Your Liberty A-League team’s biggest challenge this season

Chloe Logarzo, Emily Gielnik and Elise Kellond-Knight have all spoken about the positive news that the Liberty Pass, which grants free access to kids under 16 years old to Liberty A-League matches, will be available this upcoming season.

Ahead of the Liberty A-League season getting underway this weekend, here’s the biggest challenge each of the competition’s 12 teams face heading into the 2023-24 campaign.

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Adelaide United – goal scoring

If the Reds are to return to the finals mix this season, then they will have to find an answer to goalscoring issues which plagued their 2022-23 campaign.

Adrian Stenta’s side struggled enormously for goals last season, ending the campaign with the equal-worst attack, scoring only 16 goals in 18 games.

Fiona Worts has since departed the club for Sydney FC after a difficult season where she was unable to replicate her Julie Dolan Medal-winning form, scoring only three goals, while Chelsie Dawber left in March after her loan deal came to an end.


Alana Jancevski

The Reds have had to retool their attack significantly, bringing in the likes of Alana Jancevski, American attacker Mariah Lee and Hannah Blake to lead their final third this season alongside emerging youngster Emilia Murray.

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Each of the four players have shown they can find the back of the net in spurts, but it will be on them to find consistency at Liberty A-League level in order to take the Reds back into the finals this season.

Brisbane Roar – finding their best number nine, goalkeeper

Similarly to Adelaide, Brisbane Roar have to find their best mix in attack, but also between the sticks.

Garrath’s McPherson’s side have lost a plethora of attacking stars including last season’s top scorer Shea Connors, New Zealand international Indiah-Paige Riley and Matilda Larissa Crummer, while last season’s number one goalkeeper Hensley Hancuff also departed at the expiration of her loan deal.

Brisbane will welcome back Mariel Hecher after a season-ending knee injury, while Hannah Holgerson and Ashlee Brodigan joined from Adelaide United and Newcastle Jets respectively.

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Mia Corbin is the player to watch, having spent last season with Parma in Serie A and prior to that, winning the Golden Boot in Costa Rica with Alajuelense W, scoring over 20 goals in 2022.

Meanwhile, Brisbane have three goalkeepers battling for one spot. Hancuff was one of the Roar’s best players last season, winning the club’s Player’s Player of the Year Award, leaving a huge void to fill in goals.

Keeley Richards and American Jordan Silkowitz have arrived at the club to contest with Isabella Shuttleworth for the number one jersey. It remains to be seen who gets first crack this weekend against Melbourne Victory.

Canberra United – filling the gaps in midfield

A key to Canberra United’s resurgence at the end of last season was the form of midfield duo Grace Maher and Laura Hughes, who have since departed for Western United and Melbourne City respectively.

The duo forged a dynamic combo with one of last season’s breakout stars Vesna Milivojevic, helping turn Canberra’s midfield into one of the most dominant in the entire competiton.

Maher’s departure is a particularly seismic one given she ranked in the top 10 in a variety of key stats including key passes and progressive passes, which in turn helped provide the service needed for the likes of Michelle Heyman and their dynamic wingers Hayley Taylor-Young and Nicki Flannery.

How Canberra deal with those absences will be fascinating, with a lot of the onus falling on Milivojevic and highly rated youngster Mary Stanic-Floody to carry the midfield.

17-year-old Stanic-Floody is still largely an unknown quantity at senior level, having played mainly as a substitute since her debut with Sydney FC two seasons ago.

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Central Coast Mariners – team chemistry

Like any new team, Central Coast’s biggest challenge will be how quickly this team can come together and gel.

Emily Husband has been slowly building her squad from the ground up over the last few months, bringing in a blend of experience and youth to fill the roster spots on offer. The expectations for the Mariners are understandably low this year given newly constructed teams evolve at different speeds.

Kyah Simon

Wellington Phoenix and Western United are two examples of how slowly or how quickly a team can get up to speed, taking into consideration the obstacles the former has faced in their first two seasons in comparisons to the latter who were runners-up in year one.

For now, at least, the Mariners are the great unknown but in the coming weeks we will start to get an idea of what they will be capable of in year one.

Melbourne City – defending against transition

Melbourne City were one of the flashiest teams in the competition last year with their exquisite work in possession, but their biggest flaw was their defensive struggles.

For all of City’s dominance in possession and ability to hit the scoreboard, Dario Vidosic’s side really struggled to defend in moments of transition – which came back to bite them late in the campaign.

City conceded 10 goals in their last three games of the campaign, including late collapses against Perth Glory and Canberra United, and their elimination final defeat to Melbourne Victory.

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City, however, have made bolstering their defensive stocks a real focus in their recruitment with the likes of Lysianne Proulx, Rebekah Stott and Taylor Otto all coming into the side, while Laura Hughes adds some extra steel in midfield.

Now, it will be fascinating to see how it all comes together this season. They still have the quality to hurt teams when they have the ball, but limiting what happens when they lose it could be a decisive factor in their chase for silverware.

Melbourne Victory – how the new faces gel

For the first time in quite some time, Jeff Hopkins won’t have a number of his key players at his disposal after several significant off-season departures.

Casey Dumont, Claudia Bunge, Catherine Zimmerman and Melina Ayres all left the club after extremely successful stints, where they helped Victory win two Championships in both 2021 and 2022.

The quartet – along with the loss of Alex Chidiac during last season – have left an enormous hole for Victory to fill.

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To Victory’s credit, they have brought in a number of high-profile replacements in Matildas trio Lydia Williams, Emily Gielnik and Emma Checker, along with NPLW Golden Boot winner Kurea Okino and talented youngsters Rachel Lowe and Jamilla Rankin.

