Every year, the National Premier League NSW Women’s gets better and tougher and the 2018 competition will be no different.
The competition structure has seen a revamp also, with the league increasing from 10 to 12 teams as the Sutherland Shire FA and Bankstown City FC join the fray.
The 2017 season will remain long in the memory for Chris Williams’s Manly United who lifted the Championship trophy, led by Player of the Year Remy Siemsen.
Manly United v Macarthur Rams
What better way to open the new season than with a grand final rematch at Cromer Park between Manly United and the Macarthur Rams.
Chris Williams will lead the side again as he looks to repeat last year’s grand final heroics along with adding the premiership title to the trophy cabinet.
The championship winning side has seen Japanese import Myu Ban added to the ranks along with Brisbane Roar Academy representative Tiarna Karambasis. Fan favourite Claudia Cholakian also returns to Cromer Park.
The question looms though whether star striker Remy Siemsen will don the blue jersey in the coming season. After an extraordinary campaign last year and a grand final appearance with Sydney FC, Siemsen is enjoying a well-deserved break with the option to sign available to her.
Tash Prior, Nikola Orkill, Chloe O’Brien, Sunny Franco and Clair Coehlo all return for 2018.
The Rams failed at the final hurdle again last season, something that is becoming a recurring theme for the Macarthur based side.
Last season’s premiers enter the season with long-time coach Norm Boardman looking for that elusive championship title.
Star players Kylie Ledbrook, Leena Khamis and Teresa Polias are all there again.
A win would be the perfect way to start the season for the Rams after last season’s enthralling, yet bitterly disappointing grand final loss.
We’re expecting goals, goals and more goals in the season opener.
Sydney University v Northern Tigers
Arlington Oval will see some intriguing women’s football on Sunday as Sydney University hosts the Northern Tigers.
Uni come into the new season under a new coach as the tenure of Heather Garriock came to an end with the conclusion of last season.
Heather Garriock’s right hand man at both Canberra United and Sydney Uni, Alex Epakis, will take control of the team for the forthcoming season. Epakis is currently the youngest coach in Australia to hold an A-License but has big shoes to fill after a few trophy filled seasons at Uni.
With a team full of W-League stars including Canberra United’s Nikki Flannery, Sydney FC’s Rachel Soutar, as well as Kendall Fletcher and Julie-Ann Russell, this team will once again be challenging the top teams in the competition.
Despite losing Mel Caceres, Evelyn Chronis, Liana Danaskos and Georgia Yeoman-Dale, Uni has recruited extremely well, adding Cort Vine, Annabelle Martin, Nora Peat, Sheridan Rainey and Rosin Connolly to their roster.
The Northern Tigers are looking for an extensive improvement from last season and would love a perfect start against Sydney Uni.
Former Matilda Servet Uzunlar resigned with the club having joined mid-way through 2017 bringing a wealth of experience to the side.
But the headline act for coach Richard Byrne’s side would have to be the signing of Matilda’s goalkeeper Eliza Campbell for the forthcoming season.
Blacktown Spartans v Illawarra Stingrays
Two contenders clash at Blacktown Football Park as the Blacktown Spartans host the Illawarra Stingrays on Sunday afternoon.
Andrew Mastoris is at the helm again as he looks to create a ‘Super Spartans’ squad for the 2018 season and improve on last year’s performance.
The Spartans were expected by many to challenge for a finals spot last year but were well away from the top four at the end of the regular season.
Nicola Bolger, Alex Hyung and Hannah Brewer have all departed Blacktown Football Park while Olivia Price is injured, with the club hopeful she’ll make a return by the end of the season.
While losing them wasn’t easy, the Spartans have recruited well, bringing in Jennifer Bisset who has a wealth of W-League experience, Sarah Yatim from the champions, Mel Caceres arrives from Sydney Uni, Alyssa Rose from the Institute while Sarah Easthope returns home after a season with the Koalas.
The Stingrays enter 2018 on the back of a fantastic season, finishing up in third place on the ladder with their season ending with a heavy defeat in the first week of the finals.
Their headline recruitment comes in the coaching department as former Canadian international Carmelina Moscato takes the reigns from Brett Wallin who departed the club at the end of last season.
With three World Cups and an Olympic Bronze medal under her belt, Moscato comes with quite the pedigree to the South Coast.
Adding Syndey Uni stars Liana Danaskos and Evelyn Chronis to a roster full of stars including captain Michelle Carney, Erica Halloway and Caitling Cooper, the Stingrays will be challenging for the top this season.
Sutherland Shire FA v North Shore Mariners
Harrie Denning Centre will host top tier women’s football this year as the newly promoted Sutherland Shire FA host the North Shore Mariners in round one.
Sutherland finished in second place in last year’s NPL 2 competition and won the club championship, earning their place in the women’s top tier competition.
A young team, lead from the front by captain and super striker Jordan Baker, who left her mark on the competition as a teenager in the pink of the Stingrays a few seasons ago, will look to consolidate their spot in the NPL in 2018.
Drew Taylor will look to build on last year’s fifth position and one place outside of the finals by finding their spot in the top four.
Buoyed by the return of injured star Emma Stanbury, along with Casey Dumont and goal machine Tifany Paterson, the core of the team has stayed.
Despite the loss of Matilda Chloe Logarzo and Kahlia Hogg to Japan, the North Shore side’s recruitment has been fantastic.
The addition of one of the competition starlets Amy Sayer, as well as Hannah Bourke, Lucy Jerram, Daisy Arrowsmith, Savanna Greenwood and US college student Catherine Thomson, the Mariners could be one of the surprise packets this season.
Emerging Jets v Bankstown City
At Lake Macquarie Regional Football Facility, the Emerging Jets will host another newly promoted side and 2017 NPL 2 champions, Bankstown City.
The Jets found the going tough last season but will seek to improve their position on the competition ladder.
Bankstown City find themselves in the top tier of women’s football and will be keen to keep their place amongst the elite in the state.
They’ve been busy during the off-season, snapping up both Amy Dahdah and Patty Charalambous from the Blacktown Spartans. With the skilful and exciting Doris Osman in the squad, Bankstown could spring some surprised this season.
With only two players over the age of 24, City enters the competition with a fairly young team.
Football NSW Institute v NWS Koalas
The Football NSW Institute and North West Sydney Koalas game was scheduled for this Sunday but both teams will need to wait to get their season underway.
Craig Foster will lead this young team again this year with the football style and development of young players his main concern.
This has rubbed off with an incredible 12 players coming through the Institute system earning selection into the Matildas Under 20’s team, thus the postponement of this fixture.
Star player and captain Jada Whyman, who recently received the inaugural Rebel Sport Role Model Award, will help encourage this team to hit new heights.
It may be a tough name to say but one you surely will remember, Susan Phonsongkham, is another star in the making for the Institute.
Jaime Gomez takes the helm at the Koalas, replacing last year’s coach Stephen Peters, who has moved on to the Spartans.
The Koalas were good value last year but were still some way off a finals spot, finishing the season in sixth spot.
Erin Pridmore, Nat Penman and Nat Tobin are real leaders and will be an important part of this Koalas team this year along with a range of other familiar faces, but the headline of recruitment lies in the Koalas attack.
Snapping up teen sensation Princess Ibini-Isei and Panayiota Petratos, both former FNSW Institute stars, to bolster the team’s goal scoring chances, the Koalas could be devastating going forward.
-By Nikola Pozder