The Wanderers are about to lose "one of the best midfielders in the world" and have a burning question they will need to answer in the coming weeks.
Gun midfielder Denise O’Sullivan’s seven-game guest contract will finish up in January, meaning they will have to face the bulk of the second half of the season and finals without her.
O’Sullivan has been a star this season, teaming up with North Carolina team mates Lynn Williams and Kristen Hamilton to form a lethal combination as the Wanderers sit pretty on top of the W League ladder.
O’Sullivan has received plenty of praise from those at Wanderland this season, with Williams paying her a major compliment after the Round Two won over Newcastle.
“Any time I have Denise behind me in midfield I feel secure,” said Williams.
“I don’t know how she does it, she’s literally an engine and really knows how to throw her weight around.”
Coach Dean Heffernan backed up Williams’ sentiments, labelling O’Sullivan as one of the best players in world football.
“I think Denise O’Sullivan is one of the best midfielders in the world,” he said.
“The way her and Ella Mastrantonio complement each other is really good.”
O’Sullivan’s performances have also been a blessing for the Wanderers young crop with the likes of Kyra Cooney-Cross thriving this season playing alongside her.
O’Sullivan, a back to back Best & Fairest winner with North Carolina Courage in the NWSL, starred again last night in a player of the match performance against Canberra United.
Replacing someone as good as O’Sullivan though is no easy task. Her stats this year have been outstanding.
In five games she has completed 226 passes at 85% accuracy, made seven key passes, had 10 interceptions, is successful with more than 65% of her tackles and wins the majority of her duels (52%). She also has one goal and an assist.
The three names that immediately spring to mind as substitutes for the Irish international are Cortnee Vine, Susan Phonsongkham and Vesna Milivojevic
Vine is a very underrated player. Her speed along the wings was a major factor in the opening round win over Adelaide United. She can also score a goal.
Her beautiful through ball last night set up a Williams goal and the former Newcastle and Brisbane Roar player will be keen to grab her opportunity if she gets it.
Phonsongkham has had little game time this season after missing most of 2018/19 with injury. The youngster was part of the intensive Future Matildas program in Sydney this year along with Cooney-Cross.
Phonsongkham can also score a spectacular goal herself, netting 20 in the NPLW for Sydney Olympic in 2019, and if she gets a chance to play in the high powered Wanderers midfield alongside the likes of Amy Harrison and Ella Mastrantonio, she will become a much better player. The Wanderers would love another local girl like Phonsongkham thriving.
Milivojevic has had some limited game time this season but it’s fair to say cracking into the current Wanderers team is no easy feat.
The 2019 NPLW NSW Gold Medallist showed glimpses of what she is capable of in Round One and would no doubt show more if she got a chance.
O’Sullivan’s last game will be on 19 January against Perth Glory at BankWest Stadium. Whilst there is genuine sadness she will be going, it’s an opportunity for another youngster to grab their chance.
With the Wanderers travelling the way they are, what an opportunity it is.