As featured on NewsNow: Football news

The Week in Women's Football: Reviewiing expanded A-League team by team

This week, we will review the second third (approximately) of the expanded (18 games for each club) A-League Women 2022/23 season in Australia.

We examine all eleven sides at this point of the season: expansion club Western United—and talk with team captain Jackie Sawicki in a separate interview, who is Canadian-raised but now playing for Philippines as they prepare for their first WWC Finals this summer—Melbourne City, Sydney FC, two-time reigning champions Melbourne Victory, Canberra United, Brisbane Roar, Perth Glory, Western Sydney Wanderers, Adelaide United, Newcastle Jets and Wellington Phoenix, in a season in which we have seen the top four build some distance from the chasing seven.

Note: League standings are through Round 14 games completed on February 12, 2023.

2022/23 A-League Women in Australia--Season to Date Review

At this point, Western United—the surprise club of the season—would replace Adelaide United (in ninth place and nine points from a playoff spot) from last season in the playoffs, with Melbourne City, Sydney FC and reigning champions Melbourne Victory again in the post-season. Due to some inconsistency among the chasing pack, the top four has cleared some distance for the race to the playoffs.

Western United (10-0-3—30 points—First)

At this point of this extended A-League Women season (by four games to 18), Western United still leads the league but recently lost three of five games, first at Western Sydney Wanderers on January 13, then to Perth Glory on February 4 at home and again versus struggling Newcastle United on February 8 (2-0) at home. American forward and 2019 Women's World Cup Winner Jess McDonald returned to Racing Louisville and preseason training for her NWSL side at the end of her short-term contract with WU, after nine games (and an 8-0-1 W-T-L record) on January 20, following a 2-0 win against the Roar.

However, Western United then defeated Melbourne City 2-1 at home on February 11 in a battle of the top two teams in the league and completed the double this season over their Melbourne rivals. American Hannah Keane and Sydney Cummings (from the penalty spot)—who plays internationally for Guyana—scored the goals for United to keep some distance over the chasing two sides, as Sydney FC lost the same day to Canberra United 2-1.

Matilda Chloe Logarzo has only played in six games in her ACL recovery but has three goals, including a brace in their win over Melbourne City (3-1) on December 16. She was not named for the February Matildas Cup of Nations squad. Racing Louisville loanee goalkeeper Hillary Beall (24) has five shutouts and has started every game.

American import Hannah Keane will certainly be in the running for the Julie Dolan Medal as the A-League Women Player of the Year since she has ten goals to lead the Golden Boot Race.

The club added some top-level defensive experience in Angie Beard, who signed a two-year contract. She has been capped three times by the Matildas and captained Melbourne Victory to their 2020-21 A-League title. She played most recently with Danish side Fortuna Hjorring, totaling 38 games across the last two seasons, adding 3 goals in 2021-22. She also played for her hometown club Brisbane Roar and for Western head coach Mark Torcaso in Calder United's treble-winning campaign during the 2019 NPLW Victoria season.

Angie Beard signed a two-year contract with Western United after moving home from Fortuna Hjorring in Denmark.

Photo courtesy Western United.

Melbourne City (8-1-4—25 points—Second)

After their surprising loss to Western Sydney Wanderers on January 7, City went undefeated in their next four games (with one tie) before falling again to Sydney FC (3-0) away on February 4. Everyone was looking at the crucial match versus Western United away on February 11 as a chance to pick up points on the league leaders and to reverse their 3-1 early season loss at the expansion club's home. However, Leticia McKenna's tally in the 40th minute—her second of the season—was not enough as City fell 2-1 at the expansion side's home field.

