The long off-season is behind us.
All the pre-season training is done, all twelve NPL 2 NSW Womens sides are ready to rip and tear into the new season.
We have a wonderful smorgasbord headlined by the Match of the Round coming from Lambert Park as APIA Leichhardt Tigers take on Gladesville Ravens.
APIA Leichhardt Tigers FC
Last season seemed to be a bedding in season for the Tigers, they finished up semi-finalists and made their mark on the competition. Gearing up for a huge 2019, APIA have recruited well for their charge to possibly be promoted to the top tier.
Leading the charge is the signing of sharpshooter Cassidy Chidgey from SD Raiders FC alongside Logan Garard, Jessica Fallah and Stephanie Grimbillos. Fleshing out the core of the squad they took into NPL 2 Womens, they picked up Lara Bosnich, Jen Bisset, Georgia Bridges and Kerry Ryan to put them firmly as one of the promotion favourites.
Club Head Coach Matteo Maiorana remained cautiously optimistic for the season.
“At a minimum we’re looking to better our fourth-place finish in 2018. With some luck, a top two finish would be pleasing. We set high expectations on our side.” said Maiorana.
All eyes will be on APIA in the opening round – we have them penciled in for Match of the Round against Gladesville Ravens which is part of their festival of football alongside their NPL 1 Mens side opening clash v Marconi Stallions.
Central Coast Mariners Academy FC
Last year’s beaten Grand Finalists Central Coast Mariners Academy ran through much of the league, with their free-scoring nature and solid defence, which led to them only bettered by the promoted Sydney Olympic in ladder position and on Grand Final night.
Back with another tilt at the top gong, Dan Barrett knows his side needs to evolve to keep their standards at the same level for 2019. Whilst they won’t have the services of golden boot Candice Phelan for Round 1. The sharpshooter remains vital to their chances in concert with youngster Iona Snape in front of goal.
Added to those talents is a core of talent that has come through the impressive Mariners academy including inspirational skipper Gabrielle Blanch, Mel Young and Katie Oliveria construct a platform for the young and compact squad to challenge again and possibly, lift the major prize later this season. Their first assignment is the Mariners derby at home against Western NSW Mariners.
Gladesville Ravens showed at times in 2018, they can rub shoulders with the elite of NPL 2 NSW Womens competition.
They might have finished just outside the top five – a single point separated them and Nepean FC, their coaches Albert Disciascio and Alex Di Sciascio remain confident in “making the [Ravens] first choice for footballers in their region.”
Ravens added five players to their squad, looking to improve both their performances on field and the standings where they hope to qualify for the final’s series in their sophomore season.
Key to that is the retention of shot stopper Eri Arikawa, who pulled off some fantastic saves to maintain points last season. Arikawa is joined by fellow visa player, Yume Kashima with the Ravens looking to soar to the top of tree this season, starting with a tough fixture away to APIA Leichhardt on Sunday afternoon.
Expect big things also from Eleanor Lidbetter who will look towards guiding her team to many victories this year.
Going into 2019, Inter Lions are embracing the role of the underdog.
After an off-season of upheaval which saw them lose a chunk of their squad, coach Mario Coiro is relying on a core group of talented youngsters which have come through the Lions system to see them through the season on being Bindi Bryce.
“We know we’re going to be the underdog this season. It’s going to be tough with a young group, but we will remain competitive but definitely be up against it.”
Inter get their first chance to shine when they host UNSW FC at Valentine Sports Park on Sunday afternoon.
Disappointed by their first season back in NPL 2 NSW Women’s football, the Stallions are primed for another assault on the top five in a stacked competition.
Finishing eighth wasn’t ideal for them, and with their talent and singings, many of their compatriots have picked the Stallions as one of the sides to beat for the upcoming season.
Ace midfielder Hannah Voloder underlined this when she spoke ahead of the season saying it had “been one of the best pre-seasons for the side, with all the girls united for the cause.” Voloder chipped in with seven goals last season, so the midfielder will hope to produce a similar return.
They did add goals in Jasmin Courtenay (eight goals) to add further options for coach Matt Turvey to break through into the top five.
It is home, sweet home for round one, as they welcome Sutherland Shire FA.
Making the finals was a huge achievement for Nepean FC.
They took time to get moving, but once they got rolling, they took some huge scalps on the road to finishing fifth.
This season, coach Alan Tasses has further strengthened the Nepean squad – signing Dimitie Whiteman and Lauren Gaul – bringing some pivotal NPL top tier women’s experience to the young side.
Captain Desiree Vassallo remains a defensive stalwart for Nepean while the return of Jessica Elliot from injury alongside the firepower of Stefanie Trovato will make them a tough nut to break again for teams making the trip out to Cook Park.
For the upcoming season, Tasses remained bullish on their chances.
