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The Week in Women's Football: A-League preview (Part I) - imports flood in; but are all top drawer?

This week, we present part one of our annual 2023/24 Australian A-League Women Preview. We will highlight the teams in order of their regular season finish in 2022/23, looking at new signings, departures and other news. This week we review Sydney FC, Western United, Melbourne City, Melbourne Victory, Canberra United and Perth Glory.

Next week, we review Adelaide United, Brisbane Roar, Newcastle Jets, Western Sydney Wanderers, Wellington Phoenix and expansion side Central Coast Mariners, as well as the rosters and results from New Zealand's and Australia's internationals during the recent September international window and for the latter's upcoming Women's Olympic Qualifiers for Asia.

Australia A-League Women Preview for 2023/24—Part 1

The A-League Women celebrates its 16th season in 2023/24 with the league at its largest number of clubs ever with 12, as Central Coast Mariners rejoins the league, after a 14 season gap. This week, we review the top six finishers from the a-League Women 2022/23 regular season, with the top four making the playoffs: Sydney FC, Western United, Melbourne City, Melbourne Victory, Canberra United and Perth Glory. This season, with the league at an all-time high of 12 teams, six clubs will make the expanded playoffs for the first time, up from the previous four in all of the previous 15 years of the league.

Sydney FC (13-1-4 W-T-D for 40 points—First)

An impactful signing for the reigning League Champions and Premiership (regular season winners) for the 2023/24 season was English native Fiona Worts (27) from Adelaide United, where she spent three seasons and won the Golden Boot with 13 goals and the Julie Dolan Medal as the Player of the Year, while working part-time at McDonalds. She tallied only three goals in 15 games last season as Adelaide fell off from their first ever playoff season in 2021/22; Forts should help replace the goals of long-time Sydney FC forward and Australian international Remy Siemson, who played a few games for the Sky Blues last season (with two goals in four games) between stints in Sweden with AIK Stockholm and Leicester City of England's WSL. Besides Siemsen, the reigning champions have lost four key players to European clubs: Charlie Rule and Mackenzie Hawkesby—both to Brighton & Hove Albion in England—Sarah Hunter to Paris FC in France and Deborah-Anne De La Harpe to Denmark's HB Koge, who plays internationally for Ireland.

Other departures were American forward Rola Badawiya (25--ex-California Baptist University and who scored five goals in 17 games for North West Sydney Spirit FC in the State League this season) and Australian youth international Shadeene Evans (22), who both moved up the road to join the Central Coast Mariners, while Rachel Lowe—who played at UCLA and had one cap with the Matildas in 2018—leaves after three seasons with the Sky Blues for Melbourne Victory, while New Zealand international defender Anna Green (33) retired; she also played in Germany, England and Sweden and was a late miss for the 2023 WWC Finals side.

New signings include Lucy Johnson from Newcastle and Margaux Chauvet—who was born in Ivory Coast and is of French heritage, has played for Australia at the youth level and at KR in Iceland in 2022--joins from Western Sydney, where she last played in 2021/22. Aideen Keane arrives from Perth and Tori Tumeth joins from Melbourne City, American forward Shea Connors has signed after having an impact two seasons with Brisbane Roar and Sienna Saveska crosses over from Western Sydney.

Coming back are extremely talented goalkeeper Jada Whyman, Tiegan Collister, Natalie Tobin, Princess Ibini and WWC 2023 Finalists hero Cortnee Vine, who is only one of two A-League Women-based players from the 2023 Matildas' FIFA Women's World Cup squad, with the other being Clare Hunt of cross-town rival Western Sydney but she has moved to Paris St. Germain in France. (A number of experienced Matildas have returned to the A-League Women after stints abroad, including Kyah Simon at Central Coast Mariners, Tameka Yallop with Brisbane Roar along with Lydia Williams and Emily Gielnik at Melbourne Victory.)

