Melbourne City (Winonah Heatley and Holly McNamara)
Melbourne City have had one of the best starts to the season. They trail only Sydney FC and have conceded only four times so far with three of those goals coming against Melbourne Victory.
City will be especially glad they hit the ground running this season, because the Asian Cup will affect them.
City have only four recognized forwards in their squad and three of them are regular starters. Rhianna Pollicina, Hannah Wilkinson and Holly Mcnamara have been a fluid, creative and dangerous attacking as City have risen to second place in the table.
Melbourne City will be proud of Mcnamara’s elevation to the camp and then into the final 23 player squad. She has been one of the individual standouts of the competition so far.
They also lost Winonah Heatley for round seven. The young defender was a surprise call up for many, but The Matildas coach had good reason to select her.
Tony Gustavsson highlighted Heatley’s ball carrying and playmaking abilities from defence in explaining her selection and she will be missed by the in-form City.
When Rado Vidosic recruited as many of the countries best young defenders as he could in pre-season, it looked like a change in direction for the attack minded coach. However, the win against Adelaide United showed that they had the depth to cover Heatley.
Naomi Chinnama stepped into the starting line up and performed admirable. Along with Heatley and Checker, Melbourne City have three possible national team palyer’s in their defensive ranks.
City might have anticipated losing Emma Checker too, who could be considered unlucky not to be called up as a Matilda.
Up front, the most likely solution is to play Hannah Wilkinson as a lone striker supported by Pollicina. It might affect City’s attacking strength but they will not lose too many games.
In reserve is a star of last season’s NPLW. Caitlin Karic is an explosive winger who can score goals and create havoc with her dribbling and pace.
Karici is only 16 years old and in her first season in the A-League Women but she is a player that provides an exciting possibility for City fans.
Sydney FC (Cortnee Vine and Remy Siemsen)
In much the same way that Melbourne City loaded up with defenders for this season, Sydney FC signed attackers.
As they went into the season, Sydney FC were expected to find replacements for Clare Wheeler and Theresa Polias. Instead they added Paige Satchell and Maria Cote Rojas to an attack not lacking talent.
This has turned out to be a wise strategy by Ante Juric. He has trusted Mackenzie Hawkesby, Taylor Ray and Sarah Hunter to control the midfield. Ray was called up and has she been able to join the Matildas, it would have timed well with Rachel Lowe’s return to the pitch.
What will be interesting is how Juric organizes the attackers. Vine is the best player in the league on current form and Siemsen is vital to Sydney’s structure. Rojas’ hattrick in the 6-0 demolition of Canberra United showed that she has the ability to score and create in Siemsen’s absence.
Satchell can be a good replacement for Vine, she has searing pace and can cross the ball, but without their star centre forward a reshuffle might be needed to finish the chances.
When looking at the options in the current first team, moving Princess Ibini to centre forward might work. She is often more effective inside the penalty box than on the wing and is a good finisher.
Charlize Rule has also shown potential as a forward, but her best position is still being determined. This could be an opportunity for the fringe Matilda.
What is clear is that Juric went into this season with contingency plans and Sydney FC are well placed because of them.
Melbourne Victory (Courtney Nevin and Kyra Cooney-Cross)
Being an A-League Women’s fan this season is about duality. Victory fans would have loved to see Polly Doran get called up. She has been one of the side’s most consistent performers this season after impressing in the championship campaign.
They will also be breathing a huge sigh of relief. If she was to join the Matildas camp, that would have left Victory with only one recognized starting defender.
As the club still struggles in the absence of Kayla Morrison, Courtney Nevin has departed to India. The most obvious solution is to move Lia Privitelli to left back but Nevin was also a good option at centre back. Privitelli is a versatile player, but not that versatile.
In midfield they have lost Kyra Cooney-Cross. The midfield star is essential to the way Victory play, she can direct play from deep and get forward to link the midfield and attack.
Youngster Alanna Murphy has looked promising in midfield. She can chase, tackle and pass and has shown a willingness to shoot. However, she has been accelerated into the starting line up as Amy Jackson has been needed in defence.
Paige Zois is inexperienced but highly regarded inside Victory. She is a regular member of the first team squad but has been kept in reserve so far this season.
She is a specialist central midfielder and the club desperately needs one now. Zois is in the senior team for a reason and Victory should give her the chance to show why.
Victory have limited options. There is not obvious replacement for Nevin or Cooney-Cross. Much in the way he helped turn Doran from an attacker to an excellent full back, Hopkins might have to get creative.
Newcastle Jets (Emily van Egmond)
Emily van Egmond joined her former side as short term loanee, presumably to prepare for the Asian Cup.
As such, Newcastle benefitted from her presence but did not enter the season dependent on her for their season long strategy.
Emily van Egmond has been very good for Newcastle Jets. Before matches were postponed, she was instrumental in helping them to a very positive league start and her hometown club in fifth place with a game in hand.
However, she has not been the star of that midfield, Elizabeth Eddy’s arrival has given The Jets spark and energy and she will be there for the season and the forwards are all in good form.
Van Egmond was a very good addition to the squad but Newcastle still look to be well positioned to make the top four if they maintain current form.
The Jets will need a reshuffle, but they should be capable. Their game plan revolves around the pace they have up front and that will not change.