W-League Team of the Year 2020/21

-

It was a new-look W-League this season with many familiar faces moving to Europe, giving a new generation of talent the chance to impress on Australia’s highest stage.

With the season now complete, here is the often-controversial W-League Team of the Year from The Football Sack: the original and longest-running W-League Team of the Year selection.

Between 14 writers, The Football Sack has watched every single match of the season with all coming together to collectively decide the best XI.

Some of the Contenders

Goalkeepers
Gabriella Garton – Melbourne Victory. The Kiwi has produced 42 saves this season (tied for second), which made her a crucial contributor to Victory’s strong defensive record.
Georgina Worth – Brisbane Roar. Worth made the most of her opportunity as the Roar’s first choice keeper, making 37 saves in nine matches throughout the regular season. The 23-year-old made the transition smoothly, looking comfortable and cementing her spot between the posts for years to come.
Jada Mathyssen-Whyman – Sydney FC. Another shrewd off-season signing from Juric, Whyman played every minute in goals for the premiers. The keeper conceded the least goals throughout the season, usually a sign that things are going well. If that wasn’t proof enough to get her on the list, Whyman kept Sydney alive in the W-League grand final with a series of heroic saves. Her efforts saw her awarded as the player of the match, in the losing side.
Keeley Richards – Canberra United. Considering Richards was the third keeper to get her start in United’s campaign, she took that opportunity and never let it go. To push your way through two other keepers and not get dropped for the rest of the season is an effort within itself.
Lily Alfeld – Perth Glory. Coming in top of the ranks with 54 saves this season, Alfeld is a powerhouse shot-stopper. Despite her team finishing bottom of the ladder, the New Zealander gave a notable performance for the Glory this season.
Melissa Barbieri – Melbourne City. A real general down back, her save to goal ratio was very impressive in her limited game time, conceding only five goals while making 12 saves. A very impressive season from only four games.
Sarah Willacy – Western Sydney Wanderers. While the Wanderers’ defence was leaky this season, goalkeeper Sarah Willacy was terrific as all three of the team’s clean sheets came with her between the sticks.
Teagan Micah – Melbourne City. City’s defence was in shatters during the first half of the year when Micah was in goals, but her 33 saves in eight games allowed City to keep some dignity.

