Imports up the standard of W-League

Just three matches remain in the regular season of the W-League and there is a universal feeling that while all too brief, once again the standard of the league has been elevated another notch.

Just three matches remain in the regular season of the W-League and there is a universal feeling that while all too brief, once again the standard of the league has been elevated another notch.

The development of local talent continues and in a positive counterbalance, the clubs have been clever with their selection of international talent.

Sydney FC had the pick of the bunch. What a class act Megan Rapinoe is. Her star turn in the Sky Blue was only a two week guest stint, but she proved outstanding value for that time.

She lived up to her world class billing, and gave the younger players at Sydney a first-hand look at a talented, naturally two-footed player, who was powerful, had great pace on the ball and was an absolute professional on and off the pitch.

Up in Newcastle, the signing of Ariane Hingst also caused great excitement. Seeing her in action, it-s easy to see why she played over 170 internationals for her native Germany. She hasn-t, however, had quite the impact that we may have expected. Perhaps understandable when you consider the wholesale changes to the Newcastle line-up at the start of the season, and the fact they had new coaches in-situ.

Having observed Hingst both overseas and now locally, Commentator Alicia Ferguson suggested it would have been interesting to see what Ari could have done for Newcastle higher up the park.

Conceding that the German star was a vital cog in a defence that sometimes struggled to play the ball out from the back, Ferguson believes that in a central midfield position that allowed her more room for creativity, we may have seen Ari-s real talent shine”.

One thing is always evident though, and that is the smile on her face when she plays. There-s a vibrancy and cheerfulness about Hingst, and her attitude and professionalism are an inspiration to those she plays with.

While she has put her international playing days behind her, it would be wonderful to see Hingst perhaps return and have another season with a Jets side that has had that time to gel, and to see if the result is then a little different.

In fact, a perfect example of what can happen when a team settles in and their international players remain for more than just the one stint, is the story that unfolded this year at Melbourne Victory.

Granted, Jodie Taylor is fully fit this season, and now injury-free, is not as restricted as she has been in the past. Her radar is back on target and with the dangerous partnership that has developed between her and Katrina Gorry, finals football is a certainty.

Behind those two an energetic Kendall Fletcher toils away. We-ve enjoyed seeing Fletcher for many years in the W-League now – first of course with Central Coast Mariners, before she joined Melbourne where she has really come into her own.

As ABC commentator Peter Wilkins describes it, “she is a ball of energy and the engines are never switched off. She does the simple things well, doesn-t over-complicate it and stays committed to the game for a full 90 minutes”.

And while both Taylor and Fletcher are quality experienced players, it-s surely the continuity and consistency at Melbourne that has helped them to shine this season. There is a stability about the Victory this season which is evident on the pitch.

In a league that also serves as the breeding ground for national team selection, it could be seen as detrimental to younger players when important positions are filled with international talent – but Matildas boss Tom Sermanni disagrees.

Declaring it a wonderful experience for the young girls to play alongside, and against, players of that calibre. “In Australia it is difficult (and expensive) to organise matches against quality international teams – particularly outside of Asia, so these imports give the younger girls invaluable experience playing with European style footballers”.

Yet despite the success and star power of the names above, the import of the year for the W-League must be Jitka Klimkova.

The new Canberra United Coach is undefeated so far and has created a slick and streamlined outfit in the capital. Her player management skills have been wonderful, and the intense pre-season (the stuff of legends in Canberra) has paid enormous dividends with the girls in green leading the comp from week one.

Of course the real test will be whether Canberra can lift the trophy this time after playing second fiddle in years gone by, but either way there is no getting around the fact that Klimkova-s signing has been a resounding success.