The wait is finally over, the National Premier Leagues NSW Women’s elite competition kicks off this weekend and do we have some quality matches for you!
Twelve teams, 6 games a week, all streamed LIVE with one game accompanied by commentary, what a step forward for the women’s game.
The teams have completed their long preseasons and are now ready to go to battle for the premiership and grand final, in what seems to be a season without an outright favourite.
O-LYM-PIC, O- LYM-PIC.
Welcome to the new girls on the block.
For coach George Beltsos it’s been a project getting Sydney Olympic to the women’s top tier over the years, spending almost a decade coaching at the club.
In previous seasons it’s almost become custom for the newly promoted team to find their way straight back into the second tier. Something Beltsos wants to change.
“We want to consolidate our spot in the NPL1 competition and then build as we go.”
To do this they haven’t wasted any time in their recruitment process, bringing the likes of Matilda Teresa Polias to wear the famous blue strip which in itself is a massive feat for the club.
Adding exciting youngsters like Susan Phonsongkham, Angelique Hristodoulou, Panagiota Petratos and goalkeeper of the year Jada Mathyssen-Whyman, the Olympic squad is looking like they will definitely leave their mark on the 2019 competition.
Dutch born striker Lieke De Bever, who took out the Player of the Year in 2018 in the NPL 2 NSW Women’s competition will hope the step up a division will only further her quality as a footballer.
One of the sour points leading into round 1 however has been the unfortunate knee injury to one of the club’s brightest sparks in Maddie Costanzo who has been ultimately ruled out for the season.
Beltsos says he team is raring to go ahead of kick off this week.
“We’re very excited, it’s a new challenge and we’re looking forward to the first game.”
What to expect from the Blacktown Spartans?
With an average age of just 20, David Saliba will be hoping his team can mature quickly in what will be a competitive campaign.
Saliba has been given the opportunity to lead the first team after a successful stint with the Spartans Reserve Grade team last season, winning the grand final along the way.
Thus why the club has chosen to go down a slightly different path as technical director Stephen Peters explained.
“We want to promote and push through our young talent into the first team.”
“It’s an interesting and exciting time for the club as we aim to consolidate a mid-table position.”
Alix Roberts and Olivia Price have both resigned with Ash Crofts one to look out for.
Kristy Rohrer, Beth Gordon, Hannah Bourke and Keisha Allen have all been added to the team along with the return to the club of Tiana Barton and Anna Vassallo.
After making four straight finals and winning one Championship, Manly United will definitely be one of the teams to beat this season.
Chris Williams leads the team again and for a coach like him self, he will be after the best results possible.
“Every season we’ve continued to improve and I won’t be expecting any less, my team’s always aim for the top.”
But it will be somewhat different this season at Cromer Park.
“We’re going through a transition phase at the club and some big changes”, Williams added.
They’ve managed to acquire the services of Hannah Peric and Bryany Parker from the North Shore Mariners as well as Emily Bastow and exciting talent from the WA NTC program Cheyenne Wise-Jarvis.
Sophie Nenadovic and Ruby Jackson will also be available this season after missing the last campaign through season-long injuries.
One of United’s best players will be there again in Ally Green, coming off a great W-League season and youngsters Emily Minnet and Jane Vanzino have been promoted to the first team from the reserves while look for a big year from pint-sized attacker Patricia Charalambous.
“I’m happy with the squad assembled, we’ll be a young, hungry team that will play the Manly United way.”
The Northern Tigers are one of those that will look to improve on last season’s results and making their way up the ladder.
Squad depth may have been an issue last season for the Tigers and that is something club technical director Jason Eagar has needed to address.
“We’ve had some promising performances in in pre-season. The squad is gelling well and we now have a lot of depth across all positions in the 1st grade squad, along with a host of players keeping the first graders honest for their positions.”
They’ve been busy over the pre-season in terms of the player market too, bringing in the likes of New Zealand Ferns players Aimee Phillips and Malia Steinmetz.
Izzy Foletta has joined the club from Perth Glory while NPL stalwarts Maddie Bart and Daisy Arrowsmith will be welcome additions to the team.
