As featured on NewsNow: Football news

The Week in Women's Football: A-League Allstars face Arsenal; Wellington to help Tianjin football; Independent Canberra left hanging by local government

This week, we present part 2 of our final regular season review of the 2023-24 A-League Women season in Australia. We examine the teams currently in seventh through twelfth place: Western Sydney Wanderers, Wellington Phoenix, Brisbane Roar, Perth Glory, Canberra United and Adelaide United.

Last week, in Part 1, we looked at the top six teams in the table who qualified for the playoffs: Sydney FC, Melbourne City, Western United, Melbourne Victory, Central Coast Mariners and the Newcastle Jets (see: The Week in Women's Football: A-League season-end review - Tribal Football). We also present the top Golden Boot race scorers and a quick look at the regular season attendance records. We also preview a high profile all-star match later this spring between players from the A-League against Arsenal of England's WSL in Melbourne and have news about Auckland's new team's name, badge and jersey colors.

2023-24 A-League Women Season to Date—Part 2

Western Sydney Wanderers (10-3-9—33 points—Tied for Sixth)

On February 9 in Round 15, Western Sydney defeated the Newcastle Jets 2-1 at home in front of a 3,873 home crowd at Carrington Park, but recorded only that one win out of five matches from Rounds 13-17—after four consecutive wins from Rounds 9-12—cooled the Wanderers off. On March 2, they had their season high crowd of 9,577 at CommBank Stadium to see their derby rivals Sydney FC win 2-0.

WSW did have three key consecutive wins in Rounds 19-21 from a makeup game against Canberra (4-1) at home on March 13 and, three days later, a 1-0 win at home against Perth and then recorded a third consecutive win by defeating Western United (3-1). A surprising 2-0 loss in Wellington put their playoff hopes up for grabs and they had to wait until the last day of the season as Sydney FC played Melbourne Victory.

A point by MV would send the Wanderers out of the playoffs. A loss to Sydney would leave the two sides tied with 33 points but the Wanderers would be sixth with one more win. Melbourne Victory clinched a playoff spot with a 4-0 win in Sydney and Wanderers were out, narrowly missing the playoffs by goal difference to Newcastle (0 to +7); the Wanderers still have played only one playoff game in their dozen years in the league. Western Sydney certainly should be encouraged this off-season and the other league teams should watch out as they could be in the top six this time next year.

Sophie Harding had 12 goals in 21 games while American Vicky Bruce was second on the team with three goals. Harding was a dynamic goal scoring force for a team that scored only 30 times for ninth in the league and allowed 30, tied for fifth best in the league with Perth Glory. Harding (24) was called into a Matilda camp in 2024 for the final Asian Olympic Games Qualifying Series against Uzbekistan, though she was not on either game's roster. Harding was born in England and moved to Australia when she was six years old; she also qualifies through her grandparents to play for the Republic of Ireland.

Wellington Phoenix (9-1-12—28 points—Eighth)

Three road losses in a row from Round 15-17 hurt Wellington's playoff chances—against Newcastle (3-2), Western United (3-0) and Melbourne Victory (5-3), all on the road. In Round 18 on March 8, they had their first road win of the season, in Perth, which left them only two points out of the playoffs. Two losses out of three matches from Rounds 19-21 (with a 4-2 loss at home against FC Sydney and 1-0 in Canberra bookending a 4-0 win at home against Adelaide) left them on the outside of the top six. They finished the season in style with a 2-0 win at home against Western Sydney on March 30, which ultimately cost the Wanderers a playoff spot, when a win or a tie would have moved them ahead of the Newcastle Jets on the final table.

The Phoenix side should be very proud of themselves as they were quite competitive this season and won more games than in their two previous seasons—nine versus five across two seasons—and finished with 28 points compared with 7 in 2021-22 and 13 in 2022-23. This was the first season that they could bring in imports from beyond Australia and it showed as they had a nice mix of imports along with a core of young New Zealand international pool players.

American-raised Venezuelan international Mariana Speckmaier (see our interview with her from earlier this season: The Week in Women's Football: Mariana Speckmaier exclusive - Wellington & Venezuela potential; rejecting CSKA - Tribal Football) led the team with ten goals. New Zealand youth international Emma Main (24) finished second with five goals, adding a brace in Wellington's 2-0 home win over Western Sydney on March 29 to end the regular season. Two players were tied for third with three goals: American forward Isabel Cox (23) and New Zealand youth international Macey Fraser (21). Canadian international goalkeeper Rylee Foster (25) played in 18 games in a fantastic return from a major car accident when she was in in Finland while playing with Liverpool; she should have interest from teams abroad during the off-season. As a team, the Nix's 36 goals were the sixth highest total in the league, while their defense has been solid, allowing only 33 goals to tie for seventh best in the league.

