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Sam Kerr Video Highlights

July 19, 2017 By: Penny Category: W League

Expanding Horizons: A discussion about the introduction of a 10th W-League team

July 19, 2017 By: Penny Category: W League

May 24, 2017

Later this year, the Westfield W-League is set to reach an important milestone as it commences its 10th season.

In that time period the W-League has powered the growth and success of the Matildas, along with the progression and popularity of women’s football at grassroots.

Now, more than ever, there has been increased interest in the league with several clubs and interest groups stating their intent to join the competition.

If you hang around A-League circles, you would have to be under a rock to miss the at times contentious conversations regarding A-League expansion or promotion/relegation.

However, while the Western Sydney Wanderers and Melbourne City have joined the foundation teams, W-League expansion has rarely been discussed; until now.

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Officially or rumoured, there are a number of possible contenders to join the W-League either next season or in the future. That there are a number of contenders bodes well for the W-League but what are the merits of the different licence bids.

The Central Coast Mariners were the first to make their objective known to re-acquire a W-League licence in December 2016.

“The club has been quietly working hard behind the scenes for the last 18 months to understand what a Mariners W-League team will look like,” said Mariners CEO Shaun Mielekamp in the announcement.

“It is with great energy and confidence that today we make the significant step forward on this journey.”

Foundation members of the W-League before withdrawing in 2010, the Mariners have the inside running. The club’s previous participation in the W-League means they have some knowledge of what is required, although it must be noted that their previous squad was administered by Football NSW. Further. with their partnership with the North Shore Mariners, they have an established catchment area to pull in players from.

One of the critical questions in relation to the Mariners is whether a fourth team in NSW is one too many. While NSW might have 45% of women’s football participants, the Mariners catchment area is one that is currently reasonably well serviced with the Newcastle Jets, Sydney FC and Western Sydney Wanderers. Whether their inclusion cannibalise from those three existing teams is a topic of discussion below on the merits of W-League expansion.

Mariners are not the only Australian club with W-League aspirations. Former NSL powerhouses South Melbourne have been slowly putting together the building blocks. Their most recent move has been the acquisition of Matildas co-captain Lisa De Vanna.

“South is a complete football club,” A-League bid director Bill Papastergiadis said. “Investing in the development of women’s program is central to the club’s future blueprint.”

South Melbourne would face a similar problem of a geographical catchment area. It is one that Melbourne Victory and Melbourne City have not really been able to solve. Despite building championship winning squads, City has mainly called on interstate and international players with the majority of Victorian based players finding a home at Victory. Again they would have the question of home growing players or pulling from City, Victory or interstate W-League teams.

South Melbourne have made no formal moves but across the ditch, Wellington Phoenix have made inroads into gaining the required approvals to be in a position to pull together a pitch.

“We’re keen to have one next season. Whether we can pull it round in quite that time we don’t know,” said general manager David Dome in April. “We’re working hard on it and it has to be a collaborative effort with New Zealand Football and there is still stuff to work through there.”

“If we can get it done for the next W-League season that would be fantastic, it might take a little bit longer, but everyone is pushing for it to get done this year.”
Lisa De Vanna in action for South Melbourne in NPLW against Calder United. (Photo: Ashley Perez)

Wellington Phoenix would not raise the player depth question that CCM and South Melbourne pose with the whole of the New Zealand women’s football community available to them.

The introduction of a Phoenix side in the competition would create some interesting logistical problems for the FFA and NZ Football to work through. Currently the longest trip Perth-Brisbane is 3,608.7km (2,242.3 miles) which is already one of the longest domestic flights in women’s football[1]. At 5,261.4km or (3,269.3 miles), the Perth-Wellington travel would eclipse that, bringing with it all the associated costs.

Closer to home the Southern Sydney expansion consortium were next to put up their hand but their offer to enter a team in the upcoming season has already been rejected by the FFA.

“Frankly, we find it hard to understand,” said Southern Expansion’s CEO Chris Gardiner.

“The W-League has a 9-team competition, the A-League a 10-team competition. The FFA says it wants to grow the Women’s game and Southern Expansion is in a position to fund the team, at levels that meets the best benchmarks set by Professional Footballers’ Australia and with a marquee player, but the FFA won’t even discuss the matter.”

The amount of interest in joining the W-League is a positive development also brings to the forefront a number of questions including if and when should the W-League expand?
Central Coast Mariners played two seasons win the W-League (Photo: Getty Images)

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At the conclusion of the 2016/17 W-League season, Professional Footballers Australia released an ambitious blueprint for women’s football in Australia.