Embed from Getty Images

Defenders
Ally Green – Sydney FC. Playing at right back, Green is ambidextrous. This was showcased in her maiden W-League goal where she shot from 25 meters with her supposedly weaker left foot – beating Canberra’s keeper to secure Sydney’s place in the grand final. She has been praised by Juric as an emerging leader this season.
Angela Beard – Melbourne Victory. The fullback was an asset in defence by consistently shutting down opposition wingers. Her tireless running on the touchline also allowed her to add a goal and an assist at the other end.
Charlotte McLean – Sydney FC. This is Mclean’s first W-League season and she has proved she belongs at this level. She has been rock-solid in a Sydney side who have the best defensive record in the league.
Clare Polkinghorne – Brisbane Roar. The inspirational skipper did what she always does as the Roar soared to second spot on the table. Her move to Swedish club Vittsjo GIK before the finals was a big part in the Roar conceding six goals in their semi final against Melbourne Victory, with the young squad missing her direction and stability at the back.
Claudia Bunge – Melbourne Victory. The 21-year-old showed great ability to win headers and intercept passes. She even got on the scoresheet twice to cap off an outstanding individual season.
Ellie Brush – Sydney FC. Brush is fully capped at international level so it should be no surprise that she is on this list. Before her injury, Brush was almost unbeatable in defence – and there had been talks of a Matildas recall amongst some experts. Cruelly, she tore her ACL late on in the season which has ruled out a return for Australia at the Olympics.
Emma Checker – Melbourne City. Her coolness under pressure is evident during City games as well as her willingness to hit the aggressive target. She’s tough, strong, and was a fantastic captain for City this year.
Gema Simon – Newcastle Jets. As a seasoned veteran for the Jets, Simon has remained cool, calm and collected through the many high-pressure moments in the backline. Drawing on her experience as a Matilda, the co-captain has been a stronghold in defence as well as in the attacking half by snagging a couple of critical goals for Newcastle.
Georgia Yeoman-Dale – Western Sydney Wanderers. After spending 18 months on the sidelines with an ankle injury, Yeoman-Dale returned to the W-League this season with a bang. Versatile with speed to burn, she was easily one of the Wanderers’ best players all season.
Isabel Hodgson – Adelaide United. Adelaide’s ultimate utility player, Hodgson began the season as a full back and finished it as a winger. Her ability to impact the scoreboard and close down her opposition number helped the Reds achieve their most successful campaign to date.
Jamilla Rankin – Brisbane Roar. A breakout season for the left back, Rankin excelled this season and earned herself the Young Football of the Year nomination in February. The 17-year-old was dangerous on the left flank, pushing up the ground and creating plenty of chances for her forwards.
Jenna McCormick – Melbourne City. McCormick returned to Australia early this year and fitted into the City backline with aplomb. Their backline had plenty of issues this year but McCormick wasn’t one of them. Her leadership and intensity stand her above the competition.
Jessika Nash – Canberra United. A 16 year-old with the mentality of a veteran defender. Comfortable on the ball, showed no sense of panic. If this is just the beginning for Nash. Canberra United and the Matildas will have a winner on their books.
Kendall Fletcher – Canberra United. Led from the back like no one else could. With a team as young as this one, she has helped mould the team to go the full 90 minutes without taking a step back.
Kayla Morrison – Melbourne Victory. A true leader. Her composure and organisational skills turned Victory’s defence into a very organised unit this season.
Lauren Keir – Canberra United. Solid in defence, useful with the ball at her feet. On several occasions she was able to stun the defence by turning nothing into something by forcing her opponents to track back. Also crucial in providing opportunities going forward, continuously making key passes to Heyman and her forwards in big moments.
Maruschka Waldus – Adelaide United. Possibly Adelaide’s best signing of the season, Waldus was the experienced head the Reds needed to reinforce their defence. Along with her outstanding defending, Waldus was also a dangerous set-piece target and scored twice off a corner.
Natalie Tobin – Sydney FC. Injuries to Sydney’s centre backs meant that the midfielder had to play the season as a make-shift centre back for Sydney. In truth Tobin’s move from midfield to centre back benefited the team. She was often an unmoveable presence at the back. Tobin’s key interceptions and driving runs from defence into midfield were a key feature to Sydney’s success this year.

Tyla-Jay Vlajnic – Melbourne City. Playing in an experienced City backline Vlajnic and fellow defender Samantha Johnson was the physical presence the young City team needed.
Tessa Tamplin – Newcastle Jets. Swift and sturdy, Tamplin has spared Newcastle’s defence several times with her pace down the line. She’s an unstoppable force who is quick in transitions, light on her feet, hardy when necessary and all while having endless energy to spare.
Winonah Heatley – Brisbane Roar. The other of the Roar’s young fullbacks cementing their spot, the 19-year-old was a great addition in their defensive unit all season long. The talented youngster is eager for a Matildas call up in future years after a strong campaign for the Brisbane outfit.

