With kick-off for the 2019 Herald Women’s Premier League (WPL) competition just around the corner, anticipation is building surrounding what is set to be the biggest season on record as the competition welcomes back Football Mid North Coast and Thornton Redbacks to the league.
Last season saw back-to-back champions Merewether United triumph over heavyweights Warners Bay in the 2018 Herald WPL Grand Final. However, with the introduction of Football Mid North Coast and Thornton Redbacks to the competition and plenty of player movement within clubs, the competition has a copious number of big matches installed for the 2019 season.
Warners Bay F.C.
Last Year: 1st (grand finalist – a 4-3 loss to Merewether United)
Coach: Antonio Ambrogretti
Warners Bay have their eyes set firmly on wrapping up the Premiership for their third-straight year.
As a club, one of Warners Bay’s goals is to promote as many of their young girls through the grades to ensure the development of their younger players.
The Panthers will keep the consistency throughout their Herald WPL side, with their star players returning from last year and introduction of some younger girls stepping up into their senior teams.
Newcastle Jets Westfield W-League midfielder Cassidy Davis has been a standout in the Herald WPL in previous seasons and intends to step-up her on-field effort by giving up her coaching duties and handing over the reins to Antonio Ambrogretti.
The Warners Bay Panthers will miss the likes of key defender Toria Campbell (New Lambton F.C.) and forward Gabi Deacon (South Wallsend JSC), while defender Corinne Krupa will miss the season due to a serious knee injury.
However, the Panthers will welcome back from injury Tara Pender after suffering a torn medial collateral ligament (MCL) during the semi-finals last season.
For their second year in a row, Warners Bay’s Jenna Kingsley dominated the goal-scoring tally taking out the Leading Goal-scorer in 2018.
What Antonio Ambrogretti says:
Warners Bay will be seeking redemption this 2019 season after a disappointing 3-4 loss in last year’s grand final against Merewether United.
“Our goal this year is to wrap-up the Premiership for a third straight year,” said head coach Ambrogretti.
“Another goal is to promote as many of our young girls through the grades to give them experience at the higher levels.
“Our star players from last year returning again this year, so our future looks bright.”
Last Year: 2nd (Grand Final Winners – 4-3 win against Warners Bay)
Coach: Cassandra Koppen
Merewether will have a target on their backs this 2019 season as they try to win three-from-three grand finals.
This season, Merewether have undertaken some serious recruitment to their 2019 roster gaining Jane McDonald (former Merewether United player – returning from injury), Katy Grey (moved from the United States), Courtney Anderson (Mid North Coast), Emma Allen (Newcastle Jets Academy) and Georgia Minors (Wallsend FC).
However, the side will be without Leticia Quinlan (Rugby League) and Lori Depczynski (moved away) in 2019.
Merewether will look to key players such as Westfield W-League Melbourne City forward Rhali Dobson to secure their third consecutive crown.
Dobson has been integral to the team’s success in capturing back-to-back championships for Merewether and will be looking to make a strong start to 2019, starting with their first match against New Lambton.
Last year Merewether United’s brick-wall, Alison Logue took home the 2018 Herald WPL Goalkeeper of the Year award.
After two successful years, Koppen says her side haven’t really set any goals for this season, besides winning.
She describes Merewether United as a club who obtain a winning mentality and says the group of girls are a side wanting to improve each season.
What Cassandra Koppen says:
When asked did the side have any goals for this 2019 Season, Merewether United coach Cassandra Koppen said, “no not really… win.”
“I think our results speak for themselves,” Koppen said.
“I think everyone expects Merewether to be in the finals each season so I don’t think expectations will change this year.
“We’ve got a really quality team and we’re hoping to make it three from three.”
New Lambton F.C.
Last Year: 3rd (lost to Merewether United in semi-finals)
Coach: Keelan Hamilton
Last year, New Lambton were the new kids on the block, but in 2019, they’ll be gunning for a top position.
New Lambton also saw a big year coach, Keelan Hamilton, who took out 2018 Coach of the Year – and to top off the accolades, New Lambton Football Club took home the 2018 Club of the Year after an amazing season both on and off the field across all four grades, despite that being their first season in the Herald WPL.
New Lambton will be boosted by the likes of Toria Campbell (Warners Bay), Lauren Allan (Adamstown Rosebud), Imogene Tomasone and Sophie Jones (both returning from a year off), Imogen Tusek (Merewether United), and Emmeline Pepper (Newcastle Jets Academy).
However, will notice the loss of some of their key players from last year’s side with the likes of Joey Burgess (ACL injury), Georgia Thomson and Zoe Jones (both with work commitments), Carson McGovern (illness), and Serena Carter (travel).
New Lambton and Newcastle Jets W-league forward Tara Andrews took out the Herald WPL 2018 Player of the Year for her spectacular performance and will be one to watch this WPL season.