A key component of ‘From grassroots to greatness: Roadmap for women’s football’ was the expansion of the W-League to be better aligned with top women’s football leagues in Germany, France, the United States, Sweden and Japan.

For PFA Chief Executive John Didulica, W-League expansion is a positive advancement in the context of building a depth of players to feed through to the national team.

“Within our Grassroots to Greatness document, we are advocates for – at least for the next season – a 10 club competition,” he said.

“I think the advantages that come with that are more opportunities for players, the ability to have more games and obviously avoiding the bye when you have an odd numbered competition.”

“Ultimately the key aim is to create as many playing opportunities as we can and then the reciprocal obligation is to make sure those opportunities are of the highest quality.”

“That then feeds into where we want to get to, which is to be World Champions, Olympic champions and having that real critical mass of high quality players within Australia.”

Didulica’s statements provide a number of points to explore further.

When it comes to W-League expansion, one of the continual questions is in relation to player depth. Namely, does Australia have the player pool to sustain a 10th team? And, subsequently, are there players who are of W-League quality currently missing out on development opportunities due to a lack of squad positions?

“The idea of having a strong league with more teams in to give more competition is a good thing,” said current Melbourne Victory head coach Jeff Hopkins.

Hopkins has been involved in women’s football for over a decade. First with the Queensland Academy of Sport program and then with Brisbane Roar, coaching the club to two W-League championships. The former Welsh international has also been involved in player development including as a former Young Matildas coach.

“Number one [question to expansion] is you have to have the depth of talent there. I think that league is moving forward but I am just not sure if we are right at this moment to dilute it down.”

Currently there are 144 Australian players on W-League rosters with a 10th team resulting in a further 16 Australian players required for the league.

While the past decade has seen beneficial changes at the top tier of women’s football, further down the elite pathway there has been substantial erosion. With Australia’s top players heading overseas before returning home later in the year, the gap between the state leagues and the W-League has slowly increased.

Didluca acknowledges the issue of the gap. It bears out in the information gathered and feedback received from the PFA’s research for their blueprint.

“We certainly accept that as a starting point,” he said. “But if we are going to wait for when we think it’s ready, the horse will have bolted. We really have to be ambitious with how we are positioning the competition.”
North Shore Mariners in action (Photo: Toby Lord/NSM Facebook)

In that Didluca is right. One of the criticisms of Australian football has related to imagination and vision, more precisely, its scarcity.

When the W-League was founded back in 2008, it was off the back of hype from the Matildas first quarter final run at the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup. While women’s football found some traction, it certainly wasn’t as much on the radar as it is now. The ambition and foresight to build a national league has been critical for the visibility of the game and its players.

“I guess that could be an argument,” said Hopkins. “But again I guess we have got to look at the league and ask what are we looking to get out of the league?”

“I think there definitely has got to be an element of player development there but are we looking to put extra teams in just to develop players.”

Hopkins’ question is an existential one. It is a question for which the answer can directly affect which path is taken.

On inception, the W-League was a development league with the ultimate aim to cultivate players for the Matildas. Is that still the key objective?

Hopkins puts forward a proposition that the objective can remain the same but the method of fulfilling that objective can evolve.

In the early days it was experienced Matildas like Dianne Alagich, Joey Peters, Cheryl Salisbury, Kate McShea, Alicia Ferguson, Heather Garriock, Sarah Walsh etc who provided the leadership and mentoring for the next generation of players. Nowadays, it is arguable that the international contingent plays a greater role in that process by virtue of their quality assisting in lifting up the level of play.

“I always thought [the objective] is to provide our players a stage and a platform on the national scene. That’s number one,” said former Football West CEO and Perth Glory Women’s administrator Peter Hugg.

Hugg has been involved in football for over 20 years including as the former CEO of the Australian Women’s Soccer Association.

“Development and the acquisition of the skills and talent, that is number two. As aspirational role models, as promotional and marketing tools for the game, they would be number three.”

Hopkins concurred with Hugg’s assessment of the key objective of the league. He believes – and this writer agrees – that safeguarding the growing reputation of the W-League should be vital. Essentially that means ensuring that the standard of play continues to improve season to season. In this way, the development of the next generation and the continual development of the current Matildas can occur. The two objectives need not be mutually exclusive.

“The W-League has gained respect over the years and we just have got to be a little bit careful about how we want to be seen as a league,” Hopkins continued.

“We have just got to be careful that we don’t take steps backwards with the quality of the league. There is quite a fine balance.”

