It seems like an eternity since the 2021 Women’s Premier League was suspended among the uncertainty of a global pandemic. Almost eight months later we prepare to mark the beginning of a new era for women’s football in northern NSW.
The transition to National Premier League Women’s represents more than just a change of name but a progression not seen in the competition’s history.
This year will see four clubs represented in both the top tier men’s and women’s NPL competitions including Broadmeadow Magic, Newcastle Olympic, Maitland FC and Charlestown Azzurri, with many sides welcoming star off-season signings from the A-League Women’s competition.
In another monumental step, each first grade match will be available to watch live via BarTV Sports, with the match of the round also available on NPL.TV.
Ahead of round one, we take a look at what to expect from each side as they kick off the inaugural 2022 NPL Women’s NNSW campaign.
Match of the Round
Newcastle Olympic v Charlestown Azzurri
Darling Street Oval, Saturday 2.30pm
Alesha Clifford and Paige Kingston-Hogg headline the list of new names to feature at Darling Street Oval as Newcastle Olympic look to go one better in 2022.
Olympic finished agonisingly short of Broadmeadow Magic when the competition was suspended last season, having played tag with the women in red for the majority of the season.
Since then there has been change at the helm for last year’s runners-up with the experienced Paul DeVitis appointed to take over from Harmonie Attwill, who led the side to championship success in 2020. Attwill steered the team to 25 wins from 30 matches during her time as head coach.
The challenge on Saturday is made more difficult with the loss of Keely Gawthrop who is recovering from a broken leg, while Jets striker Jemma House is also likely to miss out with injury.
Charlestown will hope to deliver results after a year plagued with injuries.
“We have had a pretty good pre-season especially since we came back from the Christmas break,” returning Azzurri coach Niko Papaspiropoulos said.
“The girls have been doing well and the environment and the energy in the camp has been really positive.
“They look like a very well drilled team and a good outfit. If they back themselves and are disciplined and focused and work hard, the rest will come.”
The inspirational Lori Depczynski returns alongside regulars Nicki Jones and Jess Gentle. In a major boost for Azzurri, Papaspiropoulos has secured the signature of former Newcastle Jets W-League striker Jenna Kingsley.
Former Merewether and Mid Coast attacker Courtney Anderson will also pull on a light blue jersey, while the side has bid farewell to Bella Ramzan-Levy, Imogen Tusek, and Olivia Tannock.
Saturday’s first grade fixture at Darling Street Oval will be followed by the NPL Men’s NNSW reserve and first grade matches between Olympic and Azzurri.
Broadmeadow Magic v Adamstown Rosebud JFC
Magic Park, Friday 8pm
The inaugural NPL Women’s NNSW competition gets underway in tantalising fashion under lights at Magic Park on Friday when Broadmeadow Magic host Adamstown Rosebud JFC.
Magic head into the clash as the defending premiers having held top spot when the competition was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic last season.
Jake Curley remains at the helm for Magic, who have retained key attacking players Lucy Jerram and Lucy Kell, though head into their title defence without last year’s leading goal scorer Ashlee Brodigan.
Brodgian, who scored 18 goals last season, has made the move south to the NPLW NSW competition, while the side will also front up without Kobie Ferguson who remains sidelined with injury.
Adamstown will be out to score early season points against the highly rated Magic. The squad have welcomed a number of new faces including former Young Matildas player Josie Morley.
“The squad is looking strong. We have signed all of the players we wanted to re-sign and have added a number of key signings,” Adamstown coach Ryan Campbell said.
Known for his meticulous preparation, Campbell believes the Buds have the side to challenge the heavy hitters of the competition despite the young nature of the squad.
“We have had a strong pre-season and we are in a position where I am comfortable. We are ready for round one,” he said.
“We are looking for a high pressing and high tempo style of play. Looking to use our physical strengths to our advantage.”
Warners Bay FC v New Lambton FC
John Street Oval, Saturday 7pm
Could this be the year of the Panther?
That will be the question at John Street Oval as Warners Bay prepare to kick off its tilt at the silverware against New Lambton on Saturday night.
Craig Atkins remains at the helm and has plenty at his disposal after the off-season signing of Jets trio Cassidy Davis, Tara Andrews and Lauren Allan. The three have featured in 250 W-League fixtures between them, adding plenty of quality and experience to the Warners Bay squad.
They join regulars Elodie Dagg, Tara Pender and big-name signing Adriana Konjarski (nee Jones) at John Street Oval in a line up sure to send shivers down the spine of opposition coaches.
“There is a lot of excitement around the squad with the quality of players we have brought in with Lauren, Cass, and Tara coming in. It all looks good on paper, now we just need to deliver on the field,” Atkins said.
“We’re going to play quite an expansive game of football, quick moving. We want to make the other team chase us.”
It is a much-improved atmosphere at Alder Park this season after what could only be described as a torrid and forgettable year for New Lambton in 2021. It is also a vastly different line up to the side that struggled to find form last year with just two players retained for the upcoming season.
Tess Symington and Nina Collins join a host of new signings including Jess Dominello and Tahlor Thackray from the Central Coast, as well as new coach Mackenzie Davis.
Mid Coast FC v Maitland FC
Taree Zone Field, Sunday 3.40pm
Mid Coast head into 2022 off the back of a disappointing end to last year’s campaign though are bolstered by the return of key personnel and the signing of Newcastle Jets goalkeeper Claire Coelho.
Born and raised in Port Macquarie, 25-year-old Coelho has featured in red and blue on 19 occasions, along with a sole appearance with Sydney FC in 2017.
She joins regulars Jorja Holborrow, Ginger Harrison and Tash Ruge who return for another tilt at top level football, while Mick Grass retains the role of head coach. The biggest challenge thus far has been a run of injuries in a rain effected pre-season.
“We have just got to get bodies on the park going into the first few rounds. It is very difficult the way the pre-season has panned out,” Grass said.
“We are hoping to be energetic as we possibly can and be full of energy and full of running. We want to play a high-pressure game. We don’t want to sit and have the game come to us. We want to take the game to the opposition.”
There will be one notable omission in black and white this season, with Courtney Anderson making the move south to join Charlestown Azzurri. Anderson previously played for Merewether United, before joining Mid Coast.
Maitland head into the season bolstered by new signings and the return of key players as they seek to improve on last year’s fifth-placed finish.
The Magpies will be without Kate Heap, though have secured the signature of Sophie Jones and Chelsea Greguric, while in a major boost the experienced Toria Campbell returns from injury. They join the experienced Sophie Stapleford and regulars Mercedes McNabb and Bronte Peel.
David Walker takes over the role of head coach from Keelan Hamilton, who was appointed head coach at Lake Macquarie City in the NPL Men’s NNSW competition.
It is a tough opening assignment for Walker with the side to face Newcastle Olympic, Broadmeadow Magic and Charlestown Azzurri within the first month of the competition.