Andrews produced a remarkable 17 goals for the Eagles in their opening WPL campaign and will be looking to take care of some unfinished business with rival club Merewether United this season.
What Keelan Hamilton says:
New Lambton Head Coach Keelan Hamilton said as a football club, they are really excited to be involved in the WPL again and aiming to build on their 2018 season.
“We are continuing to focus on ourselves and make sure that we keep improving our football environment so that our players across all grades are challenged appropriately, empowered to improve and most importantly, are able to enjoy their football,” Hamilton said.
“We were competitive last year, but the reality is that we still have only played in 22 competitive matches as a squad, so we still have a large amount of development to undertake if we are to improve on our 2018 season.”
Within the New Lambton Senior Squad, coach Keelan Hamilton said his side have set some specific targets for the season but are keeping focused on improving their processes rather than focusing too heavily on the outcomes.
With the WPL competition improving rapidly in recent years, New Lambton knows they will have to be at their best every week to get success, but coach Hamilton said, “they’re looking forward to the challenge.”
South Wallsend JSC
Last Year: 4th (lost to Warners Bay in semi-finals)
Coach: Cas Wright
South Wallsend came agonisingly close to qualifying for the Herald WPL Grand Final in 2018.
However, after making some significant changes to some key aspects of their program, the club is on track for another successful campaign.
South Wallsend have gone through a serious recruitment spree during the offseason seeing the likes of former Newcastle Jets Westfield W-league player, Kirstyn (Pearce) Antoni linking up with the club.
Other notable inclusions to the side include Ash Brodigan (Newcastle Jets Academy), Kobi Ferguson (Manly), Alice Munro (Wallsend), Gaby Deacon (Warners Bay), Maddy Bradbury (Central Coast), Greya Clifton (Merewether United).
South Wallsend have utilised the services of their Strength and Conditioning Coach, Erin Wilson, during the offseason, while establishing a program for all players that involves regular self-assessments and tailored individual programs.
Aside from this, the club has technical learning and will introduce new ideas and experiences to assist their player’s development to both grow both on and off the pitch.
With a new head coach, Cas Wright, for the upcoming season. The club and team are looking more professional than ever.
What Cas Wright says:
Wright says they are constantly looking at ways to increase their professionalism and provide a greater experience for the players to be part of an NPL structure moving forward. This will also include the community teams having exposure to coaches and training to decrease the skill deficiencies between WPL and community football
Wright has brought in a ‘coach’ mentor program to develop some of the senior players as coaches.
“I currently have four senior players coaching, with the likes of Mel Price, Freya Clifton, Ash Brodigan and Georgia Carr who have now all completed their Senior Licence Certificate,” Wright said.
Head Coach Cas Wright said she and assistant coach, Maddy Searl, have been very specific in their recruitment this season to ensure they have depth and quality in their side.
“We have made some significant changes to many aspects of the program,” she said.
“From our WPL ‘Core Value’ videos produced by our talented coaching team, have now received in excess of 10,000 views, which include re-setting club culture and goals to achieve individual, team and club success. Not just within WPL, but as a community.”
Last Year: 5th
Coach: Brad Jones
Wallsend narrowly missed out on finals in 2018, but with a developing squad, including the likes of Newcastle Jets Westfield W-League player Libby Copus-Brown, 2019 might see a renewed Devils side in the WPL competition.
Wallsend is excited heading into the 2019 season with all their players from all squads across the association preparing the clubs playing goals and expectations in preparation for the season. At the cornerstone of the club, their central themes of unity, inclusivity, fun and producing enjoying football will be the key foundations for the devil’s set-up this season.
The Red Devils side for the 2019 season will feature a mix of promising young talent added with some of their experienced players with the likes of their captain Sophie O’Brien steering the ship as their centre-back and Newcastle Jets Westfield W-league player Libby Copus-Brown in the midfield.
Wallsend has added the likes of Alesha Clifford and Olivia Kennedy (both from South Wallsend JSC), Kayla Pisani (Newcastle Jets Academy), Jess Axisa (Cessnock) and Tayla Grant (Thornton Redbacks) to their side for the 2019 season.
However, will be without Alice Munro (South Wallsend), Sophie Milton (Thornton), Jennifer Jongbloed (Thornton), Ellie Hall, Britney Duff and Sammie Laz (South Wallend).
Wallsend FC’s coach Brad Jones said his side’s goal for on the field is to be competitive and produce a standard of football that can be recognised across all grades. Off-field, Wallsend is focused on raising the profile of the WPL by promoting the brand as a great environment to be involved in.
What Sophie O’Brien (captain) says:
Wallsend’s captain, Sophie O’Brien, says she’s looking forward to leading the devils into 2019.
“I’m really excited to be heading into the new season with a great group of girls,” O’Brien said.
“The new players have all fitted into the playing group seamlessly and we are really enjoying training and looking ward to the season starting and our first game at the gardens against Thornton.”
