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The best league in the land

The victors

New Zealand’s coolest football competition (in my book) kicks off on Sunday! The National Women’s league boasts the cream of the crop from those who play domestically in a football nation ranked 18th in the world by FIFA.

That’s us, in case you were wondering!

But having said how much I love it, on numerous occasions, after a few seasons of being an ever evolving league that keeps getting better and better, this year we could be set to witness a slight regression. The Under 20s will only be taking a very limited part, with their World Cup being on in Papua New Guinea – so that takes out a lot of quality players.

There won’t be a NZ Development team for the first time in a few years and that means there will only be seven teams taking part – byes for everyone!

The worst part about that is, with only two Auckland teams, there will be none of the Auckland double headers that were a big part of making the last couple of years so enjoyable for me. And while I will have fewer games to enjoy, at least I won’t have my wings clipped quite as much as people in other centres, some of whom will only get three games to watch in total!

But enough complaining. There’s still plenty of good quality football to look forward to! Here’s how it’s shaping up:

Northern

The champions!

2015 finish: First

2016 prediction: First. It says a lot when these guys will only have five players from last year still wearing the pink and black but, despite that, they still look like favourites to go back to back. Sure, they have lost some good players, but the nucleus of their title winning side is still there and just look at those reinforcements! Age group internationals aplenty. Be afraid.

Player to watch: CJ Bott – tough call between Bott and goal machine Katie Rood, but I’m going for CJ because of her effectiveness at both ends of the pitch – both as a fierce ‘take no prisoners’ defender and a barnstorming ‘get out of my f***ing way’ attacker as well.

In: Anna Leat, Claudia Bunge, Saskia Vosper, Malia Steinmetz, Emma Turnbull, Catherine Pretty, Libby Boobyer, Kate Loye, Sam Tawharu, Jane Barnett, Cara Lonergan, Arabella Maynard, Vegas McCaroll, Aneka Mittendorff, Dayna Stevens, Leah Botica, Liz Milne

Out: Erin Nayler, Corina Brown, Emily Couchman, Estelle Harrison, Chloe Wilson, Kate Seatter, Brittany Coleman, Rebecca Burrows, Daisy Cleverley, Hannah Carlsen, Evie Millynn, Jessica Innes, Milly Hawkins, Brooke Wielenga, Emma Rolston, Aimee Phillips, Emily Oosterhof, Belinda Van Noorden, Tayla O’Brien

Staying put: CJ Bott, Nicole Stratford, Tessa Berger, Katie Rood, Stacey Hallford

Coach’s comment: “There are 3 things which we have looked to incorporate into the women’s program.

  • Identification Process: Both NFF & AFF have agreed in principle to a new process of selecting players moving forward.
  • Internal Succession Planning: With regard to coaching/Administration staff attached to the squad.
  • Clear Link with the National program: Due to NFF’s demographic working closely with NZ Football’s ferns program to support players playing in our region.

We will certainly be doing everything we can to retain the NWL championship however there are also other long term objectives which we need to be taken into consideration.” – Korouch Monsef

Auckland

Trowill celebrates her goal

2015 finish: Fourth

2016 prediction: Third. A very solid looking squad from Auckland, who have been struggling a bit in recent years but with the size of their catchment that can’t last forever… Word is they have been struggling a bit up front in pre-season but if they can sort that the semi-finals should be well within their reach.

Player to watch: Jacqui Hand – fresh off the plane from the Under 17 World Cup, one of the stars of the Northern League may well feel she has a point to prove after missing out on the Under 20 squad named this week.

In: Kaitlyn Savage, Georgia Martin, Leah Mettam, Ally Toailoa, Harriet Steele, Emily Cooper, Jess Philpot, Dayna Manak, Evie Millynn, Monique Fischer, Nicole Mettam, Alosi Bloomfield, Milly McWhirter, Britney Cunningham-Lee, Tessa Leong, Annie Byrne, Ashleigh Emery, Jacqui Hand

Out: Elizabeth Anton, Jess Verdon, Rebekah van Dort, Erinna Wong, Shivanthi Anthony, Jasmine Pereira, Hayley Bowden, Maxine Rawnsley, Megan Robertson, Caitlin Pritchard, Rebecca Rolls, Jade Parris, Jessica Snell, Sophie Stewart-Hobbs, Hanna English, Courtney Napa, Jolene Muir, Lauren Mathis

Staying put: Nadia Pearl, Deven Jackson, Maisy Dewell, Hannah Kraakman, Bella Richards, Jenna Dodd

Coach’s Comment: “We’ve been really happy with the way our Auckland NRFL players have trained right from the first session and we expect contributions from the whole group to underpin our campaign. We get a late boost with several players coming into the squad after the U-17 World Cup and integrating them will be one of our areas of focus in the next week while we continue to bed in our playing model with the group. Although it’s only been a few weeks, it feels like we’ve been working for quite a while and everyone is excited to get underway on Sunday with the challenge of the Mainland.” – Tracey Wrigley