Vine (25) scored the winning penalty in the dramatic penalty shoot-out quarterfinal against France. She has always been loyal to the A-League and felt that it was crucial in her success to making the Matildas squad for this summer. Ahead of the coming season, she said: "I'm excited and thrilled to be staying with Sydney FC and playing in the Liberty A-League for next season. I can feel the Women's World Cup has ignited a real passion for the women's game in this country and given it real momentum. We are heading into an exciting new era for Australian football and I'm incredibly happy to be a part of it."

She has won the last three Premierships and one league title for Sydney; in 2022/23 she scored seven goals with eight assists and has 20 goals in three seasons with the club.

Anton Juric's side has made the Grand Final in all of his previous six seasons as head coach, winning the title twice; he is a veteran coach who, with Vine, Ibini and Whyman as core leaders, will certainly be a force in the league again. Sydney FC may not win the Premiership this season for the sixth time but will certainly be in the playoffs again, having never missed the postseason in the league's 15 campaigns.

Western United (13-0-5—39 points—Second)

Western United, the Grand Final runners-up in their first season, signed some important players from other domestic teams and internationally for 2023/24. Midfielder Grace Maher arrives from Canberra and American forward Cat Zimmerman moves over from Melbourne Victory.

Guyana international Sydney Cummins is not returning this season and has signed with Celtic of Scotland this fall, after being a replacement player for the NWSL's San Diego Wave in 2022, while Angie Beard—who was a huge signing by Philippines ahead of this summer's Women's World Cup—moved to Linkoping FC in Sweden after spending time with Western last season, four previous seasons at Melbourne Victory and three with the Brisbane Roar—she also played with KR in Iceland and Fortuna Hjorring in Denmark

The club resigned a number of players from last season, including Emma Robers Stacy Papakopoulous, Julia Sardo, Jackie Sawicki—who captained the Philippines this summer at the WWC—and TJ Vlajnic, who grew up in Australia but has played for Serbia since 2020. She played for seven seasons for Melbourne City and on loan with the WPSL Seattle Sounders in 2017 and Spartak Subotica n Serbia in 2022.

Mark Torcaso, who was named as league coach of the year last season, is back for his second season as head coach with another job, as he was named as Philippines WNT head coach just after they were eliminated in the group stage, replacing fellow Aussie Alen Stajcic after the team gained three points from three games in their first finals (see: The Week in Women's Football: Rubiales & Pauw chaos - but Boquete can calm it down; WWC ratings impact - Tribal Football).

Melbourne City (9-3-6—30 points—Third Place)

Melbourne City have re-signed the club's all-time women's leading goal scorer, New Zealand international Hannah Wilkinson, for the 2023-24 Liberty A-League season. She has also played in the U.S. and in Germany, Portugal and Sweden and said: "Playing with City is my favorite kind of football and I get so much joy out of playing with this team. We play a really nice brand of football here and it's a great team to play as a striker in, with so much service from the quality players further up the pitch. The World Cup was an absolute dream [she scored New Zealand's only goal in the tournament's opening game to upset Norway 1-0 in Auckland]. Women's football is only going to get bigger and bigger off the back of it, which is great for the A-Leagues. There are so many young girls who are now interested in women's football, which is great to see, and we hope to have more support than ever this season."

Wilkinson scored six goals in 14 matches last season as City reached the Elimination Final; she scored 14 in her first campaign with the club in 2021/22.

A new signing who was on Canada's WWC side this summer that faced Australia in their first round group is Lysianne Prouix (24), who signed a two year contract and made 17 appearances last season for SCU Torreense in Portugal. She has not yet been capped by Canada at the senior level but played at two FIFA U-17 and one U-20 WWC Finals.

Another new signing is Australian youth international Laura Hughes (22), who arrives from Canberra, where she played for six seasons and spent 2020 with Throttur in Iceland.

2019 WWC Finals Australian international defender Carly Roestbakken (22) came home from LSK Kvinner of Norway last season to boost her chances of making a second consecutive WWV Finals squad, which did not work out as she planned as she was not selected for the final 23. She debuted for Canberra Unites as a 15-year-old and has seven full caps. She will miss the start of the season with a foot injury.

