Is it a sign that the Jets is about to be one of the league’s ‘under the radar’ contenders? 

Key ins: Sunny Franco, Sophie Harding, Taren King, Tiana Jaber and Chloe O’Brien

Outs: Nicky Flannery, Libby Copus-Brown, Teigan Collister and Clare Wheeler

Joshua Wells

Perth Glory 

Last Season’s Result: 7th

What to Expect This Season:

Highly regarded coach Alexander Epakis steps into the managerial position at Glory after winning three consecutive  NPL Premierships with Sydney University. The squad that welcomes him is very different from the side that saw Perth finish in seventh position last campaign, a disappointing finish considering their grand final appearance the season prior. 

A host of changes have come with the 2020/21 season, but the Glory have managed to retain the services of captain Natasha Rigby. The defender, who last season took her Glory appearances past 50, has been a mainstay of the Glory defence for a number of years and will look to steer the new-look Glory towards a top four finish.

Rigby is one of many home-grown talents littered through the squad, something that Glory fans will no doubt be thrilled about. The signings of Deborah-Anne de la Harpe and Sarah Morgan are also noteworthy, both representing Australia at various junior levels. Perth have also managed to secure the services of a trio of New Zealand internationals in Lily Alfeld, Elizabeth Anton and Malia Steinmetz, with all very likely to feature heavily in season 20/21.

The draw has been favourable to Perth with the Glory only having one of last year’s top four multiple times. Change is rife at the Glory but a side rife with local talent as well as a number of quality imports, their eyes will be firmly set on finals football. 

Key Ins: Lily Alfeld, Malia Steinmetz, Marianna Tabain, Deborah-Anne de la Harpe, Liz Anton, Sarah Morgan

Key outs: Kim Carroll, Eliza Campbell, Celia Jimenez Delgado, Leticia McKenna, Crystal Thomas, Shannon May

Ben Lennon

Sydney FC

Last Season’s Result: 2nd, lost grand final to Melbourne City

What to Expect This Season: A solid season for Sydney FC saw them finish in second place on the ladder. There were ups and downs along the way, and while Melbourne City deserved to win the competition, the grand final was evenly matched and a goalkeeping error from Lydia Williams was in the end what cost them the W-League grand final. Ante Juric is still coach this season, heading into his fourth season with the sky blues. He has often deployed a 4-2-3-1 formation, a fluid, counter attacking system which focuses on the striker holding the ball up, the playmaker attacking space and the full-backs overlapping when possible. Sydney have managed to retain W-League golden boot winner Remy Siemsen for their new campaign, while captain Teresa Polias, Ellie Brush, Angelique Hristodoulou, Princess Ibini and Liz Ralston make up important resignings for the club. With Sydney losing some big names during the season in Caitlin Foord, Chloe Logarzo, Alannah Kennedy and Lydia Williams, they will turn to youth to steer them on into a fourth consecutive grand final. 

Key Ins: Rachel Lowe, Jada Mathyssen-Whyman, Charlotte McLean, Charlize Rule, Cortnee Vince, Clare Wheeler, Allira Toby, Katie Offer

Key outs: Alannah Kenedy, Chloe Logarzo, Lydia Williams, Caitlin Foord

Jack George

Western Sydney Wanderers 

Last Season’s Result: 4th, lost semi-final to Melbourne City

What to Expect This Season: Western Sydney Wanderers had a solid 2019/20 campaign, finishing in fourth position, in the finals, five points ahead of fifth placed Brisbane Roar. But the Wanderers were let down by the inconsistency of their results; thrashing local rivals Sydney FC 5-0 but then losing to them 3-0, and beating Canberra United 4-0 before losing to Brisbane by the same scoreline within a week. The Wanderers will be looking for more consistency throughout this season, but are certainly one to keep an eye on. No matter the score, you know when watching this side it is going to be an open, attacking game, one that is brilliant for the neutral. 

Key Ins: Teigan Collister, Sarah Willacy, Libby Copus-Brown, Margaux Chauvet, Nikola Orgill, Bryleeh Henry, Aideen Keane, Isabel Gomez, Sarah Hunder, Julie-Ann Russel

Key outs: Jada Mathyssen-Whyman, Cortnee Vine, Rachel Lowe, Tiana Jaber

Jack George

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