PHOTO: SPROULE SPORTS FOCUS
By Lindsay Green
The Herald Women’s Premier League (WPL) commences this weekend and is shaping up as one of the most competitive and intriguing seasons on record. The excitement is building as New Lambton FC join the WPL for their inaugural season.
As usual, there’s been plenty of player movement including the departure of fan favourite, Emily Frost from the Buds and New Lambton securing former Matildas’ star Joey Burgess.
There is plenty to discuss and ponder as we preview the clubs and what we can expect this season.
Warners Bay FC
Coach: Cassidy Davis
Last season: Premiers and Grand Finalists
Brooke Miller and Rhiannon Hines have left for the Central Coast and young Zoe Jones has moved on to New Lambton which leaves a huge dent in the squad’s defensive game. Holly Ayton is a great signing for the Bay and will work well with Toria Campbell in the backline along with former under 17’s Maddi Latter replacing Hines as GK. Gaby Deacon and Tara Pender also join the mix adding speed and class to the squad.
What coach Cassidy Davis says
“The girls know what we want to achieve this year but it’s about taking one game at a time. There have been some great signings for other clubs so we are expecting a tough year. If we show a good attitude and work ethic I think we are capable of going all the way.”
After narrowly missing out on the Premiership last season, Davis and the girls are preparing to take it a step further this year. Miller and Hines were two of Warners Bays key players and their departure will certainly impact the squad, but with Davis steering the ship, it’s hard to see them missing the top four.
Merewether United FC
Coach: Cassie Koppen
Last season: 2nd and Grand Final Winners
Rhali Dobson will return from her Westfield W-League grand final win with Melbourne City and provide much-needed striking power for the squad following the departure of Sarah Halvorsen. The addition of Leah Giuffre, Imogen Tusek, Hayley Griffin and Tamara Nash will ensure Merewether is very competitive.
What coach Cassie Koppen says
“I’m confident that our new signings will make a positive contribution to the season.”
They proved many spectators wrong when they defeated Warners Bay in last season’s Grand Final, but the loss of Halvorsen and veteran Jane McDonald will be difficult to overcome. How the new signings shape up remains a waiting game. Can’t see them going back to back but know they will be up there with the best.
Adamstown Rosebud JFC
Coach: Paul Devitis
Last season: 3rd (lost semi-final)
Adamstown has lost captain Emily Frost who played 113 games for the Buds including 79 first grade games. Frosty’s departure has left a huge hole in the side, however, new coach Paul Devitis is continuing the Buds’ philosophy of developing first grade players which has certainly paid off for them in the past. Lauren Allan will be returning to the squad during US College Summer Break. Lauren will be a great addition to the side as she was their leading goal scorer last season.
What coach Paul Devitis says
“Our squad is very well balanced and we have been working very hard on our playing style and learning to play to the philosophy of the team. We have a great mix of experience and youth. As this comes to fruition we should hopefully see some very impressive football that also leads to great on-field results.”
The loss of Emily Frost has certainly left a huge hole in the squad. The return of Lauren Allan, as well as the development of younger players, may be enough to save Adamstown. Paul Devitis has taken on the coaching role and his calm nature will be a great influence on the team. The club is built around creating first grade players which could see the youth squads called upon if needed, potentially going all the way.
South Wallsend FC
Coach: Kevin Farley
Last season: 5th
Southy has lost quite a few key players to New Lambton including Darcie Bell, Georgia Amess, Emily Wicks, Tahlia Gossner, Taylor Bryde and Stacey Day. Amess and Day were Southy’s leading goal scorers last year and their departure is a big loss that could cause headaches for the squad.
They missed out on a spot in the finals by one point last season but the departure of key players will make it difficult to take it a step further this year.
Coach: Marc Hingston
Last season: 6th
Lisa Cochrane, Kally Lewis, Ashlee Jones and Casey Smith are key players who have moved on and left a gap in the team. The addition of both Sass Seaborn and Georgia Minors from Warners Bay is beneficial as both players can create and execute opportunities. The signing of former Thornton goalkeeper Danielle Redding is a bonus to the backlines defensive structure as well as young Ellie Halls from Mayfield.
What coach Marc Hingston says
“We wanted fitness to be our base focus and have our game evolve from that and we’ve managed to do that in the preseason. We have developed a great culture at the club which will allow us to play the type of football we want to play and we are willing to work hard for each other which is different to last year.”
Last season is certainly a forgettable one for the Devils who struggled to find their feet. Although Cochrane, Lewis, Jones and Smith will be sorely missed, Wallsend has secured new players who will certainly make a difference and with Hingston returning as coach, they could very well be competing with the best.
Thornton Redbacks FC
Coach: Rob Richardson
Last season: 7th
Thornton has lost a few players including goalkeeper Danielle Redding but has recruited well with three girls coming down from Queensland WPL including a former German Bundesliga player.
What coach Rob Richardson says
“It will naturally take a while for the girls to familiarise and gel but we are confident we will be competitive this season.”
A lack of depth has hurt Thornton in recent years and last year was no different winning just two games. It may take a few matches before they find their feet but this season is all about discovering which combinations work best for the Redbacks.
New Lambton FC
Coach: Keelan Hamilton
Last season: new to competition
New Lambton has secured three key signings in Joanne Burgess (Marconi), Tara Andrews (NWS Koalas) and Stacey Day (South Wallsend). Joey Burgess has an impressive rap sheet with 40 Matildas caps and a Championship medal with Brisbane Roar in the Westfield W-League. Her experience and skill make her extremely valuable to the squad and a force to be reckoned with. Darcie Bell, Emily Wicks and Georgia Amess from Southy also join the squad as well as Lisa Cochrane (Wallsend) and Zoe Jones (Warners Bay).
What coach Keelan Hamilton says
“We haven’t set any specific targets in terms of results or table position as we don’t want to put a ceiling on what we can achieve. The WPL has been improving rapidly in recent years and being the new club into the league competing against 6 other well-established clubs, we know that the bar will be set high each week, but we are looking forward to rising to the challenge.”
It’s difficult to predict the fate of Lambton as they are the new “kids” on the block. They have certainly turned heads with some impressive signings and coach Keelan Hamilton brings a wealth of knowledge to the squad. Will the first year nerves get the better of them or will they be the competition’s heavyweights?
Sunday 11th March
First-grade kick-offs 2:30pm
Warners Bay v South Wallsend at John St Oval
Wallsend v New Lambton at The Gardens
Adamstown v Thornton at Adamstown Oval
Merewether has the bye
Football Mid North Coast has unfortunately withdrawn from First Grade in 2018 due to player availability. FMNC will continue to field squads in the 14’s, 17’s and 20’s. Their omission will force a bye in 2018. NNSWF will work closely with FMNC throughout 2018 to do everything possible to reinstate First Grade in 2019.