The Week in Women's Football: A-League Preview – including big name transfers ins & outs

This week, we present part 1 of our annual A-League Women in Australia Preview for 2022/23, with part 2 coming next week.

2022/23 A-League Women Preview in Australia

We recently discussed A-League Women changes for the 2022/23 season which starts this month, including more games and a new third team in Melbourne—Western United—with Round 1 kicking off on the weekend of November 19, with the last round/match week being 1-2 April 2023 (see: The Week in Women’s Football: A-League & Matildas; chat with NZ’s Gabi Rennie; Chelsea star Sam Kerr on FIFA – Tribal Football).

This week we will cover the top six finishers from last season in order of their 2021-22 season finish, which is shown in paratheses—Sydney FC, Adelaide United, Melbourne City, Melbourne Victory, Perth Glory and Brisbane Roar.

Next week we will review: Canberra United, Newcastle Jets, Western Sydney Wanderers, Wellington Phoenix and expansion side Western United.

Sydney FC (11-2-1—W-D-L—35 points—First)

Head coach Ante Juric will lead Sydney FC for the sixth-consecutive season—the powerhouse side has won the last two Premierships (regular season champions) in a row and one championship, but has appeared in all five Grand Finals during Juric’s reign. In fact, the team has never missed a playoff spot in their 14 years in the league. They are still led by captain Natalie Tobin and Matidlas Princess Ibini, Mackenzie Hawkesby, Rachel Lowe, Cortnee Vine, goalkeeper Jada Mathyssen-Whyman (a youth international and full team pool player), Charlize Rule (full national team camps) and Sarah Hunter (a youth international). A trio of new additions bring national youth team experience in: Abbey Lemon (from Blacktown Spartans in the NSLW), Kirsty Fenton (from the Newcastle Jets) and Jynaya Dos Santos (Football Institute New South Wales), along with Perth Glory full-back Deborah Anne De La Harpe, who has played at the U-20 and U-23 level for Australia.

Shadeene Evans (21) an Australian youth international, spent a year with Adelaide United in 2021/22 but returns to her original club and the Harbour City. Anika Stajcic, the daughter of former men’s coach Alen who led Sydney FC Women to two league titles and two Premierships in six seasons beginning in 2008/09 and is now the Philippines women’s national team coach which qualified for next summer’s WWC, along with Indiana Dos Santos are new additions to the club, with both having signed scholarship contracts.

A big loss for the Sky Blues is 24-year-old Ally Green, who left the club after five seasons to join Valerenga of Norway; she played six games with her new club which finished third and qualified for the final team championship round in the 2022 spring-fall season in Norway. Green also left the Australian national team pool, after playing at the U-20 level but was not yet able to make the full team level, to join New Zealand where her mother is from.

Another departure from last season was goal scorer and international forward Remy Siemsen—a two-time New South Wales NPLW Player of the Year in 2016 and 2017 and who played a season with the W-League California Storm—left after five seasons with the Sky Blues for AIK of Stockholm, but only scored 3 times in 20 games in a horrid season for the Swedish club which was relegated at the end of the 2022 season, after being promoted from the second tier Elitettan following the 2020 season.

Melbourne City (11-0-3—33 points—Second)

Melbourne City looks to have loaded up again this season, with returnees in the amazingly evergreen goalkeeper (and assistant coach) Melissa Barbieri-Hudson (42), Emma Checker, Leah Davidson, Holly McNamara and Tori Tumeth (both of the later back from ACL injuries) with new additions Bryleeh Henry (19—3 goals in two seasons at Western Sydney Wanderers and who signed a two year contract with City), Karly Roestbakken (21—from LSK Kvinner of Norway, who has previously played with Canberra United) and highly touted 16-year old Daniela Galic, who played for the U-20 Women’s World Cup Finals team this summer in Costa Rica. Former Matilda Grace Gill called Galic, “The future…She’s a class act, I liken her to Chloe Logarzo, super athletic, fit, a great technician with the ball at her feet.” In Australia’s first U-20 game, she was outstanding in their comeback 3-1 win over the hosts, playing 32 passes at 93.8% accuracy, creating four goal chances and being credited with the assist for Bryleeh Henry’s first-half goal. Australia’s U-20 side was eliminated at the Group Stage after losses to bronze medalist Brazil (2-0) and ultimate tournament winners Spain (3-0).

