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Grainey: A closer look at the Westfield W-League

Sam Kerr of the Western New York Flash is with Sydney FC for the brief Westfield W-League season. (Photo Copyright Meg Linehan for The Equalizer)

Australia’s W-League has begun its sixth season and its successful run is in part a testament to Tom Sermanni’s vision of selling the importance of a national league to the Australian Football Federation (AFF) while he was head coach of the Australian women’s national team. After Australia qualified for the quarterfinals for the first time at the 2007 World Cup in China, he told this writer in Tianjin how vital he felt a league was to continue the development of his national team player pool. He wanted to see the AFF start the league within the next year or two, no matter how many rounds of games were played. The W-League began in late 2008, with all the sides except Canberra utilizing a men’s A-League partner in some way (for marketing, training sites, funding, etc.). The W-League’s timing of November to January has attracted a number of imports over the years, dovetailing nicely with the offseason of leagues in North America and Europe, even though teams have limited roster salary caps (roughly US$125,000 per season). Below is a team-by-team look, pairing teams who met in week one.

Brisbane Roar

Brisbane Roar head coach Belinda Wilson returns for a second season and is also now in charge of the Australia U-17 national team. Wilson looks to have constructed a strong squad. Last season was the first in which the Roar did not make the championship (Grand Final), having won titles in year one and three. Wilson will build her defense around German international goalkeeper and current European player of the year Nadine Angerer, arguably the most important international signing ever for the W-League. Angerer has signed after years with 1 FFC Frankfurt. Australian international midfielder Tameka Butt returns to the Roar, after playing with Angerer and Frankfurt; she also played with the Boston Breakers in WPSL Elite in 2012. Forward Katrina Gorry won the North American W-League title with Ottawa Fury in 2012.

Canberra United

Canberra United is an organization solely devoted to the women’s game. Australia’s capital city does not have a men’s A-League side but Canberra has been successful going it alone, winning the league crown in an undefeated season in 2011-12 and finishing runners-up in 2008-09. Canberra has a new coach in Liesbeth Migchelsen, who was an assistant with the Netherlands U-19 women’s national teams program as well as a head coach for club sides, after finishing her playing career. Migchelsen replaced highly acclaimed Czech coach Jitka Klimkova. A trio of Americans is spending the winter Down Under: Stephanie Ochs and Lori Lindsey from Washington Spirit and defender Kendall Fletcher, lately with Vittsjo of Sweden and who also played for Los Angeles, St. Louis and Sky Blue in WPS. Fletcher is the only one of the trio who has played in the league before, with Central Coast Mariners and Melbourne Victory. Goalkeeper Lydia Williams, an Australian international, whose last club was Pitea in Sweden, was also on the original Chicago Red Stars WPS roster in 2009. Williams could have qualified to play for the U.S. through her American-born mother. Canberra United’s defender and captain Nicole Sykes spent the offseason playing with Kristianstads IF in Sweden and with Canberra Olympic in the local Australian Capital Territory Women’s Premier League.

Two Americans who did not return to the capital city had strong seasons in NWSL after their time in Canberra: Kristen Mewis made the playoffs with FC Kansas City and Nikki Washington won a NWSL title with Portland. Canberra must also do without former German international Ariane Hingst, who won over 170 caps for Germany and had played with Newcastle Jets in 2011-12.

Canberra United started the 2013-14 campaign with a 3-0 away win over Brisbane Roar. Lori Lindsey opened the scoring for Canberra before all-time W-League leading goal scorer Michelle Heyman scored twice, within seven minutes either side of the half. Williams, Fletcher and Ochs all played 90 minutes for Canberra, while Lindsey was subbed out with two minutes left.

Canberra United is undefeated and has six points–along with Sydney FC–after defeating Western Sydney Wanderers 2-0 in their second game, on goals by Heyman and Ochs. All three Americans played 90 minutes.

In their second match, Brisbane stunned Perth in Western Australia 3-0 with goals by Tameka Butt, Amy Chapman and Clare Polkinghorne. The Roar’s acclaimed German goalkeeper, Nadine Angerer, had to leave the game in the 15th minute with a quad injury. Kate Stewart subbed in and earned the clean sheet against her former club; Stewart played for Glory in the first season of the W-League. Perth and the Roar are both tied for third on three points, along with Melbourne Victory.

Newcastle Jets

The Newcastle Jets rely on local talent for 15 of their 18 rostered players,  some of whom have previously played for the Jets, Northern New South Wales (NSW) Football, or are currently part of the Emerging Jets program, which delineates a tiered path for youth players to progress to the top league. The three non-Newcastle raised players have joined from Brisbane Roar: Hannah Beard (who played for St. Leo’s University in Florida), Lauren Brown and Ashley Spina. Emily Van Egmond, who played in NWSL and WPSL Elite, left the Jets for Western Sydney Wanderers as did American defender Tori Huster (Washington Spirit). Americans Tiffany Boshers (ex-Baylor University) and Angela Salem (WNY Flash) did not return to Australia this offseason.

