Arrive Alive Women?s Premier League Season Preview 2010


Some of the league?s shining lights displayed their considerable talents to a wider audience in the recently completed W League. Their return to NSW?s elite state league for women only adds luster to the competition in 2010.
The competition takes on a new structure this season with ten teams competing for the title. Last season?s Women?s Super League Champions, Inter Lions, won automatic promotion to the Premier League with their club championship victory in 2009.  In a tremendous boost to women?s football in country New South Wales both the Western NSW Panthers and Southern Branch have also been included in the Arrive Alive Women?s Premier League for 2010. The Panthers and Southern Branch have been perennial title challengers in the Women?s Super League in recent years. Both are deserving of their chance in the top tier this season.
Defending Premiers Illawarra Stingrays are sure to mount a spirited defence of their title although the loss of star striker Michelle Heyman is sure to be hard felt as the season progresses. But with the evergreen Michelle Carney pulling the strings The Stingrays  star studded squad are sure to be major contenders.
The newly promoted Inter Lions will be trying to emulate Illawarra?s feat in winning the Premier League title in their first season after promotion. Coach Joe Baldacci has once again done some judicious off season recruiting which has left The Lions boasting a very competitive line up. Expect the inspirational Catherine Cannuli to once again be the ace in the Inter Lions deck. On paper Inter Lions look serious challengers.
Manly United and Macarthur Rams always look sure bets for semi final spots. They both field strong squads and play bright, attractive football. The Rams will be out to avenge last season?s Grand Final defeat at the hands of Illawarra Stingrays. They will boast a similar line up to 2009 but the big question mark will be over the availability of Kylie Ledbrook. Having just fought her way back into The Matildas line up after a player of the match performance in the W League Grand Final for Sydney FC Ledbrook?s skills may be required on a larger stage during this season. She is a hard player to replace. Manly, led by the experienced Gill Foster, have had a significant loss of their own with the departure of Caitlan Jarvis to Inter Lions. Jarvie contributed plenty of goals to the Manly cause last season and the likes of Liz Morrison and Foster might be asked to fill the breach. Both teams are capable of pushing for the title.
NWS Koalas look an interesting side this season. A new coach, some new faces, the loss of promising players Natasha Lo Guidice to Inter Lions and Carlie Iknomou; it all adds up to a new direction for The Koalas. They?re a club that always seems to overcome changes in personnel however and, whilst they won?t start favorites for the title, they?re sure to test the frontrunners as the season wears on.
The two country teams, Western NSW Panthers and Southern Branch, will actually get the season underway on Saturday afternoon in Nowra. It?s a big step up for both these sides so it will be interesting to see how they handle promotion. Their playing rosters will have plenty of familiar names from season 2009. Semi finals may be their modest goal for their initial year in the Premier League but don?t underestimate either side.
Sutherland Sharks, Sydney University and Marconi Stallions struggled to make an impression during 2009. The Sharks have looked to promote some of their younger players into the first grade squad this season. The Stallions will probably look at doing the same given the depth of talent amongst the junior age groups at their club. Sydney University may have solved their goal scorer dilemma with the acquisition of Carlie Ikonomou. All three teams are sure to do some damage at some stage of the season but will they be consistent enough to become finals contenders?
This weekend?s opening round of the competition sees the following fixtures;
Southern Branch v Western NSW Panthers at South Nowra Football Complex.
These two teams always have close battles but I?m tipping a narrow Panthers win to start the season.
Manly United FC v Sutherland Sharks at Cromer Park
Manly must start favorites on last season?s form. Expect an improved effort from the young Sharks though.
Illawarra Stingrays v Sydney University at J.J.Kelly Park
The defending champions start their 2010 campaign with a home game against the plucky University girls. I?d expect The Stingrays to get their season off to a winning start.
Macarthur Rams v NWS Koalas at Lynwood Park.
The Rams are always tough to beat at home and generally have the wood over The Koalas. I think this may be a close one but I?ll stick with the home side to take the points.
Marconi Stallions v Inter Lions at Marconi Stadium.
A tough game for The Stallions first up. If Inter Lions play to their ability they?ll be very hard to hold out. I have to go for a first up Lions win.
I wish all the players, officials and clubs the best for 2010. I?m looking forward a wonderful season of football with plenty of thrills and spills. Let?s hope the spills don?t hurt too much!
Get out to a ground and support your team this season in the Arrive Alive Women?s Premier league. I?ll see you there!
-By Ross Anderson