Preview: Women’s A-League Likely To Be The Most Competitive Ever18 Nov, 2022
The 2022/23 A-League Women season kicks off this coming weekend, and it looks like being one of the tightest and most competitive for years.
Whilst Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory are well favoured to make a third successive Grand Final, there are at least four other clubs pushing to make up the qualifiers for the Finals who battle for the silverware come the end of the season. At least two of those four other clubs have realistic hopes of denying Sydney and Victory.
As well as being potentially the closest league for years, for the first time in its history, the competition runs with a full home and away season ahead of the Finals which see the top four finishers battle it out for a place in the Grand Final.
Here’s a team-by-team guide to the season ahead.
Adrian Stenta’s Reds have had back-to-back greatest seasons, culminating by a first ever top four place last season. As ever in South Australia, stability has been key with the Reds keeping the vast majority of their squad including last season’s hot shot English striker Fiona Worts and the defensive shield provided by Izzy Hodgson. A return of home town hero Jenna McCormick, an Australian international after several years in Europe is also a big boost. Adelaide are one of six sides battling for a Finals place. In terms of where they stand in the pecking order, they might miss out on Finals this time round, but will run the top four close.
It was a frustrating season for the Queenslanders last time round. A much changed squad under new head coach Garrath McPherson took a while to gel and then developed an incredible habit of conceding goals in the last 10 minutes which saw them throw away leads – occasionally leads of two or three goals. McPherson has a talented squad at his disposal with Katrina Gorry, one of the key players in the Matildas midfield, and Larissa Crummer back in orange. However, whilst they are likely to be more consistent than last time round, there are teams in the competition this year with greater squad depth. That will mean that Roar will be looking at a potential finish of sixth or seventh.
A new head coach, some good signings, and the retention of their key stars, the competition’s sole club not allied to a men’s A-League side are set for another push for Finals. Head coach Njegosh Popovich welcomes back local icon and all-time leading A-League Women scorer Michelle Heyman and the outrageously talented Grace Maher who is one of the leading corner and free-kick takers outside of Europe. Boosted by Nikki Flannery’s return from long term injury, Canberra are seriously strong up front. They will be one of the six sides pushing for a top four place, I see them possibly just missing out in fifth or sixth.
City hit back last time round from a disappointing 2020/21 campaign and qualified for the Finals in style thanks to the goals of Hannah Wilkinson and Holly McNamara. However a devastating ACL injury to McNamara as the season got to the pointy end was a major blow. Head coach Rado Vidosic has both players in his squad this season but McNamara will not be available for a while. City can point to one of the competition’s top goalkeepers, Melissa Barbieri, entering her 26th year in the game. The arrival of Karly Roestbakken and young international star Bryleeh Henry plus the retention of Emma Checker mean that the Sky Blues are one of the teams to watch this season and they will push for a Grand Final spot by finishing in the top four.
Jeff Hopkins side have won the last two Grand Finals, and are well-placed at another tilt at silverware. Whilst they have lost teenage sensation Kyra Cooney-Cross to Sweden, they still boast a squad with quality and talent all over the pitch. A defence with Claudia Bunge, Gema Simon and Kayla Morrison marshalling it. The outstanding ability of Alex Chidiac in the midfield along with the young gun Paige Zois and iconic Amy Jackson plus a front line with Catherine Zimmerman and Lia Privitelli has threats everywhere. There are arguably other teams who have greater fire power and strength in depth, but Victory will be red hot favourites to finish top four.
Perennial underachievers whose results never match their ability in matches, this season is likely to be no different for Ash Wilson’s side. They have retained their core of locally produced players who have turned down the chance of a contract at some of the league’s bigger sides to remain in Newcastle. The capture of former Australian international Teigen Allen is vital – she will be needed to help her team step up. Up front, there is the threat of Tara Andrews and Lauren Allen, but the depth isn’t there and with the other sides significantly stronger this season, the Jets will most likely spend the season in the bottom two.
Head coach Alex Epakis has assembled the strongest squad since the Western Australians last made the Grand Final in 2019. It is arguably a stronger side in depth than when Sam Kerr was leading her home town team in the competition. Perth have some of the country’s hottest young talent in their squad. Sofia Sakalis, Bella Wallhead, Claudia Mihocic, Alana Jancevski, Abbey Green, and Hana Lowry are all players than any other team in the competition would love to have. With Cyera Hintzen back from the USA up front along with new arrival Rylee Baisden, Perth Glory are set for an exciting season. It’s not just up front that the Western Australians are strong. They boast a defence with the experience of Tash Rigby, Kim Carroll and Liz Anton. Perth will be a real handful this year and look well placed to return to finals football after three lean years. Potentially, they will push hard for silverware once they get there.
They’ve lost the last three Grand Finals, but this time round it could be very different. Head coach Ante Juric has assembled arguably the competition’s strongest squad with quality wherever you look. Jada Whyman in goal is developing into an international of the future, a defence of Deborah-Ann de la Harpe, Charlotte Mclean and Nat Tobin is scarily strong. Then throw in the best midfield that the A-League Women has to offer in Mackenzie Hawkesby’s surging runs, the creativity of Charlize Rule and Sarah Hunter, plus the league’s outstanding player, Cortnee Vine surging along the wing to supply the likes of Princess Ibini and Remy Siemsen up front and you have potential champions. The Harbour City side are determined to make up for recent disappointments. This could be their year.
After not being able to play a single home match last season, their inaugural campaign, due to COVID border restrictions in New Zealand, the Phoenix fielded an extremely young squad who got better by the week last season and played with such freedom and creativity, they were a joy to watch. Those youngsters have been mostly retained – crucially in the shape of Kate Taylor, Alyssa Whinham, Chloe Knott, and Zoe McMeeken who were superb last time round. Wellington have been able to add the experience of senior New Zealand internationals Betsy Hassett and Paige Satchell to their squad along with the retention of Lily Alfeld in goal, and the Nix are going to have a good campaign. They are in contention for a top eight spot.
WESTERN SYDNEY WANDERERS
Last time round, a reasonable season completely fell apart into disaster after key defender Clare Hunt suffered a season ending injury. Wanderers had a terrible second half of the season, and at the present time, the new campaign does not look like being much better. Hunt is back and available for Western Sydney, but she needs more of her ilk around her and with Bryleeh Henry departing for Melbourne City, their attacking options are diminished. The club can point to the arrival of Tess Boade who scored two goals in five games in midfield for North Carolina Courage in the NWSL. They also have arguably the country’s best Academy, but Boade and talented youngsters Ella Abdul Massih and Sienna Saveska will have their work cut out to drive the team on. Whilst Wanderers have belatedly brought in Angelique Hristodoulou and Lauren Weir, anything other than finishing in the bottom two will be a huge achievement.
The competition’s newest team have put together an impressive looking squad for their inaugural campaign. Based out in the far west of Melbourne, the club have formed a long term alliance with leading Victorian women’s team Calder United and have appointed that side’s head coach Mark Torcaso as their own chief. Torcaso has brought in some of Calder’s top players such as Adriana and Melissa Taranto, Harriet Withers and Aleks Sinclair. However, on top of this, Western United have also brought in experienced Australian international Chloe Logarzo, who has played in the WSL and NWSL to lead their midfield and the arrival of USWNT striker Jess McDonald, who played in the 2019 World Cup, plus Francesca Iermano and Tyla-Jay Vlajnic mark this out as some side. United won’t struggle this season, they will be comfortably pushing for the top eight.