Off the field, the Wellington Phoenix has announced a partnership with Chinese Super League club Tianjin Tigers. The two teams will come together to promote the development of football in their cities. Wellington has led the A-League men's table most of this season while Tianjin are only one of four teams never to have been relegated from the CSL since its inception in 2004; they were league runners-up in 2010. The two sides will take part in an annual match between their men's first teams while their academy will also benefit from footballers from Tianjin.

Wellington Phoenix General Manager David Dome explained: "We're looking to grow our academy to have an international component and Tianjin Jinmen have committed to sending some young players to Wellington to attend training camps in July, and we're discussing the possibility of their juniors being part of a new international academy annual programme. International students are essential for the secondary and tertiary education sector in Wellington and we are evaluating how an elite international academy focused on football can be part of New Zealand's international education offering." clarified with a club official about the role of the women's team in the agreement, and was told that the agreement is club-wide, but Tianjin Tigers don't currently have a women's side, so there won't be a companion match for the women at the present time. The city of Tianjin has had a women's professional side in the past, so that could be a focus for the Tigers in the future, with Wellington providing some guidance and input on starting a new professional side.

Brisbane Roar (7-5-10—26 points—Ninth)

After opening the season with two straight wins, an eight game winless streak (four losses and four ties) set them back and even three wins in their last five matches left them with too much ground to make up and the Roar finished seven points away from a playoff spot. The Roar has now missed the playoffs for the third straight season and four out of the last five campaigns.

American forward Mia Corbin (26) was a revelation in her first season in the league with eight goals, while Matilda veteran Tameka Yallop (32) added five and Australian forward Kijah Stephenson (22)—in her second season with the Roar after playing sparingly last season—added four tallies. Veteran Australian and Matilda center back Jenna McCormick had three goals from the back. The Roar was tenth in the league in goalscoring on 28 goals while allowing 35 for ninth best in the league.

As with Western United, Roar's NWSL loan goalkeeper Jordan Silkowitz was called back early to the NWSL and the Kansas City Current after the game on March 9, a 2-0 loss to Central Coast. Kansas City Current general manager Camille (Levin) Ashton said: "We felt confident that Jordan would get some great playing experience with Brisbane. Her time with the Roar played an important role for her continued growth as a professional. We want to thank Brisbane for working with us as we bring her back to Kansas City for the beginning of the 2024 NWSL season." For the Roar, Silkowitz played 18 matches, recording five wins and five draws, with three shutouts. She was selected by the Current in the second round (18th overall) in the 2023 NWSL Draft from Iowa State University and previously played at Ohio State University.

Perth Glory (6-6-10 W-D-L—24 points—Tied for Tenth)

The Glory didn't win a game from December 31, when they defeated Central Coast 2-1 away, through the end of the season (four ties and eight losses), and the four points out of 36 left them crashing from fourth place after 14 rounds down the table to finish in tenth place. They lost their last four consecutive matches to end the season on a down note. There would seem to be massive changes on the horizon among the players and coaches before next season. After just missing the playoffs over the past two seasons and dealing with a State COVID-enforced ban at home in 2021-22 (playing only once at home all season), tenth place is not good enough for this proud franchise.

A 3-1 home loss to Central Coast on February 18 in Round 17 in front of 901 fans pushed Perth out of the playoff reckoning for the first time all season and the wheels fell off for a complete collapse after winning their first four games of the 2023-24 and going 5-2-1 (W-D-L) in their first eight games. The change in their results was truly puzzling.

English youth international Mia Farrow (27) led the team with seven goals, while Australian youth international Susan Phonsongkham (23) added four and New Zealand international Grace Jale (24) and Australian 2022 U-20 WWC Finals side member Hana Lowry (20) each had three goals. One big question is if their two American-raised Philippine internationals—defender Jessika Cowart (24) and midfielder Quinley Quezeda (26)—will return; the pair combined for 40 games and their 2023 WWC Finals coach is now the head coach on the Glory's men's side—Alen Stajcic. With Philippine internationals playing all over the world, including defender Reina Bonta and goalkeeper Olivia McDaniel with Santos in Brazil, her sister Chandler is in Costa Rica with Dimas—both sisters played for a short time last fall in Austria with FC Pinzgau in the second tier—and midfielder Jessica Miclat of Eskilstuna United in Sweden among others, they could move on and would likely be in demand in other markets. Two other Philippine WNT members: Sarina Bolden of Newcastle and team captain and midfielder Jaclyn Sawicki, are both in the playoffs and, with the Perth duo, have shown how much the A-League Women have helped them individually and their national team grow.

