A-League Women Round-Up

With the return of one big name to her hometown club and another club legend announcing a return, it’s been a big week as the A-League Women kick-off draws ever closer. Ben Gilby brings you all the news from these two announcements plus all that he heard from a raft of special media events (28/11/21).

Artwork: Perth Glory

PERTH GLORY: Home Town Hero De Vanna Returns:

Perth Glory confirmed on Thursday that Lisa De Vanna has signed with the club for the A-League Women 2021/22 Season.

One of the greatest forwards that Australia has ever produced, the Perth local is the second most-capped Matildas player of all time having made 150 international appearances, during which she scored 47 goals.

At club level, meanwhile, she has had two previous spells with Glory, in 2008-09 and 2012-13 and represented a host of leading clubs around the world including Sky Blue FC, Orlando Pride and Washington Spirit in the USA, Fiorentina in Italy and AIK and Linkoping in Sweden.

Also on her glittering resume are W-League Championship titles with Melbourne Victory, Melbourne City, Sydney FC, and Brisbane Roar.

De Vanna is now looking forward to writing a new chapter in her remarkable career with a club that has always remained close to her heart.

“I only very recently decided to get back on board,” she said.

“Alex Epakis [Head Coach] has created a safe, supportive environment and Tony Sage [Club Owner and Chairman] showed me great respect by going out of his way to meet me in person, which I really appreciated and am grateful for.

“Alex has put no pressure or expectation on me; just for me to fall in love with the game again.

“I started my career here and now I want to give back to the family, friends and fans who have supported me all the way along my football journey.

“I’m focused on being a good influence on the young players and helping bring the best out of them; that was a real game-changer for me.

Above: Lisa De Vanna in action for home town club Perth Glory during a previous spell. Photo: Wikimedia.

“A winning mentality never dies and that’s why I’m committed to doing everything I can to bring a first-ever Championship to my hometown club.”

Epakis, meanwhile, is relishing the prospect of seeing De Vanna donning the famous purple once again this season.

“Lisa is a proud West Australian and I know she is valuing the opportunity to represent her hometown club as part of what is shaping up to be a very dynamic and exciting squad to work with,” he said.

“She has a proven track record at every level of the game, is extremely motivated to succeed on a team level, and will provide even further x-factor to our attack.

“Lisa has been involved with the team for over a month now, has fitted in extremely well into our environment and culture, and is focused on working hard to ensure the team has a competitive campaign.

“I look forward to coaching her this season and am eager to see her combine with the other fantastic players we currently have in the team.”

Glory CEO Tony Pignata is similarly delighted to see a player of De Vanna’s quality and stature bolstering what is already a squad packed with potential.

“Lisa’s record speaks for itself,” he said, “and she remains one of the most dangerous forwards Australian and indeed, world football has ever seen.

“Her experience and winning mentality will make her an invaluable member of the group and I’m sure our Members and fans are incredibly excited to see her back in a Glory shirt this year.”

De Vanna’s other honours include a W-League Premiership with Melbourne City in 2015-16, the Julie Dolan Medal in 2002-03, twice being named in the FIFA Women’s World Cup All-Star team, and helping Australia claim the AFC Women’s Asian Cup in 2010.

CANBERRA UNITED: Legend Sykes Is Back!

Artwork: Canberra United.

Canberra United announced on Tuesday the signing of the club’s record appearance holder, Ashleigh Sykes for the 2021/22 A-League Women’s season.

The Dubbo-born striker has made 113 appearances for Canberra United, scoring 41 goals over 11 seasons, which included three Premierships and two Championships.

Speaking to the assembled media in the national capital, Sykes said she is excited by the challenge of her comeback to the A-League Women’s and looks forward to pulling the United jersey on once more. “I found my love for football again playing with my club team Canberra Olympic this past winter season.

“The players and coaches made it fun, and reminded me how much joy can be found on a football field. I’m hoping to get similar enjoyment from playing for Canberra United again, it’s always been my experience here and the team have made me feel welcome.

“I missed the feeling of competing every day with your teammates and for spots on the team. I love the challenge that this comeback presents. Getting match fit and back up to the standards that the A-League Women’s demand is my driving force at the moment.

“It’s always a privilege to wear the Canberra United jersey and play for this club. I’m super excited by the opportunity from Vicki and the club to have me play for them. I hope to make an impact for the team and add some more firepower to our already talented attacking stocks.”

With this being the second time that the 29-year-old has come out of retirement, Sykes admitted: “Coaching definitely sucks compared to playing! I thought that I’d try and rival John Farnham in terms of comebacks. This is number two so we’ll see how many more there are!

Above: Ashleigh Sykes at the media event to mark her return to Canberra United on Tuesday. Photo: Canberra United.

“I played with Canberra Olympic this year in the NPL. The girls there were awesome to play with and the coaches awesome to play for. It made me find my love for the game once more. I thought that there would not be many more years that I could give it a go, so I did.

