Westfield W-League 2017/18 season preview

This is certainly the most anticipated Westfield W-League season in it's history, as the league reaches it's 10-year milestone, the level of interest and focus on women's football in Australia has been unprecedented in recent years and the W-League players will be hoping that they can ride that wave of popularity and make the W-League's 10th season, it's best yet.

Brisbane Roar

There’s no doubt that Hayley Raso will be Brisbane Roar's star player this season, the transfer of the Matilda’s winger is a major coup for coach Mel Andreatta and her side.

The 23-year-old joins up with the Roar following a stellar season with the Portland Thorns in the National Women’s Soccer League. The enigmatic winger played a pivotal role for the Thorns, netting six goals and claiming three assists on the way to the NWSL Championship title.

It is clear to see that Raso has come of age since Washington Spirit’s decision to waive the forward in April 2016 and has certainly flourished during her time at Providence Park. With the start of the new W-League campaign this week, we are certainly excited to see Raso bring that impressive form back to her home turf.

Raso joins a number of other players joining and returning to the Roar this season. Coach Andreatta has brought in a number of key assignments to strengthen her squad ahead of the new campaign, including the likes of Clare Polkinghorne, goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold, Katrina Gorry and Hong Kong international Wai Ki Cheung amongst many.

This is a great statement of intent moving forward for Brisbane Roar – not only do they have quality at the back – but they can also fire on all cylinders going forward too. Mel Andreatta has laid some impressive foundations in Brisbane during the off-season, time will tell whether this squad can make it pay on the field as we head into the start of the season.

Adelaide United

Adelaide United will look to push on in the forthcoming W-League campaign and improve on last season’s sixth-place finish. Adelaide announced the appointment of Ivan Karlovic as the club’s head coach ahead of the upcoming Westfield W-League 2017/18 season.

The Reds announced the re-signing of Australian international Alex Chidiac in August. Chidiac returns to the club on a one-year contract following a breakout season in the 2016/17 campaign, which saw the 18-year-old crowned the club’s W-League Rising Star.

The midfielder has been capped four times for the Matilda’s and was also a member of the Melbourne City squad to lift both the Premiership and Championship in the 2015/16 season.

United also see the return of centre-back Jenna McCormick, a player who spent last season with W-League semi-finalists Canberra United, before showcasing her versatility by embarking on a career in the newly-formed Australian Rules Football League. The 23-year-old debuted in round two, playing in seven games, including the final in which Adelaide ran out as inaugural AFLW Premiership winners.

The club have also announced the return of Eliza Campbell, Adriana Jones, Grace Abbey and Emma Checker.

Melbourne City FC

Melbourne City will be looking to make the treble this year, as they bid to become Westfield W-League champions for the third year on the trot. And, they have certainly had an impressive off-season recruitment to strengthen their already loaded squad.

City have added a mixture of experience and youth ahead of their title defence, with new signings, Rhali Dobson, Hayley Richmond and Sofia Sakalis unveiled infront of 3,000 supporters at the club’s annual family day.

Head coach Patrick Kisnorbo has also made some shrewd business by bringing in the Matildas star Kyah Simon from Sydney FC, fellow national team-mate Alanna Kennedy who replaces Melbourne Victory-bound defender Laura Alleway, whilst US forward Ashley Hatch arrives from North Carolina Courage.

Another massive coup is the arrival of FIFA Women’s World Cup winner Kinga. The Japan international was picked from arch rivals Canberra in the off-season and everyone will be excited to see the star link up with Seattle Reign maestro Jess Fishlock in the midfield.

Whilst Kisnorbo has brought in high quality internationals to retain the title, he has also made good strides in keeping hold of their best players, with the likes of Fishlock, Steph Catley and Lydia Williams, all deciding to stick with the champions. There is no doubt that City will be a hard team to beat this season.

Canberra United

As we head into the start of the 2017/18 W-League season, Canberra United, the league’s most successful club, will be looking to retain their Premiership title once again. Heather Garriock’s side ran out victors via goal-difference last time out, however, it could prove slightly more difficult for the coach this time around.

Garriock has brought in a number of key signing’s to strengthen her back-line during the off-season. The new look defensive line-up will consist of American goalkeeper Haley Kopmeyer, Matilda’s fullback Ellie Carpenter, England centre half Laura Bassett and Orlando Pride defender Toni Pressley.

Canberra announced the signing of Seattle Reign goalkeeper Kopmeyer in mid September and the shot-stopper is a real coup for the side. The 27-year-old has a wealth of experience playing in the NWSL for the Reign and she is no stranger to the W-League either. Kopmeyer previously played with Brisbane Roar in season 8.