New Zealand international Katie Bowen was released early from her North Carolina Courage contract in the NWSL to be able to sign with City to start the season. She only played in two regular season games this season with the Courage. She has appeared in three Women’s World Cup Finals and two Olympic Finals for the Football Ferns. This will be her first stint in the A-League Women, as she has played exclusively in the NWSL after playing collegiately at the University of North Carolina.

Another NWSL player will join City on loan, as forward Emina Ekic of Racing Louisville will stay until mid-February ,when NWSL preseason camps will start. Ekic, a native of Louisville who played collegiately at the University of Louisville, said about her loan move, “I’m really excited to go see a different part of the world and gain some more playing experience. It’s been incredible getting to play soccer in my hometown for so long, but I think this will be a great growth opportunity for me in many ways.” She had four goals in two assists for Louisville across all competitions this year. In two seasons at Racings, she has played in 44 games.

Adelaide United (9-0-5—27 points—Third)

Adelaide United’s English native Fiona Worts won the Julie Dolan Medal as the A-League Women Player of the Year for the 2021/22 season. She also won the A-League Golden Boot, scoring 13 goals from 14 games, including nine goals from her last five league fixtures. Head Coach Adrian Stenta won the Coach of the Year Title for guiding the Reds to their first A-League Women’s Playoff berth in 14 seasons in 2021/22. Stenta and Worts both return for the third seasons in 2022/23 season. Worts played this summer with LSK Kvinner of Lillestrom in Norway, scoring three goals in ten matches.

Matildas defender Jenna McCormick (27) has returned to Adelaide United for her third stint, signing a one-year contract. McCormick will make a good Reds side in 2021-22 even more secure in the back; she has played 38 games with the Reds in the past and 96 in total in the A-League Women, including time with Melbourne Victory, Melbourne City, Canberra United and Brisbane Roar. Abroad, she has played with Icelandic side Stjarnan, Medkila in Norway, Spanish side Real Betis and AGF Fodbold in Denmark.

She also won two AFLW (Aussie Rules Football) League titles with the Adelaide Crows, playing both sports before moving to Spain in 2020 and then onto Denmark in 2021. McCormick said upon her signing, “I’m really excited to be back in my home state playing for Adelaide United, the club where my career started. This team has become extremely competitive over the last few seasons and you can see a real togetherness within the squad, which is something I’m looking forward to being part of.”

Matildas defender back where it all began to boost Reds' ALW title charge

Veteran defender and South Australia native Jenna McCormick, in action for the Australian national team, has rejoined her first club Adelaide United for 2022/23.

Photo courtesy of A-League Women.

Forward Mindy Barbieri (22) is another new signing for the 2022/23 campaign, arriving from Melbourne Victory, where she has played since 2015-16 and won two league titles. She is another experienced player who will add depth to the Adelaide attack.

Adelaide United signed Chinese forward Xiao Yuyi (26), who scored the winning goal in the 93rd minute of China’s stunning 3-2 comeback win over South Korea in February’s AFC Women’s Asian Cup Final; she comes from Shanghai Shengli in the Chinese Women’s Super League.

Chelsie Dawber (22) is returning to Adelaide United, her home town side, as she has been loaned from the Chicago Red Stars of the NWSL who she joined in April of 2022. She played in four games for the Red Stars this season. Last season in Australia, she was crucial to Adelaide making their first ever playoff spot by scoring10 goals in 15 games. Adelaide head coach Adrian Stenta said, “It’s a fantastic acquisition for the club to be bringing Chelsie back to Adelaide for the 2022-23 season. The impact Chelsie had on our team, alongside our other forwards, was crucial in securing our first finals appearance and we’re expecting much more of the same from her and our team this year.”

