2018 Herald Women's Premier League starts on March 11

LAUNCH TIME: Representatives from the seven Herald Women's Premier League teams gathered at Lake Macquarie Regional Football Facility on Tuesday ahead of the 2018 season, which kicks off on Sunday. Picture: Simone De Peak
LAUNCH TIME: Representatives from the seven Herald Women's Premier League teams gathered at Lake Macquarie Regional Football Facility on Tuesday ahead of the 2018 season, which kicks off on Sunday. Picture: Simone De Peak

The 10th Herald Women’s Premier League season starts on Sunday and competition is expected to be fierce with five current and several former W-League players spread throughout the seven teams. This is how they are shaping up:

ADAMSTOWN

Coach: Paul Devitis.Last season: Finished third. Squad news: Rosebud are without long-serving wide player Emily Frost and her loss will be felt on and off the field by the tight-knit group. Fearless leader Clare Cummings plays with her heart on her sleeve and will again be key to Rosebud’s success, along with midfielders Elodie Dagg and Jorjia Hogg. United States-based strike weapon Lauren Allan scored 16 goals in eight appearances last season and will be a welcome addition when she returns early in the second round for another cameo. Bottom line: They retain the core of a talented young squad which has maintained the club’s place in finals football despite going through a rebuilding phase since 2015 and should be in the mix again.

MEREWETHER

Coach: Cassie Koppen. Last season: Finished second, won the grand final. Squad news: Grand final heroines Sarah Halvorsen and Tayla Braithwaite and midfield lynchpin Jane McDonald are all having the year off. All three have a physical presence on the field and their loss will be evident. United’s attack will remain strong through new signing Leah Giuffre, who returns to the league after several years away, and the return of W-League championship winner Rhali Dobson, who scored 20 goals last season. They also have former Jets player Grace Macintyre in the middle of the park and Alison Logue in goals. Bottom line: A benchmark side for the past few seasons with arguably the best defence in the league, they will be in the fight for the minor premiership. 

NEW LAMBTON

Coach: Keelan Hamilton. Last season: Did not play WPL. Squad news: Joey Burgess, Tara Andrews and Stacey Day are key signings. Burgess has 40 caps for the Matildas and played over 60 W-League games, Andrews has two caps for Australia and over 75 national level appearances for Newcastle and Day is a former Jet. They have also picked up experienced WPL goalkeeper Darcie Bell and striker Georgia Amess. Bottom line: The Eagles may be the new kids on the block but they do not intend to just make up numbers in their first year. They will be a mix of youth and experience and how the young squad handle the week-in, week-out intensity of senior football will be the telling factor. 

SOUTH WALLSEND

Coaches: Brad Parkes and Gary Wilson. Last season: Finished fifth. Squad news: The Wolves’ biggest losses have been Stacey Day to New Lambton and Laura Byrnes to injury but they have picked up a swag of experienced players. Former WPL player of the year Tracy Baker-Holmes returns to football after two seasons out with a knee reconstruction. Former Young Matildas striker Beth Kermode also makes a return to WPL after starting a family. They have four players with W-League experience in new signings Alesha Clifford and Olivia Kennedy and returning players Gemma Pearce and Maddy Searl. Bottom line: Inconsistency and a lack of depth was South Wallsend’s biggest enemy last year. They are finals contenders on paper and consistency and how quickly they gel will be key factors.

THORNTON

Coach: Robbie Richardson. Last season: Finished last. Squad news: They have lost Jenna Kennedy and Sarah Bennett to New Lambton and goalkeeper Danielle Redding to Wallsend. Captain Sophie Milton only played a handful of games last year but is fully on deck this season in a big boost to a side which has also strengthened with the signings of Olivia Tannock from Football Queensland’s women’s National Premier League and central midfielder Lauren Rouse-Upjohn, who played in Germany’s Bundesliga 2 for SV Bardenbach. Bottom line: They showed some promising signs in patches last season but struggled to be consistent for a full 90-minute match and only managed to win two games. The Redbacks have probably the most experience this year that they have had since joining the competition in 2015 but a top-four finish might still be too far a stretch this season as they continue to rely on a lot of youth.

WALLSEND

Coach: Marc Hingston. Last season: Finished sixth. Squad news: They have lost leader and midfield force Keely Gawthrop but still have the ever-consistent and dependable central player Laura Hall as well former Jets player Libby Copus-Brown. The addition of fleet-footed Sass Seaborn from Warners Bay will be a big boost and the Red Devils have picked up Danielle Redding in goals. Bottom line: Wallsend played a good brand of football last year but at times struggled in the final third. The recruitment of proven goalscorer Seaborn should help address that and the return of Marc Hingston, who coached them to a grand final appearance in 2016, means they will be well-drilled and supremely fit but without many big-name players they may struggle to finish in the top four. 

WARNERS BAY

Coach: Cassidy Davis. Last season: Finished first, lost grand final. Squad news: They have lost the ever-improving Sass Seaborn, goalkeeper Rhiannon Hines and possibly former W-League defender Brooke Miller through injury. But last year’s minor premiers and state cup champions have picked up Jets player Tara Pender, who can play anywhere, and will still be well-led by steely captain Nadja Squires and Jets pair Cassidy Davis and Jenna Kingsley, who scored 35 goals in 21 games last year including a grand final hat-trick. Bottom line: Despite some big losses, they retain the core of a side which were 2016 champions and last year’s yardstick and should push for more silverware again.

Round 1, March 11

Wallsend v New Lambton, at The Gardens, 2.30pm;

Adamstown v Thornton, at Adamstown Oval, 2.30pm;

Warners Bay v South Wallsend, at John Street Oval, 2.30pm;

Merewether – bye.