Matildas & NZ’s next gen: Every club’s young player to watch in the Liberty A-League this season

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Taryn Heddo picks out the emerging talent to be seen at each club in the forthcoming Liberty A-League season

The A-League Women is a competition that is filled to the brim with young talent. Every current Matilda started right here in Australia, and since the addition of the Wellington Phoenix in 2021/22, a number of exciting young Kiwi talents have been showcased as well.
Here, we list one young player from each club that you should be keeping an eye on during the
2023/24 season.

Adelaide United: Emilia Murray, 18

Who can forget Round One of the 2022/23 season? Adelaide were taking on the reigning premiers, Sydney FC, at home. The game looked destined to end in a scoreless draw. Enter 18-year-old substitute Emilia Murray. She met the ball perfectly after a cross into the box, and scored an 88th-minute winner. It was not the worst way the start the season for the Future and Young Matilda.

She did not have it all her way for the rest of the season, only scoring one more goal in 10 starts. However, anyone who has seen her play will know her undoubted potential. She seems to glide on the pitch, making really clever runs off the ball. With more experience and confidence, there is no reason why she will not be a huge part of Adelaide’s season in 2023/24.

Brisbane Roar: Ruby Cuthbert, 16

Multi-year deals have not always been the norm in the A-League Women. For Brisbane Roar to commit to a three-year contract for a 16-year-old who is yet to debut in the league speaks to the faith that they have in the youngster from Fremantle.

The centre-back is known for her communication and organisation of the players around her, as well as her ability with the ball at her feet. These traits are exemplified by the fact that she has been given the captain’s armband at u17 level. This season away from home will be a massive learning experience both on and off the pitch but expect to see her quality shine as she begins her journey in senior football.

Canberra United: Chloe Lincoln, 18

Thrust into the first team in the 2021/22 season as a 17-year-old, Lincoln has consistently impressed at A-League Women’s level. The goalkeeper exudes calm that belies her years. Good in the air and with the ball at her feet, she is an asset for Canberra United.

Goalkeepers usually peak at an older age than outfield players. It makes it even more impressive that she already has a full season under her belt as an 18-year-old. She continues to rapidly improve before our eyes and the Young Matildas goalkeeper will play a big part in both Canberra United’s finals’ ambitions, and qualification for the u20 Women’s Asian Cup 2024.

Chloe Lincoln of Canberra United.

Central Coast Mariners: Peta Trimis, 17

One of the stand-outs in NPL NSW this season, Young Matildas star Peta Trimis will be hoping to make her first senior professional season a memorable one. The youngster is known for her pace and her technical ability, a combination that is sure to cause opposition defences issues well into the future.

She is one of three scholarship players for the Mariners in their first season back in the A-League Women. Coach Em Husband may choose to ease her into professional football this season but she is a versatile forward with a huge future.

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Melbourne City: Daniela Galic, 17

There was one name on the lips of everyone who watched the Young Matildas’ campaign at the u20 Women’s World Cup in Costa Rica last year – Daniela Galic. The midfielder seemed to have it all. Tall, strong, good on the ball, and with the creativity and vision to show off her technical skills.

She was soon signed by Melbourne City and delivered on her promise, with two goals and three assists in thirteen starts. At 16, she was already being talked about as a potential Matildas bolter. Now with an extra year of experience under her belt, the world is at her feet.

Melbourne Victory: Alana Murphy, 18

Alana Murphy was the first player from Melbourne Victory’s women’s academy to play for the first team as a 16-year-old, and her trajectory has continued at a rapid pace. A midfielder in the mold of Matildas hero Katrina Gorry, she is a workhorse who keeps things ticking over in the centre of the park. She is capable of fashioning opportunities for herself on the ball – and is known for scoring a few long-range bombs, too.

The next step in her evolution as a player is more of that creative eye to pick out teammates, but given everything she has shown so far, there is no doubt it is in her locker. She is heading into her second full season in the league, as well as training with the Future Matildas, and being a regular in the Young Matildas. Expect to see her continue to grow over the next 12 months.

Alana Murphy of Melbourne Victory (left)

Newcastle Jets: Claudia Cicco, 18

The highly-rated full-back showed glimpses of her quality in her first professional season at Wellington Phoenix in 2022/23, but she will be hoping to go one better after signing for Newcastle ahead of next season.

She has shown while playing for the Young Matildas her ability to get up and down the line in the mold of Ellie Carpenter, and she has the technical ability and defensive acumen to go with it. Her 13 matches of experience last season will have done her the world of good. If the Jets play in a system that allows her to properly show off her attacking traits, this could be a breakout season for Cicco.

Claudia Cicco, playing here (centre) for Wellington Phoenix, has signed for Newcastle.

Perth Glory: Hana Lowry, 20

Western Australia has a long history of producing superstar Matildas and Hana Lowry could well be the next player up. The youngster racked up four goals and five assists throughout the season, largely playing as a traditional No10 in a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1.

Considering her age, it is astonishing that she is entering her fifth A-League Women’s season. She looks well and truly ready to take the league by storm. She has the ability to create for others, and can use her wand of a left foot to pounce on any opportunities to score herself. She has plenty of football IQ as well – perhaps demonstrated by her ability to solve a rubix cube in under 25 seconds!

Sydney FC: Taylor Ray, 22

It’s an oft-used cliché to say that when a player returns from a long-term injury, it is like they are a new signing. Ray – the oldest player on this list, and the only one with a Matildas cap, won against Spain in 2022 – certainly falls into that category. It was in a training session after her national team debut that she ruptured her ACL for the third time.

The defensive midfielder therefore missed the 2022/23 A-League Women’s season but has been playing for Sydney Olympic in NSW NPL and looks set to make her return in October. If she can overcome her injury troubles, she is someone that could become a long-term part of the Matildas as someone who can control the game from the base of midfield. The comeback starts now.

Taylor Ray of Sydney FC (left)

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Wellington Phoenix: Grace Wisnewski, 21

Two-time New Zealand international Grace Wisnewski is inseparable from the Wellington Phoenix. The young central midfielder and long-time fan of the club has started every game she has been available for over the course of the Phoenix’s two seasons in the competition, and shows no sign of slowing down now.

She exploded into footballing consciousness after being a major part of New Zealand’s unexpected run to the bronze medal at the U17 Women’s World Cup 2018. While she has not fulfilled all of her potential quite yet, all of the pieces are there. This could be the season for her to show the league just what she can do.

Western Sydney Wanderers: Gemma Ferris, 19

You have just watched one centre-back from Western Sydney Wanderers excel on the big stage – now you can watch the rise of another. Gemma Ferris debuted last season as an 18-year-old scholarship player and immediately impressed alongside Matilda Clare Hunt. She is brave on the ball and willing to take risks, and barely put a foot wrong.

Awarded with a full contract this season, she will no doubt be a big part of coach Kat Smith’s plans at the heart of defence. She has also been training with the Future Matildas program in the off-season. Do not expect perfection in her first full season. However, if she takes any lessons from her senior centre-back partner, we could be seeing a gem in the making.

Western United: Kahli Johnson, 19

After playing limited minutes for Sydney FC in 2021/22, the youngster made the bold move to head interstate and try her luck at Western United. It paid off, with the pacy forward scoring two goals in seventeen appearances in the club’s first year in the competition.

There is no doubt that she could have had more goals last season. However, her ability to get into goalscoring positions and to create for others was exemplary, and she clearly grew in confidence with every minute she played. Alongside last season’s golden boot winner Hannah Keane, the Young Matilda could well be a player that explodes into the goalscoring charts in 2023/24.