WOMEN’S DIVISION 1 | SEASON PREVIEW

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2021 THE GRANGE WOMEN’S DIVISION 1 SEASON PREVIEW

Women’s Division 1 will return to an 18-round season after being reduced to 14 last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Shellharbour Scorpions, who were the undefeated champions of the Women’s Youth League in 2020, step up into the big leagues alongside newcomers South Coast Flame.

Women’s football powerhouse University will also have two teams in the top flight;  University Yellow will be predominantly the side that were in Division 1 last season while University White is the team coming up from the second tier.

Albion Park will be looking to continue to dominate this season as they prepare to win their eighth league title in a row, however, University Yellow are again named favourites after taking home the Bonnie Lassie cup on Sunday, two years consecutively.

This 11-team competition could potentially be the closest one we have seen in years.

Albion Park

Last season: 1st, 10 wins, 2 draws, 2 losses, 32 points

Opening fortnight: Bye, Woonona (H)

It will be hard for anyone to stand in Albion Park’s way as Richard Davis prepares to push his squad to the very end in pursuit of a fifth-straight league title.

The bulk of the squad has been retained with a few key recruits including experienced goalkeeper Meg Blanch from Kiama and Edith Edwards-Mizel who previously played for North Shore Country Day in Illinois, USA.

Albion Park will be led out by reigning player of the year Brittany Ring who captains the side for the second year in a row while Sophie Zirogiannis and Casey-Leigh Suttle will continue to cause havoc in the midfield combining with Taryn Ruiz, who is a true leader in the defensive third of the pitch.

After going down to University in penalties in the final of the Bonnie Lassie Cup on Sunday, Albion Park will be giving it everything they have to secure nothing less than a top-two finish.

Prediction: 2nd

Fernhill

Last season: 8th, 1 win, 0 draws, 13 losses, 3 points

Opening fortnight: South Coast Flame (A), Thirroul (A)

Fernhill are aiming for massive improvements this season with co-coaches Kevin Chilby and Dave Lewis taking over the side.

Having previously coached Balgownie, Corrimal and Fernhill in the men’s youth grade, both of these experienced coaches will be eager to turn things around for the Foxes this season.

With only six players being retained from the 2020 team, Fernhill have added a crop of ex-Balgownie junior women to complement the current squad.

The team will be led by senior players Emi Skopal, Jess Cruickshank, Kahlia Muilwyk and Caitlin Lewis who will look to guide the side to becoming a competitive force on a weekly basis.

There are several of these players showing Division 1 potential, however, this year will be one of rebuilding and consolidation for the future.

Prediction: 10th

Kiama Quarriers

Last season: 5th, 7 wins, 0 draws, 7 losses, 21 points

Opening fortnight: Wollongong United (A), South Coast Flame (H)

After placing 5th on the ladder two years in a row, the Quarriers will strive to show greater dominance as they prepare for a top-four push this season.

With the unfortunate departure of seven players, Umberto Sorrentino is entering his fifth year with his head held high as he forms a new squad which includes newcomers Emma Cooper and Linn Ostling.

Josie Iorianni, Ailin Blacka and Alex King will be juggling more than just a soccer ball this season as they commence their first season as parents, alongside the experienced Katie French who will be also returning for another year.

Kiama will be taking on a new partnership this season with Bree Payne and Natalie Henderson sharing the armband.

It is vital that the Quarriers glue their new squad together if they want to make a move for the top four.

Prediction: 7th  

Shellharbour Scorpions

Last season: (Women’s Youth League) 1st, 14 wins, 0 draws, 0 losses, 42 points

Opening fortnight: Warilla (A), Bye

Newcomers Shellharbour Scorpions proved just how strong and competitive their side will be this season after advancing through to the final four of the Bonnie Lassie Cup on Sunday.

Having been undefeated all year and winning the Women’s Youth League in 2020, Ron Fogarty is extremely excited to take these girls into senior women’s football and the challenge of Division 1.

All players from last year’s squad have been retained, along with new major signings Jiorja Lintescu from the under-17s Macarthur Rams in NPL 1 and Jess Forman from University of NSW in NPL 2.

Shellharbour also have a close affiliation with the UOW Tottenham Hotspurs Program, securing three of their players for the upcoming season.

Shante Lenartowicz will look to make her mark in senior football after winning the golden boot in the Youth League for two seasons running.

The squad will be led by three captains in Bella Fogarty, Mikayla Dejong and Stephanie Bratjanscak.

Prediction: 5th

South Coast Flame

Last season: Inaugural season

Opening fortnight: Fernhill (H), Kiama Quarriers (A)

South Coast Flame will be extremely ambitious to show the teams in Division 1 what they can do after advancing through to the quarter-finals in the Bonnie Lassie Cup last Sunday.

