2016 saw some great performances for club and country from Australian players.
Canberra United’s Ashleigh Sykes was deservedly awarded the Julie Dolan Medal for the 2015/16 W-League Player of the Year.
Sykes was instrumental to Canberra’s success with the capital side finishing second only to the rampant Melbourne City. The forward led Canberra’s scoring with 6 goals and was involved in a large percentage of their 26 goal tally.
25 year old Sykes is the perfect example of the need for the W-League. Entering the W-League as a speedy and talented young player, Sykes has developed into one of the best forwards in Australia, adding maturity and consistency to her game over the past 8 years. Hopefully the national team can benefit further from her development in 2017.
— The Women's Game (@TheWomensGame) May 11, 2015
Much like the Matildas benefitted from the development of another Canberra product in Lydia Williams. Williams was voted the 2016 Professional Footballers Australia Football of the Year after another stellar year.
Australia’s undisputed number 1 goalkeeper, Williams put in some incredible performances in AFC Women’s Olympic Qualifiers and was key for Australia at the Rio 2016 Olympics.
Who could forget this save to take Australia into an ultimately fateful penalty shootout in Belo Horizonte?
— 7Olympics (@7olympics) August 13, 2016
Defensively Alanna Kennedy continued to build her reputation as one of the best young defenders in the world after a top year for Sydney FC, the Western New York Flash and the Matildas. Meanwhile Lisa De Vanna produced the unique feat of scoring in every tournament she has played in for Australia from the 2004 Athens Olympics to the 2016 Rio Olympics.
2016 also saw “GenNext” start to make their presence felt. Larissa Crummer became the youngest player to win the W-League Golden Boot as she helped Melbourne City to the 2015/16 W-League premiership and championship double.
From a striker to a full back and back to a striker, Crummer has continued to develop as a forward for the future. That progress is currently on pause with a ankle injury hampering her so far in the 2016/17 W-League season.
We also saw the first player to be born in the 2000s (the 2000s!!!!) making their Matildas debut. After an injury to the unlucky Aivi Luik on the eve of the Olympics Qualifiers, 15 year old Ellie Carpenter came into the team and debuted in a 9-0 romp against Vietnam.
That Carpenter was even in the frame was a testament to her incredible break out season with the Western Sydney Wanderers as she held down roles at right back and centre back in her first season.
Carpenter maintained her form to grab a golden ticket to Rio as the youngest member of the Australian Olympic Team. Season 9 has seen the now 16 year old continue to improve with game time and looks to be a player for Australia’s future.
Another player for the future is Carpenter’s Young Matildas captain Grace Maher. Maher surprised the football public with her maturity in starting and assisting Canberra to the 2015 W-League Grand Final as a 15 year old.
Two years on and the Canberra native is firmly entrenched in a Canberra United side who are one of the favourites for the Season 9 W-League championship.
The central midfielder possess poise, control and vision as the Canberra playmaker and has the look of a younger Emily van Egmond. With the Young Matildas set for a World Cup qualification campaign in 2017, she will be one of the key players for Gary van Egmond.