This week we have an extensive review of the Westfield W-League season in Australia at the approximately halfway point of the 2020/21 season. With most of the Matilda regulars playing in Europe and only one NWSL loanee since the W-League season began later this season—just after Christmas—and the American leagues started preseason training over a month earlier than usual (on February 1), the plethora of American loanees seen in years past has dried up.
Young players have moved up from the various state leagues (NPLW), including some players with aspirations of playing for the full Australian national team, and there are still some interesting imports in the league this season (some who were already playing in the local state leagues). We have some other news from the league and Matildas playing abroad. We also talk with Canberra United's Nicky Flannery, who scored one of the most amazing game-winning goals that you ever want to see to give her side the win in the very last minute of an early season win over Melbourne City.
Australian Westfield W-League Midseason Review
With each of the nine W-League teams having played approximately half of the 12 game W-League 2020/21 regular season to date, Canberra United has been a truly entertaining wonder while four-time league champions Melbourne City started the season by gaining only one point in their first three games and currently lie in the bottom three with only four points from seven matches. Of the four sides that made the playoffs in 2019/20, only one team currently would repeat—last season's Grand Final runners-up Sydney FC, who have been in rampant form at the top of the table and just last week knocked Canberra United off the list of unbeatens in a thoroughly convincing 4-0 win. Canberra United, Brisbane Roar and either surprising Adelaide United or Melbourne Victory would replace Melbourne City and the Western Sydney Wanderers—and possibly Melbourne Victory if they miss out in 2020/21.
Portions of Australia have had strict COVID-19 health guidelines and flare up of cases and this has had a significant impact on the W-League schedule, with changes in venues and teams on a weekly basis, deviating from the original schedule set in December, which has at times become almost unrecognizably. There have been fans at most games—not at the level that we have seen before COVID-19—but still the fans in attendance have created a good atmosphere. All credit to the W-League's management for being flexible and creating safe environments for players, staff and fans and the loop is well on track to finish the season with most if not all matches being held.
We also look at some key signings made by clubs after our two-part preseason review at the end of last year, just as the W-League 2020/21 season commenced, (see: The Week in Women's Football: W-League Preview Part 1; CONCACAF calendar; - Tribal Football and The Week in Women's Football: W-League Preview Part 2; OL Reign & Miami; - Tribal Football.)
The teams are presented below in order of their current table position in the league.
Sydney FC (6-0-0—18 points—First)
Sydney FC was picked by many followers of the W-League to make a third straight Grand Final appearance and they are well on their way to doing just that, having not dropped a point in six matches. They have opened up a five point gap over second place Canberra after winning two games over four days in Round 7—both by shutout—2-0 away over quickly fading Melbourne City and then 4-0 against Canberra in the battle of undefeated sides. As one of two sides with no imports this season (Newcastle United is the other), their core of Jada Whyman in goal, Australian international Ellie Brush in defense (who has stopped playing Aussie Rules football with the Greater Sydney Giants to concentrate on soccer and has been strong all season, including scoring one goal), long-time Sydney captain and iconic midfielder Teresa Polias (who has been playing some of the best soccer of her life) and Australian U-17, U-20 and full international Princess Ibini in attack (who started the season well with a brace coming in the season opening 3-0 derby win over Western Sydney Wanderers) has been consistent and Sydney has been unbeatable so far this season. Forward Remy Siemsen has four goals, having recently ended a long goal draught stretching back to last season, with most of her successful efforts going in from shots very near the goal—she was tied for the Golden Boot last season with three other players and, after her painfully slow start, seems to have gotten into the goal scoring grove again.
