Three months out from the start of Season 6 of the W-League, Season 4 Champions Canberra United have all but completed their pre-season business in an effort to return to the Top 4.
It has been a busy off-season for United with several movements on the coaching and player front.
With the departure of the popular Jitka Klimkova, the capital side have been forced to secure a new head coach and last month CEO Heather Reid announced the appointment of former Dutch international Liesbeth Migchelsen.
The head coach position is not the only change in the coaching staff. With Klimkova assistant Nik Damjanovski also departing, Canberra have appointed Queenslander and former Matilda Raeanne Dower as assistant to Migchelsen.
“It was vital for us to get the most professional coaching staff in place,” said Reid.
“I am confident that with Raeanne assisting Liesbeth Migchelsen we have the right fit for the Westfield W-League Season 6 campaign.”
Former Matildas goalkeeping coach Paul Jones has also departed the staff ranks, although a replacement has yet to be named.
On the roster side, Canberra have been unable to keep Gold Coast speedster Hayley Raso with the 18 year old’s work and study commitments proving too difficult to overcome. While club and player were able to manage on a Fly in, Fly out basis last season, increased study committments and a mid season work placement has made that arrangement impossible this season.
“It’s understandably disappointing that Hayley has chosen to remain in Brisbane, but that is her home and that’s where she’s studying at University so we understand her reasoning.”
With Raso’s strong continued development, it is highly likely the striker will line up for her state club, the Brisbane Roar come Season 6.
Raso is not the only change to the United playing roster with German defender/midfielder Ariane Hingst (not returning), utility Christine Walters (work committments), central defender Caitlin Cooper (work committments) and goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold all expected to not return for Season 6.
The latter two, Cooper and Arnold, are rumoured to be close to joining a one of the two Sydney based sides.
Despite these losses, Reid is confident that Canberra’s off-season recruitment will cover the experience and goals lost.
“With Raeanne’s experience of Australian football to add to Liesbeth’s global knowledge we are in the process of putting together a competitive and balanced roster for Season 6.”
One of the top priorities for Canberra is the retention of Matildas goalkeeper Lydia Williams. The club and Williams are currently in the final stages of negotiating a contract and with Reid “cautiously confident” they can keep the services of the two time W-League Goalkeeper of the Year.
One deal that has been finalised is the transfer of Young Matildas midfielder Meg McLaughlin from Sydney FC. An ACT product, McLaughlin is a strong, agile and mobile midfielder who looks likely to play an important role in the Young Matildas World Cup qualifiers.
McLaughlin is one of 18 players already confirmed with 15 players from last season returning, one interstater and two overseas players coming into the squad.
As to the two confirmed overseas players TWG has been able to ascertain that one is currently playing in the American National Women’s Soccer League while the other is in Sweden. United have also confirmed they are in talks with a third international, which would complete their allotment of three internationals.
With the season tentatively scheduled to start on 9 November, Migchelsen is set to arrive in September to look over the assembled squad and commence preparations in earnest.