WaiBOP

Nancy Campbell trying to chase down Helen Collins

2015 finish: Fifth

2016 prediction: Fifth. The more things change, the more they stay the same as the old saying goes… Whether or not WaiBOP can move up the table probably comes down to how they go against Capital in their opening game. Win that, and fourth could be theirs and a semi-final place might not even be totally out of the question…

Player to watch: Helen Arjomandi – it’s a massive boost for WaiBOP that they have managed to coax Helen Arjomandi (nee Collins) back into playing again after a long break. Not only will her goals be invaluable (pencil her in for the golden boot now) but the wealth of experience she brings will be great for helping the younger players around her to learn and grow.

In: Amanda Wilshier, Michaela Foster, Kate Williams, Serena Murrihy, Hannah Reid, Michaela Clark, Naomi-Courtney-Tennent, Sarah Krystman, Theresa Rhein, Helen Arjomandi, Ella Golding, Maxine Rawnsley, Kim Maguire

Out: Tiana Hill, Kate Carlton, Tessa Leong, Tayla Christensen, Isabella Coombes, Eileish Hayes, Kate Loye, Keri O’Connell, Paige Satchell, Bee Witt, Ashleigh McNaughton, Shae Brady, Lauren Henry, Jacinta Coleman, Danaya McKenzie, Caramia Ali

Staying put:, Georgia Williams, Georgia Candy, Kat Robinson, Helen Talbot, Emma Cawte, Leanna Ryan, Chelsea Elloitt, Leah Gubb

Coach’s comment: “We are happy with the squad we have assembled, we believe we have a good blend of youth and experience within the group.  We will aim to play with passion and spirit in each match and the girls have been working hard at trainings to understand the tactical approaches we want to use within the games.” – Barry Gardiner

Central

Ashley Arquette closed down by Tessa Nichol

2015 finish: Seventh

2016 prediction: Sixth. It looks like it could be another tough year for Central with a number of key players missing from a squad that struggled to compete as they were in 2015. I do hope, however, that some of the new names below can prove me wrong.

Player to watch: Amber Phillips – the age group international defender is an important player now and will have a big part to play in shoring up the defence of a team that shipped three goals per game, on average, last season.

In: Mackenzie Barry, Jenna Barry, Aoife Gallagher-Forbes, Renee Holmes, Tilly James, Brooke Wyllie, Trojan Lyne-Lewis

Out: Sophie Hoare, Nicole Sarten, Ashley Arquette, Jane Barnett, Nancy Campbell, Karin Ingram, Sarah Morton, Siobhan Patterson, Catherine Pretty, Imo Bos, Katherine St Louis, Hadley Hudson

Staying put: Kate Bennett, Mikaela Boxall, Emma Crewe, Rose Morton, Jamie Paterson, Amber Phillips, Hannah Robert, Peta Van Hattum, Gorgi Van Lienen, Mykylah Wilson, Molly Woodhead, Ella James

Coach’s comment: “Pre-season has gone very well and has taken place over 4 weekend camps, different style than others but for Central this is the best and most effective way to get the 2016 group together. We have a lot of new & young faces to national women’s football, but not to Central Football as all have progressed through our federation talent centre programme for the last 4+ years. This group is an exciting group with some added experience to complement the group well.” – Matt Kilsby

Capital

Briar Palmer

2015 finish: Sixth

2016 prediction: Fourth. I’m picking Capital to be a big mover in 2016, simply because they have a relatively settled squad compared to the big changes we have seen from some of the others. They are also looking forward to the return home of star player Briar Palmer after a spell up North and in Australia.

Player to watch: Briar Palmer – a lot rests on her young but oh so talented shoulders. If she can fire up and have a big impact then Capital can do quite well. On the other hand if she’s off her game, they could struggle for cut-through. No pressure then!

In: Anna Wittmann-Wenzel, Samantha Kendrick, Danielle Turton, Maya Hahn, Nicole Baird, Sarah Marsden, Briar Palmer, Grace Surridge, Hannah Wignall

Out: Cushla Lichtwark, Serena Murrihy, Hope Gilchrist, Olivia De Ronde, Bonnie Jansen, Kenzy Cooper, Jemma Robertson, Becky Stewart

Staying put: Natasha Ingram, Ella Wilson, Emma Lavery, Francesca Grange, Katie Barrott, Mikaela Hunt, Tessa McPherson, Asha Strom, Jayme-Lee Hunter, Kennedy Bryant, Maggie Jenkins, Lena de Ronde, Emily Morison, Emma Main, Michaela Robertson