In a Round 3 2-1 victory over Newcastle Jets on the road on January 8, Polias in particular was outstanding with more touches of the ball than any other player on either team (106), and a passing accuracy of 86% from again a game leading 79 passes; she also created two chances and providing four crosses for her attackers. Polias lost just one duel throughout the contest, winning eight of nine, and made five interceptions in midfield, which helped the Sky Blues gain control of the game and ultimately wear the Jets down to seal a 2-1 come from behind victory against the side who they had lost to in a preseason match. This side is so good that veteran Allira Toby (with 14 goals in four previous seasons at Brisbane Roar) is only receiving scant minutes off the bench.
Canberra United (3-2-1—11 points—Second)
Canberra United has stunned the League with a tremendous run of results, including two injury-time winners in their first two matches—a 4-3 home win over Adelaide on December 30, 2020 and a 2-1 win again at home over Melbourne City on January 3, 2021, when Nicki Flannery (21) scored from a long range bomb from over 25 yards on virtually the last kick of the game (see more below).
This team is so playing so much better than the sides of former head coach Heather Garriock, which failed to make the playoffs the last three seasons. Bringing back Canberra legend Michelle Heyman from retirement after a season as a color commentator for FOX was brilliant and resulted in her scoring a hat trick in the win over Adelaide and she has a league leading six goals in six games. She is only one goal behind now Chelsea forward Sam Kerr's record haul of 70 in all-time W-League scoring She also tied with Kerr and Brisbane Roar's Tameka Yallop for most career W-League hat-tricks with four and almost broke that record in a Round 6 3-0 win over Western Sydney Wanderers, in which she had two goals in the first 34 minutes—Canberra's third goal just before half time was originally credited to her but then deemed an own goal by the Wanderers wing-back Georgia Yeoman-Dale. Their Round 7 4-0 away defeat to Sydney FC gave them their first defeat, but they seem to have a very good side that should challenge to make the Grand Final, with a playoff spot already close to locked up.
Canberra midfielder Grace Maher scored an incredible goal from inside the midfield circle in the 78th minute to ultimately give the Greens a share of the points.in a 1-1 tie away to Brisbane on January 7 in Round 3, as Roar keeper Georgina Worth was playing a sweeper-keeper role during portions of the second half, in order to help Brisbane keep possession when facing a strong wind, but Maher surprised her with the shot from downtown. Maher told Fox Sports after the game, "I love my long range shots, everyone knows that. I felt I had the wind and time, so look, if I hit it and it was hard enough, hopefully it would go in. I think right in the end the wind helped me a little bit to get over the line….That wind was a big factor, we faced it in the first half and we knew how hard it was to get out of that half."
Head Coach Vicky Linton made the playoffs in two previous seasons with Melbourne Victory and looks to be a strong bet to make it a trio of post-season W-League appearances. Canberra's success incredibly has also come despite the fact that they have had three starting goalkeepers this season. Keeley Richards (26) made her W-League debut in goal for Canberra in Round 6 on January 30, saving four shots and finishing with her side's first shutout of the season in a 3-0 win over WSW. Richards had been playing for Logan Lighting in the Queensland NPLW, where she helped her club make the Queensland Grand Final this season, losing 4-0 to Queensland Lions FC. In their previous match, American Chantel Jones—now an assistant coach with the team—stepped in for injured starting goalkeeper Sally James (18 and herself in her first W-League season) in their 1-1 home tie with Perth on January 24. Jones last played in the W-League in the 2014/15 season for Canberra and made 22 appearances in three NWSL seasons with the Washington Spirit and Western New York Flash (2013-2015). Jones, who was capped by the Americans at the youth level, has been retired from the game for over five seasons.
A late signing who adds sophistication to the Green's defensive midfield is former U.S. international Kendall Fletcher (36), who left the Seattle Reign after the 2016 to go to divinity school in Sydney. This is her fourth stint with Canberra and she last played for the club as a guest player in a limited role in the 2017/18 season, after winning the Grand Final with Canberra in 2014. She was on the U.S. side that won the inaugural U-19 (now U-20) Women's World Cup in Canada in 2002.
