Why your Liberty A-League team can win the Championship

The Liberty A-League is back for the 2023-24 season and after a hugely successful Women’s World Cup in Australia, the stars are ready to put on a show in the domestic league.

All 12 teams are vying for silverware, but who will come out on top? This is the case for why your Liberty A-League club can hoist the Championship trophy aloft in May.

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Adelaide United

Adelaide have a point to prove this season after the 2022-23 campaign promised so much, but did not deliver.

The Reds made history by qualifying for their first Finals Series in 2021-22 and they headed into the following campaign with high expectations, led by Golden Boot winner Fiona Worts.

Adelaide, though, missed out on a top-four berth. They have been busy this off-season trying to engineer a return back to the finals.

Worts (Sydney FC) and Jenna McCormick (Brisbane Roar) are no longer around, but there is a lot to be excited about in Adelaide, where the Reds have been able to prise Alana Jancevski to South Australia, as well as American duo Maria Lee and Jenna Holtz while re-signing key personnel like Dylan Holmes, Emilia Murray, Emily Hodgson, Maruschka Waldus and Emily Condon.

Adrian Stenta has also became Adelaide’s first ever full-time A-League Women head coach.

This is a team with a mix of youth and experience, who showed they can match it with the best last season having beaten eventual champions Sydney FC early in the campaign. They are a team on a mission.

Brisbane Roar

They are two-time A-League Women champions but their last triumph came back in 2011, having lost the 2012 and 2014 Grand Finals.

It is a long time between drinks for a proud club but this could be the season that Brisbane end their drought.

The Roar have been busy reshaping their squad after Jamilla Rankin (Melbourne Victory), Indiah-Page Riley (PSV), Shea Connors (Sydney FC) and Zara Kruger (Sydney FC) called departed Brisbane, while Matildas star Katrina Gorry is now based in Scandinavia.

But another Matilda is back home in Brisbane – Tameka Yallop. It is a huge boost for the club that finished 11 points outside of the top four in 2022-23.

There have been glimpses of the Roar’s potential but with Yallop joined by Jenna McCormick (Adelaide United), Chelsea Blissett (Melbourne City) and Ashlee Brodigan (Newcastle Jets) in Queensland, there is a lot to be excited about.

Tameka Yallop

Canberra United

Last season was a case of so close, but yet so far, if you are a Canberra fan.

The two-time champions painstakingly missed out on the Finals Series on goal difference. They again missed out on the top four but there was enough improvement to see they are on the right track.

With history-making forward Michelle Heyman leading the way, Canberra are always in the mix. She again looms as the key to their finals hopes, along with star Serbia international Vesna Milivojevic, who showed she can score goals and set them up too.

Canberra did lose Grace Maher to Western United, but they have managed to bring Maria Jose Rojas (Melbourne City) back to the capital. It will help fill some of the Maher void and alleviate some of the load on Heyman.

The signings of Cannon Clough (Canberra United) and Mary Stanic-Floody (Sydney FC), on paper at least, have this team primed for a serious tilt at the title.

Central Coast Mariners

Guess who’s back, back again? The Mariners are back… tell a friend.

Central Coast were one of eight teams to compete in the inaugural 2008-09 A-League Women season but they are back this season, having not featured since 2009.

The Mariners are back with a bang too following a 14-year absence with Matildas forward Kyah Simon their prized recruit. She was part of their inaugural season all those years ago at the start of her football journey.

Central Coast also have a Championship winner from Sydney FC in the form of Rola Badawiya, China international Wurigumula and former Fiorentina defender Jazmin Wardlow.

The Mariners should be buoyed by what they saw from Western United last season. They showed anything is possible in your first campaign.

Melbourne City

Alongside Sydney, City have won the equal-most Championships. With a star-studded roster, they are always among the contenders and that is no different this time around.

Having lost to Melbourne Victory in a nail-biting Semi Final last season, there are still some wounds but City are accustomed to life in the spotlight and at the top.

Emma Checker (Melbourne Victory), Chelsea Blissett (Brisbane Roar), Maria Jose Rojas (Canberra United) and Sally James (Perth Glory) are gone but the bulk of their team remains together – Holly McNamara, Rhianna Pollicina, Hannah Wilkinson, Daniela Galic and Naomi Chinnama are among the stars to re-sign. Throw in the fact that FIFA Women’s World Cup star Rebekah Stott is back in Melbourne and they are primed to compete.

Dario Vidosic showed glimpses of the football he wants to play at Casey Fields and with another strong group, City appear hellbent on winning their first Championship since 2020.

Melbourne Victory

Melbourne Victory mean business in 2023-24; just look at their signings.

Jeff Hopkins’ side will be out to claim what they feel is theirs this term after Sydney FC prevented them completing a threepeat of Championship titles last term as they fell in the Preliminary Final.

There have been a significant amount of departures – star forward Melina Ayres (Newcastle Jets), Catherine Zimmerman (Western United), Claudia Bunge (HB Koge) and Casey Dumont (AFLW – Hawthorn) among the players to leave, but the replacements have reinforced Victory’s title credentials.

