Data reveals 6 rising stars who could become Matildas, inc. next Raso & 17yo set piece whizz

Using Opta data, we single out six Liberty A-League stars who are putting their hand up to be a part of the next generation of Matildas.

Last year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand was a seminal moment for football Down Under. 

Australia fell in love with the Matildas as they embarked on a dream run at the biggest Women’s World Cup in history, inspiring young girls across the country as they reached the last four.


From Sam Kerr’s semi-final screamer against England to that penalty shoot-out win over France, Australia made memories to last a lifetime.

However, once Tony Gustavsson’s side fell agonisingly short of the bronze medal, going down to Sweden in the third-place play-off, attention soon turned to what comes next.

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Chelsea star Kerr will be closing in on her 34th birthday by the time the next World Cup takes place. The likes of Hayley Raso, Caitlin Foord, Katrina Gorry and Steph Catley will also be there or thereabouts.

While all have key roles to play in the Matildas’ future, Gustavsson will know the importance of blooding the next generation in the coming years.

With that in mind, we sift through the Liberty A-League data to run the rule over some of the most likely candidates to break through.

Sophie Harding (Western Sydney Wanderers)

Harding received her first senior call-up for this month’s Olympic qualification tie against Uzbekistan – which Australia ultimately won 13-0 on aggregate –  joining up with the squad after Sydney FC’s Cortnee Vine withdrew. 

Despite representing a Western Sydney Wanderers side which has been outscored by all but two of the A-League’s 12 teams this term, the 24-year-old has emerged as one of the competition’s most feared forwards. 


Harding has scored nine goals in 16 league appearances this term, a tally only bettered by Canberra United’s Michelle Heyman (12) and Newcastle Jets’ Sarina Bolden (11). Only four players – Hannah Wilkinson, Rhianna Pollicina, Hannah Keane and Heyman – have bettered Harding’s tally of 8.3 expected goals (xG), showing her knack for taking up goal scoring positions. 

She is no mere goal-poacher, though, leading all players in the league for shot-ending carries this season, with 22. Harding faces fierce competition on the international stage, but she has all the attributes to dovetail well with Kerr. 

Holly Caspers (Western Sydney Wanderers)

Harding is not the only Wanderers player looking to impress Gustavsson, though. Playing either alongside or behind Harding, Caspers leads all players in the A-League for assists this term, with six.

One note of caution is those assists have come from an expected assists (xA) total of 2.21, giving her the largest positive differential in the competition (3.8) and perhaps suggesting she has benefitted from some lethal finishing from her team-mates.

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However, Caspers’ numbers are not to be sniffed at in other statistical categories, with only five other Australian players bettering her total of 22 chances created from open play in the A-League this season.

Sharn Freier (Brisbane Roar)

Gustavsson has always valued dynamism in the wide areas, using two genuine wingers in his 4-4-2 system, and 22-year-old Freier could be a contender to take up the mantle from Raso in the coming years.

Hugging the touchline on the left for Brisbane Roar, Freier leads all players in the A-League for successful take-ons this season, with her total of 42 putting her 10 clear of Julia Grosso in second.

A volume dribbler with end product, Freier also leads the competition’s charts for dribbles attempted (74) and chance-creating carries (17). The Matildas should be well-covered if Real Madrid winger Raso does ever slow down. 

Mackenzie Hawkesby (Sydney FC)

Hawkesby returned to Sydney FC in December, having spent five months with Women’s Super League (WSL) side Brighton and Hove Albion. The 23-year-old midfielder has needed no time to adjust; she is the only player to have created more chances (40) than Freier (34) in the A-League this season.  

That statistic is made all the more remarkable by the fact she has only made 10 appearances, totalling 809 minutes, for Ante Juric’s title challengers. 


Seventeen of the chances created by Hawkesby – who was called up by the Matildas in 2022 but didn’t make her senior debut – have come from set-pieces, the third highest tally in the league. 

Alexia Apostolakis (Western Sydney Wanderers)

Indeed, with international tournaments often won and lost on the finest of margins, a set-piece specialist never goes amiss. 

Apostolakis – who can operate either at full-back or in the centre of midfield and came through the Barcelona Academy in Sydney – leads all A-League players for chances created from set-pieces this term, with 23. 

The most remarkable thing about Apostolakis, though, is her composure at such a young age. At just 17 years old, she has played 1,245 minutes in the A-League this term, a tally only bettered by five of her Western Sydney Wanderers teammates.

Apostolakis also ranks second among all Wanderers players for tackles attempted (31) and won (25), as well as for interceptions (36). If she continues on her current trajectory, she has every chance of becoming an Australia mainstay for years to come.

Holly McNamara (Melbourne City)

The only player on this list with senior caps to her name, 21-year-old striker McNamara would surely already be a regular if not for her rotten luck, having suffered three anterior cruciate ligament injuries in her young career.

McNamara’s latest fitness blow came just days after she earned a Matildas call-up in November, having made a flying start to the A-League season with six goals in Melbourne City’s first five games.


Those goals came from 18 shots, and her 33% shot conversion rate remains the best in the league in 2023-24.

City initially coped well in her absence and remain in contention to top the pile, though she has been sorely missed throughout their current four-match winless streak (two draws, two defeats).

Another lengthy recovery period awaits McNamara, but all of Australia will be hoping she can get back to her best soon.