Forward Rhianna Pollicina (26) has been crucial this season with five goals in her 13 matches. In the offseason in the NPLW, she had eight goals in 23 games for APIA Leichhardt in Sydney, after scoring seven in 16 games for Melbourne City in 2021/22. Racing Louisville American loanee Emina Ekic had four goals in six games but fractured an ankle after scoring the only goal of the game against Perth Glory at the end of December; she was ruled out for the rest of the A-League Women season. Maria Rojas has four goals and was called into Chile's recent WNT camp, with the hopes of appearing in her and her country's second consecutive Finals if they can qualify from the Intercontinental Playoffs in New Zealand (See: The Week in Women's Football: WC Playoffs; Riley explains Panama choice; PNG appoint ex-Man City defender Prior - Tribal Football).

Midfielder Karly Roestbakken was a surprise 2019 WWC Finals team member and made her Matildas debut in a 3-2 First Round win over Brazil in France. She joined City for the 2022/23 season from Norway Toppserien club LSK Kvinner in Lillestrom and is just getting over a foot injury that she has had two surgeries for over the past two years. She had previously played in the league on two different occasions at Canberra United (including five games last season on loan). She has won honors in the past as the league's Young Footballer of the Year and is the second ever youngest A-League Women goal scorer after Chelsea's Sam Kerr.

Her injury cost her a chance to make the teams for the Olympic Games Finals in 2021 and AFC Women's Asian Cup Finals in early 2022. Her initial tarsal condition led to a stress fracture, and then came a second round of surgery in June of 2022. Roestbakken explained to the A-League Women website "The initial injury, it's pretty complicated. It's just how my foot was. I was born with it, and it's a bit of confusing; not many people get it."

Roestbakken is closed down by Mireya Grey of Jamaica during the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup France Group C match on June 18, 2019 in Grenoble, France.

Photo courtesy Australia Football Federation/A-League Women

Her move to LSK in April of 2020 made particular season and eased her comfort level with the move abroad as her father was born in Norway and she still has relatives—including her grandmother—within a few hours of Lillestrom, which provided strong local support for her. Unfortunately, due in large part to her injuries, she has played in only 24 matches across three seasons. This season, she has only played in four games thus far for City and none since mid-January.

She talked about coming back to full fitness and another possible late entry into the Matildas WWC Finals side as she did in 2019: "It's never not been in my mind. It's given me a fire; it's given me a hunger. It's something I want to chase. I want to get back into the mix… and having this time out, being sidelined for so long, you just realise how much you do want it. But the first thing is getting my foot 100%, playing games, getting minutes and performing as well, then whatever comes from it is a bonus. At the moment, it's just playing football and getting minutes under my belt, playing with City and hopefully doing some good things with them this year. And then, whatever happens, happens."

She likely will miss the 2023 Finals but, at 22, should have a long career ahead of her at the club and national team level.

Sydney FC (8-0-3—W-D-L—24 points—Third)

Long-time Sky Blue forward Remy Siemsen signed with Leicester City Foxes just at the end of 2022; Leicester City are mired in a relegation battle in the WSL, ironically after Siemsen's last European side AIK of Stockholm was relegated in the Fall—which she did not have to worry about in Sydney, who are still cruising along and are tied with Western United for the lead in team scoring with 27 goals. A 2-1 loss to Canberra United away on February 11th was a bit of a setback but they still have two games in hand compared with leaders Western United (30 points) and second place Melbourne City (25 points), so Sydney still has a chance to win the Premiership for the third year in a row and fifth time in their history, or at least clinch a home playoff match for the first round at least.

Their 3-0 win at home against Melbourne City on February 4 sent a message to the rest of the league that the Premiership and League titles are their goals this season. American Madison Haley leads the club with seven goals and is second in the league (tied with Canberra's Michelle Heyman) behind fellow American Hannah Keane of Western United. Australian international Princess Ibini has five tallies; the Sky Blues have seemingly done fine without the goalscoring prowess of Siemsen, who had 31 goals in 69 matches for Sydney in her career, including two goals in four matches this season.