“Top five is a minimum requirement for this season. We’re hoping with the squad available to even push for the top three.”
They have a chance to get the season off to a big start as they host St George FC on Sunday afternoon.
SD Raiders FC
SD Raiders FC took to NPL2 NSW Women’s football like a duck to water, making the finals in their debut season, after being one of the heavyweights in State League Womens.
Now, they have the taste and want to challenge the top sides.
Inconsistency dogged them in 2018, so they will want to make Ernie Smith Reserve a fortress.
The the leadership of Brooke Hankin is central to their chances if they want to keep up with top sides APIA Leichhardt and Marconi Stallions.
SD Raiders get one of the longer trips in the competition completed early, as they travel to South Nowra Football Complex to take on Southern Branch Sunday afternoon.
Southern Branch FC
The only way is up for Southern Branch FC this season.
After finishing rock bottom in 2018, their coaching team remain enthusiastic for the upcoming campaign.
The return of Matilda Potter to take up the armband has raised excitement levels around the club. She’s joined by seasoned campaigner Meredith Cheyne in a co-captaincy role.
Being a development club, there is plenty to be excited for with youngsters Louella Boulton and Bronte Wright both fresh from representing Football NSW overseas topping the list.
Added to that is their core squad anchored by Jaime Griffen, Jessie Abbott and Jessica Douglas hopefully aim to show the Nowra team won’t be a pushover this season, starting with the visit of semi-finalists SD Raiders FC this Sunday.
Sutherland Shire FC
Like a well-worn pair of jeans, Sutherland Shire FA return to familiar haunts of NPL2 Womens competition, filled with a year’s worth of lessons from their time in the top division.
The Shire FA will be eager to establish themselves with all the new faces around since their last visit to the competition. Sutherland has maintained the core of the squad which saw them promoted in 2017.
Jordan Baker, Nicole Besz and Raegan Deeley formed a deadly trio which bore goals and hopefully they repeat the dose. Shot stopper Chloe Avgoustou is another key cog in the puzzle piece for the Shire FA as they plot their route back to NPL1 football.
It starts with a tough trip to south-west Sydney to take on Marconi Stallions.
St George FC
The 2018 season was one year St George FC would rather forget.
Only tasting success thrice would have stung such a proud club like the Saints, now with Carlo Tini taking back over the coaching reigns, hopefully it means the Saints are coming back into contention for the finals.
Led by skipper Carla Smith, St George can show the talents on show in the south – Marissa Nicopoulos, Yadira Renfigo and Amy Bennett a few of the names to watch out for this season.
The Saints have a road trip Sunday afternoon as they visit semi-finalists Nepean FC in the 3pm kick-offs.
The first season in NPL2 Womens football was a steep learning curve for UNSW FC.
The students started off brightly, picking up five points in the opening month before a mid-season crash saw them finish in tenth position.
New head coach Alex Nolan is primed for UNSW to have a much more positive season in 2019.
Something he hopes is topped off nicely with making an appearance in finals football.
UNSW have addressed their problem of leaking of 61 goals last season with the signing of Amanda Amberg. The former Olympic defender will be a defensive rock on her return to the students ranks.
Alongside her, is some other handy signings to bring in some experience to their youthful ranks. Those include Hayley Marshall, Darcey Read, Rebecca Browning and Tahlia Nolan with the refreshed squad looking to fulfil their coach’s strong words and push for a top five spot come September.
Their campaign starts with an away fixture to fellow mid-table finishers Inter Lions down at Valentine Sports Park on Sunday afternoon, at 3pm.
Western NSW Mariners FC
The side representing the Central West will aim to punch above their weight again in 2019, Western NSW Mariners echoes most of the competition as they want a taste of finals football this season.
They will be led again by club captain, Teegan Ward. Ward will marshal a young side with the Mariners promoting some of their most promising talent into the senior ranks.
One who won’t feature in Round 1 but definitely will light up the season is Anna Hunt.
The young Matilda currently in Laos, will be a major part of the success the Mariners aim to have and coach Josh Ward is hopeful that it might end up with more celebrations this season.
First up for Western NSW, is a derby of sorts.
The Mariners derby against sister club Central Coast at 2pm down at Pluim Park Sunday afternoon.
Round 1 Fixtures
Match of the Round: APIA Leichhardt vs Gladesville Ravens; 5pm; Lambert Park
Central Coast Mariners Academy vs Western NSW Mariners; 2:05pm; Pluim Park
Nepean FC vs St George FC; 3pm; Cook Park
Marconi Stallions vs Sutherland Shire FA; 3pm; Marconi Stadium
Southern Branch FC vs SD Raiders FC; 3pm; South Nowra Football Complex
Inter Lions vs UNSW FC; 3pm; Valentine Sports Park
-By Justin Davies
Source FNSW website