Note: Worts won the Women’s Player of the Year title by one vote over Katrina Gorry of Brisbane Roar (18 vs 17), while Holly McNamara (Melbourne City) and Mackenzie Hawkesby (Sydney FC) were two votes behind Gorry on 15, with Cortnee Vine (Sydney FC) finishing with 14 votes.

Holly McNamara (Melbourne City) won the Young Player of the Year award over Alyssa Whinham (Wellington Phoenix and New Zealand U-20 WWC Finals squad member this summer in Costa Rica) and Chloe Lincoln (Canberra United), while Rachel Lowe (Sydney FC) won the Goal of the Year Award.

Casey Dumont of Melbourne Victory won the Goalkeeper of the Year Award a year after missing the entire season with an injury while Jada Mathyssen-Whyman (Sydney FC) and Melissa Barbieri-Hudson (Melbourne City) were second and third respectively. PFA awards went to Sam Kerr (Chelsea of the WSL) and Mary Fowler (now Manchester City of the WSL after moving from Montpellier in France this past summer) for the Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year Awards, respectively.

Melbourne Victory (7-3-4—24 points—Tied for Fourth)

Melbourne Victory have lured Matilda Beattie Goad (25) to return to the ALW after stints at Spain’s UDG Tenerife and Germany’s SV Meppen while playing abroad for 6 years; she also played college football at Stanford University in Northern California. She started her career at Melbourne Victory as a 16-year-old, winning the club’s inaugural championship in 2013-14 before crossing to rivals Melbourne City for their first season, completing the double in 2015-16. Goad made her senior Matildas debut against Germany last year and has three caps.

'Primed for an exciting season': Victory bolster ALW title defence with Matildas signing

Matilda midfielder Beattie Goad joins Melbourne Victory for the 2022/23 season.

Photo courtesy A-League Women.

Goad joins fellow capped Matilda defender Jessika Nash (18), who joined the champions after a year each at Sydney FC and Canberra United. Nash played at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Costa Rica and joins the club with 24 A-League Women’s appearances, having debuted in the league as a 15-year-old for Canberra. Nash made her full Matilda debut in 2021 against the U.S. and this year received the Collette McCallum Medal which celebrates the conduct and commitment of a female player representing Australia’s junior teams.

Another new acquisition is defender Gema Simon (32), a former Matilda who played a season with the Victory in 2014/15 as well as 12 seasons with the Newcastle Jets and spent time in Iceland this season with Throttur Reykjavik. She has also played in Canada, Korea Republic and Norway. She represented the Matildas 11 times and has made 142 appearances in A-League Women’s.

Another Matilda was brought in just before the start of the season—midfielder Elise Kellond-Knight (32)—from Swedish Damallsvenkan side Hammarby; she previously played in the A-League Women with Brisbane Roar and Melbourne City. Kellond-Knight has represented the Matildas over 100 times, featuring at the 2011, 2015 and 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cups and the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. She has been selected in the Matildas most recent squad to take on Sweden and Thailand (see roster and discussion in part 2 of our A-League Women Preview next week).

Natalie Tathem (26), who appeared in eight games last season at Brisbane Roar and was injured in 2021-22 when she played at MV as the club won a league championship, is also new for 2022/23 as is young goalkeeper Miranda Templeman (19—who played in one game for Adelaide United last season and played in the offseason in Melbourne with the Emerging Matildas state league side). The Young Matilda represented her country at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Costa Rica this past summer.

Victory lost some key players to Europe after the 2021/22 season ended, including full-back Polly Doran (Crystal Palace) and young attackers Kyra Cooney-Cross and Courtney Nevin (both Hammarby).

