Fiona Worts was awarded the Julie Dolan Medal for 2021/22, officially recognising her as the best player in the A-League Women.
Worts is the third non-Australian player, the first Englishwoman and the first Adelaide United player to win the Julie Dolan Medal. Like her team, she improved incredibly from last season. The striker won the 2021/22 Golden Boot with 13 goals in 14 games, as she helped drive Adelaide to their first ever semi-final.
Although an A-Leagues season is relatively short, this does not make it easier to be consistent over those 14 weeks. There is minimal time to adjust to new teammates, tactics or opposition. Any injury or delay to match day recovery can hamper performance in the next day.
To be awarded the Julie Dolan medal means a combination of doing everything correct in preparation, recovery and on the field. Worts joins an illustrious list of former winners and was recognised above some worthy candidates this year. Mackenzie Hawkesby and Taylor Ray of Sydney FC would have been deserved winners and Katrina Gorry was dominant for Brisbane Roar.
But nobody could argue against Fiona Worts being the winner. She was simply unstoppable for the home and away season. Five goals against Brisbane Roar was a statement that the league had a new star striker.
Worts is more than just a scorer. She registered four assists and created a deadly combination with Chelsie Dawber, who scored 10 goals herself. Genuine strike partnerships are rare in modern football, this was one of the best that the A-League Women has seen.
The duo’s movement meant that both were hard to track. When one moved central, the other peeled out wide to a flank, usually Dawber on the right and Worts on the left.
They either pulled central defenders out of position or dragged fullbacks inside and created space on the wings. At their best, the two Adelaide strikers occupied four defenders.
Adelaide’s high octane but tactically disciplined style of play also earned Adrian Stenta the coach of the year award, and Dawber a move to the NWSL with Chicago Red Stars.
But it was Worts’s merciless and composed finishing that earned her the Golden Boot and Dolan Medal. She was ruthlessly consistent and delightfully entertaining throughout Adelaide’s best season to date.
She is a difficult player to describe. She has quick feet and a few tricks in her bag, but you would not describe her as a fancy player. Her acceleration in short spaces gives her an edge over most defenders, and her shooting is powerful, but she scores most of her goals from inside the box.
Worts can hold up the ball, and create spaces for other players, or she can twist and turn into enough space to find a shot. She is strong, skilled and highly effective.
Adelaide United acted quickly in the post season. They immediately re-signed Worts for the 2022/23 season. After coming so close to a Grand Final, the club has unfinished business. They also have the best player in the competition.
Best Young Player
Few would have been surprised by Holly McNamara’s recognition as the best young player in the league. The Melbourne City striker was not just one of the best players under 20, but was among the most dangerous attackers in the country.
Rado Vidosic is a coach known for an attacking style, so when City began the season with only three recognised forwards, it seemed curious. Especially since two of them (Caitlin Karic and McNamara) were still teenagers with no top flight experience.
McNamara took no time to show what she could do.
In the first game of the season, she was the difference. Her curling goal from 19 yards against Canberra United announced a new talent to Australian football. She soon followed that up with a dominant display against Melbourne Victory where she helped strike partner Hannah Wilkinson to a five goal haul.
She is explosively quick, creative with her dribbling, and has the vision to unlock defences with some very clever passing. In addition to her eye catching skill, she is composed beyond her years.
McNamara’s season was cruelly cut short after the tore her ACL against Sydney FC in February. But by that point she had already earned a call up to the Matildas Asian Cup Squad and earned her first two senior caps.
Had it not been for that injury and the games missed with the national team, she would have had a claim for the Dolan Medal herself.
Holly McNamara is one of the most exciting talents in the game. She was one of the league’s outstanding players last season, and at just 19, the best is yet to come.