Westfield W-League midseason report

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With a rise in playing and coaching standards this year, it’s been a good start to the Westfield W-League 2011/12 season.

Canberra on top so far this season. Credit: Nick Guoth

As Week Six passes we take a look at all seven teams competing, what they have done so far and what the second half of the season may bring.

There are twelve rounds this season with each team playing ten games and having two byes. The unfortunate side effect of having such a short season is the mathematical problem of each team playing four clubs twice while playing two clubs only once. This could very easily affect the final four make up.

The NRL faces a similar problem in having an inequitable draw but due to its longer season length and the fact that eight teams make finals the ability of the fixturing to drastically affect a team’s standing diminishes.

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1. Canberra United

Canberra has promised so much since the inception of the Westfield W-League but have unfortunately fallen short in the last three seasons. This year that could all be forgotten with five games played for five wins placing the ‘Green Machine’ at the top of the table.

With the core of last season’s squad staying together, the ‘variable’ making the difference this year is their new coach, U19 Czech Republic mentor Jitka Klimkova. A UEFA ‘A’ licensed coach, Klimkova may just have cured United’s goal scoring problem which has been their archilles heel in seasons past.

There is no doubt Canberra has the most formidable defensive in the league. With the likes of Ellie Brush and Caitlin Cooper as the stoic central defenders, Matilda’s first choice ‘keeper Lydia Williams as shot stopper and the evergreen Sally Shipard anchoring the midfield, this has never been an easy team to penetrate.

They are no slouches up front either with goal sensation Michelle Heyman, who looks to be reading the game better and increasing her technical skills this year, complemented with the talented USA import Taryn Hemmings on the wing.

A player to watch for in the future is the young Gold Coaster Hayley Raso.

The only area Canberra is lacking is in the midfield but when Leah Blayney returns this will help balance Canberra up.

2. Sydney FC

Last year’s Premiers and Grand Finalist Sydney is quite simply a den of talent.

With Thea Slatyer in central defence and the ever-ready game reading holding midfielder Teresa Polias in great form, Sydney can stop goals. Throw in power-midfielders such as Renee Rollason, Heather Garriock and Kylie Ledbrooke controlling the middle plus a front line to die for in Kyah Simon, Caitlin Foord, Leena Khamis and Sarah Walsh and you have the ‘complete’ squad.

Watching USA Superstar Megan Rapinoe play the first two games with Sydney was an absolute highlight; in the blonde attacker you had a player head and shoulders over any other currently playing in Australia and her movement off the ball was inspirational.

The girls have lost to Canberra and drew to Brisbane to sit in second place but are improving each week and as players come back from injuries they will be a force. Though I don’t quite understand the more direct play they are experimenting with this year.

3. Brisbane Roar

Currently in third place, last season’s Champions have lost some key players this year and look a little down – but overlook them for a place in the Grand Final at your peril. With a wealth of experience and maturity Brisbane will always be hard to beat and will never give-in.

Clare Polkinghorne, Laura Alleway and Aivi Luik stabilise the Roar along with the great young goalkeeper Casey Dumont. At the pointy end effervesce midfielder Tameka Butt and up and coming striker Emily Gielnik are always dangerous.

As the season progresses Brisbane will score more goals and become more competitive with the inclusion of forwards Catherine Canulli and Sasha McDonnell helping out.

4. Melbourne Victory

A young development team coached again by the watchful eye of Vicki Linton, Melbourne made the top four last year and look to do the same this year.

USA Football great Kendall Fletcher has moved back into midfield where her experience counts while team captain and UK import Jodie Taylor is creating numerous opportunities but lacks some finishing which will improve as the season continues.

Katrina Gorry has returned to her original club from Adelaide United and is looking to prove a point as she is in great form.

With youngsters Caitlin Friend, Stephanie Catley and Ashley Brown improving each year, they can and will upset some teams in the remainder of the season.

5. Newcastle United

Newcastle United Jets have a revamped line-up this year bursting with talent but are finding it hard to blend all this collection together. In such a short season this can prove detrimental for the Newcastle girls.

New recruits include the German International Ariane Hingst in central defence, Lisa De Vanna playing as a number 10 (though whether this is her best position has not yet been justified), midfielder Emily Van Egmond returning from Canberra, goalkeeper Melissa Barbieri and defender Stacey Day from Adelaide.

Newcastle retained the services of talented striker Tara Andrews and go-forward defender Gema Simon but have lost the dependable Melissa Feuerriegel.

With a new coach this season in the form of ex-Socceroo Clayton Zane the girls will need to lift to secure a finals berth.

6. Perth Glory

Perth are struggling again this year. They do have a new coach in former Glory legend Jamie Harnwell, but it does raise the question; why does Perth insist on hiring loud screaming sideline coaches? Is this a West thing?

Perth have lost international goalkeeper Tine Cederkvist but have picked up one of Australia’s best up and coming ‘keepers, Queenslander Mackenzie Arnold who will give the Perth girls some creditability.

Tanya Oxtoby remains in central defence and no-nonsense midfielder Elisa D’Ovidio will continue battling away in the centre. Perth has lost a core group of players this season and will struggle to string some wins together.

7. Adelaide United

Adelaide are surprisingly still in the competition, though the entire women’s football family wish them all the best.

With only a small local competition feeding the club, building up a competitive team will take some seasons but the hiring of New Zealand Women’s U17 coach David Edmondson is good step in the right direction.
A number of players left for greener pastures but the Lady Reds have kept the services of USA import Ashleigh Gunning and potentially great players in the form of Donna Cockayne and Racheal Quigley.

Valuable pickups such as New Zealand imports Abby Erceg and Anna Green will help develop a better Footballing style while Marijana Rajcic is also looking the goods.

We hope the girls can secure a win this season since their last was way back in November 2008.

Prediction

I think the table will end up as it is today. The finals series should be a good competition with any of the top four able to make the Grand Final. Push come to shove one would predict a Canberra United and Sydney FC finalé but I wouldn’t discount Brisbane just yet.

Bring it on girls!

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