A-League Women Awards For 2021/22

This season, our writing team covering the competition – Ben Gilby, Kris Goman, and Kieran Yap have been voting for their Player and Coach of the Week from Round One onwards. With the regular campaign now over, it is time to tally up all the votes and reveal the inaugural Impetus A-League Women Player of the Year and Coach of the Year (11/3/22).

Every Monday during this season, we announced our votes for the one player and head coach that we felt was the standout for each of the 14 rounds of the A-League Women campaign. With the regular season now over, we tallied up all the votes.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR:

How the votes tallied up: Cortnee Vine 6, Chelsie Dawber 5, Fiona Worts 5, Mackenzie Hawkesby 3, Nanako Sasaki 3, Hannah Wilkinson 3, Kyra Cooney-Cross 2, Cote Rojas 2, Lynn Williams 2, Jada Whyman 2, Ash Brodigan 1, Larissa Crummer 1, Deborah-Ann de la Harpe 1, Annalee Grove 1, Cyera Hintzen 1, Sarah Langman 1, Rachel Lowe 1, Hana Lowry 1, Rhianna Pollicina 1.

BEN’S VIEW Cortnee Vine was by far the best player in the first half of the season and the Sydney FC attacker quickly piled up a lot of votes during this period. Whilst she wasn’t quite in the same form after the Asia Cup, her lead was big enough to see off the challenge of Chelsie Dawber and Fiona Worts who were the stars of the last few months. Vine’s influence both on the wing and cutting in to deliver either pin-point crosses or powerful efforts on goal rendered her unplayable for much of the early part of the campaign. Coming back after a devastating injury at the end of last season, the Sydney star looked better than ever. If she can reproduce that form in the Finals, then it will be hard for anyone to defeat the Harbour City side.

Chelsie Dawber and Fiona Worts who were second and third in the standings respectively, have both had the best seasons of their careers. Crucially, the pair were outstanding in the South Australia NPL Women’s prior to this A-League Women campaign. Dawber’s Adelaide City and Worts’ Fulham United were not challenging for titles in that competition in 2021, but that didn’t stop these players dominating matches and scoring sackfulls of goals. Worts’ efforts were particularly impressive for a Fulham side who went months without a win. Adelaide will likely receive offers from overseas clubs for both.

KRIS’ VIEW: When it comes to Cortnee Vine, I have to admit I’m a total fan girl here. I can’t get enough of her penetrating runs and superb crosses. She reminds me of Lauren Hemp with a little more control and a little less aggro but just as effective.  I could not have been more thrilled that she made the Matildas team. To win this award after missing a few matches being away with the Matildas is testament to how dominating she was this season. A very worthy winner from a very worthy team.

It was kind of fitting that Chelsie Dawber and Fiona Worts came in on equal points in joint second place. They have been a force up front for Adelaide United and a goal-scoring phenomenon. Worts took the golden boot for the season with 13 goals but Dawber wasn’t far behind with 10 of her own. Both exceptional performances in anyone’s books. But combined it took Adelaide to the finals for the first time ever. The team and both these players got better as the season went on which bodes well for their finals campaign.

Above: Cortnee Vine’s superb form in the first half of the A-League Women season earned her a first call up to the Matildas – and enough points to become our inaugeral Player of the Year award winner. Photo supplied to Impetus by: Football Australia.

KIERAN’S VIEW: Any of the top three players in our voting charts this season could have won it. I think in hindsight I would have liked to have given Barbieri and Pollicina more votes because they were both excellent in every game. But Cortnee Vine is a deserved winner. She was far and away the best player in the early stages of the season to help set up Sydney’s premiership charge. At her best she is unstoppable with her pace and finishing.

Fiona Worts and Chelsie Dawber both reached double figures and helped Adelaide United to third. Worts caught fire late as Vine did early. It is a signal of Adelaide’s strength as a team that both players possibly took votes from each other. Three amazing players in career-best form lit up the league this season. Congratulations Cortnee Vine for taking out the Impetus Award for best player.