Conversely John Didulica points to Melbourne City’s entry into the W-League as an example of where expansion can benefit the team as a whole. As Director of Football at City in 2015, Didulica was a key figure in the attainment of a licence and assembling arguably the best squad in the history of the W-League.

“Bringing in a club like a Melbourne City who can apply resources to the competition has helped lift the entire league.”

“I think if we could bring in a 10th team and down the track and 11th and 12th team who do similar things will see the water level of the league to continually rise.”

“That is what we need to do, we need to actually drag the state and the regional levels up with what’s happening at the top rather than wait for that to actually tangibly improve before we take that next step.”

That premise is predicated on the fact that clubs increase resourcing to their W-League teams. That is in an ideal world.

While Canberra United were one of the few teams to come close to their $150,000 salary cap, Melbourne City were the first team to use the full cap allotment.

To put that in context, Perth Glory, under the leadership of Hugg spent $46,000 of their salary cap in Season 7 when they claimed the premiership and made the grand final.

“As much as Melbourne City are to be applauded for their investment, unless everyone comes along and keeps pace with that you will have this runaway team,” said Hugg. “To a certain extent other teams have upped the ante a little bit.”

“Anything that contributes to the players getting more money, staying in the game, to be able to dedicate themselves greater to the game, train better and become more professional, then it is to be applauded.”

The question of resourcing leads to the next W-League expansion discussion point; where are the limited resources best spent?

A former W-League club administrator was blunt on this point.

“Unless FFA commits to a full home and away and there is increased funding for the teams, absolutely not should there be a 10th team next season.”

“It is not a level playing field while there is not a full home and away season.”

The question of a full home and away season has become a contentious one in recent years and the voices to increase the number of games have grown stronger and louder from all spectrums of the women’s football community.

Earlier this month, moments after being crowned the W-League Player of the Year, Sam Kerr was asked about what is required for the W-League to go to the next level.

“A full season of home and away games is what we need,” said Kerr.

“When you look at the top leagues around the world, in the US league where I play, playing week in and week out is so important. The more you play, the more you learn and we need that in the W-League.”

Kerr is not alone in those sentiments. Michelle Heyman, Lisa De Vanna, Ellie Brush, Katrina Gorry are just a number of players to go on the record about a need for a full home and away season. In our survey of 32 players last season, 17 players stated the need for a longer season.

“I think we need to go to full home and away rounds of the competition schedule before we start considering W-League expansion with more teams,” said Hugg.

Hugg is also not alone. Former Canberra United CEO Heather Reid and the coaches of the W-League, on and off the record, have continually voiced this opinion for the past 5 years.

“For me, and the conversations that I am having with other coaches, our main priority would be to make it a full home and away league at the moment to make it more balance,” said Hopkins.

“It’s to keep growing the game and once we have done that I think we can move onto expanding the league.”

The FFA have not been deaf to these calls and an FFA spokesperson provided an indication that it is being evaluated at head office.

“For the Westfield W-League the intention is to expand the number of teams and the length of the season when it is possible to do so in a sustainable way,” they told The Women’s Game.

Sustainability is vital. One of the key lessons learned from the collapse of leagues overseas is going too hard too early can result in significant setbacks to the development of the game in a particular nation. On the other hand, the old adage of “if you are standing still, you are moving backwards” comes to mind.

“FFA is working with the existing clubs on a new operating and ownership model for the Hyundai A-League/Westfield W-League and is planning for expansion as a part of this.”

Again in an ideal world additional clubs or additional rounds shouldn’t be an either/or proposition. However, with the FFA footing the travel bills, tv production costs and providing a stipend to the clubs, the reality is the financial resources are finite.

When you consider that travel costs are approximately $60,000 per round the cost of including a 10th team would be go close to that cost of including an additional four rounds of competition.

“If it’s either/or you definitely have to go home and away,” said the W-League club administrator. “You can’t bring in a 10th team and still have only 12 rounds.”

With whispers of the FFA potentially increasing their stipend to the clubs from $50,000 to $150,000, this adds to the either/or proposition. Unless the federation goes all out and funds a 10th team and goes to a full home and away schedule of 18 games. In this fantasy scenario, the cost would be around $1.5 million.

Interestingly that cost is similar amount that the PFA cited as required to take women’s football to the next stage of success.

“The other key area of focus for the Westfield W-League is an improvement of pay and conditions for players. We will be making an announcement about this in the near future,” the FFA spokesperson concluded.
Melbourne City have proved a successful expansion team (Photo: Ann Odong)

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The arguments for and against expansion are numerous and compelling but whichever aisle you stand in, the position aspect is that these discussions are occurring. That, rather than remaining stagnant, key stakeholders are deliberating a way forward for the women’s game.

