Liberty A-League season preview: Western Sydney Wanderers

The Wanderers slipped back into old patterns in 2020/21 after making history the season prior. 

Failing to consolidate Western Sydney’s first foray into the finals with a second-consecutive post-season push, former head coach Dean Heffernan made way for Catherine Cannuli, a former Wanderer who knows the club inside out.

Now, the objective is clear for Cannuli and her rejuvenated cohort of red and black renegades: defy the odds to secure a top-four finish.

Major ins: Clare Hunt, Bianca Galic, Teigen Allen

Major outs: Sarah Hunter Georgia Yeoman-Dale, Courtney Newbon

Yeoman-Dale’s Predcited XI: 

  • Former Wanderer and current Channel 10/Paramount+ football analyst Georgia Yeoman-Dale runs her eye over the Western Sydney squad.

Strength: I think their midfield trio would be three of the best in terms of on-ball technique in the league.

Weakness: No bona fide striker. I actually prefer Henry playing on the wing, although she did play at nine for us at the end of last season and did a good job.

She plays the number nine very differently. She’s kind of like a Caitlin Food-type striker, she wants the ball to feet, but she’s not a Tara Andrews, she’s not a Hannah Wilkinson, she’s not a Michelle Heyman. She’s more of a winger/striker hybrid.

Key player: I’ve always rated Bianca Galic for her work rate, vision and awareness, along with her ball playing ability. But more than that, she’s box-to-box. Sometimes midfielders are good around the 18-yard-box and can pick passes but she’s good from defensive midfield all the way to attack.

Verdict: Top four contenders, who will improve from last year after dropping the deadwood… (obviously me) 

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Coach: Catherine Cannuli

She’s been biding her time in an assistant coaching role since 2017, but Cannuli has now been given the keys to guide the Wanderers into the 2021/22 Liberty A-League season.

The former CommBank Matilda ended her playing career in red and black in 2014. Her appointment as Wanderers boss seven years later takes the current number of female head coaches to four, the most in the competition’s history.

Cannuli was honoured at the 2020 Female Football Awards, named Female Coach of the Year for her work at both the Wanderers and as the Women’s Technical Director at Southern Districts Soccer Football Association.

Her first season as a head coach in the Liberty A-League is bound to throw up its challenges, but in Cannuli the Wanderers have found a head coach whose years of service make her a perfect fit at Wanderland. 

Can’t take your eyes off: Bryleeh Henry

Teenage striker Bryleeh Henry is bouncing toward the 2021/22 Liberty A-League season after making her CommBank Matildas debut in the off-season.

The 18-year-old is set to feature prominently in Cannuli’s side this season after making 11 appearances through 2020/21. She started slow but as the season progressed, so did she. Five consecutive starts to end the season included a 90-minute shift against Melbourne City in which Henry netted both of her goals for the season. It was a glimpse into the future for then-assistant Cannuli, who will hope to push Henry further along the development trail in the 2021/22 campaign.

Henry will be a prominent member of the Wanderers’ attack this season.

Reasons to be cheerful: A new coach brings new beginnings and a fresh wave of optimism for the Wanderers faithful. Along with that optimism comes nine new faces, including the defensive talent of defender Clare Hunt, who joins from Canberra United to form what looks on paper a formidable partnership Caitlin Cooper in the centre of defence.

Ahead of the backline will sit fellow recruits Malia Steinmetz and Bianca Galic, a fellow Canberra recruit who will look to impact play between both boxes. The recruitment of both Galic and Steinmetz has helped forge a midfield trio that former Wanderer Yeoman-Dale describes as the best in the league.

… and reasons to be fearful: With only four spots in the postseason up for grabs, and minimal time to stake your claim, the Wanderers need to be perfect through 2021/22. 

The teams fancied to contend for the title can afford to drop their level at times and will still be odds-on favourites to reach the post-season, but for teams like Western Sydney, Adelaide, Melbourne City – teams that didn’t crack the top four in 2020/21 and have genuine intentions to do so this season – will need to be consistent, week in week out, to contend with the title favourites.


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?

LISTEN: Join Danny Townsend, Daniel Garb, Robbie Cornthwaite and Amy Chapman for a special edition of the Official A-Leagues Podcast. Listen here, or via Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts or Spotify.