Coach’s comment: We are looking forward to getting the campaign started this weekend in Hamilton.  WaiBOP has a strong squad again this year, including former Football Fern Helen Arjomandi, who will be one for our players to watch. For us the focus is about building on our preseason games.  The team has a great feel about it this year.  We are pleased to have our U17 players back from Jordan, added to that the experience of players such as Katie Barrott, Briar Palmer, Michaela Robertson and Tessa McPherson we believe we have a strong foundation for this year. We also have some exciting new talent in the team, players such as Maya Hahn and Dani Turton will add some additional flair in the midfield.” – Emma Evans and Sam Morrissey

Canterbury

Alfeld and team looking rapt

2015 finish: Second

2016 prediction: Second. Another year, another formidable looking team from the Pride. A few good players gone, but on the other side of the ledger it’s great to see Aimee Phillips back from Auckland and poised to inflict some serious damage up front for her home province. Along with Northern they are one of two sides that are ahead of the rest on paper at least. They should make the final and, as we have seen before, once they get there they are more than capable of getting a result on the day!

Player to watch: Annalie Longo – in my mind the best player in the league by miles and miles and miles. A sublime creative midfielder who, as Neil Emblen would say, is quite simply better than the level. There’s no ifs, buts or maybes about it – ‘Flea’ will be immense for Canterbury United and she will power them towards a strong placing.

In: Hannah Hegarty, Jordan Woodward, Tahlia Herman-Watt, Kayla Thomas, Meike van der Meer, Sophie Williams, Macey Fraser, Ariana Whittington, Tiana Williams, Aimee Phillips, Holly Pascoe, Gabrielle Rennie, Arna Roberts

Out: Briar Guyan, Una Foyle, Rebecca Gillett, Chloe Jones, Geena Gross, Johanna Hamblett, Megan Shea, Emma Proctor, Olivia Smith, Chloe Webster, Monique Barker, Gabrielle Brodie, Emma Fellowes

Staying put: Victoria Esson, Emma Clarke, Lee Moate-Cox, Rebecca Lake, Meikayla Moore*, Ash Ward, Lily Bray, Whitney Hepburn, Annalie Longo, Mikayla Wieblitz*, Britneylee Nicholson

* Selected for the U20 World Cup, so won’t be playing much of a part here

Coach’s comment: “We are really excited with the makeup of this year’s NWL squad. It has a good blend of experience with Pride stalwarts the likes of Victoria Esson, Annalie Longo, Whitney Hepburn and Ashleigh Ward as well as the returning Aimee Philips mixed with some exciting young talent. Having the likes of Philips wanting to return to Canterbury, proves we have the program and structures in place to provide our players the best chance of developing to the level where they can push for national selection. Having up to four National Reps away will give some other players motivation to fight for spots within the game day 16, which in any other year may not have been there.” – Mike De Bono

South

Annie Gilchrist

2015 finish: Eighth

2016 prediction: Seventh. South finished bottom of this league last year and have done so every pervious year that it was run as the National Women’s Youth League. Averaging one point per season over the past six years, it would take a brave person to predict a higher finish this time around. As a lover of all good underdogs, I do hold out some hope they can sneak above Central, but they will have to beat them in Palmerston North to do it.

Player to watch: Maryann Cant. An energetic box-to-box midfielder who will be called upon to create and score a goal or two if South are to be competitive.

In: Katreena Drake, Rachel Christie, Catlin Taylor-Lynch, Olivia de Ronde, Stephanie Lee, Tabitha Seaton, Jessica Fuller, Holly Johnstone, Holly White, Ruby Coers, Karen Nicolson

Out: Ashley Gordon, Beth Fitchett, Catlin Taylor-Lynch, Coral Seath, Kushla Glover, Nicky Britten, Rosie Morgan, Sammy Murrell, Sophie Aitken, Tessa Nicol, Una Madden

Staying put: Jade Middleditch, Sophie Dijkstra, Jordyn Walker, Kelsey Kennard, Annabel Gilchrist, Kate Guildford, Alex McIntosh, Renee Bacon, Maryann Cant, Lara Wall, Mikayla Gray, Megan O’Malley

Coach’s comment: “There is a really positive feel around this year’s campaign. We have been training since late August and have had four very valuable warm up games from which we have gained a lot. Despite there being quite a few personnel changes from last year, the majority of the squad have previous NWL experience, with this season being the first taste of National League football for only four players. We have strong leadership at the back, with the likes of captain Annie Gilchrist and Jordyn Walker, and have some exciting forwards who should cause problems for opposition defences.” – Tom Stevens (Assistant Coach)

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Categories: NZ Women's National League

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Enzo Giordani

A grassroots football enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent club on earth - A.S. Roma. More info (including e-mail address) can be found here: https://in-the-back-of-the.net/about/

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