It is a strong Matildas presence throughout the roster. Dumont may have switched codes, however, Australia international goalkeeper Lydia Williams will be in between the sticks following her return back Down Under from the Women’s Super League. Add Matildas forward Emily Gielnik and fringe Matilda Emma Checker plus the re-signing of Elise Kellond-Knight and they are stacked with experience and star quality.

That is before you get to Rachel Lowe (Sydney FC), Jamilla Rankin (Brisbane Roar) and NPLW VIC Golden Boot winner Kurea Okino also arriving.

Elise Kellond-Knight

Newcastle Jets

A quick look at Newcastle’s squad for this season and there is enough for Jets fans to be genuinely excited.

The Jets have not qualified for the finals since 2017-18, when they finished third and booked a spot in the Semi-Finals. Only twice in their history have they earned a spot in the top four after a second-from-bottom finish in 2022-23.

But the statement signing of Melina Ayres from Melbourne Victory has made a lot of people stand up and take notice following her breakout season of a career-high 12 goals in 13 games!

The Matildas hopeful has made the move to Newcastle after spending the past six years with Victory, where she won two A-League Women Championships in 2021 and 2022 and a Premiership in 2019. She was also part of Melbourne City’s Championship-winning side in 2017.

Now she is based in the Hunter region and the star act of a Jets team on a drought-ending mission.

Melina Ayres

Perth Glory

For the past two seasons, Perth have flirted with a Finals berth but have come up short. In 2021-22, they agonisingly missed out before finishing just a point adrift last season.

That pain is driving a Glory side that has improved their squad heading into 2023-24.

Philippines’ goal machine Quinley Quezada now calls Perth home and her lethal touch will frighten opposition defenders throughout the campaign. Highly-rated goalkeeper Sally James is also in Western Australia via Melbourne City.

Former England youth international Millie Farrow will also wear purple.

The usual suspects – Tash Rigby, Susan Phonsongkham, Liz Anton and Hana Lowry are back for more.

There is no doubting the Glory’s quality and this season could produce something big.

Sydney FC

All eyes are on the Sky Blues. They are the defending champions coming off a Premiership-Championship double.

Cortnee Vine is the face of the team on the back of her exploits with the Matildas at the FIFA Women’s World Cup. There has also been a significant squad overhaul, with Championship-winning stars Charlie Rule (Brighton and Hove Albion), Mackenzie Hawkesby (Brighton and Hove Albion), Sarah Hunter (Paris FC), Madison Haley (end of loan), Rachel Lowe (Melbourne Victory) and Deborah-Anne De La Harpe (HB Koge) all leaving.

Those are huge shoes to fill but with Fiona Worts (Adelaide), young gun Sienna Saveska (Western Sydney Wanderers), Shea Connors (Brisbane Roar) and Zara Kruger (Brisbane Roar) among the new faces while crucially returning Vine, Princess Ibini and others, the Sky Blues again loom large.

Plus, with Ante Juric still at the helm and Sydney’s track record of success and promoting youngsters, they’re expected to be in the Championship conversation.

Wellington Phoenix

This is the recruitment change that could help turn the Phoenix into title contenders.

With a new head coach at the helm and club-first international recruits rolling through the doors, Wellington are a new-look team looking to shake things up in the competition.

After Football Australia relaxed restrictions on overseas signings heading into the season, the Phoenix have brought in inspiring Canadian goalkeeper Rylee Foster, American duo Hope Breslin and Hailey Davidson, and Venezuela international Mariana Speckmaier. Wellington have also signed New Zealand legend Annalie Longo, who is their new captain.

For a team that’s never featured in the finals, the Phoenix have fast emerged as a side to watch in 2023-24 and they will have the backing of an entire city and nation.

Western Sydney Wanderers

Western Sydney’s preparations have not gone according to plan following the shock departure of head coach Kat Smith with the season looming.

Former Socceroo Robbie Hooker is her replacement and he brings experience having previously served as inaugural head coach of Canberra United, guiding them to a Grand Final appearance, which they lost 2-0 to Queensland Roar.

There is the glaring absence of Matildas star Clare Hunt, who has since departed for Paris Saint-Germain in France. But, the Wanderers – without a finals appearance since 2019-20 – do have Championship-winning pedigree at their disposal in the form of recruit Vicky Bruce.

The American defender won the Women’s Championship with Bristol City as they were promoted to the Women’s Super League (WSL) last term.

Then throw in the return of Australia international Amy Harrison and Sophie Harding and this is an outfit that has potential for goals and more.

Western United

They were the Cinderella story in 2022-23. Can Western United go one step further this season?

Western’s debut season in the Liberty A-League captured the hearts and minds of fans across the country as the team from Victoria’s west made it all the way to the Grand Final, having almost claimed the Premiership too.

Mark Torcaso will juggle coaching commitments after he was also appointed coach of Philippines’ women’s national team on the back of his success.

Western also look stronger than they did last term, despite the exits of star pair Sydney Cummings and Angie Beard. Reigning Golden Boot winner Hannah Keane is back again, as is Matilda Chloe Logarzo, and more impressive is the fact they have been able to lure Grace Maher (Canberra United) and Catherine Zimmerman (Melbourne Victory) to the club.

They are no longer the unknown but Western are shaping up as genuine Championship contenders… again.

Hannah Keane