The two-time reigning champions Victory are bringing back a strong core including last season’s Goalkeeper of the Year Casey Dumont, New Zealand international defender Claudia Bunge, American forward Catherine Zimmerman and defender Lia Privitelli. Also, American skipper and defender Kayla Morrison will return from her ACL tear in the first game of the season; this will be her third season with the club. Dumont has won four league titles, two each with Brisbane Roar and Melbourne Victory, and was the 2022 A-League Women’s Goalkeeper of the Year (see above) and 2022 Grand Final Player of the Match.

New Zealand international defender Claudia Bunge is back for her third season with the Victory and has made 27 appearances over the past two seasons—missing games only for international call-ups. Bunge said, “I’m excited to be re-joining the team and defending our back-to-back titles this season. We’ve been through so much as a group over the past two seasons at Melbourne Victory and I feel we have created a special environment here to achieve more success.”

Zimmerman (28) returns for her third consecutive season at Victory, looking to add a three-peat of Championships to her A-League Women tenure. Zimmerman led MV with seven goals last season, including the winning goal in the Grand Final against Sydney FC. Privitelli, who captained the side when Morrison was injured last year, returns for her seventh season at Melbourne Victory after coming off her best campaign with the club, scoring five goals in 16 appearances.

Melina Ayres (23), who missed most of last season with injury but scored a crucial winner in the first-round victory at Adelaide United (2-1) and then the first goal in their 3-1 semifinal defeat of Melbourne City, went on loan for the summer to Iceland’s Breidablik (scoring 2 goals in 9 games). She should be in very strong playing shape and ready to help Victory fight for a third consecutive league title.

Another major returnee is Australian international midfielder Alex Chidiac, who Tribal Football.com interviewed last month (See: Alex Chidiac exclusive: Atletico Madrid, Matildas and success with Racing Louisville – Tribal Football.) when she was still working out her NWSL off-season plans but, a few weeks later, had signed with MV. Chidiac returns for her second season at Victory from Racing Louisville FC, where she made 18 appearances with two goals. The midfielder’s first season at Victory saw her make 14 appearances, scoring once and assisting twice in a campaign that saw her lift her second A-League Women’s Championship, after winning her first with Melbourne City. She was originally viewed as a short-term loan from her WE-League club in Japan but was so impactful that she was kept on for the entire A-League Women season.

Off the field, Melbourne Victory announced that it has secured a strategic investment from 777 Partners that amounts to one of the biggest investment deals into a single sports team in Australian history. The investment and partnership with the broader 777 club portfolio enables the Club to grow and develop football in Australia by attracting, retaining and developing talent, as well as creating a true pathway for Melbourne Victory players and coaching staff, on and off the pitch.

Beyond football, the 777 Partners deal strengthens the broader business via commercial synergies, consumer insights and innovation through the extended 777 Partners global portfolio. Earlier in October, Melbourne Victory and Bonza, a new low-cost airline—which is also backed by 777 Partners—announced a four-year Principal Partner deal, the largest in the Club’s history.

Melbourne Victory Chairman, Anthony Di Pietro said, “The 777 Partners deal will strengthen our capital base and will allow the club to supercharge its growth trajectory as well as ensure its longevity in Australia and football, while retaining the Melbourne Victory brand, fabric and history.”

A private investment firm, 777 Partners has quickly built a multi-club network featuring some of the most historic football clubs in the world, including Genoa C.F.C. in Italy, Vasco da Gama in Brazil, Standard de Liege in Belgium and Red Star FC in France, as well as a significant minority stake in Sevilla FC in Spain.

Perth Glory (7-3-4—24 points—Tied for Fourth)

The Glory missed out on a playoff berth last season on goal difference to Melbourne Victory. They were severely handicapped by Western Australian state COVID protocols, with the result that they could only play one game at home early in the season and had to base their staff for the rest of the season out of Metro Sydney. Former Matilda defender Kim Carroll (34—with 58 caps) has signed on for her seventh season at Perth Glory. She has also played at Brisbane Roar and one season in Denmark with Fortuna Hjorring. Another veteran returnee back for a seventh season is captain Tash Rigby (29), who first debuted for the club in 2016/17 and has 77 appearances for the club in purple; Rigby won last year’s Players’ Player of the Year Award.