The club also re-signed Holly McNamara, Rhianna Pollicina, Leah Davidson, Julia Grosso, Leticia McKenna, Daniela Galic and Naomi Chinnama. Their former midfielder and New Zealand 2023 WWC player Rebekah Stott (Brighton and Hove Albion) also returned after having recovered from cancer (see: The Week in Women's Football: World Cup Groups review; Benfica enter Gotham partnership; NWSL check - Tribal Football).

Outbound after last season were Sally James who left for Perth Glory, Emma Checker is bound for Melbourne Victory, Chelsea Blissett joined Brisbane Roar, Toni Tumeth went to Syndey FC and Chilean international Maria Rojas moved to Canberra.

New Zealand international defender Katie Bowen has also left the club for a high profile move to Italian Serie A giants Internazionale of Milan. Bowen (29) joins Inter on a one-year deal until June 30 2024, with an option to extend it for another season. Bowen spent one season at Melbourne City, making 18 appearances with one assist in the 20222/3 campaign. She played every minute in the 2023 WWC's three games, which was her fourth WWC Finals. Bowen had previously spent time in the USA with the North Carolina Courage, Kansas City Current and FC Kansas City/Utah Royals.

Head Coach Dario Vidosic is back for his sixth season and has made the playoffs in three of his five campaigns and won the Premiership and Grand Final in 2019/20.

Melbourne Victory (7-8-3—29 points—tied for Fourth)

A huge signing for the 2022-23 Grand Final runners-up is Matildas goalkeeper Lydia Williams (35), who returns home from the WSL; she played last season with Paris St. Germain in France and Brighton and Hove Albion in England. She also played with Arsenal, Melbourne City, in the NWSL, its predecessor the WPS, and in Sweden. Williams has made 120 appearances in the A-League Women's competition, winning four Championships—three with Melbourne City and one with Canberra United—and winning the league's Goalkeeper of the Year award four times. The goalkeeper has also made over 100 appearances for the Matildas, representing her country at five World Cups and two Olympic Games in her illustrious career.

Williams will replace long-time Victory goalkeeper Casey Dumont, who was allowed to play for Melbourne-based Hawthorns in the AFL-W (Aussie Rules Football code) in the off-season, but extended her contract with the AFL-W side. Dumont (31) joined the Victory in 2017 and won four league titles and three Premierships—two of each with the Victory and two league titles and one Premiership with the Brisbane Roar, all with head coach Jeff Hopkins.

Casey Dumont in the uniform of AFL-W Club Hawthorns of Melbourne, changing uniforms and football type after a stellar career with Melbourne Victory of the A-League Women. Photo courtesy of Central

Emily Gielnik joined the Victory from English Women's Super League side Aston Villa, where she made 24 appearances and scored three times last season. Gielnik has also made 109 A-League Women's appearances, scoring 46 goals. Gielnik returns for her second stint at Victory after winning the 2018/19 Premiership title, and has represented her country 54 times, including the 2020 Olympic Games and the 2019 Women's World Cup. Victory head coach Jeff Hopkins said: "We're incredibly excited to have Emily back at Melbourne Victory. It's wonderful to have a player of her calibre return to the league and join our squad for the upcoming season and we know she will be an important contributor with her experience and guile in front of goal. Her career at domestic and international level speaks for itself and we're looking forward to seeing what she can produce back in the A-League Women's competition."

Japanese forward Kurea Okino (24), has signed for the 2023/24 Liberty A-League season from Victorian NPLW team Boroondara Eagles, having previously played professionally in Japan for Vegalta Sendai and Tokiwagi Gakuen. Okino has been a revelation this season in the NPLW Victoria state league, scoring 31 goals in 21 games. MV head coach Jeff Hopkins said: "We're incredibly pleased to be able to secure Kurea's services for the upcoming season. What she has produced in the NPLW Victoria has been incredible to watch and we have no doubt that the transition to A-League Women's will be seamless for her. She's a striker's striker. Her nose for goal is obvious in the numbers she's produced and we believe she has the quality to reproduce that for our squad this season."