In the off-season, Perth needs to do a total evaluation of the player and support staff after two seasons of coming so close to the four team semifinals, particularly since this was seen as their best chance to make the playoffs since 2018/19, when Matilda superstar Sam Kerr last played in the league. With new ownership at the club (see below), many new changes to the women's franchise could be on the way.

Off the field, the club was purchased by the Pelligra Group, a family-owned business which owns a 100% interest in Serie C's Catania Football Club in Italy, including ownership of Catania Women's Football, Catania Junior Football Team, Catania Rugby and the Varese Basketball Team. In Australia, the group owns the Adelaide Lightning Women's Basketball team, the Adelaide Giants Baseball team, the Canberra Braves Ice Hockey and the Adelaide Adrenaline Ice Hockey team, which allows them to exchange information across sports, cross market teams and create more opportunities for youth development and community involvement.

A-Leagues commissioner Nick Garcia said about the acquisition: "Perth Glory is one of Australia's oldest and most decorated professional football clubs and we are pleased to welcome Ross Pelligra to the A-Leagues as the club enters a new era. Ross is a successful business and football operator, both locally and abroad, and this experience and his passion for the world game is a great asset for Perth Glory and the A-Leagues.

"There is an incredible opportunity that exists for football in Western Australia. We believe that with this new ownership, the future of Perth Glory is in safe hands and we look forward to seeing them deliver success both on and off the pitch. We are grateful to the Western Australian Government for its strong support during this transition period and into the future. I also want to acknowledge and thank the fans for their passion for the Glory and club management, staff, players and coaches for their dedication and commitment to the club during this time."

New Perth Glory owner Ross Pelligra said: "I'm relishing the prospect of re-establishing Glory as a benchmark club of Australian football. Sport is a great passion of mine and over the years I have invested in other sporting clubs in Australia and in Italy. I have seen how integral a sporting club can be to a community. It can have a powerful, unifying impact and that is what we are here to achieve in Perth. There are three key pillars we need to focus on in the first phase of our tenure; to reconnect; to drive success and to create long term sustainability.

"I remember watching Perth Glory when I was a child on TV back in Melbourne and thinking that football had arrived in this country when I saw a packed Perth Oval every home game and a team that played an exciting and attacking brand of football that had everyone in Perth captivated. That is the energy we know exists here and that is the energy we must rediscover. We have learned from our previous experiences with other sporting franchises, but every team is different, every city is different and it is important we listen and learn. I want to return the club back to the Glory days. We want it to be the envy of every other A-League club, just like it was when it was first founded. I know that we have a strong football community here in Perth and it's time to reunite."

Canberra United (6-6-10—24 points—Tied for Tenth)

Canberra was at or near the bottom of the league table all season but there were a lot of positives, particularly on the offensive side as long-time striker Michelle Heyman (35)—the all-time league goal scoring leader—won the league's Golden Boot with 17 goals and equaled the record for the number of individual goals in a league season, which was set by then Perth Glory's Sam Kerr in 2018-19, when there were only 12 league games; it was Heyman's third A-League Women Golden Boot in total.

Heyman did set the league record for most goals and assists in a single season, breaking Sam Kerr's record in 2018-19 of 17 goals and four assists, as Heyman had seven assists. Their offense was fourth best in the league with 39 goals and just five behind league leaders Melbourne Victory (44), but their defense was second worst in the league with 47 goals allowed, ahead only of Adelaide United (56). Serbian international Vesna Milivojevic (22) was second with ten goals. Nicky Flannery returned from missing a year with an ACL injury and had five goals and seven assists—tied for the team lead in assists with Heyman and Holly Caspers of Western Sydney, with all three trailing Newcastle's Sarina Bolden, who had nine. Two of Flannery's goals came in three games from rounds 17-19, scoring her team's only goals in a 1-1 tie with Western Sydney in Canberra on March 9 and a 4-1 loss away to CC Mariners on March 17.

Celebrating her re-call to the national team for the first time in six seasons, Heyman (35) scored two goals in their 2-2 tie in Round 16 in Perth. She went on to score five goals in the Matilda's Olympic Games AFC Final round home and away qualifying matches against Uzbekistan. She scored the winner in Australia's 3-0 win in Tashkent on February 24 and four goals in the 10-0 return victory in Melbourne as Australia qualified for this summer's Olympic Games Finals in France. She still seems to be a long shot for the Olympic Games Final side as teams can only bring 18 players compared to 23 for the WWC—with head coach Tony Gustavsson describing her as a classic center-forward, but he wants players to be flexible in their roles.