Sydney did add forwards Rola Badawiya and Teigan Collister to their side mid-season. Badawiya was born in the U.S. and played for Sydney University in the 2022 NPLW NSW, where she was the Player of the Season and the runner-up in the Golden Boot race with 13 goals—all coming in her last 15 matches after not scoring in her first eight games at the club—for the side that won the Premiership but fell in the playoffs to Northern Tigers (3-0), who then lost the Grand Final to MacArthur Rams on penalties after a scoreless draw. Badawiya played two seasons at Long Beach State and her final two years of college at California Baptist University. She had been training with the Sky Blues before signing with the club. She scored the only goal of the match in their most recent match, a 2-1 loss at Canberra, for her first A-league Women goal in four matches with the club.

'Excited doesn't even begin to describe how I'm feeling': Badawiya part of <a href='/clubs/sydney'>Sydney</a>'s double swoop

California native Rola Badawiya was a star with Sydney University in the NPLW in 2022 and shows off the Premiership trophy which the team won;

she now has signed with Sydney FC for the remainder of the 2022/23 season.

Photo courtesy Sydney University SFC Media.

Tiegan Collister (23) brings Liberty A-League experience to Sydney, having previously played for Newcastle Jets and Western Sydney Wanderers, where she appeared in 13 games last season for WSW. She played for Sydney Olympic of the NPLW during the 2022 season.

Melbourne Victory (6-4-3—22 points—Fourth)

Attacking midfielder Alex Chidiac came from Racing Louisville on loan and has been absolutely superb this season, scoring six goals for fourth in the Golden Boot race and adding five assists—tied for the league lead with Mackenzy Hawkesby of Sydney and American Cyera Hintzen of Perth—and was deservedly selected to the national side for the February home tournament against Spain, Czech Republic and Jamaica. Forward Melina Ayers has added five goals in a superb bounce back after missing most of last year due to injury, but unfortunately she is out again with a hamstring injury (see more on Ayers in our column last month on the first third of the A-League Women season: The Week in Women's Football: A-League focus; Hopkins exclusive; World Cup hopes - Tribal Football).

The Victory made an interesting international signing on January 6 of Irish multi-sport athlete Sarah Rowe (27). She has been playing for Australian Football League Women's (Aussie Rules code) Collingwood in Melbourne for the past five seasons. At home in Ireland, she represented Ireland at youth (at the U-15, U-17 and U-19 levels) and senior international level (in 2015) in soccer football before playing Gaelic Football, which led her to the AFLW, where a number of GF players have transitioned to over the years. Rowe returned to football in 2021 to play for Shelbourne Ladies in the Irish domestic league, where she had won a league title and FAI cup in 2016, before returning to Collingwood to play in the latest AFLW season.

Melbourne Victory Head Coach, Jeff Hopkins said he was excited to see Rowe's return to football in the A-League Women: "We're incredibly pleased to have an athlete like Sarah join the Club and we're excited to see what a natural talent like her can bring to our squad. Sarah has been trialing with us and we've been impressed with her level and what she has to offer, so we're looking to see her hit the ground running at Victory."

Thus far, she has played 55 minutes in 3 games. Rowe is an injury replacement player for Melina Ayres (see above).

Kayla Morrison, who is American and played at the University of Kansas, was also injured most of last season with an ACL suffered in the first game. She has returned in superb form and hopes to represent the Matildas some day in her adopted country. She scored a hat trick at in a 5-2 win over Newcastle Jets and has four goals to date; most encouraging after her injury last season, she has played in all 13 matches this season. As of February 3 (after 12 games), Morrison has won possession 127 times in defense, with 15 interceptions and seven blocks.

Kayla Morrison shows the number of goals that she scored against Newcastle Jets on December 18 in Melbourne Victory's 5-2 win, with Melina Ayers scoring the other two goals.

Photo Courtesy A-League Women.

