Competition will be fierce in the W-League this season with World Cup spots on the line ahead of next year’s showpiece in Canada.
The battle for W-League dominance will take on added significance this season as players not only vie for the championship trophy but also a spot in the Matildas World Cup squad.
With the women’s World Cup in Canada next July the W-League, which kicks off this weekend, will serve as the perfect shop window ahead of the showpiece.
A new Matildas coach will be announced in the coming weeks with Sydney FC’s Alen Stajcic, who has held the interim role since Hesterine de Reus’s sacking in April, the clear frontrunner.
For the Sky Blues however, it would mean losing the coach they’ve had since the W-League’s inception in 2008.
It would be yet another blow for Sydney who have lost key forward Sam Kerr, who’s moved back to Perth Glory, and striker Kiah Simon who will be out of action until about round eight after her knee reconstruction.
Stajcic says Sydney, who were last season’s most prolific scoring side, won’t be hampered and he is confident the likes of Chloe Logarzo and Natalie Tobin will step up.
“It doesn’t matter who comes in there that’s just the attacking brand of football we play and we’ll keep playing that way,” he said.
“Be rest assured that the players playing in those roles will be just as effective if not more effective than the players we had there last year.”
Defending champions Melbourne Victory will kick off the W-League’s seventh season away against Newcastle on Saturday.
Keeper Brianna Davey knows they’ll not only be driven to defend their title but by the ultimate prize of a World Cup spot.
“Hopefully we go back-to-back and get another trophy,” she said.
“I think this season is going to be massive for the W-League.
“With that motivation to go to the World Cup next year everyone is going to be raring to go.”
Outside the Matildas the eight-team W-League will again showcase some big-name international players.
German goalkeeper Nadine Angerer, the 2013 FIFA world player of the year, will be back in action for Brisbane Roar when they open their season away against Perth on Sunday.
In a huge boost to coach Ross Aloisi’s squad, Adelaide have snared 210-cap Danish international Katrine Pedersen with the 37-year set old to make her debut against Sydney on Sunday.
Western Sydney, who open their campaign away against reigning premiers Canberra, have recruited US midfielder Keelin Winters to add a bit of experience to their young squad.
Going into the club’s third campaign, coach Norm Boardman wants to guide the side into their first finals series.
“We’re aiming for the top four. We’re not wanting to finish second last or just survive,” he said.
“We’re setting the bar high this season.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH THIS W-LEAGUE SEASON:
MICHELLE HEYMAN – Canberra United
The Matildas striker is the league’s all-time leading goal-scorer with 43 goals and will be looking to increase that mark.
NADINE ANGERER – Brisbane Roar
The German legend needs little introduction. She became the first goalkeeper to be named the FIFA women’s world player of the year last year and will no doubt be a standout between the sticks again this season.
LISA DE VANNA – Melbourne Victory
The star Matildas striker was key in Victory’s championship success last season scoring the opening goal in their 2-1 grand final win over Roar and will prove crucial to their chances of a title defence.
KEELIN WINTERS – Western Sydney Wanderers
The Seattle Reign captain will bring experience to a relatively young and inexperienced side. Playing in the holding midfield role Winters will stabilise the defence and drive the attack.
KATRINE PEDERSEN – Adelaide United
The 210-cap Danish international has legendary status in Denmark and considered in as high regard as world-renowned gloveman Peter Schmeichel. She’ll add real steel to the Reds’ defence.
SAM KERR – Perth Glory
One of Sydney’s best players last season the right winger has made the move back west to her home city of Perth. She’s bound to be one of their key attacking threats.
ELISE PERRY – Sydney FC
The dual international is one of the biggest names in Australian women’s sport. She’ll bring her athletic prowess and defensive strength to the Sky Blues once more.
EMILY VAN EGMOND – Newcastle Jets
As the daughter of former A-League coach Gary van Egmond, Emily has football in her blood. The Matildas midfielder will be looking to impress in her return to the Jets.