Eagar believes his team will make a stir in this season’s competition.
“Our intent this season is to be very competitive and give ourselves the best chance to get a result in every fixture.”
“The players will be prepared and confident going into the season.”
“We’ll see what that lands us after 22 tough rounds of football.”
It was a tough first season for Bankstown but they managed to keep their heads above water. Just.
Change was needed to insure results improve and that’s exactly what they’ve done, recruiting very well.
They brought in Spartans captain Diyana Cakovski along with Sydney University captain Stephanie Ambrose.
Exciting youngster Vesna Milivojevic has also signed as well as Candace Sciberras from the Western Sydney Wanderers.
Bankstown coach Troy Spinks is looking forward to the new season.
“The team looks ready and we’re excited to see what 2019 will bring for Bankstown City.”
As mentioned earlier, Bankstown saved their spot in the league by the smallest of margins and will now look to build on that.
“After consolidating our place in NPL1 last season, we want to really solidify our place in NPL1, it would be great to see Bankstown and our Red and Black in finals football this year.”
Spink knows who the favourites are for the 2019 season.
“It’s hard to go beyond Sydney Uni but many clubs have so many quality players like Illawarra, Macarthur and Manly.”
Dominant. One of the best ways to describe Sydney University.
From the successful Heather Garriock era to the new beginning with one of the most perspective young coaches in Australian football, Alex Epakis.
Having won the club championship in record time last season, Epakis’ aim is to better that this season.
“The club championship is most important to Sydney Uni and to do what we did last season is remarkable. We want to at least match that this season and if premierships and championships can be added along the way, we’ll take it.”
There hasn’t been much player movement at Uni but Mackenzie Hawkesbury and Mel Caceres both return to their old stomping ground along with Teigen Collister and Julia Vignes, who both spent time in the W-League this season.
Aoife Colvill. And Sarah Morgan have also signed for Uni, having previously worked with Epakis at Canberra United.
The goalkeeping stocks have asp been shaken up with Cort Newbon and Chantelle Symes both coming in from the Instiute.
Nevertheless, his team’s average age is only 19, an amazing achievement for any senior football club.
“I’m very confident we’ll have a good season with the players we have.”
Epakis knows who will be his most dangerous opponents this season and it won’t be any different from previous campaigns.
“Definitely Macarthur Rams and Illawarra Stingrays will be challenging for the title.”
They took their time but they finally won the Championship after numerous stumbles at the final hurdle.
Captain Renee Rollason will line-up in the maroon once again and her targets are set in stone.
“We want to go back to back.”
“It won’t be easy though so making the finals is our main aim.”
They’ll need to do it without one of their leaders with Teresa Polias moving on.
“We’ll be fine. Obviously Teresa is an amazing footballer and person who we all have great friendships with but the Rams wish her all the best at Sydney Olympic.
They’ve managed to hold on to key players Kylie Ledbrook, Sham and Leena Khamis, Rosie Galea and Liz Ralston while adding Tash Prior and Nicola Orgill to their squad.
Last season’s success is something Rollason and her side will use to kick the new season off as best as possible.
“The title was a long time coming and we’re happy to have finished the season on top.”
“It’s given us confidence moving into the 2019 season.”
Jaime Gomez knows what he needs to do to win titles and he’ll be hoping he can pass that onto his North West Sydney Koalas.
“We’ve had a good preseason and remained undefeated throughout.”
“Most importantly we’ve had no injuries and the squad is ready to go.”
The Koalas have kept most of their team from last season who made a late charge for finals football, losing only Panagiota Petratos to Sydney Olympic.
Key players like Chilean international goalkeeper Romina Parraguire Plaza, Nat Tobin and Princess Ibini-Isei will all line-up at the fantastic Christie Park complex.
They’ve also managed to add Sophie Harding from Manly, Tiana Jaber from the Mariners and Deborah-Anne De La Harpe from Sutherland.
After a slow start to the 2018 campaign, Gomez needs to make sure his team are ready for battle come Sunday.
“We need to start better than last season and build on from how we finished the season.”