England defender Laura Bassett has also joined the club. The 34-year-old was a free agent following Nott’s County’s liquidation in April. Notts County folded on the eve of the Women’s Super One Spring Series, which meant Bassett decided to forego playing any club football before the European Championships in the summer – in which England were knocked out in the semi-finals.

Carpenter was Garriock’s second signing off the season following Michelle Heyman’s decision to return for her eighth W-League campaign with the club – a former golden boot winner – Heyman missed the second half of last season with an ankle injury.

The Matilda’s defender is a rising star in the national team and many believe she is set to become a future world star in the coming years.

The exciting talent is one of a number of young Matilda’s set to make an impact in the Canberra side this season. However, Garriock, a former Young Matilda’s coach, accepts that the decision to have so many youngsters in her squad could be a double-edged sword.

This is due to the fact that Canberra will be missing half their team heading into the league opener on Saturday. United are without six players on international duties with the Young Matilda’s, who have qualified for the Under-19 Asian Football Confederation semi-finals.

On the other hand, the coach is looking towards the development of the club in the next few seasons and not just the coming weeks.

Melbourne Victory

Melbourne Victory finished bottom of the table last season, with two victories, three draws and seven losses.

In the off-season they have worked hard to fix their defensive woes by bringing in Laura Alleway from neighbouring rivals Melbourne City and American Christina Gibbons joins on loan from FC Kansas City. The 22-year-old was a first selection in the 2017 NWSL College Draft and has represented the USA at both U-20 and U-23 levels.

The Victory will head into their first W-League game of the season on Saturday against Canberra full of confidence. Goals from new signing Whitney Knight and a brace from Natasha Dowie secured a convincing pre-season victory over Adelaide heading into the start of the W-League this weekend.

Newcastle Jets

Newcastle Jets will be hoping they can improve on last season’s fifth place finish and break into the W-League play-off places.

The club will most certainly be buoyed by the return of Tori Huster and Arin Gilliland – while Katie Stengel spent last season with Western Sydney Wanderers and Britt Eckerstrom joins the club from NWSL champions Portland Thorns for her first stint in the Westfield W-League.

Craig Dean’s team also received a boost in the off-season with the announcement that the Jets will be based in Newcastle’s number two sports ground for the 2017/18 season, the latest agreement is a major development for the club and for women's football in Newcastle.

Perth Glory FC

There has been one name on everyone’s lips recently. Sam Kerr. And there is no doubt that she will bring the same success to Perth Glory as she has with her spectacular form for club and country recently.

The awards have just kept on coming recently in the world of Sam Kerr, not only was the 24-year-old named Australia’s Sportswoman of the Year, but she was also crowned as the NWSL’s Most Valuable Player following a pretty spectacular 2017 season for Sky Blue FC.

Kerr broke the NWSL single-season scoring record with 17 goals and she was certainly the difference for Sky Blue on numerous occasions, as she notched an impressive five match winners for the New Jersey side.

Joining Kerr on a trip across the pond are Sky Blue teammates Raquel Rodriguez and Nikki Stanton, alongside Boston Breakers defender Amanda Frisbie.

Rocky, as she is most commonly known, received the 2016 NWSL Rookie of The Year award in her first season in America and is pipped to be one of the top players in the league in the coming years.

Perth Glory will begin their W-League campaign at home to Melbourne City FC, in a grand final re-match from last season.

Sydney FC

Last season's third place finishers will be hoping that they can step it up a gear this year and reach the grand final. Sydney FC were knocked out of the running during the 2016-17 season, following a 5-1 thrashing at the hands of Perth Glory in the championship semi-finals.

And, they have certainly added that fire power during the off-season, pulling off a huge signing by way of USA and Portland Thorns defender Emily Sonnett.

The 23-year-old joins the Sky Blues off the back of a glorious year in America with the Portland Thorns, following their victory in the championship final against the North Carolina Courage. Since becoming the first overall pick in the 2016 NWSL College Draft, Sonnett has made 27 appearances for the Thorns and has become a stalwart in the Thorns back-line.

Sonnett joins the likes of Chloe Logarzo, Kylie Ledbrook and Matilda's captain Lisa De Vanna.

Western Syndey Wanderers FC

Western Sydney Wanderers finished in eighth place last season and will be hoping to improve on that form this time out. However, dealings off the pitch have given them the faith that they can pose a threat to the top teams in the league on the field. Striker Rosie Sutton is a new face in the Wanderers set-up following her decision to transfer from Perth Glory and will certainly be hoping to make an instant impact for her new side.

The Wanderers kick off their W-League campaign on Sunday with a trip to the Mcdonald Jones Stadium to take on the Newcastle Jets.