Coach: Adrian Stenta
Last season: 5th
In: Miranda Templeman, Grace Taranto, Leia Varley, Kayla Sharples, Natasha Brough, Reona Omiya, Nanako Sasaki, Emma Stanbury, Georgia Beaumont, Shadeene Evans, Paige Hayward
Out: Dylan Holmes, Sian Fryer-McLaren, Maria ‘Cote’ Rojas, Georgia Campagnale, Laura Johns, Kahlia Hogg, Mallory Weber, Maruschka Waldus
Rising star: Shadeene Evans
Key question: Adelaide had one of their most consistent and impressive seasons in 2020/21, missing out on their first finals appearance by a single goal difference point to Canberra United. The magic of that Reds side came through a core group of local players, who’d been part of Adelaide’s set-up for some time, hitting their straps all at once. However, several of those core players – including almost their entire starting midfield – have departed in the off-season, replaced by a new group who’ve not had the same luxury of time to build cohesion before launching into a new campaign.
While they’ve held onto exciting young striker Chelsie Dawber and attacking midfielder Emily Condon, the Reds have also lost two of last season’s most dangerous and experienced goal-scorers in Maria ‘Cote’ Rojas and Mallory Weber. The recruitment of Japanese duo Reona Omiya and Nanako Sasaki could offer a different edge to Adelaide’s midfield this time around, while the late loan inclusion of American defender Kayla Sharples from the NWSL to partner emerging Aussie centre-back Matilda McNamara looks promising. How quickly these new players click and find their rhythm with Adelaide’s established core will be key to their success this season.
Coach: Garrath McPherson
Last season: 2nd
In: Mia Bailey, Cannon Clough, Annabel Haffenden, Holly McQueen (out for the season – ACL), Jessie Rasschaert, Natalie Tathem, Katrina Gorry, Rie Kitano, Lanni McDougall, Ayesha Norrie, Hollie Palmer, Shea Connors, Meaghan McElligott
Out: Emily Gielnik, Tameka Yallop, Olivia Chance, Clare Polkinghorne, Kim Carroll, Morgan Aquino, Kaitlyn Torpey, Leticia McKenna, Winonah Heatley
Rising star: Jamilla Rankin
Key question: This is shaping up to be Brisbane Roar’s rebuilding season, having lost almost their entire starting spine from last year’s second-placed finish. Golden Boot winner Emily Gielnik, Olympian midfielders Tameka Yallop and Olivia Chance, and veteran central defenders Clare Polkinghorne and Kim Carroll – all of whom have almost 350 national team caps combined — are gone, mostly to Europe’s greener pastures.
As a result, the Roar have recruited almost an entirely new team, and their biggest challenge will be putting these jigsaw pieces together in an effective and sustainable way. The return of Katrina Gorry from maternity leave will be welcome experience to a largely youthful side, while the recruitment of exciting NPL strikers Shea Connors and Meaghan McElligott could fill the Gielnik gap. However, the hefty turn-over in central positions and the lack of experience, particularly in defence, could make this a bumpy season for Brisbane, though the emergence of a new crop of young Australian players could add some silver linings.
Coach: Vicki Linton
Last season: 4th
In: Beth Mason-Jones, Ally Haran, Mikayla Vidmar, Alexia Karrys-Stahl, Chloe Middleton, Margot Robinne, Chelsee Washington, Holly Caspers, Allira Toby, Ashleigh Sykes
Out: Jessie Rasschaert, Sally James, Demi Koulizakis, Jessika Nash, Paige Satchell, Clare Hunt, Bianca Galic, Ashlie Crofts
Rising star: Emma Ilijoski
Key question: Canberra scraped into finals just ahead of Adelaide last season, with returned veteran Michelle Heyman almost single-handedly pulling the stand-alone women’s club back into trophy contention after years in the wilderness. While new captain Heyman doesn’t appear to be slowing down after returning from retirement in 2020, opposition teams will have the reigning Julie Dolan medallist on their radars and will likely mark her more ferociously than they did last year.
As such, if Canberra is to simply out-score other teams on their way to finals football again, they’ll need to diversify their attacking unit enough to keep things unpredictable. They may well do so with the recruitment of Allira Toby, Holly Caspers, and America’s Chelsee Washington, but it’s the return of veteran striker Ash Sykes that looks the most promising. Together, Sykes and Heyman were part of the 2011/12 Canberra side that won the premiership-championship double, becoming the first club to go through the season undefeated, both of them scoring in the grand final to defeat Brisbane 3-2. Rekindling that strike partnership could be key if United are to return to finals football.
