Updated: Sep 12, 2021
City have made some real feel-good signings in defence this season, starting with the announcement of club champion Rebekah Stott’s return to Melbourne after successfully battling Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. The 28-year-old central defender played an integral role in securing City’s four W-League championships and will bring world-class quality to our defensive unit in Season 2021/22.
Continuing the feel-good theme was the re-signings of exciting youngsters Naomi Chinnama, Tori Tumeth and Chelsea Blissett. Whilst the latter will be making her long-awaited return to professional football following an unfortunate ACL injury in 2020, the former two were rare bright sparks who excited fans in an otherwise underwhelming 2020/21 campaign.
At just 16 years old, Chinnama made her W-League debut coming off the bench against Sydney FC in February earlier this year and went on to start the remainder of City’s fixtures. We remarked last season that Chinnama’s performances were unique in that central defensive positions are often associated with experience and composure, yet the youngster seemed to excel there regardless – a credit to her talent and mental fortitude.
Another of last season’s surprise packets, 20-year-old Tumeth caught the eye with her performances in multiple positions across the defensive unit, with her ever-present energy and willingness to attack from the right flank demonstrating her obvious potential in a promising inaugural campaign.
Tumeth faces stiff competition for her spot at right wing-back, however, with City also announcing the acquisition of former Brisbane Roar defender Kaitlyn Torpey. The energetic fullback featured consistently for last season’s second-placed side and has Matildas aspirations as she looks to work on her game as a wing-back to align herself with Tony Gustavsson’s preferred national team formation.
In one of the bigger coups of the pre-season thus far, the club confirmed that Emma Checker would be returning for another season with City, with the Matilda also set to take the captain’s armband for a second consecutive campaign.
Rhianna Pollicina represents a signing with ‘X-Factor’, according to The Inner Sanctum’s Kieran Yap, who notes the 24-year-old’s ability to dribble past opposition players to create opportunities for her teammates. Described by City as a playmaking midfielder, Pollicina is also adept at operating deeper or playing even further forward and making runs beyond the opposition defence. The first female player to reach 100 goals in New South Wales’ top indoor futsal competition, Pollicina has carried this goalscoring form into the W-League, scoring twice for Newcastle Jets last season on the way to taking out the club’s Player of the Year award.
City’s midfield is also likely to include Leah Davidson, who featured heavily last season and started all 12 fixtures. The hard-working midfielder didn’t exactly excel in City’s dysfunctional system amidst a difficult campaign overall, but the youngster held her own – even winning the Coach’s Award – and gained valuable top-flight experience that will hopefully help her to flourish in the upcoming campaign.
Probably City’s most intriguing new signing thus far, veteran Football Fern Hannah Wilkinson is a welcome addition to the squad given our lack of a prolific number nine last season. The team struggled for goals in a season where our only recognised striker, Harriet Withers, was consistently played out of position, leaving the side without a presence up top.
That issue has been resolved early in the pre-season this time around, with Wilkinson boasting a resume full of European and national team experience. With stints in Sweden, Portugal and Germany, Wilkinson has a knack for finding the back of the net even in some of the world’s most competitive leagues. Known for her aerial prowess and clinical finishing, the 29-year-old has recorded 26 goals in 100 senior national team appearances for New Zealand.
Early squad overview
With just nine players on the books for Season 2021/22, the squad quite obviously has plenty of time to take shape over the coming weeks and months. That said, if City are serious about returning to our incredibly high standards for women’s football, then there’s plenty of work to be done in order to return to the summit.
Aside from addressing some of the obvious holes in the current squad (no wingers or goalkeepers yet and more midfield depth needed), our upcoming signings will need to add some experience to complement our youthful core – and if we’re to speculate, that seems like the plan.
In Stott and Wilkinson, we have two Football Fern veterans and a leader in Checker, but the majority of our ‘signings’ seem to have been the locking in of talented youngsters already familiar with the City system on multi-season contracts (Tumeth, Chinnama, Blissett, Davidson).
While Torpey and Pollicina bring first-team quality, they are still quite young at 21 and 24 respectively.
Overall, the squad has a youthful base with a solid – though improvable – defensive unit already available (there are likely to be lesser defences than Blissett, Stott, Checker, Tumeth/Chinnama and Tumeth/Torpey this season).
The foundations are there early in pre-season; it's our recruitment from this point that will determine how high we can climb.