“We just missed out on finals football and that’s definitely something we want to achieve this year along with a top three finish.”
Some big noises are coming from the South Coast with the Illawarra Stingrays.
First off, the announcement of former Socceroo Scott Chipperfield as the team’s new head coach, replacing ex-Canadian international Carmelina Moscato.
An amazing achievement from the Stingrays bringing a local hero home.
This was soon followed by the signings of experienced duo with former Sydney FC W-League keeper Trudy Burke and Eden Stoddard who returns to Australia after some time in the US.
With the Stingrays just missing out on the premiership and a grand final appearance last year, they’ll look to go a few steps better this campaign.
Talitha Kramer, Caitlin Cooper and Erica Halloway will all once again wear the pink with a local superstar also tipped to pull on the Stingrays jersey in 2019.
Chipperfield will look to install his football philosophy as soon as possible and with the quality his team possesses, we don’t think it will be a problem.
“I like to attack. Goals win games. We’ve got speed all over the park and we want to play a high tempo game.”
“I’m pretty happy with the team I’ve got, you need a bit of luck with injuries and so on but I’m happy with the squad.”
It won’t be easy for any team making the trip down to JJ Kelly Park this season and the Rays are definitely one of the teams to beat.
Football NSW Institute
What a performance in 2018!
An incredible run saw Leah Blayney’s team finish the competition in fifth place and one game away from the Grand Final.
As has become custom, the new era of Institute superstars will need to step up this season with most of the team moving on to other clubs.
Building a new squad won’t be easy but the Institute have done it before and will need to do it again this season.
“Obviously it’s an opportunity for us to give game time to younger players in a very strong first grade competition”, said Blayney.
“Our goal is to provide more players for the Young Matilda’s and Matilda’s squad.”
Who will step up this season?
There’s a few names earmarked with the likes of Darcey Malone, Greta Kraszula, Margaux Chauvet and Jardan Jasnos some names hoping to make an impact this year.
North Shore Mariners
What do we expect from the North Shore Mariners?
Every season they start their campaign like a house on fire…but then tale off as the season moves on.
Ryan Grogan takes the helm this season as he looks to make vast improvements to the sides seventh placed finish in 2018.
They’ve been busy in strengthening the side over the summer break.
Jasmin Maguire comes over from ACT champions Belconnen United and Camila Arentoft joins from Danish side IF Lyseng.
Katie Offer and Zoe Halpin both return for another season at the Bridge, while 17 year-old Gemma Gray will get her opportunity having worked her way through the club’s youth system.
The likes of Gabe Marzano, Hannah Brewer, Camilla Arentoft, Rochelle Johnson, Maddie Mirkovic and Jordan Evans have also joined the club.
They’re one of the major unknowns for the season ahead but the club is hoping to implement its own unique brand of football in achieving positive results.
It hasn’t be easy for the Emerging Jets over the last few seasons.
Similarly to the Institute, every season they go through a whole revamp of their first grade squad.
This season will be no different as the Jets look to improve on their previous season’s results where they finished on the bottom of the ladder.
Head coach Ashley Wilson knows that her squad will learn week in week out playing against quality opposition but they too will possess some hidden gems that are hoping to knock on the Future Matildas door and beyond.
Look for some big performances from this duo, namely Tessa Tamplin and Renee Pountney to catch the attention at the Jets.
ROUND 1 PREVIEW
We kick off the season with live stream and commentary from Valentine Sports Park on Sunday as Football NSW Institute welcome the Northern Tigers.
The Emerging Jets will travel to Christie Park as they face Jaime Gomez’s North West Sydney Koalas.
Fans at Cromer Park will be excited as Manly United face off against the champions Macarthur Rams.
The newly renovated Jensen Park will host its first competitive women’s game as Bankstown City faces a huge test as they host Sydney University.
Sydney Olympic will try and kick their season off in the best possible way when they take on Blacktown Spartans.
In a match rescheduled for next Wednesday, Scott Chipperfield’s Illawarra Stingrays take on the North Shore Mariners.
-By NPL NSW Women’s Chief writer – Nikola Pozder
Twitter handle – @NikolaPozder