Liberty A-League season preview: Melbourne City

Unexpectedly also-rans last season, City’s previously dominant squad have ground to make up in this campaign, without a bunch of departed senior faces.

In their places come a new wave of talent, as City try a different formula for success.

Major ins: Rebekah Stott, Hannah Wilkinson, Rhianna Pollicina, Leticia McKenna

Major outs: Alex Chidiac, Rhali Dobson, Jenna McCormick, Hollie Palmer, Teagan Micah, Teigen Allen

Coach: Rado Vidosic

Hugely experienced, Vidosic enters his fourth season at City’s helm knowing expectations are high after last year’s disappointment. After winning the double two years ago, Vidosic watched as his side failed to even make the finals, and a major overhaul has ensued. 

It’s a different kind of challenge for a coach who has worked at five clubs across the A-Leagues, in both the men’s and women’s colleagues, and has variously been assistant coach and sporting director as well as head coach. 

Georgia Yeoman-Dale’s Predicted XI

  • Channel 10/Paramount+ football analyst Georgia Yeoman-Dale gives her verdict on the Melbourne City squad.

Strengths: “City have speed in wide areas with Holly McNamara, Tyla-Jay Vlajnic and Kaitlyn Torpey, which will serve City well if operating with a back three along with two wing-backs. 

Weaknesses: “They don’t really have a standout defensive midfielder. Pollicina has played defensive midfield, Davidson could play there, but I think when you look at successful teams they always have a very good holding midfielder.”

Key player: “City have finally brought in a goalscorer in Hannah Wilkinson. She’s just a classic number nine, will finish anything and is good in the air. It’s what I think they were missing last year.”

Verdict: “An improvement from last year, but they’re not as frightening as Melbourne City used to be.”

Can’t take your eyes off: Hannah Wilkinson

While the seriously good news story for City fans is the post-cancer return of Rebekah Stott, Wilkinson’s signing may prove to be a pivotal one for the coming season. Having played at multiple World Cup s and Olympics in racking up 100 caps for New Zealand, Wilkinson will make her debut in the A-League Women’s after signing from MSV Duisberg in Germany.

It’s not just her aerial ability and goalscoring threat that Rado Vidosic was chasing; at 29, Wilkinson brings a wealth of experience to a young squad, and could be the line-leading striker City lacked last season.

Having also released two songs on Spotify, we can presume Wilkinson’s leadership role will extend to curating the team’s pre-match playlist.

New City striker Hannah Wilkinson has 100 caps for New Zealand.

Reasons: to be cheerful: City’s squad this year is an intriguing mix of youth – lots of it – plus an experienced spine, a balance that Vidosic believes can help propel his side back into title contention. Veteran goalkeeper (and KEEPUP columnist) Melissa Barbieri is there to mentor the swathe of young players Vidosic has acquired, while captain Emma Checker is hoping that confident displays at centreback will catch the eye once more of Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson. 

Meanwhile Stott’s return will cheer City and opposition fans alike, and she knows well how to link up with Wilkinson having played together for the New Zealand side on numerous occasions. All of those older players know the value of a strong start in the A-League Women, though opening fixtures away to Canberra and at home to city rivals Melbourne Victory will be a quick weathervane for how that’s going.

Rebekah Stott is back in the sky blue of Melbourne City after fighting cancer.

… and reasons to be fearful: City have clearly moved into a new era, with the days of high-profile imports and leading Matildas now eschewed for a squad that Vidosic has handpicked of emerging talent. The question marks that hang over it relate to the speed with which he can build a winning team, and what happens if the start of the season isn’t promising. 

Last year City conceded too many goals and didn’t score enough, to put it bluntly, and while Vidosic has plenty of defensive stocks, there’s a lot of pressure on Wilkinson to improve on last year’s meagre tally of goals for. Overall Vidosic has brought in some highly regarded young talent, but the pressure of playing at a club the size of City will test the match-readiness of is acquisitions

FAN’S EYE VIEW: by Emma Burke

Why we believe: I’ve been a fan since the inaugural season and as the years have passed and the trophies have been collected my love for this club and this team has only grown exponentially. Every season we’ve shown up with competitive squads and a desire to win and really, what more could you ask for as a supporter?

One of the other things I truly love about this club is its dedication and support of the women’s team. Right from the jump the club has shown that it not only actually cares for its women’s side but wants them to be successful. We have excellent facilities and have been able to attract some massive names in women’s football like Jess Fishlock, Kim Little and Yukari Kinga to name a few.

We did also win the league three times in a row, so there’s that too.

Who we believe: Rebekah Stott. She’s been a huge player for us over the years and I’m so excited to finally see her back with City. Stotty is an incredible player and was with us during the aforementioned three-peat, as well as being a part of our most recent championship win back in 2019/2020. When Stotty takes to the pitch it will have been 622 days since she last played for us and she’s been on a hell of a journey since then.

If you follow her on social media, you would know that Stotty was diagnosed with stage 3 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at the beginning of this year, and she made the brave choice to document her extremely personal journey through her treatment and was able to share that she is now in remission. Stotty is the textbook definition of dedication and perseverance, and truly is one of the most important players on our team.

The magic of matchday is… in the anticipation, the building excitement from when you leave the house to when you finally arrive, when you get to see the team line-up and see who’s going to be taking to the field, when the first whistle finally blows, and the game takes off.
I love the feeling when you can tell that a goal is coming, when you can feel the team knocking at the door of their opponent’s defence and the sheer satisfaction that comes when the ball finally hits the back of the net. I haven’t managed to get to a game since our Round 14 3-1 win against the Brisbane Roar all the way back in 2020, and I’ve missed being able to experience all the small parts of matchday like hearing the crowd noises, the players calling for the ball and even just the sound of a player’s foot hitting the ball.

If I could change one thing about my club… it’s a bit of a pipe dream, especially considering where she’s playing now, but I would love to see Steph Catley, come back to captain the team even just for one more season. I really miss seeing those powerful runs up the left side at a time that isn’t 1am when she plays for Arsenal!


By Tom Smithies and Matt Comito

Adelaide United: Can Chelsie Dawber lead the Reds into the post-season?

Brisbane Roar: Gorry returns – but do departures take their toll?

Canberra United: Tune in to the Heyman and Sykes renaissance

Melbourne City: Another season of obscurity for the heavyweights?

Melbourne Victory: Can the champions go back-to-back?

Newcastle Jets: Do international arrivals boost Newcastle’s chances?

Sydney FC: Does club legend Polias’ absence take its toll on the premiers?

Perth Glory: De Vanna arrives eager bounce Perth back up the table

Wellington Phoenix: can the exuberance of youth help Wellington make a fast start?

Western Sydney Wanderers: Can coach Cannuli inspire a postseason charge?