Sydney FC enjoy White Vine fever… while they can

If you want to find a launchpad for international footballers, the Liberty A-League is a sure-fire bet, writes Angela Christian-Wilkes.

With the Matildas now gathering to compete in the Women’s Asian Cup in India, every single one of coach Tony Gustavsson’s initial 25-player squad began life in the Liberty A-League and eight are playing in it now, though a couple won’t make the final cut after a training camp in Dubai.

Cortnee Vine is one of those contenders and, although a surprise to some, Vine Time advocates out there will be smiling smugly with her inclusion. Vine previously played for the Australian U20s and was at the 2020 Matildas Talent ID camp but is uncapped and has not had camp experience at senior level.

In the current Matildas system, Vine’s playing style matches closely with Hayley Raso. Since her debut in the league, age 16 for Brisbane Roar, Vine’s ripping speed has been a focal point. However, the skills she has developed to compliment that acceleration are what have made recent seasons memorable. Her move over from the Wanderers in 2019 brought with it increased minutes, and she has since fine-tuned her touch, her ability to cut-in towards goal, and her finishing.

This was on display as Sydney trumped Perth Glory 4-0 on Saturday. Her cross played a crucial role in Mackenzie Hawkesby’s opener, before she netted her own by outpacing Perth’s defence and coolly placing the ball home. Vine’s four goals for this season equal her tally from last, but in half the number of games.

Mackenzie Hawkesby of Sydney FC celebrates her goal against Perth on Saturday.

In addition to her goals and two assists, she has routinely been involved – if not instrumental – in moving the ball into the final third. As Gustavsson outlined, “Her expected goals and assists is the best in the league, she has the most key passes in the league so far, she has the most one-on-one dribbling in the league so far.”

As Sydney felt all too painfully at last year’s grand final, Vine being out could have a significant impact on their attack. It’s a double Band-Aid rip with her partner-in-goalscoring Remy Siemsen named as one of the 21 players locked in for India.

Worth noting is Taylor Ray, who has been having a mammoth season in defensive midfield and was called into camp but cannot attend due to contracting COVID.

Siemsen’s consistent quality since rejoining Sydney in 2019 make it unsurprising that she would be earmarked for development. Her quick start to the season no doubt consolidated confidence around her inclusion at camp in Ireland last year, and then her appearances at two separate rounds of friendlies.

Siemsen also scored her fourth goal of the competition against Perth on Saturday, with Vine on the assist. In a highly bonded team, Vine and Siemsen are a notably dynamic duo, often playing in or searching for the other. This chemistry has been developed through years of playing alongside each other and, if replicated in the camp environment, could give Vine an edge over her fellow contenders. The converse though is how Vine will fare when potentially playing without Siemsen and with unfamiliar teammates?

Back home the pair will be missed. This Sydney side does ooze depth, though. Although lacking the interconnected energy, current substitutes Paige Satchell and Maria Cote Rojas are not to be sniffed at. Attacking winger Princess Ibini-Isei has an opportunity to demonstrate consistency amongst change, Mackenzie Hawkesby has been making magic in the midfield, and their league-leading defence remains relatively unruffled.

Melbourne City defender Winonah Heatley and forward Holly McNamara will compete against each other in Dubai for the two remaining Matildas spots. Heatley gave herself a boost before take-off, scoring her first goal for City in their 4-0 win over bottom-placed Wellington Phoenix, while McNamara’s cross featured in the build-up to Kaitlyn Torpey’s opener.

Holly McNamara scores for Melbourne City against Wellington Phoenix.

Following a strong season with Brisbane Roar and a stint at Swedish club Växjö, Heatley was a known quantity and has continued to impress. McNamara, on the other hand, aged 18, was fresh, her recent years at NPL level stymied by injury and pandemic. Her stunning debut- and match-winning- goal against Canberra United in Round 1 grabbed attention. It has been her efforts since, in five out five starts, that prove she’s the real deal: spooking defences with her gusty runs, accumulating assists, and slotting in imperceptibly alongside her more practiced striking team in Rhianna Pollicina and Hannah Wilkinson. While the step-up to national level may be daunting given her relative inexperience, if she takes to camp like she took to the ALW, she will make a lasting impression.

Newcastle Jets and Melbourne Victory’s game being postponed will have been a frustration now that key players are set to depart. Victory’s Kyra Cooney-Cross (who, admittedly, would have missed the game anyway due to last round’s red card) and Courtney Nevin have both been selected. Nevin has been playing as a wing-back for club – a curiosity given her use as a centreback against the USA in November – and her call-up depletes an already-patchy Victory defence. Emily Van Egmond will be jetting off too from Newcastle as she finishes up her short-term contract.

Fiona Worts scores for Adelaide against Canberra United.

Stability may be an asset for teams who don’t have to shuffle their squads, and Adelaide United seem primed to make the most of keeping the gang together. They secured their second win in a row against Canberra United away, with the 3-1 scoreline pushing them into fourth spot – the same position they were at after Round 6 of last season. Now, we tentatively ask ourselves, is this the year where Adelaide make finals?

Doubling up, Canberra opened the round against Perth in a scoreless draw. The team in green will be without one of their key defenders in Karly Roestbakken as she heads to Matildas camp, leaving behind a side who are struggling to pull themselves out of a rut. Western Sydney Wanderers may be in good stead following their first win of the season. Bryleeh Henry’s converted penalty was the difference in the tussle with Brisbane, which featured four yellow cards.  


Goalkeepers: Mackenzie Arnold, Teagan Micah, Lydia Williams

Defenders: Ellie Carpenter, Steph Catley, Charlotte Grant, Winonah Heatley*, Alanna Kennedy, Aivi Luik, Courtney Nevin, Clare Polkinghorne, Karly Roestbakken*

Midfielders: Kyra Cooney-Cross, Emily van Egmond, Clare Wheeler, Tameka Yallop

Forwards: Caitlin Foord, Mary Fowler, Emily Gielnik, Sam Kerr, Holly McNamara*, Hayley Raso, Remy Siemsen, Kyah Simon, Cortnee Vine*

* Players competing for final two spots