Coach: Rado Vidosic
Last season: 7th
In: Sally James, Coco Majstorovic, Rebekah Stott, Chelsea Blissett, Kaitlyn Torpey, Winonah Heatley, Marisa van der Meer, Isabella Accardo, Darcey Malone, Leticia McKenna, Rhianna Pollicina, Meisha Westland, Caitlin Karic, Holly McNamara, Hannah Wilkinson
Out: Teagan Micah, Teigen Allen, Sam Johnson, Jenna McCormick, Alex Chidiac, Hollie Palmer, Chinatsu Kira, Rhali Dobson, Harriet Withers, Noor Eckhoff
Rising star: Chelsea Blissett
Key question: City recorded their worst-ever finish of 7th last season, having lost almost their entire starting XI that was filled with senior internationals (including senior Matildas) at the end of the previous campaign. Their first rebuilding season was unflattering, to say the least, but they did pick up steam towards the end, particularly after the return of Alex Chidiac from injury.
However, Chidiac – along with most of City’s better players, including goalkeeper Teagan Micah, defender Jenna McCormick, midfielders Chinatsu Kira and Noor Eckhoff, and striker Harriet Withers – have not returned, meaning City are almost starting from scratch again. Questions surround City’s new-look attacking line-up, too: there are few out-and-out strikers in their defence-heavy squad, with 29-year old Kiwi international Hannah Wilkinson leading the line alongside vastly less experienced players. The return of Kiwi Rebekah Stott from cancer and the emergence of young stars Darcey Malone, Leticia McKenna, Winonah Heatley, and Chelsea Blissett will be some of the few joys in what could end up being another underwhelming campaign.
Coach: Jeff Hopkins
Last season: 3rd (Champions)
In: Casey Dumont, Courtney Nevin, Emma Robers, Alana Murphy, Harriet Withers, Lynn Williams
Out: Gaby Garton, Annalie Longo, Lisa De Vanna, Natalie Tathem, Angie Beard
Rising star: Polly Doran
Key question: Can they do it again? Victory came from third in the 2020/21 regular season to take down both Brisbane and Sydney to claim their second ever championship trophy, guided by now the most successful coach in women’s top-flight history, Jeff Hopkins. New Matildas midfielder Kyra Cooney-Cross was the crowning jewel of Victory’s solid spine, while the goal-scoring exploits of Catherine Zimmerman, Lisa De Vanna and Melina Ayres kept the side flexible and threatening.
Fortified by the dazzling centre-back pairing of Claudia Bunge and Kayla Morrison, the latter of whom has been named as this season’s captain, as well as the fierce running of full-backs Angie Beard and Polly Doran, Victory barely had a weak link across their regular starting squad. The loss of De Vanna, Beard, Football Fern Annalie Longo and veteran goalkeeper Gaby Garton this season will be felt, but Victory have recruited wisely to fill those gaps, bringing across emerging Matilda Courtney Nevin from Western Sydney to cover for Beard, while the recruitment of USA striker Lynn Williams could easily replace the speed and dynamism of De Vanna. Barring catastrophic mid-season injuries, this Victory side looks like the one to beat.
Coach: Ashley Wilson
Last season: 8th
In: Georgia Boric, Kirsty Fenton, Ashlee Brodigan, Elizabeth Eddy, Lara Gooch, Bethany Gordon, Lucy Johnson, Josie Morley, Marie Markussen
Out: Tessa Tamplin, Alisha Bass, Panagiota Petratos, Nicole Simonsen, Chloe O’Brien
Rising star: Sophie Harding
Key question: The Jets played some impressive football last season, having found a midfield trio that clicked and a more varied attacking line to complement under-appreciated striker Tara Andrews. And while they’ve kept their tops and tails, including veteran defenders Hannah Brewer, Cassidy Davis, and Gema Simon, Newcastle appear to have simply swapped out one midfield for another, which could make them flabby in the middle.
The arrival of Norway attacker Marie Markussen and American midfielder Elizabeth Eddy will help paper over these frailties, as will the Jets’ retaining of Andrews and speedster Lauren Allan, who has continued to improve over her first two seasons at this level. Like Adelaide, the challenge facing Newcastle is time: how quickly can their new midfield gel, particularly given the late arrivals of some international players? And have they found another dimension to their attack that tends to fall back into old Andrews-heavy habits when the going gets tough?
Coach: Alex Epakis
Last season: 9th
In: Morgan Aquino, Courtney Newbon, Kim Carroll, Mie Leth Jans, Claudia Mihocic, Sarah Cain, Sadie Lawrence, Sofia Sakalis, Lisa De Vanna, Cyera Hintzen, Alana Jancevski, Aideen Keane, Demi Koulizakis, Susan Phonsongkham
Out: Lily Alfeld, Malia Steinmetz, Sarah Morgan, Marianna Tabain, Caitlin Doeglas, Katarina Jukic, Lexie Moreno, Jamie-Lee Gale, Patricia Charalambous
Rising star: Hana Lowry
Key question: Perth Glory this season is essentially a glimpse into the Matildas’ future: several of their new recruits have been capped at Junior and Young Matildas level, with a handful – Hana Lowry, Claudia Mihocic, Sofia Sakalis, Alana Jancevski, Aideen Keane – carrying a particular buzz around them. Epakis has leaned into his NPLW networks and found the next-gen equivalents of departed players, signing many early and on multi-year contracts to give himself and the team as much time as possible to gel.