Perth Glory

Jamie Harnwell, a former long-time player for the Glory’s A-League side, coached the Glory into the playoffs for the first time last season and has added some international talent. New imports include former University of Virginia goalkeeper Chantel Jones, who played in four games for the Washington Spirit in NWSL and posted a 1.50 goals-against-average; former Canadian international defender Sasha Andrews (Southern Methodist University/University of Nebraska and Pali Blues) and Canadian international forward Christina Julien, who has been playing in Russia with Rossiyanka. Julien signed a short-term, seven-game contract with the Glory after her national team head coach–John Herdman–suggested that she contact Harnwell because Herdman, who coached many years in New Zealand, felt that “it’s great soccer and a great league.” Julien further explained that: “I got in contact with Jamie and he decided to give me a look and gave me a guest pass and next thing I know I was in Australia. It’s amazing, the country’s phenomenal, a lot of uniqueness to it and it’s got a very big North American flavor to it and it’s just been honestly amazing….Since I was 12, going to Australia has been on my bucket list so I’m super excited to be here. I feel like a kid in a candy store with everything and it’s just an amazing experience.” Julien hopes to impress the Glory to be able to return next year.

The Glory return Matildas forward Kate Gill and midfielder Collette McCallum, who won a USL W-League title with Pali Blues in 2008 and a WPS crown with Sky Blue FC in 2009. Another new import is defender Cecilie Sandvej from Brondby in Denmark. Aivi Luik, an Australian international who played at the University of Reno and for FC Indiana for many years, may miss the season due to a hamstring injury.

Perth Glory had an ideal start to the season with a 5-2 away win over Newcastle. Canadian international Christina Julien scored the winner for the West Australian side, along with goals from Kate Gill and Collette McCallum. Chantel Jones and Sasha Andrews played the entire game while Julian came out with 5 minutes left. Hanna Beard scored for Newcastle.

Perth Glory fell to the visiting Brisbane Roar by a 3-0 scoreline in their second match, with Jones, Andrews, Julien and McCallum all playing 90 minutes.

In their second match, the Jets crashed out to Sydney 4-0 and sit bottom of league on 0 points.

Adelaide United

The new coach of the Adelaide United Reds–Ross Aloisi–is another former A-League player who is bringing considerable experience to the women’s game. Aloisi played for his hometown side Adelaide United as well as in Belgium, Switzerland, Austria, Malaysia and New Zealand. He replaced Dave Edmondson, who left for Melbourne Victory Women after two seasons with the South Australian side. Aloisi was quite honest about the huge task he faces, with Adelaide never even getting close to a playoff berth in five seasons, having won only five games during that time—two of which were last season.

He had concerns even when he first discussed the position with club officials: “I wasn’t so sure when I was first asked (about the coaching role). It is probably one of the best decisions I have ever made in my football career. It is a massive challenge and it is pretty exciting.” Aloisi, a former Australian international midfielder, has to change his attacking philosophy–at least in the short-term. “We have had to go a little against my philosophy and the way I want to play. But we have seen in the past that Adelaide have lost so many games and conceded so many goals; so the first thing we need to do is work on defensive structure.” His problem at Adelaide is that he must change the long history of being outclassed so often in the W-League before they can consistently win: “(I am) looking to change the culture and mentality within the club. The hardest thing with that is that we have a short period of time in which to do it. It is a slow process and we can’t overload the players and risk the chance of injuring the players, so it will take some time to get the level up there.”

Aloisi has some wonderful assistance in changing the mentality at the Reds in recently acquired goalkeeper Melissa Barbieri, who returns from maternity leave and will commute from Melbourne. She was a tremendously positive force for the Matildas and Victory and is a sensational addition for the Reds. The captain is Adelaide native Kristy Moore, who played internationally for both England and Australia and in Norway for many years. Last summer she played for the Los Angeles Strikers in the USL W-League.

Further adding to the depth of the team will be Los Angeles Strikers midfielder Laura Stockdale, a native of England who played for Lindsey Wilson College, a NAIA school in Kentucky. Holly Patterson—a New Zealand international–left for college soccer in the U.S. at Dartmouth College. Adelaide further strengthened their team before their second game by signing Norwegian international forward Lisa-Marie Woods, who played for Oakland University, Middle Tennessee State University, Ottawa Fury and FC Indiana. Woods briefly played for the Boston Breakers in NWSL. She has also played in Denmark as well as for clubs in her home country. Woods was released by Perth Glory two seasons ago after a heated argument with New Zealand international Emma Kete. Kete was also let go but is now with Sydney FC and the circumstances of whether the club or the players instigated the contract terminations are still unclear.