Embed from Getty Images

Midfielders
Alex Chidiac – Melbourne City. Making her return to the W-League, Chidiac solidified herself in a struggling City midfield as arguably their best player all season.
Caitlin Doeglas – Perth Glory. Doeglas is a versatile midfielder who dominates the ball and produces many chances as a result. Always working hard to clear the ball, the 24-year-old persists to give her all the full 90 minutes of every match.
Clare Wheeler – Sydney FC. Before her move to Sydney this season, Wheeler had played 67 times without scoring a goal. This campaign she has flourished in a more attacking role, scoring four times in 11 games. A highly composed and complete midfielder, Juric called her the best player in the W-League earlier this season.
Dylan Holmes – Adelaide United. Before leaving for an overseas opportunity, Holmes began evolving into the W-League’s most versatile player. Adelaide’s captain scored three goals and added in assists across the campaign. Holmes was also elite defensively, dispossessing opposition midfielders on many occasions.
Emily Condon – Adelaide United. The Pride of Port Pirie, Condon has been a regular for the Reds since 2014 and continued her great performances this season. She scored four goals and passed off four assists in 2020/21, becoming one of the W-League’s deadliest attacking midfielders.
Grace Maher – Canberra United. The confidence she has in her own ability at 21 is phenomenal. Not only to read the game as it is but to take it on in the big moments to make the difference. Whether its that final pass or to slot in the goal from 40 metres out.
Isobel Dalton – Brisbane Roar. The 23-year-old lead the competition in assists helping the Roar into a top four place and a home semi-final. The homegrown star was the standout midfielder for her side this W-League season.
Kahlia Hogg – Adelaide United. After inspirational captain Dylan Holmes completed a late-season move to Sweden, Hogg took her place in the starting 11 and kept the Reds in the finals hunt. Her experience and determination in midfield was a huge boost for the younger teammates playing alongside her.
Kyra Cooney-Cross – Melbourne Victory. The 19-year-old had her best campaign with five goals and four assists in 13 appearances. By pulling the strings in attack, she created a total of 36 chances – the most in the league.
Leticia McKenna – Brisbane Roar. The young superstar was a regular starter for the Roar for most of the W-League season before finding herself moved to the bench at the backend. After a relatively strong season in orange, the 18-year-old will be hoping for a Matildas call-up in the near future.
Mindy Barbieri – Melbourne Victory. A crucial cog in Victory’s midfield with her ability to operate as a box-to-box midfielder with a strong tackling ability and reading of the play. Her vision came in handy too, as she picked up three assists in the process.
Sarah Hunter – Western Sydney Wanderers. The central midfielder enjoyed a terrific debut W-League campaign with the Wanderers. The 17-year old showed maturity beyond her age as she made nine appearances while singlehandedly earning the Wanderers a draw against Adelaide in February with her first two W-League goals.
Teresa Polias – Sydney FC. Polias is the most capped player in W-League history and an inspirational captain to the youngest ever squad to win a premiership. Aside from her leadership, she is a damn good player. She plays a crucial role in defensive midfield, anchoring a Sydney side who love to attack. She has been in the thick of the action in every game, frequently making key interceptions and tackles that allows Sydney to transition from defence into attack. She rarely misplaces a pass or a tackle. And she is a dead ball specialist. This season she has provided five assists – also scoring a fantastic free kick against Victory in a game that decided the premiership.

Embed from Getty Images

Forwards
Catherine Zimmerman – Melbourne Victory. The American import showed off her versatility by playing either as a striker or winger during various parts of the season. In 11 matches she recorded six goals and an assist, including a crucial late winner against Adelaide United.
Chelsea Dawber – Adelaide United. This season was a breakout campaign for Dawber. She was Adelaide’s leading scorer, picking up five goals in eight appearances. Although she’s only 21, Dawber’s technique and shooting abilities have helped her develop into an elite forward.
Cortnee Vine – Sydney FC. Blessed with electric pace, Vine looked Sydney’s best attacking threat before her injury near the end of the season. Never short on confidence, Vine has breezed past defenders countless times this season with her direct style of play. In 11 games, Vine scored four goals, registering three assists.
Emily Gielnik – Brisbane Roar. The striker was influential for the Brisbane Roar this season leading the golden boot race, scoring 12 goals on her return to the club after stints in Europe. The 28-year-old was badly missed during the Roar’s semi-final loss against Melbourne Victory after signing with Swedish club Vittsjo GIK.
Lisa De Vanna – Melbourne Victory. The veteran attacker spent most of her time on the wing but was still able to score three times. The most value, however, came from her leadership. The two times she was not in the matchday squad, her team suffered back-to-back losses.
Mariel Hecher – Brisbane Roar. The Brazilian was one of the standout players for the Roar this season leading devastating attacks down the flanks and contributing with four goals and two assists. Hecher was one of a host of players who excelled in their first season in the W-League after progressing from the National Premier League competition.
Melina Ayers – Melbourne Victory. An irreplaceable piece in Victory’s attack, with brilliant finishing and passing ability to get her teammates involved. A total of eight goals and five assists in 13 matches marked a very successful campaign.
Michelle Heyman – Canberra United. Clutch. Professional. Thrives off the pressure of being the all-time top goal scorer in W-League history. If you needed a moment of magic, Heyman was all you needed. She’s back.
Nickoletta Flannery – Canberra United. Crucial with the ball moving forward, had a terrific link up connection with Heyman and Maher. Was always in the right place at the right time.
Paige Satchell – Canberra United. If there was a player that defined 110% effort at all times, Satchell is that player. In a 10 minute period she would be found in up to five different positions on the field. She was the fastest player on the pitch. The only way you could stop her was by subbing her off.
Princess Ibini – Sydney FC. Despite being only 21-years-old, Ibini is a veteran in Sydney’s young squad having been at the club since 2015. Her experience was highlighted when she secured Sydney’s premiership win with a crucial penalty against Victory. She has scored five goals this season.
Remy Siemsen – Sydney FC. Last season’s golden boot winner has also enjoyed a successful season this year. She is Sydney’s top scorer with seven goals. Although only 21, Siemsen is now established as one of the best players in the W-League. A future Matildas star.
Rhali Dobson – Melbourne City. In an emotional season, Dobson played some impressive football on the pitch. However, the most significant season highlight would have to be her engagement to fiance Matt Stonham, who is struggling with brain cancer, on the last day of the City season.
Teigan Collister – Western Sydney Wanderers. After joining from Newcastle Jets, Collister hit the ground running in Western Sydney. By the back end of the season she had established herself as the Wanderers’ main attacking outlet, providing excellent service from out wide with four assists in nine matches.