Those six look set to play important roles and have it in their kitbag to be more than just adequate replacements. How quickly they assimilate will be a curious watch, given just how integral the departed quintet were to Victory’s success in recent times.

Finding a like-for-like replacement for mercurial Julie Dolan Medallist Chidiac could be most difficult.

A lot will come down to the continued growth of young midfielders Alana Murphy and Paige Zois, along with Lowe, who can play in an advanced role in the midfield three.

Newcastle Jets – stemming the flow defensively

Newcastle loom as one of the league’s great improvers this season, given the calibre of players they have brought in.

Melina Ayres, Claudia Cicco, Rebecca Burrows and Lorena Baumann are all set to be upgrades to their current squad, but now it’s just a matter of whether they can actually take the next step this season.

Defence was a major concern last season, conceding a league-worst 53 goals, so a lot of the focus will be on whether they have been able to fortify things in the back half.

Stemming the bleeding going back the other way will be integral to whether the Jets factor in the finals race this season, given the attacking quality they have in Ayres, Cicco and Lauren Allen.

Perth Glory – replacing Hintzen, finding consistency

Perth have quietly put together a really solid team for the 2023-24 campaign, but all eyes will be on who can carry the scoring burden this season.

Alex Epakis’ side lost both Rylee Baisden and Cyera Hintzen, along with Alana Jancevski and Hannah Blake this off-season, leaving them only with Susan Phonsongkham and Sofia Sakalis from last campaign’s attacking core.

Hintzen had been an integral member of their side during her two seasons out west, scoring 11 goals and tallying eight assists in that period of time – with 13 of those scoring contributions coming last campaign alone.

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Similarly to Reds coach Adrian Stenta, Epakis has had to retool much of his attack, bringing in Philippines goal machine Quinley Quezada, English forward Millie Farrow, emerging New Zealand international Grace Jale and local sharpshooter Tia Stonehill.

Between the four of them, along with Phonsongkham and Sakalis, they should be able to fill the gap left by Hintzen.

How Epakis plots them out on his teamsheet is another dilemma in of itself.

Another huge challenge for Perth will be whether they can finally get some consistency in their results, having finished the last two seasons strongly after difficult starts, only to just miss the finals.

Getting some continuity in their performances, in a longer season with more finals places on offer looms as a decisive factor in whether they can not only make finals, but how high up the table they can finish.

Sydney FC – finding attacking balance

Ante Juric has loaded up this off-season, bringing in a whole host of top quality attacking options.

Fiona Worts, Shea Connors, Aideen Keane and Sienna Saveska bolster a group which still boasts Matildas star Cortnee Vine and Princess Ibini. It’s quite frankly a scary proposition.

But how does Juric fit them all into one team?

It’s safe to assume Vine and Ibini will occupy respective wings, but the race is on for the starting striker role with Worts and Connors both more than capable of leading the line, while Keane and Saveska are fascinating prospects.

Maybe Juric will have to opt for a change in formation if he wants to get them all into one team, but the 4-3-3 has served him so well over the journey, meaning any change would be a surprise.

Further back, the losses of Mackenzie Hawkesby, Sarah Hunter and Charlie Rule create holes in key areas. Lucy Johnson, Taylor Ray and Tori Tumeth are among the candidates to step in this season, and have shown their quality in previous seasons.

Nonetheless, this Sydney FC team is once again looking strong.

Wellington Phoenix – time to buck the trend

After consecutive wooden spoons in their opening two seasons, Wellington will be hoping to finally buck the trend this campaign and make some inroads up the table.

The Phoenix have shown glimpses of promise throughout their first two seasons in the Liberty A-League, but have been unable to find any consistency in their performances and also with their leadership – having now appointed Paul Temple as the club’s third head coach in three seasons.

Temple has a talented squad at his disposal this season, bringing in the likes of Annalie Longo and Hope Breslin to bolster a team brimming with emerging youngsters and has promised an exciting brand of football.

However, whether he can turn promise into results remains a huge challenge, but you get the sense that this has to be season Wellington bucks the trend.

Western Sydney Wanderers – Adjusting after a coaching change 10 days out from the season

Robbie Hooker faces one of the biggest challenges in the competition heading into the new season.

The new Western Sydney Wanderers coach was appointed just over a week before the start of the season, replacing the outgoing Kat Smith.

Hooker, who hasn’t coached in the competition for over a decade, now has to steady the ship during a period of enormous upheaval, along with having to embed his coaching philosophies in a very short span of time before the season opener.

How the team responds will be an intriguing watch.

Western United – replacing Beall

Western United are heading into the new season without one of last season’s most important contributors.

Liberty A-League Goalkeeper of the Year Hilary Beall, who was integral to their success last season has not returned following the expiration of her loan deal with Racing Louisville.

But her departure has opened the door for an emerging goalkeeper to make her mark in the Liberty A-League.

Last season’s back-up goalkeeper Alyssa Dall’Oste is expected to get first crack between the sticks, having started in their most recent pre-season contest against Melbourne Victory.

Dall’Oste played an integral role to Calder United’s success in seasons prior to her arrival at Western, where she won the NPLW Victoria Goalkeeper of the Year in 2018 and 2022.

Her successor at Calder, Natalie Picak also joined the club this off-season and should provide stern competition for Dall’Oste, having won the same award in NPLW Victoria this year.

Nonetheless, it will be an interesting watch to see which of the young goalkeepers step up and take the number one jersey this season.