The above mentioned Nicki Flannery had played last season at Newcastle Jets but returned to her original club in Canberra, where she spent four seasons beginning in 2015/16. Her winning goal against Melbourne City in the dying seconds was not only a Goal of the Year candidate but should be considered as a Goal of the Decade because of what it meant to Canberra's tremendous early season start. She told TribalFootball.com about the goal. "I was a bit tired…so I stayed up front. I was trying to create space on the shot. We had to win the game and it was crucial to get the points, particularly at the beginning of the season. You have to back yourself in that situation."
The agony and the ecstasy! Serbian international TJ Vlajnic [right foreground] turns away in dejection while Nicki Flannery is exultant with her game winning tally over Melbourne City on January 3, 2021. Photo Courtesy of Canberra United/Anthony Caffery Photography.
Flannery talked about her future soccer career plans. She is finishing her last year at Sydney University where she studies Architecture and then she wants to, "Look at playing overseas. There are good leagues in Europe and Scandinavia is a possibility. It is a very different world now because of COVID with possibilities limited. The U.S. has a strong league with physical and clever play and that could suite my style of football. It is different to playing in Japan, China and South Korea."
Canberra United's Nicki Flannery fires on goal against Melbourne City in her side's 2-1 victory on January 3. Photo courtesy of Canberra United/Anthony Caffery Photography.
Flannery is an extremely well-spoken individual and after playing in the W-League since she was 16, she had some strong insights on the possibility of future league expansion after teams have taken this season to develop the roster depth, with so many Matildas going abroad and the sharp reduction of NWSL loanees, "Expansion of the league is a good thing. This was a great year to not expand in order to develop young players. It would be great to have a full home and away schedule [16 games versus the current 12]. Wellington Phoenix should be the first team [in] and it will help with bonding of the two countries ahead of the Women's World Cup in 2003." Flannery wisely did not want to see rampant expansion and not more than one or two new sides over the next few years, saying that, "If you expand by three clubs, it would not be as positive. The league has been pretty up in the air in most games [parity] which you want and have been good."
Note: See more on possible W-League expansion candidates below in the section concerning the new W-League operating structure.
Nicki Flannery is definitely a rising talent in the Australian game and it will be interesting to track her future playing career in possibly other markets outside her home country and—with the Women's World Cup only two short years away—her possible break through into the Matildas' set-up.
Brisbane Roar (2-4-0—10 points—Tied for Third)
Brisbane Roar is undefeated after 6 games but opened the season with four consecutive ties, before breaking loose in Round 5 on January 22 with a 6-0 win over Melbourne Victory, with the best goal of the bunch being an exquisite effort by current Australian international Tameka Yallop in the 39th minute for a 2-0 lead. Fellow Matilda Emily Gielnik, back from a successful fall campaign in Sweden with Vittsjo, added two goals. The Roar are tremendous in possession but struggled to score early in the season. Gielnik is rolling now and is tied for third in the league in scoring with Sydney FC's Remy Siemsen on four goals—two behind Canberra's Michelle Heyman and one behind Newcastle's Tara Andrews—and the Roar offense is starting to click, scoring 11 goals for joint third in the league with Canberra, albeit 6 coming in the win over MV.
New local signing Mariel Hecher has been impressive in her first W-League season, contributing two goals so far. Hecher is a native of Brazil and has played the last three seasons with Lions FC of the NPLW Queensland League, winning the Golden Boot last season for the championship-winning side.
Isobel Dalton (ex-University of Colorado in the States) left Napoli of Italy after initially joining Glasgow City in Scotland this past summer, to rejoin Brisbane Roar for the 2020/21 season. Dalton featured in 4 games with Napoli, who are mired near the bottom of the twelve team Serie A with only one point from 13 games—a point ahead of Bari and still in a relegation position, with former Western Sydney Wanderers Alex Huynh still on the squad, having played in seven games this season. Dalton (23) has been capped at the U-17 level and is in her third season with the Roar.
