The Matildas might have won 2-1, but Nipawan Panyosuk stole the show at the end!
The 2021/22 A-League Women’s season looms as one of the most exciting yet, with a newly rebranded competition set to connect fans to their clubs better than ever before.
For Wanderers fans, hopes of a second finals appearance are growing by the day with the arrival of some exciting new players and the return of some fan favourites.
New coach Catherine Cannulli has built a balanced squad mixed with the wisdom of experience and the exuberance of youth.
Has she got the right mix? Time will tell.
The Wanderers are blessed with two of the faster wingers in the competition. Teigan Collister tore opponents apart last season, and if she can find some consistency, will be a dangerous proposition for opposition defences.
Erica Halloway has had an injury interrupted two years, but if she can stay on the park, it will give the Wander Women an opportunity to attack on both flanks.
2) Wanderers DNA
Led by coach Catherine Cannulli, the Wander Women squad is littered with locals.
Bryleeh Henry is from Penrith, Ashlie Crofts has played for Blacktown Spartans for a number of years, Rosie Galea is a local girl as is Sham Khamis, just to name a few. Former Matilda Teigan Allen, who returns this season, is also a westie.
The club also has long term servants like Halloway and Caitlin Cooper who have called Western Sydney home in terms of A-League Women’s for several years.
Cooper is the club games record holder with 69, while Halloway has spent her entire six year career at Wanderland.
The club have a policy of trying to fill their senior teams for both women and men with locals, the rationale being they are likely to play more for the jersey.
Hopefully this proves true in 2021/22.
3) Forward potency
With Isabella Habuda joining Henry up front, Wanderer’s fans have a new combination to look forward too.
Henry received plenty of game time last season and was rewarded for her performances with two Matildas caps in the recently completed series against Brazil.
The experience and confidence she will glean from working alongside Sam Kerr, Tameka Yallop and Caitlin Foord in the Matildas camp will hold her in good stead this season.
Habuda comes with huge wraps after an impressive two seasons for Gold Coast United in the Queensland NPLW. She netted 39 goals in 37 games.
Prior to this she played in the European Champions League with SK Sturm Graz from Austria. She has also played in Sweden and Israel so has a wide range of experiences to draw upon.
A goal scoring machine, Habuda up front with Henry is an exciting prospect.
Areas of concern
1) Lack of star power
The 2019-20 team was filled with Matilda and international stars.
Kristen Hamilton, Lynn Williams, Denise O’Sullivan and Ella Mastrantonio were instrumental in driving the club to its maiden finals series.
Last season was about blooding youngsters, with Covid restrictions and budget cuts making it hard to recruit proven stars.
Again there is no super star factor for the Wander Women in 2021/22, but this presents the perfect opportunity for those in this season’s squad to make a name for themselves.
2) Loss of impressive youngsters
While the game time given to young players last season was fantastic, unfortunately we lost a few to other clubs.
Sarah Hunter was impressive in her maiden season, scoring goals and generally causing havoc in the middle of the park. Her move to Sydney FC is a huge blow.
Courtney Newbon and Isabel Gomez have also departed to Perth and Wellington respectively.
Defender Courtney Nevin had an impressive three seasons at Wanderland, and is now an established members of the Matildas squad. Her move to Melbourne Victory hurts.
The promising Susan Phonsongkham has also moved to Perth.
Will the young brigade of 2021/22 fill their shoes?
3) Ability to gel early
Last season’s revamped team began to find their feet late in the season, two prime time wins against Melbourne City were the highlight.
However, the Wander Women started their season poorly. They lost five out of their first seven games, meaning they were playing catch up.
There are a host of new faces this season, and the Wander Women generally start training only six weeks before the season starts.
Can the team make an impact early and bank points?
1) Libby Copus-Brown
The fiesty midfielder was impressive last season. A player who runs hard at the opposition and isn’t afraid to get physical.
She is only 23 but has been in the A-League Women’s system for eight years. Closing in on 50 games, the former Newcastle Jet is ready for a leadership role as well.
While Collister and Halloway will provide the flair on the wings, someone has to do the dirty work in the middle and Copus-Brown has shown she is willing to do that.
A player that last season won 60 per cent of her aerial duels, was successful in 68 per cent of her tackles and made 22 interceptions, Copus-Brown can win the hardball and release an attacking play in an instant.
In fact 44 per cent of her 458 passes last season went forward, showing she isn’t afraid to make a goal scoring move.
How she links with Henry and Habuda will go a long way to the Wander Women finding the net this season.
2) Sarah Willacy
Every team needs a goalkeeper they can rely on. Willacy is now a veteran, with 46 A-League Women’s games under her belt.
She played eight games last season keeping three clean sheets. She was also successful with 65per cent of her saves.
She played for West Adelaide in the 2021 South Australian NPLW season so has had plenty of game time. She kept seven clean sheets in 18 games.
A rock solid Willacy is vital for the confidence of the team.
3) Bianca Galic
Developed in the famed Sydney University NPLW system, Galic spent her first A-League Women’s campaign with Canberra United last season.
A player with a tremendous work ethic, she provides the perfect partner in the engine room for Copus-Brown.
Galic, Copus-Brown, Collister and Halloway across the middle of the mark provides a nice balance for Cannulli and provides alternative avenues to goal.
The Wanderers are celebrating season 10 in 2021/22. To help celebrate, Wanderer’s fans can buy a Family Zone membership which gets you into all A-League Women’s and Men’s games.
For a whole season, it’s $130 for an adult and $70 for a child with a family of three costing only $200. Considering there are 20 home games combined for both the men and women, https://am.ticketmaster.com/wandererSydney FC/FamilyZoneWestern Sydney Wanderers!