After the season, two notable departures from the club were Australian-raised Serbian international Vesna Milivojevic (22), who moved to IFK Norrkoping of the Swedish Damallsvenskan. In forty games across the last two A-League Women seasons, she scored 18 times. She played 5 matches in 2019/20 with Western Sydney and had one goal in 13 games with Borussia Bocholt of the German second division in 2020-21. She also had two stints with Serbian powerhouse ZFK Spartak Subotica.

Canberra United CEO Samantha Farrow said: "The opportunity to move abroad and play in a top European league was something that Vesna was keen to explore, and this is a tremendous opportunity for her in her career."

Milivojevic, with the transfer, will be closer to her national team for games and camps in Europe, for who she has played 11 matches with one goal. She is definitely one to watch in Europe for the future at both the club and WNT level.

Also leaving the Greens was another international as Maria Rojas (36) of Chile joins Chilean side Santiago Morning on a "lucrative contract" according to Canberra United, just before the end of the A-League Women season. Morning will play in their Primera Division but also the Copa Libertadores Femenina. She first came to the A-League Women and Canberra for the 2018/19 season and also played a season each with Adelaide United, Sydney FC and Melbourne City, before returning to the Capital city this season, where she played in 13 matches.

In quite worrying news off the field, late in the season, Capital Football (the regional football association) CEO Samantha Farrow said in a statement that Canberra United wanted to continue playing in the Liberty A-League: "in 2024/25 and beyond."

Her statement further said: "Capital Football is the only State Federation that runs its own A-League side [which is independent of a A-League men's side, though Canberra is looking to join the men's league]. Capital Football has invested over $2.5 million in Canberra United across the past two seasons, as well as doubling the club's annual budget since 2020/2021." These costs have gone up as the league has expanded from 12 games in 2020/21 to 14 in 2021/22, 18 in 2022/23 and 22 this past season and now with a full-time professional side. Farrow's statement added: "Capital Football has over 15,000 participants, across all areas of our game. Continuing to run at a loss will affect each individual and the ongoing viability of our competitions making additional sources of revenue vital to our success."

The club is basically looking for more investments ahead of next season—a worrisome situation for this standard bearer of independent women's football, not just in Australia but around the world, as more clubs align with the men's side, primarily driven by FIFA. ACT [Australian Capital Territory] Government has offered a 50% advance payment of the club's existing funding agreement to assist with the: "upfront running costs of Canberra United."

On April 5, Capital Football CEO Samantha Farrow released another statement saying that: "Capital Football are currently working on securing $200,000 in immediate investment to lower the projected Season 17 deficit and have been engaging with ACT & Federal Government, and other investors, to lock in this support. This immediate investment decreases the overall financial risk to Capital Football, and we believe the remaining deficit can be made up through several supplementary initiatives.

"Given the need for external investment into the club, Capital Football welcomes the support of the working group, Save Canberra United." However, they have yet to meet with the organizers. Farrow continued: The supporters of Canberra United are amazing and we are more than happy to work with all parties that seek to help us ensure Canberra United continues to take its rightful place in the A-League women's competition."

She said that Capital Football officials would meet with Save Canberra United members soon and welcomed their interest and support. Farrow then added: "Capital Football has been working on a range of initiatives including new merchandise, alternate membership options, sponsorship packages and direct investment. Capital Football has also engaged with the Australian Sports Foundation, to set up a crowd-funding platform, as they are able to offer tax deduction status for any donations made, however, legalities surrounding the return of funds if unsuccessful in raising the required investment has held this up. In total, we are seeking up to $500,000 in investment to support Season 17. Our unwavering intent here is to procure immediate investment or commercial support to support Canberra United in Season 17. This is the immediate priority for Capital Football."

Save Canberra United supporters have raised AU$38,000 of their AU$430,000 goal by April 8, showing the depth of the love for the 16-year-old franchise in the city and region. We hope for the best for this proud franchise and that we will see them return for a 17th season for the 2024/25 season.

Adelaide United (4-3-15—15 points—Twelfth)

The Reds finished at bottom of the league for the fourth time in their 16 seasons in the league—they have only made the playoffs once in the past, in 2021-22. They lost their last six matches of the season after going undefeated in Rounds 14-16, with two consecutive 2-1 wins at home over Perth Glory and Western Sydney Wanderers and then tying Melbourne City (1-1) away.