COACH OF THE YEAR:

How the votes tallied up: Alex Epakis 9, Gemma Lewis 8, Adrian Stenta 8, Ante Juric 6, Jeff Hopkins 3, Rado Vidosic 3, Catherine Cannuli 2, Garrath McPherson 2, Sergio Malfara 1, Ash Wilson 1.

BEN’S VIEW: There will no doubt be those who believe that a coach whose team didn’t make Finals perhaps shouldn’t be winning this award – but this was not a normal season – and Perth Glory’s experiences and performances were far from normal. Their achievements, led by Alex Epakis were nothing short of sensational. A carefully constucted major re-build which brought together a number of young talent along with some much needed experience led to an exciting looking team on paper pre-season. However, only being able to play one home game and spending three months 4,000 miles from Western Australia could have led to a tough season. Yet, Perth chalked up a number of superb results and excellent performances. Having spoken to nine of Glory’s players during the season, they were unanimous in stating the importance of Epakis in bringing the team together, creating a unique bond and giving them the belief to go out and achieve no matter what hurdles were placed in front of them. With much of his squad tied down for another year, you can’t help but feel this is just the beginning for Epakis’ Perth side.

Adrian Stenta‘s work with Adelaide United has been consistently impressive. After missing out on Finals by a single goal last time round and losing some key players, it could have been tough to lift the side this season. However, Stenta helped to foster a sense of determination to go one better. Adelaide peaked at the right time as the campaign reached its pointy end and they go into their first A-League Women Finals as the in-form team. Gemma Lewis‘ achievements with Wellington Phoenix are remarkable and worthy of recognition. Building an exceptionally young team at the eleveth hour and developing their belief, ability and determination as the season went on, despite being based away from New Zealand for the whole of the campaign was nothing short of outstanding.

KRIS’ VIEW: It’s interesting that these coaching awards haven’t gone to the winners but to the most improved teams. Perth Glory did not win a match last season. This season they nearly made the finals. The turnaround was incredible to watch in an extremely difficult session for this team that included being locked out of their home state, away from family and friends, with only one home game in front of their fans, littered with Covid, isolations, and injuries. It felt like Alex Epakis hand-picked the team, molded them to his plans, instilled his game tactics, kept morale at its peak, and got all the wins – well most of them. It was a joy to watch.

Above: Perth Glory head coach Alex Epakis – the first-ever Impetus A-League Women Coach of the Year. Photo: Perth Glory.

Starting from a higher baseline, Adrian Stenta took the next step this year. The season built as the team gelled and the wins got better, the goals piled up and they beat harder teams above them on the table. They looked good and turned into a formidable team.

Another team facing an absolute uphill battle due to circumstances out of their control, Wellington Phoenix’s Gemma Lewis had limited time to even find a team. On top of this, they had no real home games, being locked out of their whole country and extra regulations to work within. Lewis pulled the team together and made them very competitive. Despite being the wooden spooners, they were no easy beats. Every match was hard-fought and most, particularly towards the end of the season, were very close. It was admirable work, especially their first win.

KIERAN’S VIEW: Alex Epakis improved Perth Glory beyond what many thought possible this season. He recruited strongly and targeted players for specific purposes to rebound from Glory’s winless 2020/21. With the team living away from home for most of season, they overcame every obstacle except goal difference to finish marginally outside of the finals. Perth was compelling to follow and enjoyable to watch. This young side and their Impetus Award winning coach will be ones to watch again next season.

Adrian Stenta made history as the first coach to make the finals with Adelaide United. It was the culmination of many years of planning as an assistant and first-team manager at the club and thoroughly deserved. Gemma Lewis created a team from scratch and despite their inexperience, they never took a backwards step. She uncovered some absolute stars of the competition, names like Kate Taylor and Alyssa Whinham are now familiar to us as key players in everybody’s second favourite team.

Artwork: Graphics by PW.

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