Canberra United (5-2-5—17 points—Fifth)

Michelle Heyman has scored seven goals in Canberra's five wins this season and is tied for second in the Golden Boot race Madison Haley of Sydney FC, behind only Hannah Keane of Western United with ten. Heyman hasn't scored in any of the seven combined ties or losses. The league's all-time leading scorer is the heart and soul of the Greens, who have four wins in their last six games and hope, with six more games to play this season, to make a late playoff run, but those two losses—a pair of 5-0 losses away to Wellington and home to Western United—raise questions about their defense, which has surrendered more goals (23) than any other team in the league besides Newcastle Jets (35), who they defeated on February 5 (3-0), with goals by Laura Hughes (her first of the season), Heyman and Grace Maher, the latter from the penalty spot for her third goal of the season.

Their 2-1 win at home over Sydney FC on February 11, with Heyman and Ellie Brush scoring the goals—the latter notching the winner with three minutes to play—was Canberra's first win against Sydney FC since December 2018 (including four losses and one deadlock) will certainly boost spirits among the Capital City fans entering the expanded season's stretch run.

Brisbane Roar (4-4-4—16 points—Sixth)

The Roar has scored only 13 goals in 12 games—eighth best in the league—but have four wins. They have been inconsistent this season but five points in their last three games: a 3-3 shootout tie with Wellington at home on January 28, a 2-1 win away at Adeliade United on February 4 and a 1-1 tie at home against champions Melbourne Victory on February 11, is pointing to a strong end of season run for a playoff berth.

'I am happy to get on the score sheet but… we want to win': Riley caps off Brisbane return with goal

New Zealand international Indiah-Paige Riley celebrated her return to the Brisbane Roar with a cracking goal before Adelaide United skipper Chelsie Dawber equalised for a 1-1 draw in their Liberty A-League clash at Redcliffe on January 15.

Photo courtesy A-League Women.

Indiah Paige Riley (21) returned to the Roar after leaving the club after the 2019-20 season. She scored with a rocket shot to give the home side the lead in the 26th minute in their eventual 1-1 tied with Adelaide United on January 15. As a 17-year-old on her birthday, she scored for the Roar in a 3-1 win over Western Sydney in December of 2018. Riley recently declared for New Zealand and been playing games for the Football Ferns since early 2022 (she was born in Auckland) even though she grew up in Australia, played internationally at the youth level and received one cap from the Matildas on a European tour in the Spring of 2021.

She moved to Fortuna Hjorring in Denmark for the 2020/21 season, scoring seven times in 52 games across three seasons, and played in the last two editions of the UEFA Women's Champion League. She was signed by the Roar as an injury replacement for Brazilian import Mariel Hecher, who ruptured her ACL last month. Paige-Riley said about her move: "It's super nice to be wearing the orange jersey and playing in front of the home crowd again. I've been playing with these girls since I was young so it is really exciting. I am happy to get on the score sheet but at Brisbane we want to win."

Their American import goalkeeper, Hensley Hancuff, is on loan from NJ/NY Gotham FC and was named to the U.S. U-23 Youth National Team for a trip to France from February 12-21, for a training camp and two practice games against France's U-23 national team at the world renowned Clairefontaine National Training Center just outside the capital city.

Perth Glory (4-3-4—15 points—Seventh)

The Glory narrowly missed out on a playoff berth last season on goal difference to Melbourne Victory. This season they had a slow start had and allowed 10 goals in their first 5 games (with 16 allowed in total across 11 games and tied for sixth best in the league with Melbourne Victory). As of press time, they are undefeated in their last three matches, with one tie and three victories, including a 4-0 home victory on February 13 over the Newcastle Jets.

Perth signed New Zealand international Hannah Blake (22) as an injury replacement for American Rylee Baisden, who is out for the season with an ACL tear, and had five goals in only seven matches. Head coach Alex Epakis said about signing Blake, "She's not a like-for-like for Rylee. Rylee was very direct and a goalscoring threat. Hannah brings other attributes. She's got a nice disguise in her one-v-one ability; she's got a very nice finishing quality."

