From top scorer to top tackler: Canberra United’s Ashleigh Sykes has been transformed in the 2017/18 W-League season.

After the last instalment of the W-League many expected Sykes to recreate the form that saw her bag the golden boot with 12 goals but a new approach has seen the forwards role restructured to incredible effect.

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Currently sitting equal first in competition assists with four and earning her 100th cap for Canberra this season the striker is having one of her finest campaigns yet and amazingly Sykes’ most effective statistical contribution to United’s success has been tackles won.

While the attack-minded Sykes has typically played up front throughout her career a stint with Portland Thorns in the American National Women’s Soccer League was spent playing in a defensive role.

Having won 13 tackles in seven games it seems the position switch has payed off for Sykes with a tackle success rate of 72.2% placing her above defensive stalwarts Laura Alleway (3 tackles at 50% success rate) and Clare Polkinghorne (25 tackles at 71.4% success rate).

Sykes defensive statistics comparison.
Credit: W-League Statistics.

 

 

 

 

Sykes has always had a strong striking partnership with Canberra favourite Michelle Heyman but with the addition of Norwegian recruit Elise Thorsnes United have scored eight goals in their last two games and Sykes has been pivotal in a number of those goals.

Most recently playing in a wide position Sykes has been drawing the defender out wide leaving Heyman and Thorsnes with less work to do in the middle.

Using pace in behind the front line Heather Garriock has utilised young defender Ellie Carpenter further up the pitch to terrorise oppositions defences with her raw pace and skill.

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In what has been a rollercoaster of a season for Canberra the squad seem to have ironed out any kinks seen late last year and the possibility of a finals spot looks more and more likely as they gain momentum once again.

With Sykes embracing a new role in the squad taking points from tough fixtures against Perth Glory, Brisbane Roar and Newcastle Jets in the coming weeks could be much more achievable for Garriock’s side.

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Fourth and final year studying Sports Media at the University of Canberra. Love all things football and can't wait to be part of the growth of the game in Australia. Waiting for the day the FFA come to their senses and hand us an A-League team... but could be waiting a while.