Other new signings this season include Rachel Lowe (from 2022-23 champions Sydney FC), Emma Checker (from Melbourne City) and Jamilla Rankin (from Brisbane Roar). Forward/midfielder Rachel Lowe (22) joins Melbourne City from Sydney FC after beginning her career with Western Sydney Wanderers as a 15-year-old. Lowe has scored 11 goals in 74 A-League Women's appearances. Lowe received her first senior cap in 2018 against China at the annual spring Algarve Cup international friendly tournament in Portugal.

Defender Emma Checker (27) comes over from Melbourne City, returning to Melbourne Victory for her second stint with the Club after making 133 A-League Women's appearances and winning two Championships throughout her career. Checker has seven international caps, making her Matildas debut in 2012 against Hong Kong, and has played for clubs in France, Korea Republic, Iceland and Sweden before returning to Australia.

She explained her move to the Victory to the A-League Women website KEEPUP: "It can be almost a bigger move sometimes when you cross over to rivals, rather than interstate to a completely new environment. It's definitely been a big move in that regard. But it's one that I felt was right. I'm at an age and stage in my life where I wasn't willing to move states, but it was a time for change. With that, there were limited options for movement. But the relationship I had with Victory from a decade ago when I first moved to Melbourne were still there, and I've always had a really good relationship [with Victory boss Jeff Hopkins] despite having never played for him. There was comfort in knowing that move would be smooth, and also knowing that my life away from football would effectively stay the same. It ended up being exactly what I needed, and it's worked out really well for me."

Defender Jamilla Rankin (20) has made 45 appearances for the Roar across three seasons, played for Australian youth international teams and won a senior cap for Australia as a second half substitute against Spain in 2022 in a 7-0 loss in Huelva (though Australia scored an important 3-2 win in Sydney in February 2023 just month before the World Cup Finals).

Lia Privitelli (29) returns for her eighth season at Melbourne Victory after making 84 appearances and winning two Championships during her time at the Club. Veteran midfielder Elise Kellond-Knight (33), who has over a century of caps for the Matildas, made 12 appearances in her first season for the Victory before being sidelined by injury. She should surpass 100 appearances in the A-League Women's competition; she has also played in the NWSL, Denmark, Germany, Japan and Sweden.

American Catherine Zimmerman has left for Western United, Gema Simon will play this season for the Newcastle Jets, and New Zealand international Claudia Bunge moved to Denmark's HB Koge; Bunge won two league titles in three years with Victory, scoring four goals in 45 appearances and was on the Football Ferns WWC Finals team this summer. Alex Chidiac, who was fantastic last winter on loan from Racing Louisville and her energy and guile for the Victory was key to making her first WWC Finals side with Australia (though she only played 23 minutes in total), is not returning this winter; she is on loan at UANL Tigres until December 2023, feeling that she should receive more playing time (playing only 133 minutes across eight games in Louisville before leaving for the WWC Finals).

She explained why she moved to Mexico, having learned Spanish from her time in Spain with Atletico Madrid: "So I get to see how things are here. What it's like, what the league's like, maybe play a little bit more my style. Also for me, I've always wanted to go back to more, like, Spanish type of football." Chidiac told the Athletic why she did not return home for the longer 2023-24 season: "If I do come home, I want to come home for multiple years. It's difficult, obviously moving countries and having to go through this process over and over again. It takes a toll on you and it takes a toll on… those around you, as well."

Some other new Victory signings from abroad are American McKenzie Weinert (24) from American NWSL side OL Reign, where she made two appearances as a National Team Replacement Player during the Women's World Cup period. Weinert is a graduate of the University of Washington; she was a part of OL Reign's extended squad in the 2023 pre-season and scored against Club America.

The Orlando Pride of the NWSL signed defender Tori Hansen to a new contract through the 2024 NWSL season and then promptly loaned her to the Victory for the 2023-24 A-League Women season. Originally selected by the Pride as the No. 25 overall pick in the 2023 NWSL Draft, Hansen helped lead the University of North Carolina to the 2022 NCAA College Cup championship game and was part of 14 shutouts that season. Overall, she appeared in 65 matches, starting in 28 of them, and recorded nine goals and four assists in four seasons. She has played for U.S. youth national teams.