Coach Epakis was quite upset at A-League Women administrators because of Perth Glory facing three consecutive weeks without a game. Last season, because of Western Australia COVID protocols, they only had one game at home and were essentially a road season for the rest of the season. Sydney FC had to move a game set for Leichhardt Oval due to a poor playing field and couldn't find an alternate venue on short notice.

Epakis said, "I'm not happy about it [the delay in the Sydney match]. The APL made a decision to postpone our game against Sydney that was due to be this coming weekend. They've made that postponement due to Sydney FC not being able to source a venue in the largest state of venues. So now we've been punished. We're going to play three games in six days at the end of the season across three different states, which isn't fair. It compromises the run that we need to have and, most importantly, it's a well-being and a safety issue."

Epakis has a valid point and, though COVID changed the rules for everyone during the past two years, the league has always prioritized forcing games in at the end of the year rather than adjusting the playoff schedules, at the expense of player rest and team preparation for the playoffs.

Epakis presented a counter proposal to the APL staff that was not accepted: "We offered to host them [Sydney FC] here and cover the cost and they still said no."

He planned to play internal games against their boy's academy sides during their forced layoff. He added: "We certainly have to do something to maintain that intense load. You can't go three weeks of not playing a game and then just expect to perform when you get back."

Perform they did though in their first game after the long layoff with a 3-1 win away over league leaders Western United in Melbourne on February 4, a real boost to the side's playoff hopes and their third match without a loss—including a 1-1 tie away to Melbourne Victory on January 5 and 2-0 home win over Wellington Phoenix on January 15.

Western Sydney Wanderers (4-2-7—14 points—Eighth)

The Wanderers excited their fans with a brief revival to open the new year with an unbeaten run of four games, with their two wins over the two table-toppers (2-1 over Melbourne City and 2-0 over Western United) quite unexpected and a huge boost for fans at Wanderland. The club then lost two of three matches at the end of January and entering February. A 1-0 win over Wellington at home in front of only 313 fans on February 12 was important but the playoffs seem too far off, with eight points separating fourth place Melbourne Victory and the Wanderers, with each team having five games left in the season. Sophie Harding (23) scored the winner against the Phoenix in the 40th minute, her second goal of the season and second in two consecutive matches.

WSW added an inspired acquisition mid-year in goal-scoring phenom and Philippine international Sarina Bolden from Chifure AS Elfen Saitama of the Japanese WE League. Bolden grew up in the States but has been a leading light for the Philippines national team since 2018, with 17 goals in 30 matches; she was a huge reason why the side will debut at the WWC Finals this summer. She scored in her second game with Western Sydney in the shock victory against Western United.

'Keep an eye on us, we're going to do some great things': Wanderers ruin Western's perfect record

Philippines international Sarina Bolden has been a huge asset for the Western Sydney Wanderers this season.

Photo courtesy of A-League Women.

Bolden said after the win over Western United: "This isn't a fluke. How can you tell me that the second to last team in the league beats the two top teams in the A-Leagues? That just doesn't happen on a fluke. There's been a real shift in the team. There is a lot of talent and hard work. We have the momentum going forward. We stopped Western's momentum. Keep an eye on us. We're going to do some great things."

Wanderers' defender and team captain Clare Hunt (23) won her first senior international call-up to the CommBank Matildas, named in the 25-player squad for the February Cup of Nations. She became the 54th different player called up during head coach Tony Gustavsson's tenure in charge of the national team. She joined WSW for the 2020/21 season after three years with Canberra United. She missed a good portion of last season with a shoulder injury.

During the A-League Women off-season, Hunt plays with Sydney University in the NPLW New South Wales league. Hunt has previously represented Australia at the junior level, representing the CommBank Young Matildas during the 2016 AFF Women's Championship in Mandalay, Myanmar. As of February 3, 2023, she has been among the league leaders on defense—Hunt has won possession 116 times for the Wanderers, recorded 43 clearances, 22 of those with her head, 20 interceptions, 12 blocks, 20 tackles and a passing accuracy of 79%.

