Melbourne Victory have been building their 2021-22 W-League squad ahead of their title defence. So far the side has been able to retain much of their regular starters from their last successful campaign.
Melbourne Victory started their offseason signing by securing their coach Jeff Hopkins on a two-year contract extension. Hopkins has been at the head of the Victory since 2016, leading the team to a Premiership win in 2018-19 and a Championship last season.
After the announcement of Hopkins' stay Melbourne started their player signing season by ensuring the return of three defenders, Kayla Morrison, Claudia Bunge and Polly Doran. All three were Victory Championship winners last season.
Polly Doran played in all but one of the Victory's games last year, in her second year with the Melbourne side club. Doran is keen defender, who can also play in midfield, who was utilized largely as a right back last year.
To her left in centre-half was Kiwi Claudia Bunge. Bunge was an iron woman last season, playing every single minute of the Victory's year. It was her first season in the W-League, one where she also scored 2 goals. Bunge most recently played for the Football Ferns in the Tokyo Olympics.
Her centre-back partner was Kayla Morrison who was also featuring in her first season in Australia. She was essential to the Victory, scoring one goal and also becoming an iron woman during the team's 2020-21 campaign. Morrison had previously played one year with Swedish Elitettan side Morön after graduating from the University of Kansas.
A loss for the Victory is the defensive trio's left back partner from last season Angela Beard. The twenty-four year old has been a mainstay in the Melbourne defence since her arrival in 2017, her recent Matildas call up being the best demonstration of her talent.
Since she signed with Danish side Fortuna Hjørring she will not be available this year as their season overlaps with the W-League's. However, despite this loss the Victory have confirmed the resigning of the midfield trio of Amy Jackson, Melindaj Barbieri and Kyra Cooney-Cross.
Young Australia wonder-kid Cooney-Cross was already contracted for this upcoming year with the Victory, having previously signed a multi-year deal. Last year's W-League Young Player of the Year found the back of the net six times in the 2020-21 campaign and played every minute of the season except 30 minutes. She proved her versatility by featuring in both midfield and attack in this her fourth W-League campaign.
Amy Jackson also played in all games last year, starting 13 of them and scoring one goal. Utilized both in central and on the left side of midfield, her retainment will bring stability to the Victory. She has been a Melbourne based player since 2010-11, which included a four year switch to City from 2015-19.
Melindaj Barbieri has also signed on for another season. The five-year W-League veteran who has played every season with the Victory since 2015, with the exception of 2019-20, appeared in all games and found the back of the net once in 2020-21. The 21-year old Barbieri should be able to continue the growth she displayed last campaign with the expected departure of Annalie Longo.
Having recently been hired as New Zealand Football's Women's Development Manager, the 124 capped Football Fern celebrated the establishment of the Wellington Phoenix's new W-League team. While no official announcement has been made much speculation has arisen of her making the Kiwi W-League swap.
Lia Privitelli and Catherine Zimmerman have also recommitted to the team. Privatelli was one of the Victory's most versatile players last year featuring in every line from defence to attack. Used most often as an impact substitute, arguably she will be hoping to increase her impact in her sixth W-League campaign with the Victory.
The American Catherine Zimmerman joined the Victory for her first W-League campaign last year. The striker found the back of the net six times during that campaign. Melbourne will be looking to count on her consistency in the upcoming season.
Melina Ayres continues her journey with the Victory, currently entering the second of her three year deal with the club. She started every game last season, her sixth in the W-League and fourth with the Victory. It was her best game of the year finding the back of the net eight times. Her best performance occurred in the Victory's 6-2 trouncing of the Brisbane Roar where Ayres scored a hat trick.
The Victory have also added young blood to their 2021-22 team. 15-year-old Alana Murphy put pen to paper and committed to the Melbourne side for her first professional season. In doing so she becomes the first graduate of the club's Elite Girls Program to progress to the senior team.
With ten players and no goalkeepers the Victory arguably have a ways to go ahead of the 2021-22 season. No news has been announced about the possible returns of Tiffany Eliadas, Lisa De Vanna, Gabriela Garton, Maja Markovski, Gabe Marzano, Natalie Martineau and Melissa Maizels.