“The continuing development of female football, at every level, is a high priority for FFA.”

At a time when women’s football is facing stiff competition from other football codes, as well as a revitalised netball and cricket, serious debate on the direction of the W-League is required if the W-League is to be here for another decade and to serve another generation of players.

For now, we wait.

[1] Seattle Reign and Orlando Pride have the longest domestic travel in women’s football at 4123.8km or 2562.4km

Expanding Horizons: A discussion about the introduction of a 10th W-League team

WLeague – Perth Glory Awards Winners 2016/17 Season

July 19, 2017 By: Penny Category: W League

Tash Rigby 2017 Coaches Award Perth Glory

Bobby Despotovski WLeague Coach of The Year

Sam Kerr Most Glorious Player Re- Signs for Glory

June 11, 2017 By: Penny Category: W League

Top Goals for the 2016/17 WLeague season

June 11, 2017 By: Penny Category: W League

Perth Glory Coaches Awards 2016/17

June 11, 2017 By: Penny Category: W League

Congratulations Natasha Rigby!

What a breakout season it has been for the girl from Margaret River! Tash has won the Prestigious Perth Glory Women Coaches Award for Westfield W-League Season 2016-17.

https://scontent.fper1-1.fna.fbcdn.net/v/t1.0-9/18519833_1414795101912427_1909387750862758070_n.jpg?oh=4ed86749305e5ced6f97dd76560ca385&oe=59A83C88

Sam Kerr’s triumph over tribulation

June 11, 2017 By: Penny Category: W League

Standing in the spotlight, camera lenses pointed in her direction, flashes firing, Sam Kerr grasped a bronzed medallion that carried the weighted of a storied name with a storied history of winners.

Julie Murray, Joanne Peters, Heather Garriock, Lisa De Vanna, Sally Shipard; this was the night that a once precocious teenager officially fulfilled her promise.

“I’ve never really won a major individual award,” said Kerr.

“Obviously this is the highest achievement so it’s a massive honour and I think something I will look back on when I am older and be very proud of.”

Julie Dolan Medalists reunion: Lisa De Vanna, Sam Kerr, Heather Garriock (Photo: Ann Odong)

For nearly a decade, Sam Kerr has been one of the most entertaining and dangerous players in the W-League – in Australian football.

Since bursting onto the scene as a 15 year old – still holding the record for the youngest W-League goal scorer – the pacy winger’s game has matured and developed over time to make her a crucial part of whichever team she lines up for.

Time has also brought consistency with the 2016/17 W-League season arguably her best, resulting in the West Australian earning acclaim from the FFA, media and fans alike.

Darkest before dawn

Kerr’s performances are even more noteworthy when you consider it almost didn’t happen.

“If you had asked me a year ago if I thought I would be playing this year, I probably would have said no,” she stated.

“I was ready to hang the boots up because I wasn’t coping mentally.”

April 2016 saw Kerr continuing what was to be an almost 8 month rehabilitation after rupturing foot ligaments in November 2015.

3C/35F watching training 😨

A post shared by Sam Kerr (@samanthakerr20) on

It was the third serious injury in her career following a knee reconstruction in 2011 and subsequent knee injury in 2014.

While she had successfully returned from the previous setbacks, this time the long layoff mentally played havoc with the Glory captain.

“I’d played 6 months of football in two years,” she said. “It wasn’t worth it really for me to be that down off the field when I wasn’t really playing any football.”

“I remember last year Staj [Matildas coach Alen Stajcic] was giving me all the time I needed and being very understanding but my foot didn’t ever feel like it was getting better.”

Present at the ceremony to recognise her daughter, Kerr’s mother Roxanne played an important role in her daughter’s mental health – especially while she was thousands of miles from home in the United States.

“I had many conversations with my Mum about giving it up.  Obviously it’s very tough because people want you to stay around.”

“It was a bit of a rocky patch and when you haven’t played in 9 months, you kind of doubt your ability and you doubt if it’s really worth it.”

“I really thought about it but I finally got the pain out of my foot and then things started to look up.”

Roxanne Kerr and Sam Kerr (Photo: Ann Odong)

 

Pain free, the 23 year old finally saw glimpses of light at the end of what had been a dark tunnel.  That ray was the Rio 2016 Olympics but there was still one hurdle to overcome.

“Staj gave me an ultimatum,” she remembered.  “I had to play 30 minutes to get picked in the Olympics.”

Kerr’s return to football occurred 222 days after first rupturing her foot ligament and it was a return that provided further clarity about her relationship with football.