Adamstown Rosebud JFC
Last Year: 6th
Coach: Paul DeVitis
Adamstown Rosebud’s took out their first piece of silver for a while last year with the TAFE NSW Women’s State Cup and will be aiming to collect some more trophies in 2019.
However, the Rosebud’s will have a tough task ahead after going through a rebuilding phase with the departure of some key players due to work commitments and injury. Losing captain Claire Cummings and Club Captain Taya Gregory will be a big loss for the side.
Adamstown has taken a huge hit to their 2019 playing roster losing their captain of four years Claire Cummings to work commitments in Guyra and their club captain Taya Gregory to work commitments in Taree.
Alongside Cummings and Gregory, Adamstown will be without Olivia Trinka (University in Port Macquarie), Kate Lindsay (injury) and Lauren Allan (New Lambton).
However, DeVitis is optimistic about their incoming players with the likes of Jess Terry (FMNC), Beth Lloyd (Thornton Redbacks), Georgia and Elly Cook (Emerging Jets Academy) and Isy Lauina (making a comeback after a few seasons off) joining their squad.
With the rejuvenation of the Buds side set to take-off in 2019, they will look towards senior player Elodie Dagg to carry the underdogs into the competition.
Adamstown failed to qualify for finals football in 2018 after being comfortably fixed in the top four for several previous seasons.
Nevertheless, Adamstown will be aiming to make the top four in 2019 and believe they have a good balance of both youth and experience in their side.
What Paul DeVitis says:
Despite some big losses, Adamstown’s head coach Paul DeVitis said he’s optimistic that, “they are still very capable of beating anytime on our day.”
Being notably the underdogs for the season, head coach Paul DeVitis says he believes his side are ready to prove they can play the bigger teams.
“The squad has gelled extremely well throughout preseason and our style of play is coming along nicely,” said DeVitis.
“Last season we got decimated by injuries, so we are hoping for a more generous season in that regards this year.
“Many of our younger players got great experience playing first-grade last season so we are hoping that the experience they gained in their debut season will elevate their performances this season.”
Thornton Redbacks F.C.
Coach: Alan Primmer
The Thornton Redbacks are back in action and ready to take on the Herald WPL in 2019.
The club has managed to attract a few new players looking for opportunities, but coach Alan Primmer says he’s more impressed with players like Lucinda Maddison, Celeste Ortega Edwards, Grace Harvey and Anais Moore who could have easily gone to other clubs but, “know this club and what this club stands for.”
Anais Moore will lead the side, being the first-grade captain with Anais coming through Thornton’s junior teams.
Moore’s loyalty to the club will hopefully inspire more players as they roll into the senior grade, and hopefully, make the Redbacks a stronger club in the future.
The club will also welcome back Sophie Milton and Jennifer Jongbloed back into the squad.
As a group, Thornton understands it’s going to be a difficult season but are aware and will be ready every week to play.
What Alan Primmer says:
Coach Primmer says, “if teams arrive thinking we will be an easy three points, they may leave very disappointed.”
“Many would say our goal for 2019 is easy – finish the season. But that would be outsiders who do not know the huge efforts the club put into 2018 to try and keep first-grade going,” said Primmer.
“I would start by not having goals, just the same club values; a player in the 14’s is just as important as a first grader.”
Football Mid North Coast
Coach: Mick Grass
Football Mid North Coast is one of the two new teams rejoining to the Herald WPL competition for the 2019 season and will be hoping to return with a bang.
As a club, Football Mid North Coast has a heavy focus on youth development and giving their younger players opportunities to play at the highest level they can offer, and 2019 will be no different. With that in mind, their first grade side will be one of the youngest the club has ever fielded.
The club has done some great recruitment in the off-season, fulfilling some of their key positions with players who are returning after time away from the club.
Majority of the FMNC side will consist of players from their 2018 U’20’s side with a couple of notable omissions in Courtney Anderson and Jess Terry, both of whom have moved to Newcastle and linked up with other clubs.
However, their side will be boosted from their incoming talent, with the likes of Sam Bestwick, Abbi Watson and Layni Fens linking up with the club.
With an abundance of talent coming through the ranks, FMNC believes it’s definitely an achievable objective to have all four grades in the semi-finals and featuring at the business end of the season.
What Mick Grass says:
Head Coach Mick Grass says his Herald WPL side’s goals are to showcase the abilities of their players, all of whom have been developed through the FMNC Youth Development Programs.
With some notable talent pushing up from their junior sides, Coach Grass said his side will be a real threat to the competition this year.
“The bulk of our first-grade team will consist of players from last year’s U’20’s grand final team,” Grass said.
“Despite their age, this team is extremely talented and if they can lift to meet the intensity of the competition then I have no doubt they will feature strongly throughout the year.
“We will definitely start the season as underdogs against the likes of powerhouses such as Merewether, Warners Bay and New Lambton but I think these girls will raise some eyebrows sooner rather than later.
“I have every faith in them,” he concluded.