Western Sydney Wanderers finished their 2020/21 campaign with a disappointing 3-1 loss to Adelaide United. However the season provided plenty of positive insight into the future at Wanderland.
Teigan Collister’s speed gives the Wander Women a potency that most teams would die for. Her ability to track down seemingly lost balls and her knack for confusing defenders with her movement was a highlight in the back half of the season.
Her two games against reigning champions Melbourne City were exceptional.
Once she becomes more consistent with her final pass, Collister could become one of the genuine super stars of the competition.
Danika Matos was excellent this season. The 21-year-old was a tough tackling defender who never backed down from the contest. She won nearly 50% of her duels and 53% of her aerial duels this season.
Her ability to read opposition attacks improved as the season went on. She had 25 interceptions this season, the most in the Red & Black. She won 63% of her tackles as well. Solid numbers for a 21-year-old.
With a wealth of attacking options for the Wander Women, it was important for a youngster to step up in a defensive role, particularly with Courtney Nevin out for most of the season. Matos did this well and a regular spot in the back four is hers for years to come if she keeps learning.
Sarah Hunter, Bryleeh Henry and Margaux Chauvet have been the most impressive out of the debutants this season.
Hunter’s game against Adelaide United where she netted a double was her coming of age game. With a strong defensive side to her game as well as the willingness to put plenty of energy into attack, Hunter could be one of the heartbeats of the Wanderers midfield in the years to come.
Henry has been touted by many at Wanderland as the one to watch. Her two goals against Melbourne City last Thursday showed what she is capable of.
Perhaps hasn’t lived up to expectations as much as fans would like, but it’s only her first season and will be given plenty of chances to shine going forward.
Chauvet started the season brilliantly. Her defensive ability was crucial as the Wander Women found the going tough early in the season. Working down back with the experienced Caitlin Cooper and alongside another impressive youngster in Matos, Chauvet will only get better as time goes on.
It may seem silly suggesting a former Matilda was a surprise packet this season, but after an injury riddled period in her career, Georgia Yeoman-Dale silenced the doubters with a solid season.
Her speed and ability to get into good positions provided the Wander Women with another option in attack.
Along with another former Matilda in Cooper, the two veterans helped guide a young team through a tough initiation period.
At the cross-roads
Susan Phonsongkham has talent to burn, but the last two W-League seasons have been cruelly impacted by injury.
Time will tell if she will get another chance at this level, but with plenty of talent running around in the NPLW circuit, time is running out.
Chloe Middleton only played five games this season and averaged only 21 passes a game and around 30 touches. She needs to get much more involved if she is to have an impact.
As the season wore on she fell behind the pecking order as Hunter, Henry and Julie-Ann Russell received more game time.
Middleton has talent and it is hard to judge her on only eight W-League games across two seasons, but at the age of 25, now is the time she should be hitting her peak.
Another strong season for Illawarra Stingrays in the NPLW should see her get another gig next season. But you feel Middleton needs to step up another gear if she is to make an impact on the W-League.
Farewell to Wanderland
It is hard to see Young Matilda Nevin staying in the W-League much longer, assuming Covid is conquered, there is every likelihood the teenager will head to Europe.
There was plenty of interest in her this year from overseas, but Covid and the need to give her young body a rest meant she stayed in Australia.
A player that will feature in Tony Gustavsson's calculations for the 2023 World Cup, Nevin needs to take the next step in her career and going to a strong European league will help fast track her development.
The reigning Wanderers Player of the Year will be a huge loss at Wanderland but the club will be proud that a player they developed from a young age is about to hit the big time.
Player of the Year
It will likely come down to one of Cooper, Yeoman-Dale or Matos.
Dean Heffernan had some world class players to work with in 2019/20 and took the team to their first ever finals series, this year presented a new challenge with a number of debutants and new recruits who were not of the same caliber as last year’s crop.
The season started with uncertainty and experimentation. But as time has gone on, Heffernan’s plan has come to fruition.
The Wander Women play an exciting brand of football with a number of avenues to goal. Heffernan has worked out what positions suit each player and the team is now playing to their strengths.
With Collister, Yeoman-Dale and Russell providing width and speed, Hunter and Libby Copus-Brown providing grunt in the middle, the Wanderers are anything but one dimensional. A multi-pronged attack is vital to have success in the W-League.
If the season was longer, and with a more dominant forward in the line-up, there is every chance they would of been a contender.
What is needed next season?
Goals! It’s simple as that. A number of times this season the Wander Women created more goals scoring chances and had more shots on goal than opponents, however not enough hit the back of the net.
Leena Khamis’ experience and wisdom was fantastic on the training track this season, but she didn’t find the back of the net enough this season. Three goals wasn’t enough of a return.
Rosie Galea led the scoring with four goals this season. To have a player win the Golden Boot with only four goals is not good enough for a team who wants to make finals.
The Wanderers love to develop their own, it will be interesting to see which youngster steps up in 2021/22? Middleton? Galea? Henry? Will Dolan Medallist Kristen Hamilton return?