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Oct 20, 2011   |  12:37PM AET

Westfield W-League back with a bang

Westfield W-League back with a bang

A grand final rematch, National Team players and International stars – the stage is set for the most exciting season yet. The women of the Westfield W-League are back with a bang.

A grand final rematch, National Team players and International stars – the stage is set for the most exciting season yet. The women of the Westfield W-League are back with a bang.

Grand Final rivals Sydney FC and Brisbane Roar get things off to a cracking start when they face off at Leichhardt Oval. The Roar, like their male counterparts are hoping to keep hold of the trophy this season in what would, for the women, be a hat-trick of championships.

Ably skippered by returning captain Claire Polkinghorne the side boasts an attacking force that includes Tameka Butt and Joey Burgess, who is in superb form ahead of what is likely to be her last season. Emily Gielnik will be hoping to emulate her recent hat-trick performance for the Young Matildas at club level.

No easy task against a Sydney side featuring USA superstar Megan Rapinoe. Bubbling with enthusiasm, Rapinoe is thrilled to be pulling on a Sky Blue shirt for her two-match stint before international duty calls back in the States.

With or without her, Sydney again look to be a formidable force in a season which sees Thea Slatyer finally playing for her home side, partnering Danielle Brogan in the back line and Matilda-s striker Sarah Walsh back in action.

Meantime in Adelaide, the Lady Reds have their work cut out for them when Canberra United pay their first visit to Hindmarsh Stadium.

Canberra-s new coach, Czech Jitka Klimkova has by all accounts been working the girls in green very hard in the preseason, and is determined that this year the trophy will go to the Capital.

While the side has lost Emily van Egmond, who returned home to Newcastle, and Leah Blayney who was injured during her stint in the WPSL (USA), Blayney-s Boston Breakers teammate Taryn Hemmings joins the side, an athletic utility who will surely strengthen the spine of an already resilient side.

Adelaide also have a new coach in Dave Edmondson, and international flair, with returning American striker Ashleigh Gunning as well as the addition of two New Zealand Internationals – new captain, Abby Erceg and Anna Green.

It-s a fresh start for the Reds now under FFSA administration and the young squad is bolstered by the return of seasoned campaigners such as Angela Fimmano, Donna Cockayne.

Melbourne and Perth round off the opening fixtures. Victory were the big improvers last season and Vicki Linton retains the core of last year’s playing group for a second tilt at finals football including internationals Kendall Fletcher and Jodie Taylor.

Eight new faces have been added including Danielle Johnson from Sky Blues FC in the US and Rebekah Stott who spent last season with champions Brisbane Roar.

Taking the reins for the WA side, hometown hero, Jamie Harnwell will have to cope without the services of Matildas Kate Gill, Sam Kerr and Colette MacCallum. However, the addition of Doncaster Rovers Belles Captain, Katie Holtham adds experience to a side with plenty of youth and enthusiasm.

While enjoying a bye in Round One, Newcastle will be a force to be reckoned with as two-time World Cup-winning German defender Ariane Hingst, makes her W-League debut.

Outstanding Matildas striker Lisa De Vanna joins National Team captain Melissa Barbieri, who relocates from Melbourne to take up her place between the sticks. Fellow Matilda Emily Van Egmond returns home to the Hunter and the Jets also boast the services of former Sydney FC youngsters, Alanna Kennedy, Linda O-Neill and Nicola Bolger – all Young Matildas.

Few fans will have forgotten Tara Andrews screamer from halfway last season and with the prolific scorer returning, along with the likes of Hannah Brewer and Alex Huynh, the Jets have reason to believe they will be firmly in the reckoning come finals time.

In a short season, flying out of the blocks is paramount to secure a finals berth, and this season is set to go down to the wire!

Catch the Stars of the W-League in action, 3pm Saturdays on ABC1. Round One: Grand Final rematch – Sydney FC v Brisbane Roar from Leichhardt Oval in Sydney.