They finished dead-last last season after the pandemic wreaked havoc on the schedule. The question for Perth this season, particularly as the Omicron variant rears its head in Australia, is whether they navigate a potential second disrupted campaign if Western Australia snaps its borders shut to the rest of the country again. They’ve had more preparation coming into this new season, and the pockets of chemistry developed between the young national team players will likely come in handy. Guided by veterans like Lisa De Vanna and Kim Carroll, will the Glory’s youth-heavy squad be able to take on the bigger dogs in the competition?
Coach: Ante Juric
Last season: 1st (Premiers)
In: Jessika Nash, Sarah Hunter, Maria ‘Cote’ Rojas, Paige Satchell, Mary Stanic-Floody, Kahli Johnson
Out: Clare Wheeler, Ellie Brush, Teresa Polias, Allira Toby
Rising star: Jessika Nash
Key question: Like Victory, Sydney are coming off an historic 2020/21 season, winning the Premiers Plate for the first time in a decade. They also did it with one of the club’s youngest ever squads, averaging roughly 22 years of age. Head coach Ante Juric’s philosophy since taking over in 2017 has been maintaining squad consistency across multiple campaigns, and this season is no different with one of the smallest player turn-overs in the league.
The big question for Sydney is how they will cope with the loss of former captain and midfield anchor, Teresa Polias. Her experience and leadership aside, Polias was also one of Sydney’s most important players on the field last season, ranking in the top five across the league for goal involvements – particularly from set pieces. Fellow veteran Ellie Brush has also been ruled out with a second ACL injury, though the recruitment of 33-year old Chilean Maria ‘Cote’ Rojas from Adelaide could counter-balance that loss of maturity and experience. Further reinforced by talented young players like Sarah Hunter, Cortnee Vine, Jess Nash and Paige Satchell, a finals spot is almost guaranteed, while another trophy looks likely.
Coach: Gemma Lewis
Last season: –
In: Lily Alfeld, Brianna Edwards, Mackenzie Barry, Charlotte Lancaster, Annabel Martin, Zoe McMeeken, Kate Taylor, Saskia Vosper, Isabel Gomez, Grace Jale, Hannah Jones, Chloe Knott, Te Reremoana Walker, Alyssa Whinham, Kelli Brown, Jordan Jasnos, Ava Pritchard, Cushla Rue, Grace Wisnewski
Rising star: Kelli Brown
Key question: A new club, a new coach, an entire squad of new players: the introduction of the league’s tenth team – the first expansion side since City entered the competition in 2015 – makes for a different kind of excitement this season. The benefit of being a new team is there are few, if any, expectations. This is particularly so for Wellington, a team that’s had to relocate temporarily across the Tasman and settle in Wollongong, and who only got their full squad together in the last month.
With a host of emerging Football Ferns in their midst, as well as some promising young Aussies, Wellington will do well to snatch points wherever they can, but there’s little pressure to hit the ground running. Head coach Gemma Lewis has some advantages in terms of squad selection, recruiting a bunch of players she coached at youth national team level while working for Football New Zealand. Given the various obstacles of their pre-season, the Phoenix will likely take a while to find their groove, but it’ll be exciting to watch none the less.
Prediction: 10th (but that’s okay)
Western Sydney Wanderers
Coach: Catherine Cannuli
Last season: 6th
In: Sham Khamis, Teigan Allen, Sheridan Gallagher, Clare Hunt, Liz Ralston, Bianca Galic, Malia Steinmetz, Ashlie Crofts
Out: Leena Khamis, Julie-Ann Russell, Sarah Hunter, Aideen Keane, Sarah Willacy, Nikola Orgill, Courtney Newbon, Susan Phonsongkham, Courtney Nevin, Georgia Yeoman-Dale, Chloe Middleton
Rising star: Bryleeh Henry
Key question: Similar to their men’s side, Wanderers women have always been filled with promise and potential. Aside from their fourth-placed finish two seasons ago, where they were spear-headed by top-quality internationals including new Victory recruit Lynn Williams and driven by a sensational midfield trio of Amy Harrison, Denise O’Sullivan and Kyra Cooney-Cross, Western Sydney have never quite lived up to the expectations that such a big club – with such enormous resources at its disposal – naturally creates.
Former Matilda Catherine Cannuli’s first season as a top-flight head coach will be challenging, especially having lost the experienced heads of Leena Khamis, Julie-Ann Russell, and Georgia Yeoman-Dale. However, Cannuli has made some shrewd recruitments in the off-season and has built what looks to be (on paper, at least) one of the most balanced midfields in the league. Goals have always been a problem for the Wanderers, though, and the loss of the tenacious Khamis will be felt. It could be some time before this club meets expectations, but the squad Cannuli has put together feels like the start of something.