Halfway through the season, the Roar added forward Larissa Crummer (25) to the side. The Matilda has won four Westfield W-League championship medals (three with Melbourne City and one with Sydney FC) and was the W-League's leading scorer and Young Player of the Year in 2015/16.
The Roar remain favorites for a top four position and perhaps even better at the end of the season, based on the vast experience of Yallop, Gielnik, Crummer, Katrina Gorry in midfield and their long-time captain and center back Clare Polkinghorne in the side.
Melbourne Victory (3-1-2—10 points—Tied for Third)
It has been an up and down season so far for Melbourne Victory, but their 6-0 dismantling of Melbourne City in the derby in Round 3 on January 10 will be a benchmark event for a long time, with 6 different players scoring and the crowning achievement being Matilda forward Lisa De Vanna's second half goal; she first juked City defender Jenna McCormick about 70 yards from goal and set off on a solo foray and scored what this reporter views as the Goal of the Season thus far. It was De Vanna's 40th goal in 107 W-League matches. De Vanna is now just behind now retired Ashleigh Sykes (41) and Kate Gill (42) and only three goals behind Leena Khamis (Western Sydney), who is fifth all-time in W-League scoring with 43 goals.
Victory then lost two on the trot, including the second Melbourne derby—what a difference six days made; due to scheduling shuffling as a result of COVID-19 state protocols, the teams met in the return in their next game (as with the Adelaide-Perth back-to-back games) with the Champions shading Victory 3-2 in a stirring match. Matilda Alex Chidiac and an own goal from New Zealand international Claudia Bunge gave City a 2-0 advantage by the 25th minute mark. The Victory fought back with goals by Australian U-20 international Mindy Barbieri and American import Catherine Zimmerman (her second in two games) to tie the game within six minutes after the restart. City regained the lead through 25-year-old W-League rookie Harriet Withers' 86th minute strike for her first ever league goal, with Chidiac providing the assist. The Victory then crashed to the Roar the next week 6-0 in Queensland in their very topsy turvy season but defeated Adelaide United 1-0 in Round 6 and then Newcastle 4-2 the next week to pull up the table into a tie for third.
Melbourne Victory has three Americans: Argentinian international Gaby Garton, who was born and raised in America, forward Catherine Zimmerman, who had a brief spell with Sky Blue FC after college at nearby Princeton University and had been playing for the past few years in Melbourne with Calder United in the State League, and ex-University of Kansas defender Kayla Morrison, who moved this winter from Sweden where she had 5 goals in 24 games for Moron of the second tier Elitettan. Zimmerman, now has three goals this season, tied for fifth in the league along with teammate Melina Ayers (21), Dylan Holmes of Adelaide and Courtnee Vine of Sydney FC.
Melbourne Victory also have the only Canadian in the league this season in W-League debutant Natalie Martineau (33), who signed from South Melbourne in the NPLW, where she won four Championships and was the Player of the Grand Final in 2014. She was raised in Oakville Ontario near Toronto and was capped at the U-20 level and played at Louisiana State University.
Wing back Angie Beard, back from Iceland, has been a rock in the back and has also debuted on FOX W-League telecasts as an color commentator and she did a fine job in her first game. New Zealand international Claudia Bunge (21) in the back has been a good pickup and has scored once this season. Melbourne Victory should have enough quality and time to pull it together and make the playoffs for the third consecutive season under Wales ex-pat Jeff Hopkins, in his fifth season with the club and pulling it out of a run of 9th, 9th and 7th, the last two after he arrived, and building a Premiership winning squad in 2018/19 and making the playoffs again last season.
