The 2018-19 Westfield W-League campaign kicks off this Thursday night with one of the most anticipated clashes of the season: the Sydney Derby.
The last time these two teams met, Sydney FC claimed bragging rights after thumping WSW 4-1 in the final round of the 2017-18 season.
However, two of Sydney’s goal scorers that day – Caitlin Cooper and Remy Siemsen – will now don the red and black to face their old club. They’ll be joined by former Sydney FC teammates Kylie Ledbrook, Leena Khamis, and Georgia Yeoman-Dale, all of whom made the switch to the Wanderers in the off-season.
When asked about whether this coup will intensify the cross-town rivalry, Sydney FC captain Teresa Polias told The Women’s Game, “I don’t know if it’ll soften it… It’s going to be strange because I’ve never played against them before. I think we’ll say our nice ‘hello’s before the game but once we’ve hit the tunnel, then that’ll be it.”
It will take something special to beat the Sky Blues, who come into Thursday’s derby with a record of 10 wins out of 12. Western Sydney have recorded only one win against their rivals, a 2-1 victory in 2014.
However, a lot has changed since then. Both clubs have unearthed quality young players and have attracted a number of experienced international recruits to complement them.
New Wanderers striker Remy Siemsen is certainly not shying away from the pressure of the upcoming clash, nor the reaction from her old team-mates on the pitch.
“I’ve always been excited to play in derbies, no matter what team I’m on,” she said. “It’s gonna be different being on the other side this time, but a derby’s a derby; it’s always competitive and I think that this one especially will be one to watch.”
Despite growing up playing football in Sydney’s northern suburbs and breaking onto the scene with Sydney FC in 2016, Siemsen is not daunted by her move out west.
“I needed a change. I obviously enjoyed my time at Sydney FC but I think it was time for change,” she said.
Like many other WSW recruits, the instalment of Dan Barrett as head coach was a game-changer. “I thoroughly loved working under him in my first season at Sydney, and he was my main motivation to move across,” Siemsen said.
The Young Matilda’s drive to succeed took her to the US earlier this year, signing a short-term contract with WPSL club California Storm, and training with NWSL club Orlando Pride alongside Alanna Kennedy, Alex Morgan, and Marta. One of the reasons for this mid-year move was her desire to play with and against the best.
“I think that if you’re in a competitive environment and playing against some of the best players in the world, you’re only gonna get better. To be able to go overseas and play professional football, and then come back to Australia and play professional football, that’s something I really want to do.”
Siemsen learned a lot in her short time in the WPSL and won a number of accolades including the Golden Boot and Equal Highest Assists awards. The confidence with which she spoke should be a warning shot to her old club ahead of their derby clash on Thursday.
“It’s a very physical game over in the States, so I learned to be able to better hold people off when I’m on the ball. I learned to be more physical, faster, and rely heavily on my fitness. They play a very direct style of football and it’s faster-paced, so I learned how to play more quickly and make quicker decisions on the ball.”
Siemsen’s ambitions don’t just stop with a derby win; she wants it all, including a top four finish, an NWSL contract, and a spot on the plane to France for the 2019 Women’s World Cup.
“It’s on a lot of younger girls’ radars, and obviously on the current Matildas’ radars to get selected in the squad for the World Cup,” she said.
“My main motivation is to prepare myself and try to have a good season in the W-League. If it happens, it happens. If not, I’ll just keep working until it does.”
Western Sydney Wanderers take on Sydney FC on Thursday 25 October at Marconi Stadium, kickoff 7:30pm.