W-League mid-season report card: Western Sydney Wanderers

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As we approach the mid-way point of the 2019/20 W-League it’s time for The Football Sack to run the rule over each club’s campaign to date.

Semester summary: After receiving what can only be described as a fail-mark last season the Western Sydney Wanderers have turned things around and now appear well on track to pass with flying colours.

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Last year’s wooden spooners sprung out of the blocks with three wins from three to kick off the campaign before they maintained their unbeaten streak with a toughly-fought 1-1 draw away to Melbourne Victory.

It all appears to have clicked for Dean Heffernan during his maiden season as coach. He has constructed one of the competition’s standout sides who at present sit in third just three points adrift of the summit with a game in hand.

Areas of excellence: The Red and Black’s extensive foreign recruitment spree has well and truly lived up to the hype. North Carolina Courage trio Kristen Hamilton, Denise O’Sullivan and Lynn Williams have rightfully attracted many of the plaudits.

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While Sam Staab and Abby Smith have quietly stepped up to the mantle to sure things up at the back.

For a club who conceded 30 goals last time out (12 more than anyone else), it’s remarkable to see them posing the best defensive record in the competition – having shipped a measly three goals in four matches.

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An underrated factor fuelling the revitalised Wanderers’ success has been the effectiveness of their midfield unit. Alongside Irish international O’Sullivan, the likes of Amy Harrison, Ella Mastrantonio and Kyra Cooney-Cross have injected the perfect blend to dominate their opposition while providing outstanding service for the likes of Williams and Hamilton.

Areas in need of improvement: While it’s near-impossible to fault the Red and Black, their wastefulness in the final third may well come back to bite them at some stage.

Early warning signs emerged from their dominate round two display against the Newcastle Jets where despite creating a hatful of chances they emerged 1-0 victors thanks to a Harrison penalty.

It was also a lack of conviction in the area that saw them drop points for the first time in their most recent outing against the Victory despite creating a sufficient amount of opportunities to come away with all three points.

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Top student: From the early stages of the season opener between the Wanderers and Adelaide United the quality of Hamilton was on full display.

Her electric pace, class deliveries and poachers instincts have been game-changing attributes for the Wanderers. A round three hat-trick away to Brisbane – the first in the club’s history – has her right in contention for the golden boot.

Class clown(s): It’s extremely harsh to pinpoint any underperforming individuals in an undefeated side but there are a few fresh off outstanding seasons in the New South Wales NPL who have not quite been able to replicate their form in the top flight.

The likes of Cortnee Vine, Vesna Milivojevic and Susan Phonsongkham have all found first-team minutes hard to come by and struggled for consistency during their brief cameos.

Grade: A

Considering the immense turnaround from this time last year the Wanderers are well and truly in A-grade territory.

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Outlook: The big question is whether Western Sydney’s outstanding form can be maintained over the latter half of the season.

They are still yet to meet the two sides above them on the ladder and it’s likely their next two fixtures against Sydney FC and Canberra United will go a long way to determining whether Heffernan’s outfit are the real deal.

There are plenty of positive signs indicating this will be the year the Wanderers go on to belatedly break their finals curse and even compete for silverware.

Can they maintain their red-hot start to the season? Only time will tell.

Feature image credit: Western Sydney Wanderers 

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Chris Curulli
Passionate Sports Media student and all round football obsessive, covering the Western Sydney Wanderers for the 2019/20 season.