Adelaide United (3-1-2—9 points—Tied for Third)
The Red's late signing of Mallory Weber—one of only six Americans (with one being a dual international who plays for Argentina in Melbourne Victory goalkeeper Gaby Garton) in the league this year compared to 24 last season (NWSL loans have dried up since the league started training camps in January and added a second version of their league Challenge Cup before their regular season schedule) and the only NWSL loanee (from Utah/Kansas City)—was crucial. Weber (with 4 goals last season in a competitive team that their eighth place final table position was not reflective of their strong play) was her team's 2019/20 Player of the Year. The American scored in her first game back when Adelaide gave up a 2-0 halftime lead in the first game in Canberra and lost 4-3, with 3 goals in injury time by both teams. A 1-0 win in Round 3 over Perth Glory settled their nerves and began a run of three straight win—albeit two were against the struggling Glory in consecutive games (the scheduling this year has been chaotic due to state COVID-19 health regulations and in order to minimize team travel) and Adelaide found themselves in joint first with Sydney FC after Round 5 following an outstanding 2-1 win over Melbourne City. Against City, Dylan Holmes, a former Australian U-20 international, scored her first ever goals in 35 W-League games across four seasons (all with Adelaide) in her side's 2-1 win over City. The win was crucial in Adelaide's quest to copy Wanderers' first ever playoff season in 2020/21 in their eighth W-League season, while Adelaide—an original W-League franchise in 2008/09—has missed the playoffs in all their dozen previous campaigns.
In their 2-2 tie against home side with Western Sydney Wanderers on February 7, Adelaide United looked set to win its fourth game out of six played in 2020/21, which would have been their second highest number of wins in their thirteen W-League seasons and one behind their record five triumphs in the 2018/19 season, when they finished in sixth place with 18 points. With twelve minutes to go however, seventeen-year-old Sarah Hunter scored her second goal of the game for the Wanderers, who ended up sharing the points 2-2. Now Adelaide seems to be in a sprint race with Victory in particular but also the Roar for two final playoff spots and they will have to keep their nerve in the final half of the season.
Weber said about her return to Adelaide United this season: "I'm super excited to re-sign back here with Adelaide United, especially after last season. To have another year here with the club is amazing and I'm just really grateful to be playing in the W-League again. This season we really want to improve on last year's results and our aim is to make [the] play-offs and see what happens from there."
Adelaide United Head of Women's Football Ivan Karlovic introduces Mallory Weber's return for the 2020/21 season to the local media.
Note: New Zealand (7) has the most imports this season, followed by England (3) and one each from Brazil, Chile, Canada, Ireland, Japan and Norway, with COVID-19 affecting international travel with a number of countries instituting a mandatory quarantine period (including Australia) upon entering from abroad.
Chilean international Maria Jose Rojas (33) has been phenomenal this season in an attacking midfielder/winger role. She was a 2019 Women's World Cup team member who played at the University of Texas-San Antonio and with the Gulf Coast Texas of the WPSL before playing in the German Frauen-Bundesliga, Lithuania, the Czech Republic, Chile, Japan's Nadeshiko Division Two and with Canberra United in the W-League in 2018/19, as well as with Adelaide University in the South Australian state league.
Adelaide also signed English forward Fiona Worts (24), who has played for Coventry United (2019-20) and Leicester City (2018-19) in the FA Women's Championship (second tier). She is now based in Australia and has played with Adelaide University and Fulham United in the South Australian WNPL.
Newcastle Jets—(1-1-4—4 points—Tied for Sixth)
The Jets are sans imports for the second straight season and the franchise (W-League and A-League) were taken over by the league and is now looking for new owners (not a surprise as they have been struggling financially for a while) but after only 7 points last season, they are looking much more competitive in 2020/21. Forward and long-time Jet and local product Tara Andrews is vital to this side with her five goals, second in the league to Canberra United's Michelle Heyman with six. This is Andrew's tenth W-League season, all with the Jets. She played in the USL's now defunct W-League in 2014 and 2015, leading the Colorado Pride to the league championship final in 2015 as the league's Most Valuable Player and the Golden Boot winner with 18 goals.