Embed from Getty Images

Coaches
Adrian Stenta – Adelaide United. Following years of heartache in Adelaide, Stenta’s first season as head coach saw the Reds come agonisingly close to their first finals appearance. Despite missing the finals on goal differential, Stenta created a strong team culture and used his tactical knowledge to impact the outcome of many close games.
Ante Juric – Sydney FC. Juric continues to get the best out of young Australian talent. The Sydney manager has now taken his side to the grand final in four consecutive seasons. And this season may be his greatest achievement as he won the premiership with the youngest squad in W-League history, with an average age of 22. Juric also achieved this feat with a purely Australian squad. Many players at Sydney have stated that the team spirit at the club is the best they have ever been a part of and have lauded a culture of belief that has been installed by Juric.
Ash Wilson – Newcastle Jets. Stepping out from the shadows of assistant coach, Wilson has transitioned with ease into the Head Coach role. Despite the season presenting numerous challenges, Wilson managed to mesh a relatively new squad together quickly, built a gritty midfield and kept team morale at its heights. It should also be noted, Wilson has been an excellent role model for women in football and a strong advocate for the improvement of the women’s game.
Jake Goodship – Brisbane Roar. An animated character both on and off the field whose entertaining style of coaching helped his side achieve great results all season. He should be credited for the way he built his squad to include former Matildas stars who have taught younger players how to improve their individual games.
Vicki Linton – Canberra United. The winning culture of United is back at the nation’s capital, and Linton is to thank. Bringing back former players and breeding through first timers in the W-League, to re-install what the club is all about has set them on a path greater than the season that has been. With this squad, this is just the beginning.

W-League Team of the Year 2020/21
Goalkeeper: Jada Mathyssen-Whyman
Centre backs: Clare Polkinghorne & Natalie Tobin
Fullbacks: Angela Beard & Ally Green
Midfielders: Isobel Dalton, Teresa Polias & Kyra Cooney-Cross
Wingers: Emily Gielnik & Cortnee Vine
Centre Forward: Michelle Heyman
Coach: Ante Juric
Assistant Coach: Jake Goodship
Bench: Teagan Micah, Claudia Bunge, Emily Condon, Mariel Hecher, Princess Ibini

Awards
Defender of the Year: Clare Polkinghorne
Midfielder of the Year: Teresa Polias
Forward of the Year: Emily Gielnik
Young Player of the Year: Kyra Cooney-Cross
Player of the Year: Emily Gielnik

Feature image credit: Anthony Caffery

Enjoy this content? Support The Football Sack

Due in part to COVID and lack of current sponsorship we are at risk of not having the funds to continue running The Football Sack. If you enjoy our content and support our work in training talented young writers, please support us with a donation. If every reader contributed just $3, our funding would be covered for over ten years.

DONATE

Learn with us

Latest Articles

Love your football?
Subscribe to our weekly football wrap. During the season we'll send you all the week's football action straight to your inbox.
* indicates required