That Canberra United and their highly talented roster missed out on last year’s finals spoke volumes for the rapidly-increasing quality and depth of the Westfield W-League.
The team from the nation’s capital won their maiden title in style in 2012 but, despite retaining many of their championship personnel, they were edged out of a top-four finish last season.
A couple of key figures from that storied championship win have since departed, namely German Women’s World Cup-winner Ariane Hingst, teenage attacking tyro Hayley Raso, defensive cornerstone Caitlin Cooper, and perhaps most significantly, popular Czech coach Jitka Klimkova.
It is a notable list certainly, but the list of incomings is perhaps even more impressive.
Leading the way is another well-credentialed European coach in the shape of Liesbeth Migchelsen, a former long-serving member of the Netherlands national team.
Six new players will line up for Canberra led by American trio Stephanie Ochs, Kendall Fletcher and Lori Lindsey, joined by Matildas goalkeeper Lydia Williams who missed the last campaign through injury.
It is an impressive quartet and yet another sign of the ability of the Westfield W-League to attract international players from the globe’s top tier.
Midfielder Fletcher has runs on the board in the league having performed with distinction at Central Coast Mariners, and more recently Melbourne Victory.
Ochs, an USA U-23 international, recently completed the maiden season of the NWSL collecting more appearances than any other player at Washington Spirit.
Lindsey is perhaps the jewel in United’s impressive crown. A veteran of 31 caps for world No1 USA, including an appearance at the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup, Lindsey will add class and bite to the Canberra midfield.
Less eulogised, but perhaps an equally important part of the equation is the return of Williams in goal. The Matildas shot-stopper was a massive, albeit partly unheralded, part of the 2012 success story, only to suffer a torn knee ligament and miss last season in its entirety. Known for her commitment and work ethic, Williams spent the best part of a year in Sweden in order to aid her recuperation.
Filling out the new contingent are Young Matildas player Meg McLaughlin and 24-year-old Queensland-based defender Holly Houston.
The impressive recruiting adds to a core group of players that have been donning the Green with success for years.
Caitlin Munoz, Ellie Brush, Sally Shipard, Jenni Bissett and the Sykes twins, Ashleigh and Nicole, are among some of the key personnel backing up for another year, all of whom would complement any team in the league.
''The squad is really strong,” said Migchelsen, “My expectation is to reach the play-offs and then we will see what it brings.”
Lydia Williams (Pitea, Sweden)
Kendall Fletcher (Vittsjo, Sweden)
Meg McLaughlin (Canberra Olympic)
Lori Lindsey (Washington Spirit, USA)
Stephanie Ochs (Washington Spirit, USA)
Holly Houston (Redlands United, Brisbane)
Mackenzie Arnold (Western Sydney Wanderers)
Caitlin Cooper (Western Sydney Wanderers)
Kristen Mewis (Kansas City)
Hayley Raso (Brisbane Roar)
Christine Walters (work commitments)
Nikki Washington (Portland Thorns)
Samantha Wood (Canberra FC)
Snez Veljanovska (Training agreement)