The Jets started out with a pair of 2-1 losses to WSW and Sydney FC (who they defeated in preseason) before playing a strong match which they could have won against Brisbane (1-1) with a few close chances at a winner, and then taking control from the outset against WSW at home on Jan 22, finishing with an emphatic 4-1 win. Lauren Allan scored two goals in the first 33 minutes and Tara Andrews scored her fourth of the season just before halftime. Allan (24) is in her second W-League season—both with Newcastle—and played in the U.S. collegiately at Anderson University in South Carolina after spending two seasons at Butler Community College in Kansas. In the second half, Jets captain and Matilda defender Gema Simon (who played in 2013 for the Ottawa Fury in the USL's W-League) scored her ninth goal across 13 seasons, with 12 of them in Newcastle. In the back veteran Hannah Brewer (27), who played with the Seattle Sounder Women in 2013, has been vital in the back and Tessa Tamplin (19) has again been impressive on the right side in defense and then in her raids up the wing, along with her crossing ability. She is one that could move abroad soon.
Alisha Bass, a 25-year-old midfielder who once played with Sydney FC in 2011/12 and four games with WSW in 2012/13) has been a revelation this season as has Rhianna Pollicina (24) as an attacking midfielder; she played 5 games for WSW in 2014/15 Australian youth international Sunny Franco (23) has been impressive in her attacking moves in her sixth season in the league with Brisbane and the two Sydney clubs but her first season in the league since 2017/18, having played since then with New South Wales NPLW side Manly United.
Melbourne City (1-1-5 W-D-L—4 points—Tied for Sixth)
We suspected that this was going to be a different season for the four time W-League Champions, with so many Matildas gone to Europe and most NWSL players not coming on loan, as City had a healthy number of both in recent years. No one expected the team to struggle to the point that they have 4 points in 7 games and need an absolute miracle to make the playoffs. The 6-0 loss to Melbourne Victory was the nadir but they have looked weak in attack all season and their defense can be stretched easily—in seven games they have surrendered a league high 17 goals, facing a league high 126 shots in their seven matches, despite the fact that former UCLA goalkeeper and Australian 2019 Women's World Cup squad member Teagan Micah has been quite good in goal and leads all the league's goalkeepers in saves with 31. City's defensive woes are particularly puzzling when City has Matilda center back Jenna McCormick and Emma Checker (one goal each) who both returned from brief spells in Spain and France respectively. Emma Checker (24) played recently in France with Fleury 91, where she suffered a stress fracture in her fibula. She played for City last season and helped the club win the Premiership (regular season title) and Grand Final (League Championship). She has 5 caps for Australia. If she can stay healthy, she should top 100 W-League appearances in her career as she currently has 92; she began her W-League sojourn as a 15-year-old for Adelaide United in 2011/12.
Another one of their 7 goals scored came from a Melbourne Victory own goal. Japanese international Chinatsu Kira, who moved to City from Urawa Reds in December, has made a significant impact in her first W-League appearance after going through quarantine since arriving in the country but is still looking for her first W-League tally. She had 5 goals in 12 internationals for her country and has played for 10 seasons with Nadeshiko League One 2020 season champions Urawa Reds, who will join the new fully professional WE League which will begin in the fall of 2021. This is Kira's first time playing for a club abroad.
Matilda Alex Chidiac—who somewhat surprisingly did not make the Women's World Cup Finals in France, but then it was hard to justify a number of head coach Ante Milicic's selections and he is now coaching A-League expansion franchise Macarthur FC on the men's side—leads the team with two goals from midfield and also has two assists and has looked particularly impressive in her midfield play. Chidiac also recently returned from Europe to join Melbourne City as she has quit Atletico Madrid in Spain after 3 seasons. She was a high profile signing from Adelaide United after the 2017/18 season as a 19-year-old. She played with Atletico Madrid in 22 games with 3 goals in total, 19 of those appearances coming in her first season of 2018-19, after which injuries and an inability to make a deep starting 11 at Atletico severely limited her playing time. She said about her return to the league, "After a tough 12 months this is the right time for me to come back home for a change and a new challenge and I'm very excited to be returning to a quality league like the W-League. I felt right at home with City in my first season with the Club so I'm very excited to be back [winning a Grand Final in 2015/16 with the club]. The professional environment and culture that City has built over the years is something any player wants to be part of and is definitely something that I'm looking forward to returning to."