“Vicki (Linton, Canberra United head coach) has been a quiet voice in the background for a while, but I approached her in the end asked if she had any spaces in the team and whether she had room for an old, unfit player! I had a week-long trial period and it went OK. It’s been fatiguing, but awesome. Canberra United have a great mentality which has not changed since I was last here (in 2018).

In terms of the role she sees herself as having this season, Sykes said: “It will depend on fitness, but for now I’m trying to be a good role model in training and catching up. Next week (the big kick-off) is coming fast, so we’ll see what Vicki has in store for me, whether that’s impact off the bench or starting.”

With old sparring partner Michelle Heyman at the club once more, Sykes commented that it was just like old times. “The old combination and understanding is still there and it feels great in training. That’s what ten years of playing together gets you. When combination play comes off between us like it did in training recently, you just smile. It’s an awesome feeling. It’s hard to describe when you stop playing what you miss most, but that is one of them. When it’s flowing it’s easy and it feels great. We’re on the same page straight away. It’s important to savour those moments.”

Canberra United Head Coach Vicki Linton commented how pleased she was to have signed Ash for a number of reasons.

“Ash is a quality player with so much experience and has been a massive part of this club from day one,” Vicki said.

“I had the chance to work with her in my time with the Matildas and to be able to reunite with her here at club level is such a nice opportunity. Already she has shown her ability and intelligence as a player and she will no doubt have a positive impact for this team with her performances in games but also with her mentality and the culture she can bring in training. I am really glad she has this chance to come back and compete at a high level again and enjoy her football.”

NEWCASTLE JETS: Tara Andrews & Kirsty Fenton Media Event Plus Ash Brodigan Returns

Above: Newcastle Jets’ Tara Andrews pictured at the media event this week. Photo: Newcastle Jets

With the 2021/22 A-League Women season kicking off in less than a week, Jets star Tara Andrews spoke of how anticipation is building.

“It’s getting really exciting now. We’re all raring to go and ready to play soccer. It’s ben great to be in the training environment, but we can’t wait for that first game now.”

With a few new faces added to the squad, including Norway international forward Marie Markussen, Andrews emphasised what a fillip this was for the team. “We’ve been waiting a few years now for an international player to come in and bolster our squad. It’s really exciting that she’s joined.

“It’s also great to have some support up front and someone to feed me the ball to score more goals. I want to score more goals and be more consistent. Last season I scored a lot of goals in the early weeks and then nothing for a while.”

Andrews also highlighted the fact that she feels that the Jets preparations for the new campaign are better than ever. “It feels a lot more professional this year. We’ve done a lot of strength and conditioning. Ash (Wilson, head coach) has got things organised well.

“In terms of trial games, we played the boys a few weeks ago and we were further ahead from where we were last year against them. Last weekend we played Western Sydney Wanderers, we didn’t win the game, but we were pretty strong against them.

Above: Kirsty Fenton, who also spoke to the media this week, in action during training. Photo: Newcastle Jets.

Kirsty Fenton has progressed through the ranks at Newcastle Jets and is now part of the senior squad preparing for the new A-League Women campaign. She spoke to the media on Wednesday of this week.

“Being in the Jets Academy environment since the under-11s, it’s always been a goal of mine to play for my hometown team and to see all that hard work pay off, not just for me but for my parents and all those coaches who have helped me is special.

“Just being in the same changing shed as the likes of Tara Andrews, Gema Simon, Hannah Brewer, Cass Davies – all of them are girls that I’ve just looked up to this whole time I was growing up as a footballer and to now say that I’m rocking up with them and getting ready for games is incredible.

“They are not as scary as I thought they would be! They are welcoming and really helpful. I just want to put on the jersey and walk on the pitch with the team, working to get game time.”

Fenton emphasised some of the big changes she has had to adapt to since moving up to the senior squad this pre-season.

“It’s the intensity, and the expectations on you – not only on the field, but off the field. Playing in the trial games, getting a feel of things has been really helpful. It is such an amazing thing to be where I am and I want to learn and gain experience from the girls. Down the line there are bigger things that I am aiming for such as Matildas. I’m also still doing my HSC and have one exam still to go! Coming in here straight from the classroom and a three hour exam and letting lose with the girls has been great.”

Artwork: Newcastle Jets.

On Wednesday, Newcastle Jets announced the signing of local forward Ash Brodigan for the upcoming A-League Women’s Season.

Now 22 years of age, Brodigan first debuted with the Club back when she was 16, and now returns to the side having last played in 2018.

Since then, the creative forward has shone in the local Women’s NPL, and Head Coach Ash Wilson was ecstatic to bring her back into the squad.

“Ash has worked hard in the pre-season,” Wilson said.

“What has impressed me is the determination and mentality she has shown. To have gone away from the top-level, set new goals, and come back in as a more mature and motivated player – it is a credit to her.

“Ash brings versatility and creativity to our attack and physically offers us key characteristics that will help us execute our brand of football.”

Brodigan said she was excited return to the A-League Women’s level.

“When I was given the opportunity by the Club, I didn’t have to think twice,” Brodigan said. “It’s exactly where I want to be.”

“I’m excited to be back playing with such an amazing team.”

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