2020 ILLAWARRA WOMEN’S DIVISION 1 SEASON PREVIEW
After a four-month coronavirus-induced delay, the Women’s Division 1 kicks off on Friday night in Kiama.
Balgownie won’t contest the 2020 season, however, two new clubs have entered the void in Warilla and Wollongong United to form an eight-team division.
University go into the 14-game season with the favourites tag after winning the Bonnie Lassie Cup on Sunday, though a new-look Albion Park side still boast players capable of causing concerns.
Last season: 1st, 16 wins, 1 draws, 1 losses, 49 points
Opening fortnight: Warilla (A), Kiama (H)
For the first time in a long time Albion Park won’t start the season as the team to beat after a raft of retirements.
Some of the Women’s Division 1’s best players have dropped out including captain Tenaya Davis and 2018 player of the season Michelle Foscarini.
Nicole Mccracken, Kristina Glisic, Linda Hillard and Orcadia Mccan are also on the list of outs while Rylee Mcgartland will miss the first month of the season through injury.
Albion Park have recruited the likes of Chelsea Tasevski, Carrie Hasley and Taryn Ruiz with the latter two set to fill the void left by Davis and Mccracken at the heart of defence.
Richard Davis has reigning player of the season Brittany Ring to call upon with the star striker picking up the armband while Casey-Leigh Suttle and Eliza Cowan are the other cogs in a formidable attack.
Can Albion Park overcome a new challenge?
Last season: 7th, 2 wins, 1 draw, 15 losses, 7 points
Opening fortnight: Kiama (A), Wollongong United (H)
Fernhill had a rough 2020 finishing bottom of the league with seven points.
The Foxes have a number of new faces for the upcoming season including Cath Lear, who is returning to the field for the first time since 2016, and Nicole Lacunza.
Shara Forster comes in at the back while goalkeeper Rebecca Manwarring returns after a year out with an ACL injury.
Look out for 16-year-old Paris Bamford who gets her opportunity in senior football after scoring 17 goals in 16 matches in the under-16s competition last season.
Fernhill will need to cause some upsets to make the finals, a job made harder until the end of August with key player Emi Skopal out due to work commitments.
Last season: 5th, 5 wins, 5 draws, 8 losses, 20 points
Opening fortnight: Fernhill (H), Albion Park (A)
Kiama will be aiming to bounce back into the top four after missing out by two points in 2019.
The Quarriers have undertaken a big overhaul during the offseason with just half a dozen players staying on, however, the signs are positive with Umberto Sorrentino’s side making the final of the Bonnie Lassie.
Captain and key defender Brooke Perkiss is one of the players to remain at the Quarriers along with talented attacker Katie French.
A few players from second tier-winning Figtree will get their chance in top flight including Alyssa and Kylie Layland and Jessica Maxwell.
Two wins in the first two rounds would make for a real statement.
Last season: 6th, 3 wins, 0 draws, 15 losses, 9 points
Opening fortnight: Wollongong United (A), University (H)
Thirroul’s youthful 14-player squad ran second last in 2020 but looks to be better for the experience after a competitive showing in the Bonnie Lassie.
Most of the side continues on this year, including Jamie Ryan and captain Claytyn Gehrke, two players who didn’t miss a match last season.
Ash Orvard comes in to take her place in goal while Grace Vaughan returns after the birth of her first child.
Thunderbirds coach John Dark is also looking to give minutes to a selection of players in the club’s two Women’s Youth League sides.
Thirroul have a tricky start to the season but some positive results could set the side up for an unlikely finals tilt.
Last season: 2nd, 14 wins, 3 draws, 1 loss, 45 points
Opening fortnight: Woonona (H), Thirroul (A)
For the last two seasons University have finished runners-up to Albion Park but 2020 very well be the year of the Unicorns.
University have arguably the strongest roster in the competition, however, they have a handful of significant outs including Isabella Walker, Kristen Gorgieski, Georgina Mcdonnell, Kate Sebben and Jaimie Bailey.
In terms of incomings, Uni have picked up Illawarra Stingrays prospect Kya Stewart to bolster the side’s defence while midfield ace Zoe Kalos returns after a spell with the North West Sydney Koalas.
The form of skipper Elise Battin will be vital in midfield along with Lexi Carter and Pimwdee Polhill while Lisa Prior will be leaned on for goals upfront.
Last season: Debut season
Opening fortnight: Albion Park (H), Woonona (A)
Warilla will debut in the top tier this season with a host of exciting young players.
The Wanderers attack will be led by two such players in Emma Gomez and Christina Videla who combined for 40 goals when they played together in the WYL in 2018.
Layla Meharg and Irene Kyriacou will also offer support in attack with Olivia Notarianni and Emily Carbone backing them up in midfield while Sarah Gomez and Katie Carbone will look to shore up the defence.
Warilla could really sink or swim and the first two rounds could give a big indication as to which it’ll be.
Last season: Debut season
Opening fortnight: Thirroul (H), University (A)
Wollongong United will showcase a host of up-and-coming talent in their first season in the Women’s Division 1.
The Jeff Jovanovski-coach side features the core of the squad which took out the WYL double in 2019 while adding a number of quality players.
United have recruited goalscorers Kristen Gorgieski and Teisha Mckenzie from University and Balgownie respectively.
Rikki-Lee Wardle is another positive pick up from the Rangers as is Aaliyah Sigabalavu who will get an opportunity in between the sticks.
There is every chance this side could play in the finals if they can step up physically.
Last season: 3rd, 9 wins, 3 draws, 6 losses, 30 points
Opening fortnight: University (A), Warilla (H)
Woonona have been a pillar of consistency in recent years, finishing third in the past four seasons.
The Sharks will do well to repeat that feat with the side losing a number of key players including Morgan Potter, Fiona Leafe and Jasmin Pearce.
Mick Sutton’s side have picked up a few players including Hayley Walkinshaw who will step into right back as well as Southern Branch youngster Kyah Humphrey.
Woonona will look to the likes of Ainsley Hawes and Sinead Bailey for attacking thrust from midfield and the wing respectively.
Still an outside chance of making the finals.
Preview by Dylan Arvela