Twenty-nine-year old Margot Robinne of France has been solid in her debut season in the W-League. She has played first and second division football in France and has a UEFA B coaching license and started L'Academie, a soccer and futsal academy for girls and women in Melbourne. She came to Australia in 2017 and has a Master's degree in Sports Management and Marketing in France. She played in two FIFA Futsal World Cup teams for France and had been playing in the NPLW in Victoria at Bulleen Lions and Bayside United.
Midseason, the club signed Norwegian U-21 international midfielder Noor Eckhoff (21) who played last season for Kolbotn of the Toppserien after starting at Lyn, where she won a league title in 2017. Kolbotn finished ninth out of ten teams last season but survived the relegation/promotion playoffs against former first division side Medilka, winning 6-2 on aggregated after a 5-0 opening victory at home last November She played in 15 matches but is not known as a goalscorer at home and that is what the team needs.
Western Sydney Wanderers (1-1-4—4 points—Tied for Sixth)
Western Sydney Wanderers have only one import this season, Republic of Ireland international Julie-Ann Russell, compared with five last season (four were Americans from the NWSL and another Irish international in Denise O'Sullivan from the North Carolina Courage). The team has struggled and has only one win in six games. The Wanderers started the season with a 3-0 derby defeat to Sydney FC on December 30 and started the New Year three days later with 3 points, defeating Newcastle Jets 2-1 in Sydney on January 2 in front of 279 fans in a limited ticket situation because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Rosie Galea scored both goals for WSW in the 21st and 52nd minutes. Galea is a U-20 Australian international who had played only one game for Canberra in 2018/19 and a single game for the Wanderers last season. She had two-thirds of the Wanderers goals (three in total) in their first five games and scoring is the big issue for the Wanderers, who have created chances but only have managed five in six games, after adding two in a 2-2 Round 7 home tie with Adelaide United (see above). Leena Khamis has been dangerous for WSW but has no goals
The aforementioned Republic of Ireland international forward Julie-Ann Russell is in her first season in the W-League and played at the club level for Peamount United and University College Dublin, as well as for Los Angeles Strikers in the USL W-League in 2011. In Ireland, she has been the FAI Senior Women's International Player of the Year as well as the Women's National League Senior Player of the Year and has over 50 caps at the senior level. She has been in Australia since 2017 attending Sydney University and played for their New South Wales state league powerhouse side.
Wanderers defender/winger Georgia Yeoman-Dale (26), who was out of the game for 18 months and missed the entire 2019/20 season from a bone lesion, scored a tying goal from a long shot just outside of the box as she cut in from the left wing in the eleventh minute of their 4-1 defeat away to the Newcastle Jets at the Hunter. It was Yeoman-Dale's eighth goal in 88 league games across ten seasons, including two with the Jets. She has five Matilda caps but her last appearance in the squad was in 2017 and her goal is to get back into the national team frame. She told the Sydney Morning Herald last month how difficult the process to return to the game after the injury was for her, "I did have a sports doc say he wasn't sure if I was able to play again, which is always tough to hear as an athlete. It took me a few weeks to get my head around it. I actually took a step back from rehab to get my head right and make sure that it was still what I wanted to do, because I knew it was a massive feat to be able to get back and a lot of hard work." Yeoman-Dale is in her second season as a FOX color commentator for W-League matches, around her training and games for Western Sydney.
Perth Glory (0-1-2—1 point—Ninth)
Perth Glory was hugely affected by local COVID-19 travel restrictions in the country, with a number of postponements and have three games in hand on the other sides (four compared with City) and could make up some ground in their remaining games but they are a work in progress. They were due to play the two Melbourne clubs across three days on a trip to Victoria in Round 7 but then those games were postponed.
