Manly United FC women’s first grade season preview
By Chris Curulli
Coach Chris Williams is not sure exactly what to expect when Manly United travel to Jensen Park to face Bankstown City in their first National Premier Leagues NSW women’s fixture of the 2020 campaign.
Last season the club missed out on the finals football for the first time in five years and will hope to return to winning ways this time around.
But after seven years as boss, Williams has relished the challenge of rebuilding his squad after some key players departed in 2018.
“Despite the results last year was probably one of my more enjoyable seasons,” the Manly coach reflected.
“We learnt a lot, had a great group and it was always going to be tough losing the amount of senior players as we did.
“Saying that, it gave a chance for some young players to learn what first grade and NPL is all about.
“This year we’ve kept our core group of players with another year under their belt and we’ve been able to get some really exciting recruits to come to the club.
“I’m hoping that the season is going to be much better than last.”
The “exciting recruits” mentioned by Williams include “technically gifted” attacking midfielder Naoko Wada, who represented Japan at the Under 17 and 20 World Cups and has plied her trade in the Nadeshiko League Division 1 since 2012.
The club have also signed a trio of Newcastle Jets that will provide reinforcements all over the pitch: clinical striker Tara Andrews, box-to-box midfielder Libby Copus-Brown and Newcastle’s club captain, defender Cassidy Davis.
Manly also have a handful of players returning with another season of W-League experience including Ally Green, Nicole Simonsen and Sophie Nenadovic.
After injury halted their momentum last time out, Sunny Franco and Ruby Jackson have a full pre-season under their belts and are also set to play instrumental roles.
With the W-League regular season only wrapping up last week, a host of clubs including Manly United will be without some of their stars during the opening rounds of the season.
But Williams believes he has assembled a squad capable of surprising many.
“A lot of our W-League players will only start playing this week with us and a couple will come back in after rounds one, two or three,” he announced.
“But it’s been a really enjoyable preseason for the majority of the group.
“They have worked really hard, we’ve slightly tweaked some of our processes in the way we play, and the players have really bought into it.
“Everyone’s looking forward to getting the season going on Sunday.”
There were goals aplenty when Bankstown City and Manly United took to the pitch last season with the Lions coming up trumps on both occasions including a breathless 4-3 win at Cromer Park in round four.
With all considered, an intriguing contest is set to unfold on Sunday.
“The first round of the season is always a funny one – you don’t know what to expect,” Williams said.
“Everyone’s a bit cagey, bedding in new styles with new players, so we just need to make sure that we work hard and put into practice what we worked on in preseason.
“I know the girls would love to get three points off Bankstown after last year but I’ve told them last year’s the past and it’s time to live in the future.
“Saying that hopefully we can go there and get three points.”
Kick off at Jensen Park this Sunday is at 3pm, before Manly United return home for their first fixture at Cromer Park against Macarthur Rams the following Sunday 15th March.