New Zealand international Hannah Blake (23) led the Reds in scoring with only three goals. On two goals were American Mariah Lee (27), Japanese import midfielder Nanako Sasaki (24)—in her third season with the club—and Chelsea Dawber (24), who returned to the club full-time after playing with the Chicago Red Stars in the NWSL and on loan to Norrkoping in Sweden. The club only scored 21 goals—the fewest among the 12 league teams—while allowing 56, the highest total in the league. Adelaide must improve on both fronts but a consistent goal scorer is a vital need for 2024-25.

Golden Boot Race

Matilda Michelle Heyman led the league with 17 goals while Philippines international forward Sarina Bolden of the Newcastle Jets, Matilda pool player Sophie Harding of Western Sydney Wanderers and Rachel Lowe with Melbourne Victory were tied for second with 12 goals. Four players were tied for fifth on 10 goals: Matilda Cortnee Vine of Sydney FC, last season's Golden Boot winner and American import Hannah Keane of Western United, Venezuelan international Mariana Speckmaier of Wellington Phoenix and Serbian international Vesna Milivojevic of Canberra United. Tied for ninth with nine goals were New Zealand international Hannah Wilkinson of Melbourne City and Matilda Chloe Logarzo of Western United.

2023/24 A-League Women Attendances

The league average attendance for 130 regular season matches was 2,132 this season, just shy of the all time record in 2017/18 (2,139) for 54 games. The total attendance figure of 277,142 in the larger, expanded league this season was more than double the previous record of 122,031 from 99 games in 2022/23 and the 2017/18 total of 115,479. The largest attendance this season was 11,471 at the Sydney derby on opening day on October 14 at Allianz Stadium (Sydney FC home match), followed by 9,577 on March 2 at the derby return (Western Sydney home match) at CommBank Stadium. The lowest total was for Melbourne City versus Adelaide United on February 18 at their City Football Academy in front of 263, followed by 375 on March 10 at the same venue against Newcastle Jets.

Arsenal of England to play A-League All-Stars

Arsenal of England, who won the 2023-24 Continental Cup with a 1-0 defeat of Chelsea and are three time Super League champions, will play an A-League Women All Star side in Melbourne. Fans will have input into the squad through voting for:

  • 1 Goalkeeper
  • 4 Defenders
  • 3 Midfielders
  • 3 Forwards
  • 4 Additional Rising Stars (Under-23)

Fan voting does not guarantee player selection into the A-Leagues All-Stars squads with the coaching staff and the APL Commissioner weighing the players with the highest tallies of fan votes. The A-League All-Stars Women squad will consist of 19 players and be subject to injury and availability. There is no minimum number of players required per club but no more than four will be allowed. The match is part of Global Football Week Melbourne, a TEG Sport event which is supported by the Victorian Government and the Australian Professional Leagues and Football Australia. The A-League Women versus Arsenal match will be held on Friday May 24 following the A-League Men's All-Stars playing Newcastle United of England. Two days earlier, Tottenham Hotspur will face Newcastle in an all EPL match.

Auckland's new A-League team selects its name and colors

Auckland's new A-League men's and women's side will be known as Auckland FC, which will join the Isuzu UTE A-League Men for the 2024-25 season. The season runs until May and includes a 26-round regular season followed by a final's series, with 12 home games confirmed to play at Mount Smart Stadium. Auckland FC's Liberty A-League Women's team will start play for the 2025/26 season.

The club will play in an electric blue and black New Balance kit for their maiden season (see below). According to the club's press release: "The club's visual identity represents the city of Auckland throughout, from its primary colour—electric blue—building on Auckland's traditional royal blue, to the crest. The newly revealed shield contains a graphic tribute to Rangitoto and Auckland's iconic skyline, and with an ascending 'A' for Auckland in its centre. The Black Knight visor and the stripes in the badge link the crest to club founder Bill Foley and the teams that form part of the Black Knight Football Group."

Tim Grainey is a contributor to Tribal Football. His latest book Beyond Bend it Like Beckham is on the global game of women's football. Get your copy today.Follow Tim on Twitter: @TimGrainey

Video of the day:

Tim Grainey
About the author

Tim Grainey


Subscribe and go ad-free

For only $10 a year

  1. Go Ad-Free
  2. Faster site experience
  3. Support great writing
  4. Subscribe now
Launch Offer: 2 months free

Subscribe and go ad-free

For only $10 a year

Subscribe now
Launch Offer: 2 months free