Western Sydney Wanderers

Midfielder Heather Garriock, a long-time Matilda with over 100 international appearances and who played briefly with the Chicago Red Stars in WPS in 2009, was named captain of Western Sydney Wanderers for their second season. Garriock returns to the league after taking time off for maternity leave. A native of the West Sydney suburbs, she is relishing the chance to lead the second year franchise to the playoffs for the first time: “My perspective on football has changed since having a family recently; I’m calmer than I used to be and know I’m a role model to the younger girls. People think being captain is a big job, whereas if you incorporate the rest of the players and get them to help you lead, that’s the most important thing rather than putting the onus on one or two people. It’s about the team first and foremost; one of my attributes is I’m a winner and I lead by example with my work ethic and the girls respond to that.”

As well as Garriock, other new signings include Emily Van Egmond, who finished the NWSL season with Seattle Reign and won a WPSL Elite crown with the Western New York Flash in 2012. American midfielder Tori Huster scored one goal in 21 games with the Washington Spirit, and played last season for Newcastle Jets. Huster will be joined by fellow American midfielder Shawna Gordon, who was added to the Boston Breakers NWSL roster during international call-ups and played college soccer at Long Beach State. Her teammate at Boston, Kyah Simon—who played for the Breakers in WPSL Elite and in the NWSL–will miss the season with a torn knee ligament while on national team duty with Australia in San Antonio, Texas.

Australian international midfielder Servet Uzunlar (ex-Pali Blues) returns for her second season. Alexander Huynh and Candace Sciberras left to attend college in the U.S. at the University of Colorado and University of Wyoming respectively. From last season’s expansion side, Sarah Walsh (ex-Sky Blue and St. Louis in WPS) retired and Sweden’s Louise Fors joined Liverpool in the FAWSL.

It was a good first start for Adelaide in 2013-14, coming away from their opening fixture in Western Sydney with a 1-1 tie. Even though they gave up an injury-time goal to Western Sydney, they must look upon this as a point gained rather than two dropped. Huster and Van Egmond played the entire game for the Wanderers as did Stockdale, Barbieri and Moore for Adelaide.

Western Sydney lost its second match to Canberra 2-0 and is tied for 6th with Adelaide on 1 point.

Adelaide fell at home to Melbourne Victory 2-0 with Stockdale playing 90 minutes.

Melbourne Victory

The Melbourne Victory has signed Lisa DeVanna, who has 26 goals in 75 appearances for Australia and played in the NWSL with Sky Blue FC. New Zealand midfielder Katie Hoyle (Eastern Suburbs, New Zealand) and Swedish defender Jessica Samuelsson (Linkopings) are also new additions while Wales captain Jess Fishlock (Seattle Reign/Glasgow City) returns for her second season. Dave Edmondson is the new coach and is the technical director for Football Federation Victoria as well, leaving Adelaide after helping them achieve some stability last season. He brought young South Australian native defender Emma Checker along with him.

The starting goalkeeper is 18-year-old Australian national teamer Brianna Davey, who played with Linkopings in Sweden recently, where she played with Samuelsson (21). Twenty-nine year old defender Rebekah Stott played for SC Sand in Germany and Gulcan Koca returns in midfield—she is a veteran Victory player and is a regular for Turkey’s national team.

Key departures from the team that made the grand final last year were Jessica McDonald (Seattle Reign), Danielle Johnson (Bay Area Breeze of the USL W-League), Petra Larsson (Linkopings) and Katie Hoyle (Eastern Suburbs, New Zealand),

Sydney FC

Sydney FC won their first title last season after losing narrowly to Brisbane Roar in year three (2-1). Sydney is Caitlin Foord’s offseason home after playing in NWSL with Sky Blue FC. Jodie Taylor (formerly of Oregon State U and Ottawa Fury) is an astute signing after she walked out on Gothenburg this past summer. Forward Leena Khamis has been playing professionally in Denmark. Sam Kerr had six goals and five assists in 19 games in helping Western New York Flash make the championship final of the NWSL. Ellyse Perry is an international in both soccer and cricket

Sydney defeated Melbourne Victory 5-1 away in the first game. Emma Checker put Melbourne into the lead briefly in the 3rd minute. Khamis tied it up in the 18th minute and then a brace from Nicole Bolger and one goal each from Taylor and Emma Kete sealed Sydney’s victory. In their second game, Sydney defeated Newcastle Jets 4-0. Taylor scored twice for Sydney with single tallies by Western New York’s Kerr and Renee Rollason. Sydney leads the table with 6 points after two games, tied with Canberra.

Melbourne won its second match 2-0 over Adelaide with Lisa DeVanna scoring on a penalty kick and Caitlin Friend scoring.


Club GP W D L F A GD    PTS
1 Sydney FC Women 2 2 0 0 9 1 8 6
2 Canberra United Women 2 2 0 0 5 0 5 6
3 Perth Glory Women 2 1 0 1 5 5 0 3
4 Brisbane Roar Women 2 1 0 1 3 3 0 3
5 Melbourne Victory Women 2 1 0 1 3 5 -2 3
6 Adelaide United Women 2 0 1 1 1 3 -2 1
7 Western Sydney Wanderers Women 2 0 1 1 1 3 -2 1
8 Newcastle Jets Women 2 0 0 2 2 9 -7 0

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