No offense meant to Weinart and Hansen, but most of the American signings in the league this season have limited if any professional experience in North America, which will only perpetuate the idea that the A-League Women is viewed in the States as a minor league or development league for the NWSL which was certainly not the case a few years ago when top quality talent came to AU for the winter season, including U.S. 2023 WWC Finals players Kristy Mewis, Sophia Huerta and Aubrey (Bledsoe) Kingsbury—Huerta and fellow American Savannha McCaskill (now Angel City F.C.) won a title with Sydney FC in 2018/19.

At the time, the NWSL season ended before the start of the A-League Women campaign, while holding pre-season in America towards the end of the A-League Women season. With both leagues expanding in length, we are not seeing top American talent come to the league any more and those that are either have played few minutes in the States or are moving to the A-League from European leagues. The A-League can offset this perception—it has always been much more than a minor league for Americans, particularly in developing a raft of youth and senior Australian internationals and bringing international talent in such as Chile's Maria Rojas and former English international Natasha Dowie. The A-League Women need to continue to bring in more young international talent, particularly younger players like Fiona Worts, who came a few years ago, or Kurea Okino from Japan (see above)—who both played in the local State Leagues before joining the A-League Women.

A core of important returnees includes American defender Kayla Morrison (27), who is back for her fourth season with the club; she won the league title in 2020/21 but missed virtually all of the 2021/22 season due to a first game ACL injury; she bounced back to play in every match of the 2022/23 campaign. Also back for her second season with Victory is Australian international Beattie Goad, who played at Stanford University in the States and then played in Germany and Spain, along with Jessika Nash, Lia Privitelli, Alana Murphy and Paige Zois.

Off the field Melbourne Victory will hold stand-alone Liberty A-League matches at a new state-of-the-art training center for women The Home of The Matildas, opening the gates to the facility with free entry, which was built at La Trobe University at Bundoora. The Victory's non double-header games will be held there and will be the training base for the side. The Australian government invested $57 million of the total $101 million cost.

New signing Emma Checker said: "Over the last few years, I think most girls that have been at Victory would always say the missing piece was the facilities and the resources. You can see that's been a really high priority focus for the off-season, to make sure our program is positioned better in that regard for this season, and we're really fortunate now to have the home of the Matildas as our home base… The little things make a huge difference when you walk through the doors for training and feel like you're in a professional space.

"I do believe that the club have worked really hard to make sure we're able to be in that place. I feel like Victory have stepped up in a lot of ways this season, in terms of the resourcing, the facilities and all of those pieces are something I feel are really important to being in a professional environment. Victory have now found that final missing piece. They've always had a good group of girls, a good culture, and been successful—but now I feel like we've got the full package so I'm really looking forward to the season."

Melbourne Victory Managing Director, Caroline Carnegie said: "The whole of Australia [during the 2023 Women's World Cup] has seen the role women's football can play in inspiring the next generation of both girls and boys and as a club, we want to remove all barriers to access, support and grow our women's games this season… Training and playing at The Home of The Matildas presents us with a win-win scenario by exposing our women's team to the country's best environment and also giving football fans unrivalled access to support the women's professional game."

Melbourne Victory continues to support the Afghanistan Women's National Team in exile (see: The Week in Women's Football: Interview with beach soccer star Leslie; A-League moves; Afghani national team in Melbourne - Tribal Football) and held the inaugural Hope Cup on July 18 in Melbourne, just before the start of the WWC. The Afghanistan team played Football Empowerment, a team representing Melbourne's refugee communities. The match highlighted the hope of Afghan women footballers to have their right to compete in international competition restored.

Afghan Women's Team Director and former Afghanistan National Team Captain, Khalida Popal will be in Melbourne for the Hope Cup, and said: "We're incredibly pleased to be involved in the first Hope Cup. This game is a celebration of everything football should be. It is a game where we can all express ourselves on the pitch and be two teams that are equal, no matter our background. We want this match to highlight our team's desire to compete internationally once again with FIFA's biggest competition being held in just a few days' time. Playing football and representing your country as a national player is a fundamental human right that should not be denied to any individual.

