Whilst most of the off season gossip appears to have revolved around player movement in and around the Arrive Alive Women?s Super League, the Premier League lasses have been quietly preparing for a bumper 2009 season.
On the back of the unprecedented interest aroused by the inaugural season of the Westfields W League the 8 Arrive Alive Women?s Premier League clubs are hoping for plenty of enthusiasm from their fans this year. I, for one, am hoping that enthusiasm translates into bigger crowds to watch these talented players ply their trade.
In general the early season intrigue will revolve around how much certain clubs are going to miss a number of players who?ve moved on to greener pastures. Will this open the window of opportunity for some newcomer to make a name for herself or will one of the tried and tested hands lift to the next level. Only time will tell.
Last season?s Champions, the Macarthur Rams, have lost influential defender and leader Danielle Brogan. After a successful W league season where she was named Sydney FC?s Player?s Player of the Year, Brogan has moved on to the NSWIS this year. The Rams have been fortunate in that Brogan is their only significant loss with W League stars Kylie Ledbrook and Stephanie Haim donning the club colours for another season. The Rams are after a hat trick of titles and who would doubt their chances of achieving that goal?
Last season?s beaten Grand Finalists, North West Sydney Koalas, will have some big boots to fill with the loss of Captain Alicia Cavanagh to WSL side Sydney Tigers. Joining Cavanagh in the WSL this season, but at Inter Lions, is ?Super Sub, Dani Calvi. Koalas have also lost dominant midfielder Natalie Spirovski to WSL team Inter Lions for 2009. The Koalas still have plenty of talent on their roster so one would expect them to be contenders once more. The girls from the north west are very resilient meaning that Coach Claude De Francesco will have them primed to go one better in 2009.
Perennial women?s football powerhouse, the Marconi Stallions, face a daunting season after losing two of their 2008 stars, Trudy Camilleri and Ash Connor to Illawarra Stingrays. The 2008 Club Champions will find it hard to replace their two leading goalscorers but we are talking about the mighty Marconi here! You can be sure that they?ll dig deep into their abundant reservoir of talent to find some suitable replacements. Marconi can never be counted out and, after being just seconds away from a Grand Final spot in last year?s Preliminary Final at Christie Park, the girls from Bossley Park will be keen to ensure the 2009 season is a memorable one.
Illawarra Stingrays were Club Champions in the Arrive Alive Women?s Super League in 2008. To bounce back so quickly after being relegated the previous season is a testament to the loyalty of their players and the commitment of their club. Last year?s dynamic goalscoring duo of Michelle Carney and Michelle Heyman are now joined by Ash Connor and Trudy Camilleri from Marconi Stallions. The very promising youngster Tilitha Kramer looks a likely first grader this season too. These five names alone should have plenty of opposition defences quaking in their shin pads! The Stingrays have plenty of depth too with a number of last season?s first grade regulars waiting for an opportunity to bounce back from the Reserve Grade squad. It?ll be a tougher season for the girls from the South Coast but beware!
Manly United FC had a very topsy turvy 2008 season. At times they were sizzling, at others almost frozen. They failed to find any consistency and went out of the finals series with a whimper rather than a snarl. This side is much better than that; a fact that I?m sure will have some pretty determined seasiders seeking revenge in 2009. Manly had some exciting talent coming up through the grades last year and this may be their chance to make an impact in the top grade for the new season.
Sydney University got off to a slow start in last year?s Arrive Alive Women?s Premier League. After having won promotion from the Super League the previous season, the jump up the ladder was looking to be a tough climb for the newcomers. However, as the season progressed the University girls found their feet, proving that they belonged in the top rung of NSW women?s football. A rather memorable victory late in the season over the then competition leaders NWS Koalas showed just what Sydney University had to offer. With a season of ?the big time? behind them the University lasses will be well prepared for 2009. They could prove a surprise packet.
Penrith Nepean United endured a difficult off season with talk of the club collapsing. This led to an unsettling time for players and the coaching staff but, hopefully, the Penrith girls will be ready to press forward now that the dust has settled. Penrith were a very competitive side in 2008; pressing for a finals spot until the concluding rounds. Whilst Taryn Rockall did a marvellous job steering the side around the park last season they team lacked an impact player who could score that vital goal or turn a match. If Penrith can fix that Achilles heel they will certainly bother plenty of the more fancied sides this season.
Now, my well known soft spot for the Sutherland Sharks is not the reason I?ve left them until last in this preview. It?s also not a reflection on where I think they?ll finish this season! The Sharks did it tough last year, sitting near the bottom of the ladder from start to finish. It seems a strange spot for a club with so many talented youngsters but their first grade side failed to make an impact.
The hard working Maggie Elhusseini is no longer with the club after being a part of the Sydney FC W League squad. The Sharks lack of a real goal scorer hurt them last season. Have they rectified the problem? The drums aren?t beating a positive message but knowing Coach Michael Michaels he?ll have been putting plenty of thought into the problem in the off season. I?ll be cheering for you girls!
I?m not telling porkies in stating that I?ve been looking forward to the start of the new Arrive Alive Women?s Premier League since Grand Final Day last year. I enjoy watching the thrills and spills; I marvel at the talented players on show. This promises to be a wonderful season. I?ll see you all in the stands!
-By Ross Anderson