The usual benchmark of walking the league and adding another W-League trophy to the City cabinet looks to have been thrown out the window this season, with the City girls never having faced a challenge like the campaign ahead.
Losing almost all of our Matildas and star international recruits, a rejuvenated crop of City players will be guided by Rado Vidosic towards what would be our most special achievement yet should the side get anywhere near another Grand Final appearance.
In a season – and year – where everything has been turned upside down and predictions have never been more difficult to make, here is Talking City’s preview of the 2020/21 W-League season.
Ironically, it might take this upcoming season for City fans to realise just how fortunate we’ve been over the past handful of years to have such a consistently incredible squad.
In 2019/20, a City side stacked with Matildas completed its second undefeated W-League season, going on to down Sydney 1-0 in the Grand Final thanks to a plucky Steph Catley strike.
Emily van Egmond lead City’s goalscorers with 6, whilst Ellie Carpenter took out the honours as City’s Player of the Year.
Goalkeepers – Teagan Micah, Melissa Barbieri
Defenders – Emma Checker, Samantha Johnson, Jenna McCormick, Julia Sardo, Teigen Allen, Tori Tumeth, Tyla-Jay Vlajnic, Chelsea Blissett (out for season)
Midfielders – Chinatsu Kira, Leah Davidson, Hollie Palmer, Sofia Sakalis,
Forwards – Rhali Dobson
Proposed Best XI:
Checker – Johnson – Tumeth
Vlajnic – Sardo – Palmer – McCormick – Allen
Dobson – Kira
City 3-3 Victory (Lots of train-on players involved)
The big names
It’s an unrecognisable squad to recent years but City have done well to secure some big names thanks to its renowned professionalism and elite facilities made available to aspiring players.
Emma Checker and Jenna McCormick are City’s undoubted headliners, with the Matildas defensive duo likely to adopt mentor/leader roles in addition to their on-field responsibility of keeping the City backline organised in 2020/21.
There’s a lot of weight on McCormick’s shoulders in particular as fans may see her play a fair chunk of time in midfield to supplement what looks set to be a very youthful and inexperienced centre of the park.
Samantha Johnson and Chinatsu Kira, an American defender and a Japanese attacking-midfielder respectively, are the club’s international recruits this year and arrive in Melbourne offering the highly-valued commodities of quality and experience.
Kira finds herself under a lot of pressure to contribute heavily to the team’s offensive output and, given City’s lack of an out-and-out striker, may wind up as a false nine or makeshift striker.
Talking City’s One to Watch – Tori Tumeth
If there’s one benefit to losing nearly all of our Matildas in the space of a single off-season, plus the double-whammy of COVID and all its various impacts, it’s that we’re set to see plenty of game time afforded to exciting young talents like Tori Tumeth.
Though Tumeth hasn’t made her W-League breakthrough yet, she’s highly regarded around the country as one of the up-and-coming talents and has featured prominently for City at centre-back throughout the pre-season.
In 2020, Tumeth – a former Junior Matildas captain – was part of the Sydney University NPLW side that conceded just three goals and kept nine clean sheets in a season where they topped the table but ultimately fell short in the Grand Final in a 2-1 loss to Manly United.
Tumeth’s background in futsal and junior development as a midfielder means that the 19-year-old is more than comfortable on the ball and can operate either as a ball-playing defender or move up into the midfield, the latter of which may occur frequently this year.
Tumeth’s versatility alone is likely to see her get plenty of minutes – whether or not she actually starts given our stacked backline – but fans really should get excited about this young prospect and her opportunity to explode onto the W-League scene at City in 2020/21.
On the rise (U21) – Hollie Palmer
At just 19 years of age, Holly Palmer has already racked up two full W-League campaigns with Brisbane Roar, having made 27 appearances in total for the Queensland side.
You could argue Palmer has already had her breakout season (hence why we’ve not picked her for the OTW), having scored twice and assisted three times in the 2019/20 season in which she was named as the February Young Player of the Year nominee.
Samantha Lewis, who earlier today named Palmer as one of the competition’s top young prospects, describes Palmer as a dynamic box-to-box midfielder, perhaps evidenced by both her considerable 14 key passes and formidable tackle success rate of 90.9% (10/11).
Palmer looks likely to have a spot in midfield comfortably wrapped up despite competition from Leah Davidson and the versatility of defenders Jenna McCormick, Tori Tumeth and Julia Sardo, and should look to build on previous seasons to establish herself as the competition’s top young midfielder.
How you can get involved:
It’s a little hard to read into the W-League fixture too much, with only the first five matches locked-in following recent COVID developments in Australia.
The City senior teams will open their respective seasons with a double-header against Brisbane Roar, with both matches viewable on Foxtel and Kayo, making for a brilliant way to spend your Tuesday evening.
The City girls will be relocating to Dandenong’s Frank Holohan Reserve for home fixtures this year and will be kicking their new residency off with a massive home Melbourne Derby on Sunday January 10 at 4pm. Just four days later they’ll be returning for ‘Hersday’ night action at home against Adelaide United on January 14th at 7pm.
Regardless of what the final fixture looks like, you’ll be able to catch EVERY W-League game of the season via TV broadcasters and streaming services.
FOX Sports are set to broadcast at least 27 regular-season games and the entire Finals series, while ABC Sport will be broadcasting Sunday afternoon fixtures and Finals. ALL matches can be streamed live on Kayo Sports and the MyFootball Live app.
City’s W-League campaign kicks off away to Brisbane Roar at 4:30pm on Tuesday, December 29.