W-League soccer goes global for 4th season
The W-League has received a major boost with the arrival of several international stars spearheaded by USA midfielder Megan Rapinoe and two-time World Cup winner and German defender Ariane Hingst.
The fourth season of the league starts on Saturday with a grand final rematch as Sydney FC host champions Brisbane Roar.
Sydney, who won the premiership in a canter only to fall to the Roar in the championship decider, have been a major beneficiary amid the influx of new arrivals.
The Sky Blues recruited Rapinoe, a standout performer as the USA came within minutes of clinching the 2011 Women's World Cup final in Germany, along with international teammate, goalkeeper Allison Lipsher.
But a rejuvenated Newcastle Jets have put together a squad capable of breaking the dominance of Sydney FC and Brisbane Roar, with Hingst joining the club after recently concluding a decade-long international career with Germany that included World Cup wins in 2003 and 2007.
The Jets roster has also been boosted by major local stars in Australian captain and goalkeeper Melissa Barbieri, and dynamic Matildas' attacker Lisa De Vanna.
Adelaide United have added New Zealand internationals Abby Erceg and Anna Green to their squad, while Melbourne Victory will have international experience in USA midfielder Kendall Fletcher and English striker Jodie Taylor.
Sydney FC and long-serving Matildas' striker Sarah Walsh believes that not only will the playing standard increase, but the new arrivals indicate a growing status for Australian football on the world stage.
"There is genuine excitement across the league, given the quality in the squads throughout the league, and it will be a major challenge to reach this year's final," said Walsh.
"There is a lot of depth around across the board and we will definitely have to produce consistent football whereas, in the past, sometimes sub-standard performances would be enough.
"Players from across the world talk about Australian football now, we are respected internationally and that is starting to reflect upon the W-League."
The international flavour has not been restricted to the playing squads with Canberra United to be coached by former Czech Republic international Jitka Klimkova, while Adelaide United have appointed former New Zealand Under 17s mentor David Edmondson.