"Our team has made significant sacrifices in their lives, utilizing football as a means to advocate for their rights and the rights of other Afghan women. These sacrifices must not go unnoticed. Governing bodies in football and sports must support the women of Afghanistan during this time and ensure their ability to exercise their human rights, which have been unjustly taken away by the Taliban. The Afghan Women's National team is the only hope left for Afghan women. They are the voices of voiceless sisters."

Currently, FIFA does not recognize the Afghanistan WNT abroad and the country is currently not competing in Asian regional or international tournament qualifiers, as reforming an Afghan WNT at home is not among the priorities of the Taliban, as they struggle with the country's economic free fall since they took over, and are more about restricting opportunities for women than encouraging them.

Canberra United (8-5-5—29 points—Tied for Fourth)

The Greens have signed New Zealand international forward Deven Jackson from Eastern Suburbs, who won the New Zealand women's league title in 2022. She made her debut against the U.S. at home earlier this year. She also played at Western Kentucky University. Another New Zealander joining Canberra United is U-20 international forward Ruby Nathan, who was a member of the Junior Football Ferns who played at the U-20 World Cup in Costa Rica and was on the U-17 Women's World Cup team in India for the Young Ferns in 2022. Nathan won the Golden Boot award at the 2023 OFC U19 Championships in Fiji, scoring eight goals including a brace in the Final victory over the host nation in Suva, played at Auckland United.

From the U.S., defender Cannon Clough, who has played with Newcastle and Brisbane, (with 18 appearances in total) is joining Canberra for 2023/24. She played collegiately at powerhouse University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. She also played for Lions FC in the Queensland NPL and was nominated for the 2019 Queensland Player of the Year award.

The Greens also signed Young Matilda Stanic-Floody to a one year contract. The midfielder made a dozen appearances for Sydney FC and won a title in the Liberty A-League during the 2022/23 season, mostly as a substitute. She said: "As a young footballer, I am constantly learning and I feel that Canberra is the best place for me to take that next step in my career. The club have a wonderful history of promoting young players and giving them the chance, and I am aiming to take mine once it comes. I have had experience of playing at McKellar Park in the blue of Sydney FC last season, and the atmosphere was superb. I can't wait to pull on the green shirt in front of those supporters and have their backing and I am grateful for the opportunity to do so."

Serbian international playmaker Vesna Milivojević (21) has re-signed for Canberra United ahead of the 2023/24 Liberty A-League season; she scored 8 goals in 18 games last season. Milivojević started her career with Australian second-tier side Bankstown City, before signing for Western Sydney Wanderers and playing abroad with German side Borussia Bocholt and Serbia's Spartak Subotica, helping them win the league and playing in the UEFA Women's Champions League. The Australian-born Milivojević qualified for Serbia through her parents and has ten caps, scoring one international goal in November 2021 in a 4-1 victory over Bulgaria in Plovdiv.

Maria Rojas (35) of Chile moved from Melbourne City and is a legitimate scoring threat, scoring five goals in each of her last two league seasons, with Melbourne City in 2022/23 and for Sydney FC in 2021/22. She previously played with Canberra in 2018/19.

Liberty A-League goal machine Michelle Heyman is closing in on a century of goals in the league with 94 goals from 159 games and has added 20 Matilda goals in 61 matches. Heyman scored twelve goals in eighteen games last season, her most goals since scoring 15 in season 2011/12, when the league only held 10 regular season games. Head coach Njegosh Popovich returns for his second season and played in the now-defunct men's National Soccer League with the Canberra Cosmos, among other local teams.