Adelaide United (4-1-7—13 points—Ninth)

The Reds tailed off after a strong start of four wins in their first five games. They are winless in their last seven, with only one tie way against the Roar (1-1) and their last three matches have been 1-0 losses to Melbourne Victory, Melbourne City and Brisbane. It's not too late for a final push for the playoffs but currently, their first ever playoff appearance last season looks unlikely to be repeated this season. Chelsea Dawber, on loan from the Chicago Red Stars, has three goals and has been a driving force in the side, but Fiona Worts, last season's Golden Boot Winner and Player of the Year, continues to struggle in front of goal with only one goal (She played during the A-League Women off-season in Norway with Lillestrom, scoring three times in ten matches).

Goalscoring is Adelaide's big problem as their seven team goals in 12 games is the lowest total of the 11 A-League Women sides. Dutch national Maruschka Waldus (30) has returned to Australia for her second season with Adelaide, after playing for the 2020/21—she played with PSV Eindhoven at home in 2022. She played in 2017/18 and 2018/19 for the Wanderers and has played professionally in the U.S., Netherlands, Sweden, Germany, Norway and Iceland. As of February 3, she has made 24 headed clearances in 2022-23, the second-most of any player in league, behind Wellington's Marisa van der Meer (28).

Newcastle Jets—(3-1-9—10 points—Tenth)

At the end of January, the Jets replaced head coach Ash Wilson—who had coached the side the last three seasons but which had lost seven of their past eight games—with well-known Australian coach Gary Van Egmond. The father of Matilda Emily, he coached in the men's A-League for years. Van Egmond had been the club's Academy Director and A-League Women's Team Technical Advisor.

Gary Van Egmond, who won an A-League title as head coach of the Newcastle Jets in the early years of the men's league, has taken over as head coach of the women's side.

Photo courtesy of the Newcastle Jets.

Van Egmond won the A-League title in 2007-08 with the Jets, when he was also named as the Coach of the Year. More importantly for the Jets Women, he had the magic touch as they defeated league leaders Western United 2-0 in only his second game in charge on February 8, ending the club's four game winless string. Ash Brodigan (23) scored once for the Jets and came close two other times; she was superb in the moral-boosting victory for Newcastle. Taren King (26) scored her first ever A-League Women goal in her sixth season—three with Canberra and the last three with Newcastle. She scored one goal in 15 games in the NPLW for Sydney University in 2022, ahead of this A-League Women season.

American import Sara Griffin and long-time Jet Tara Andrews lead the club with four goals each. The Jet's 17 goals scored is seventh best in the league but their defense has surrendered the highest number of goals, with 35 in 13 games.

Wellington Phoenix (1-2-8—5 points—Eleventh)

The Nix lost their first five games with only two goals scored versus 13 against. The Nix then tied WSW at home on January 1, then lost two more games away to Western United (1-0) and Perth (2-0). They then blasted Canberra United at home 5-0 on January 21, before scoring thrice in a 3-3 tie against Brisbane on January 28.

Scoring has been shared nicely with two goals each by new signing in 2023 and Football Ferns veteran Betsy Haslett, 19-year-old Ava Pritchard—she also scored twice last season for the Phoenix—and 17- year-old New Zeland youth international Emily Clegg, in her first season in the A-League Women.

Second year defender Mackenzie Barry (21), who played for the Football Ferns against the U.S. earlier this year, leads the league in tackles with 55.

Wellington Phoenix and New Zealand international defender Mackenzie Barry (in Blue) in action against Western Sydney Wanderers in the 2022/23 A-League Women season.

Photo Courtesy A-League Women.

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

Video of the day:

Tim Grainey
About the author

Tim Grainey

Have your say

Subscribe and go ad-free

For only $10 a year

  1. Go Ad-Free
  2. Faster site experience
  3. Support great writing
  4. Subscribe now
Launch Offer: 2 months free

Subscribe and go ad-free

For only $10 a year

Subscribe now
Launch Offer: 2 months free