“I went on [for Sky Blue FC] and with my first touch I scored a volley.  It was meant to be I think,” she laughed.

“That was my sign that I was meant to keep playing and that kind of just sparked the fire again.”

“When you make it back, you know what it was worth.”

Re-capturing passion

Named captain of her hometown club in 2015, Kerr had little time to acclimatise to the role before it was all halted by that career threatening injury.

Returning to Perth Glory for the 2016/17 season, there was some trepidation after lows of being sidelined for months and the highs of the Rio 2016 Olympics campaign.

However what she found in Glory, and in 2016/17 Coach of the Year Bobby Despotovski, was freedom rather than pressure and expectation.

“Bobby let me play freely and made me realise why I loved the game and why I started playing it in the first place,” said Kerr.

“That’s why I was so grateful for my teammates at Glory this year.  They really picked me out of that hole and made me find my love for the game again.”

Kerr and Perth Glory teammates (L-R) Sarah Carroll, Rosie Sutton, Natasha Rigby and Melissa Maizels (Photo: Ann Odong)

 

Throughout the season Kerr’s high regard for her teammates was palpable.  While she continued to receive praise week after week, the captain regularly diverted attention to her teammates.

It was no different on the night of her greatest individual recognition with Kerr paying tribute to her team.

“It is a reward for our team,” she stated emphatically. “We put in lots of work this year.”

“Honestly everyone in our team deserves a little bit of this medal because I think we worked above and beyond, and finished above and beyond where we probably should have on paper.”

“It is a credit to our team and I am very proud to be a part of the team.”

After the trials of the past two and half years, Kerr’s plans for the future are understandably relatively simple.

“For the next year its just to keep fit. Stay healthy.  That’s my main priority and then hopefully good form will follow.”

“My main priority is America and then W-League and Asian Cup next year.”

All W-League players to be paid after pay deal signed- racap 2016

June 11, 2017 By: Penny Category: W League

 http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/sport/swoop/all-wleague-players-to-be-paid-after-pay-deal-signed/news-story/0e20ea4120081050d0b9ef387c30c7fb
October 24, 2016
THE W-League will take baby steps towards professionalism this season, with a new pay deal confirming that all players are recompensed for the first time. Australia’s national women’s soccer league has been criticised for using amateur players without paying them.

In an era of growing prominence and respect for women’s sport, it was an untenable position and will end in the 2016/17 competition, which starts in a fortnight.

Amateur players will now receive an allowance in line with male National Youth League (NYL) and state competitions – between $60 and $150 a week. Professional Footballers Australia (PFA) chief John Didulica said the move wasn’t going to turn national league players into professionals overnight, but it was something.

“Symbolically it’s important to recognise the sacrifices W-League players make, so the small step forward of having a safety net on par with NYL players is a move in the right direction,” he said.

Melbourne City players celebrate scoring against Sydney FC in last season’s W-League grand final.

“The big challenge for the sport is to build a cohesive and expanded professional pathway that will enable international success and the W-League to be the jewel in the crown of women’s sport.” League bosses and PFA will attempt to do just that in the coming weeks, when they begin broad-ranging talks on growing and strengthening the competition. Improved pay is seen as crucial to continuing the success of the national team, the Matildas, by ensuring a strong talent pool of players available for selection.

Cricket and netball have vastly improved wages to their female athletes in recent months, with the forthcoming AFL women’s league bringing more competition for elite talent.

W-League clubs have been heavily encouraged by head office to spend more of their salary allowance – set at a minimum of $35,000 and a maximum of $150,000 – on players.

By comparison, A-League clubs are obliged to spend at least $2.34 million on their squads – 67 times more than their female counterparts. Melbourne City and Canberra United are the only two W-League clubs which hit or near the maximum spend.

Two-time champions Brisbane Roar drew ire for offering their players improved deals for this season – then flirted with a 40 per cent reduction – only to honour their wage rises.

The league kicks off on November 5 when Brisbane Roar host Sydney FC.

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WLeague Golden Boot Ashleigh Sykes

June 11, 2017 By: Penny Category: W League

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WLeague Player of the Year 2016/17 Sam Kerr

June 11, 2017 By: Penny Category: W League

Juli Dolan Medal winnner

PENNY TANNER MEDIA MVP AWARD | For the second time Perth Glory Women captain Samantha Kerr has been voted by media members as the Most Valuable Player.

Kerr lead the Glory with 10 goals, 4 assists, led the competition in shots on goal and created 38 chances.

VOTES: Kerr (8), Lydia Williams (3), Jess Fishlock (3), Ashleigh Sykes (1), Sofia Huerta (1)