Off the field, Capital Football has transformed the current Canberra United Academy (CUA) into a Talented Sports Program (TSP). The decision will mean the immediate removal of the Canberra United Academy teams from the Women's National Premier League pathway with immediate effect. The Capital Football Board believes this initiative will have several benefits across Canberra and the surrounding region and the respective Women's National Premier League competitions. The introduction of current CUA players back into clubs will potentially see a greater spread of talented players across the competition, whilst the TSP will still offer an opportunity for local players to play at the highest level. It does not impact Canberra United's A-League women's team for the 2023/24 season

Perth Glory (8-4-6—28 points—Sixth)

Perth signed the Philippines all-time leading goal scorer Quinley Quezada (26). She is also the nation's all-time leading scorer with 22 goals in 51 appearances. At club level, Quezada has played for JEF United Chiba in Japan and Red Star Belgrade in Serbia; she was raised in the U.S. and played at the University of California-Riverside. She is the second player from the Filipinas to join Glory after Jessika Cowart signed; Cowart grew up in the States and played at the University of Washington in Seattle and then in Turkey, Serbia and in Sweden earlier this year at IFK Kalmar.

Quinley Quezada celebrates with Filipinas fans in New Zealand after their win 1-0 over New Zealand. In the WWC.

Photo courtesy Philippines Football Federation and Perth Glory.

Perth Glory head coach Alex Epakis (32) is back for his fourth season and is under contract through the 2024/25 season with the club. The Glory should make the playoffs this year after coming so close last year, losing out to Melbourne Victory by one standing point and with a slightly lower goal differential (+5) compared with fourth place Melbourne Victory (+7). In Epakis' debut season, during the first year of COVID, the team finished in last place but in 2021/22 and 2022/23 they narrowly missed the playoffs, despite having nightmare travel arrangements and few home games due to Western Australia's strict lokdown protocols.

Glory have not made the finals since 2018/19 when Sam Kerr (now Chelsea in the WSL) last played in the league. Perth Glory CEO Anthony Radich said that Epakis is: "One of the brightest young coaches in Australian football. Alex has done a fantastic job since he joined the club in 2020, often under trying circumstances, and we are extremely pleased to have retained his services. He is one of the brightest young coaches in Australian football and the progress our Women's squad has made under him is clear to see. Since first taking up the role, he has been very clear on his vision to develop young players and provide them with a clear pathway and opportunity to play senior football with Perth Glory."

Epakis brought in some strong players including New Zealand WWC 2023 Finalist Grace Jale in from Canberra, Australian U-17 international Isobel Dalton (26) from Lewes in England (she has played with Brisbane Roar and Napoli in Italy as well as Bristol City in her native England and in the U.S. at Lindsey Wilson College and the University of Colorado, as well as Sally James from Melbourne City.

Departures include Aideen Keane to Sydney FC and Alana Jancevski (20) to Adelaide United (she scored eight goals in 15 matches in the 2023 Victoria NPLW season with Bulleen Lions—who won the 2023 Victoria NPL Women regular season title this season but lost in the Grand Final to South Melbourne 4-2, with Jancevski scoring once) and Ella Mastrantonio, who joined SKN ST. Polten in Austria, who played in the Champions League this season. Mastrantonio has also played in England with Bristol City and Italy with Lazio and Pomligiano and has played 118 A-League Women games with Perth, Melbourne Victory and Western Sydney.

Young goalkeeper Morgan Aquino (22) is incredibly back for her eighth A-League Women season—six with the Glory but only seeing action in three of them—and was the player of the game for the Northern Tigers in the 2022 NPLW-New South Wales championship, though the Tigers lost to Macarthur Rams 6-5 on penalties after a 120 scoreless minutes. Another young but veteran Perth returnee is Susan Phonsongkham (22), who was born in Thailand, grew up in Australia and been capped at the youth level; she spent the 2022 summer season with KI in Iceland, where she had five goals in 14 matches. Earlier this season, she had 14 goals in 18 state league games for Bankstown City Lions FC in Sydney. For Perth, last season she scored twice in 11 matches.

Tim Grainey is a contributor to Tribal Football. His latest book Beyond Bend it Like Beckham is on the global game of women's football. Get your copy today.

Follow Tim on Twitter: @TimGrainey

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