Well, what a team. What a season and what a coach. When Czech coach Jitka Klimkova was appointed coach of perennial bridesmaids Canberra United, only a brave person could have predicted the season to come.
Five months from her appointment and 14 unbeaten games later, captain Ellie Brush raised that long awaited W-League trophy. And they are back…to do it all again. If they dare, more history awaits the “Green Machine”. Back to back. No club has managed it. Not even two time champions Brisbane Roar. However if anyone is positioned to do so its Canberra.
That ever reliable base of Canberra bred players are back. Ellie Brush (who has missed one game in four seasons!), her defensive partner Caitlin Cooper, reigning Julie Dolan Medallist Sally Shipard and spearhead Michelle Heyman, just to name a few.
Add to that Caitlin Munoz, the Sykes twins, Jen Bisset, Georgia Yeoman-Dale, Hayley Raso and so many more and you can see why the defending champions enter the competition odds on favourite to defend their title.
That’s not to say there haven’t been some blows in the off-season. Most notable is the loss of Lydia Williams to an ACL injury. The two time Goalkeeper of the Year, and lynchpin of Canberra’s defence, is a significant loss and how recently called up Matildas’ goalkeeper MacKenzie Arnold plugs that hole will have a large bearing on Canberra’s success. Utility Taryn Hemmings’ decision not return leaves another gap in the squad.
Former German international Ariane Hingst has been recruited and where she fits into the equation could see some shuffling occur at the back.
Stylistically don’t expect to see much change from Canberra United. Their possession based, attacking football style was the pride of the league and, with many of the main components back, its hard to see them deviating from that.
Whether it can have the same results, we will find out come late January.
The strike force. With the W-League all-time leading goalscorer Heyman spearheading the attack, expect plenty of goals from Canberra but it’s not a one woman band. Heyman has able strike partners in any combination of Munoz, Yeoman-Dale, Raso or Ashleigh Sykes. Of course it helps that the supply not too shabby through channels Shipard, Bisset and Grace Gill.
Fashioned around Williams, United defence has been so strong for the last four seasons that the absence of Williams leaves them vulnerable for the first time. Add to that the departure of attacking full back Hemmings and there are a couple key components of the championship side that will need to be replaced.