Matilda midfielder Ella Mastrantonio returns to the A-League after two seasons abroad. Mastrantonio (30) is a native of nearby Fremantle and will be in her fourth spell with Perth and made her debut with the A-League side during the 2009-10 season. Mastrantonio also played for Melbourne Victory and Western Sydney Wanderers during her first nine seasons of professional play in Australia. In 2020-21, she played in the WSL for Bristol City in England and then moved to Italy to join Lazio for 2021-22 before moving to Pomigliano mid-season, where she joined Australian international back Aivi Luik—who now is in Sweden with Hacken. Mastrantonio has seven caps, with her most recent Matilda appearance last year.

Liz Anton, a New Zealand international is back for another season as is American forward Cyera Hintzen (who played at the University of Texas and had 8 goals in 14 games with Iceland title winners Valur—tied for 5th in the Golden Boot race) and had 5 goals in 9 games in her first season in the A-League Women with Perth. Susan Phonsongkham (21) also spent the summer in Iceland with last place and ultimately relegated KR Reykjavik, scoring 5 goals in 14 games; she returns to the Western Australia club for 2022/23.

Forward Rylee Baisden (ex-Pepperdine University in Southern California) has joined the Glory on loan from NC Courage, where she has spent the last three seasons. She scored 3 goals in 11 matches in her A-League Women debut season in 2019/20 with the Brisbane Roar.

Brisbane Roar (5-2-7—17 points—Sixth)

New Jersey/New York Gotham FC of the NWSL loaned goalkeeper Hensley Hancuff (22) to Brisbane Roar FC for the 2022/23 Liberty A-League season.

Hancuff said about her move to Queensland, “I’m super pumped about this loan to Brisbane Roar FC for the next couple of months. I’m going to take full advantage of the opportunity to get some minutes under my belt and be a big leader on the team. I hope to fully immerse myself in the Australian culture while furthering my career on the field. Going on loan internationally is such a great tool for young athletes to use in order to build leverage and get playing time/film in order to come back to be successful, and who wouldn’t want to go play in another country in their ’20s? I plan on putting my head down and working hard for Brisbane Roar FC with many goals for the team and myself for the A-League [Women] season.”

Hancuff was selected by Gotham FC with the 34th overall pick from Clemson University in the 2022 NWSL Draft and spent this season developing with the club and learning from veteran goalkeepers Michelle Betos (14 regular season matches and the only NWSL goalkeeper to score a goal from the field of play while with the Portland Thorns in 2015) and two-time World Cup winner Ashlyn Harris (8 regular season matches) and thus did not play in any regular season matches, as Gotham finished at the bottom of the table after making the playoffs in 2021. Gotham FC goalkeeping coach Brody Sams—a native of Australia and a former coach with the Roar Women—suggested the move. Hancuff started her college career at Villanova before transferring to Clemson as the Tigers made a run to the Elite Eight in the NCAA tournament in Spring, 2021.

The Roar should be strong with returnees Hollie Palmer, American Shea Connors (who was a revelation for the Roar last season with 7 goals in 13 matches after playing in the Queensland State League for three years and a few games for the Roar in 2019/20), full international forward Larissa Crummer (who played for the Seattle Reign in the NWSL in 2017), Mariel Hecher (a native of Brazil who is in her third season at the club), Katrina Gorry (who has 86 caps and 16 goals for the Matildas and has played in Australia, Canada, Japan, Norway, Sweden and in the NWSL in the U.S.), Jamilla Rankin (19, who has been capped at the U-17 level by Australia) and Annie Haffenden (20—who has been to U-20 Australian national team camps).

Forward Georgia Beaumont (19—an Australian youth international) joins the Roar after playing last season as a reserve with Adelaide United.

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