New Zealand youth international goalkeeper Lily Alfeld made her W-League debut for the Glory in their narrow 1-0 loss at Adelaide in their season opener in Round 3, making three saves from four Adelaide shots. Alfeld (24) played at Louisiana State University from 2014-17 and then with the Northern Lights in the New Zealand National Women's League. Alfeld (who has been capped at the U-17 and U-20 level and has participated in senior camps but not yet appeared in an official game) is one of three young New Zealand international Football Ferns who made the long trip to Perth from Auckland for their first W-League season, including senior internationals defender Liz Anton (21) and midfielder Malia Steinmetz (20), with the latter captaining the U-20 side in New Zealand and both Anton and Steinmetz playing in the 2016 and 2018 U-20 Women's World Cups in Papua New Guinea and France, respectively.
Perth Glory signed Gemma Craine, who played at San Diego State University after winning a National Junior College Athletic Association Division 1 Championship at Monroe Community College in New York City in 2015. A native of England, she spent time with the English U-17 national team and at Chelsea's academy.
This young side will take away a lot from this season and a few good off-season recruits—particularly on the forward line—should help the side progress in 2021/22.
2020/21 W-League Table
GP W D L GF GA Pts
Sydney FC 6 6 0 0 15 1 18
Canberra United 6 3 2 1 11 10 11
Brisbane Roar 6 2 4 0 11 4 10
Melbourne Victory 6 3 1 2 13 11 10
Adelaide United 6 3 1 2 10 9 10
Newcastle Jets 6 1 1 4 9 12 4
Melbourne City FC 7 1 1 5 7 17 4
Western Sydney Wanderers 6 1 1 4 5 15 4
Perth Glory 3 0 1 2 2 4 1
W-League is part of a new structure, independent of Football Federation Australia
2021 marks the full independence of the men's A-League, Westfield W-League, youth Y-League and e-League from the Football Federation Australia, joining together into a new organization known as Australian Professional League (APL). After a process that took about 8 years to finalize, the professional leagues can now operate as true businesses and it will be interesting to see the strategies that the W-League develops over the next few years to capitalize on the 2023 Women's World Cup that will be staged in several venues in Australia and New Zealand.
One element of the Australian Professional League plank is that every A-League franchise includes a W-League club. There are currently four men's sides without a W-League affiliate:
Central Coast Mariners—an original W-League member in 2008/09 but have not had a side for over a decade.
Macarthur FC—an expansion franchise this season in southwestern Sydney.
Wellington Phoenix—The side in the New Zealand capital which joined the A-League in 2007/08 was close to adding a W-League franchise for this season, with the effort falling apart due to the number of New Zealand citizens that could be fielded as 'imports.'
Western United—The second year club is based in the Western suburbs of Melbourne.
There still needs to be room in the W-League for independent women's organizations like Canberra United, an original W-League member who have won 3 Premierships and 2 Grand Finals, and who are off to a flying start this season.
Matildas News from Abroad
West Ham United recently signed Matilda defender Emily van Egmond, who had been on loan from the Orlando Pride of the NWSL. She played 17 matches for Orlando in 2018 and 8 in 2019. Similarly, Matilda defender Alanna Kennedy was signed on loan by Tottenham Hotspur of the FA WSL after a loan period from Orlando, who she played with since 2017, but expansion side Racing Louisville hold her rights after picking her late last year in the expansion draft. Spurs also signed Canadian international Shelina Zadorsky, who was also on loan from the Pride, and played in the W-League in 2014/15 with Perth Glory, who made the Grand Final.
Tim Grainey is a contributor to Tribal Football. His latest book Beyond Bend it Like Beckham on the global game of women's football. Get your copy today.
Follow Tim on Twitter: @TimGrainey