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2022-23 Melbourne City A-League Women's season preview

After a season of renewed hope in which City re-established itself as one of the premier forces in Australian women's football, the challenge is back on for Rado Vidosic and his squad to return to the summit in 2022/23.

The City Head Coach returns for his fifth season at the helm and will be looking to get his team playing the same brand of exciting, attacking football that brought it so much success last season.

With City's first fixture in the new campaign now just days away, here is how the team is shaping up heading into 2022/23:

Photo: Andrew Wiseman (@wisemansports)

Last season:

Record: 11-0-3

Finish: 2nd

Following the disappointment of 2020/21, few would have anticipated the 360-degree turnaround that Vidosic was able to muster from his revitalised squad just a year later.

2021/22 became a truly remarkable campaign headlined by the exhilarating attacking performances of deadly trio Hannah Wilkinson, Holly McNamara and Rhianna Pollicina, who collectively contributed 24 goals and nine assists.

Highlights included 5-1 and 4-0 thrashings of the Victory and Phoenix in consecutive weeks, and though Vidosic's side failed to capitalise on a slip-up from Sydney FC that briefly saw our Premiership destiny in our own hands (until a disappointing loss against Brisbane put the Sky Blues back in front), the campaign's positives far outweighed its rare negatives overall.

Season 2022/23:

Full squad:

Goalkeepers: Melissa Barbieri, Sally James

Defenders: Katie Bowen, Chelsea Blissett, Emma Checker, Naomi Chinnama, Julia Grosso, Karly Roestbakken, Kaitlyn Torpey, Tori Tumeth*

Midfielders: Isabella Accardo, Leah Davidson, Daniela Galic, Darcey Malone, Leticia McKenna, Rhianna Pollicina

Forwards: Emina Ekic, Bryleeh Henry, Caitlyn Karic, Holly McNamara*, Maria Jose Rojas**, Hannah Wilkinson*

*Will miss the early stages of the season

**Signed on an injury-replacement contract until the end of December

Best XI:


Checker - Roestbakken - Chinnama*

Torpey - Bowen - Davidson - Blissett


Rojas* - Henry*

*Expect Tumeth, Wilkinson and McNamara to be the first-choice candidates for these positions once fit.

Alternatively, Bowen might be moved into the back three alongside Checker and Roestbakken if Vidosic feels he can achieve a sufficient midfield balance with Davidson as our deepest, Pollicina as our most advanced, and a player who compensates for the defensive discrepancy between Bowen and Davidson as the #6 whilst still contributing to our build-up play.

Pre-season form

  1. Melbourne City 2-3 Melbourne Victory

  • Pollicina x2

  1. Melbourne City 0-3 Western United

One to watch: Holly McNamara

With all the hype around Garang Kuol and his meteoric rise in recent months, it's easy to make a very similar comparison to the 2021/22 campaign of then-18-year-old Holly McNamara.

In just eight appearances and 655 minutes, McNamara scored four goals and assisted three times - a contribution every 93 minutes. It was this form that saw her catapulted into the Matildas squad for the 2022 Asian Cup, where she made her debut against Indonesia.

An ACL injury prematurely ended her season (and destabilised City's campaign as a whole), but all eyes will be on the youngster when she returns to action (presumably around the New Year period) and plays for her spot at the 2023 World Cup.

Photo: Andrew Wiseman (@wisemansports)

On the rise (U21): Sally James

Another whose 2021/22 campaign was brought undone by a long-term injury, Sally James missed the first two-thirds of the season last year, leaving Melissa Barbieri to put on some league-best goalkeeping performances in her absence that made it difficult to break back into the team.

It's a new season, though, and a fully-fit James now stands every chance of earning City's #1 jersey as a 42-year-old Barbieri prepares to hand the reins over to her teenage shot-stopping counterpart.

James wouldn't just be getting handed the first-choice goalkeeping role either; she's a top Australian prospect who has long excelled with the Young Matildas but has just had her key developmental years halted by injury at both City and previously Canberra United.

2022/23 looms as the season that James finally establishes herself as the No.1 and enjoys her breakout season at A-League Women's level.

Under pressure: Emma Checker

Woah, woah, woah, put down your pitchfork! Let me explain:

We'll start with the fact that after such a great season last year, there are few players that head into 2022/23 under genuine pressure to perform. Whilst there are others who face positional competition and are potentially playing for a contract renewal, Checker's predicament is unique - she'll actually be wanting to play so well that she's not playing at City next season.

Aside from the obvious pressure of trying to break into the Matildas' 2023 World Cup squad which will compete on home soil, Checker could also be gunning for a high-profile European move by season's end. At 26 years of age, the central defender is in her prime. When she last experimented with a long-term move away from Australia, Checker ended up in Japan, an experience which presumably didn't pan out as well as she'd hoped, given that was when she decided to sign with City in 2019.

Since then, Checker has filled her A-League Women's off-seasons with three consecutive shorter-term moves to Europe's more unglamorous destinations: a bottom-feeder in the French top-flight, followed by the Icelandic and Swedish first divisions.

In her final contracted season at City, Checker would hope that a standout defensive campaign would lead to involvement in the World Cup for Australia, which could in turn eventuate into a move to the English Women's Super League or to a top-half team in France, Spain, Germany or Italy.

Key to a successful season

Managing the impact of early injuries

City fans have already witnessed the effect that a significant injury to just one player can have on the team following McNamara's ACL earlier this year, and we'll be keen to avoid seeing Season 2022/23 become another derailed by injury to key players.

We've not got off to a good start, with McNamara's rehabilitation keeping her out for at least the first few weeks, an off-season ACL ruling Tumeth out for the majority of the season, and today's news that Wilkinson will miss the remainder of 2022 with a quad injury.

Fortunately, City has recruited well in terms of attacking depth, and even before this morning's announcement of Chilean international and ALW veteran Maria 'Cote' Rojas on an injury-replacement contract.

Though a probable front three of Rojas, Henry and Pollicina is still a very competitive one on paper, it's a very different trio to that which was so effective in 2021/22, and it's vital that Vidosic has his strike force firing early in the new campaign.

Elsewhere, it's unusual to say that City is actually a little light on defensive depth this season, whilst our midfield - outside of Bowen and Pollicina - is very young.

Vidosic may be fortunate to have such a quality squad at his disposal, but with so many injuries to key players from last season, it will be a challenge to have his new first XI gel and make a strong start to the new camp

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