Coach Daniel Naumovski has a side made up of Girls Conference League players but is confident his young development squad will be competitive in their debut season.

Taya Kelly will take the lead and support the squad this season which includes newcomers Sage Dixon, Maya Turner, Ernika Bakhtiari and Zinah Hasan, alongside the returning player Monique Koloski.

Player development will be key for South Coast this season and if they are able to find their feet, there is every chance they could make a run for the top four.

Prediction: 9th

Thirroul

Last season: 4th, 8 wins, 2 draws, 4 losses, 26 points

Opening fortnight: University Yellow (H), Fernhill (H)

John Dark will coach Thirroul for the third season in succession in Division 1.

Maya Francis, Lottie Cabassi and Hannah Carlon are huge returns for the Thunderbirds with the trio having already trained with the side towards the backend of last season – making for a seamless transition.

Thirroul showed great energy in the Bonnie Lassie Cup, advancing straight through to the quarter-finals and they will need to carry that momentum into a tough round one against University Yellow.

Young gun Claytyn Gehrke is a player you will want to keep your eye on, and she will also lead the side around the park this season.

After finishing 4th last season, the Thunderbirds will need to start their season off strong to secure a spot in the finals once again.

Prediction: 3rd

University White

Last season: Division Two – 1st, 11 wins, 1 draw, 0 losses, 34 points

Opening fortnight: Woonona (A), Wollongong United (H)

University White will debut in the top tier this season with the hopes of stepping up and being strong contenders.

The team will consist mainly Division 2 players who were previously minor premiers and grand final winners with a few newcomers sprinkled in the mix.

Nothing will stop this young and determined squad with Jessica Carman taking hold of the captaincy for the season as she will look to take command of her backline.

The future is bright for new signings Amy Morrell, Sabrina Toufexis and Nina Bala.

University White start their season off with two strong sides in Woonona and Wollongong United, but the team is eagerly anticipating the in-house match against their big sisters University Yellow.

Prediction: 11th

University Yellow

Last season: 1st, 10 wins, 2 draws, 2 losses, 32 points 

Opening fortnight: Thirroul (A), Warilla (H)

University Yellow have already proven they’re a capable side after defending their Bonnie Lassie title on Sunday.

This year the side has got even stronger by snatching up game-changer Tahlia Petrovski from the Illawarra Stingrays as well as the talented Mia Saverino from the Macarthur Rams.

Coach Brod Crighton will be focusing more on creating opportunities in the attack with new signings Rilee Wagner and Stephanie Hedditch.

Taliswoman Elise Battin will continue to lead the side as the captain this year.

State champions Albion Park are the standard University Yellow are looking to match but will they be able to overtake them this season?

Prediction: 1st

Warilla Wanderers

Last season: 6th, 4 wins, 0 draws, 10 losses, 12 points

Opening fortnight: Shellharbour (H), University Yellow (A)

Max Vidella will be eager to take his team into the finals this year after just missing out on the top four in their debut season last year.

New signing Tamara Koneski will add a new spark into the midfield alongside Brooke Guthrie and Grace O’Shannessy from the Warilla juniors.

Katie Carbone will be a strong component to the backline connecting well with Irene Kyriacou who will be the glue in the midfield, while captain Kari Gonzalez will lead her team out each week.

The Wanderers will need to step up physically in the first two rounds to become strong contenders for the final series.

Prediction: 8th

Wollongong United

Last season: 7th, 4 wins, 0 draws, 10 losses, 12 points.

Opening fortnight: Kiama Quarriers (H), University White (H)

Jeff Jovanovski will take Wollongong United into the Women’s Division 1 for their second season in a row after taking out the double in the Women’s Youth League in 2019 and placing 7th in Division 1 last year.

Rikki-Lee Wardle will lead her team out this year, playing their first game of the season on Sunday at their home turf against a competitive Kiama Quarriers side.

Wollongong United have recruited major signings this season including Aleksia Petrovska from the Illawarra Stingrays and an experienced player Cate Cardwell from Preston Lions FC.

Teisha McKenzie and Kristen Gorgieski will hope to bring a lot to the table in the front third after securing their spot in the squad for the second year in a row.

Consistency will be the number one focus for United this season as they hope to climb up the ladder.

Prediction: 6th

Woonona

Last season: 3rd, 9 wins, 0 draws, 5 losses, 27 points

Opening fortnight: University White (H), Albion Park (A)

Woonona have shown nothing but consistency as they have finished one win behind the top two positions for the past four seasons.

Mick Sutton will be joined by Jordan Wheatley this year as they take on the coaching role for Woonona collectively.

They have made a long-distance signing with Mia Valeries come across from Adelaide alongside the return of experienced full-back Morgan Potter which will boost an already strong squad.

Co-captains Ainsley Hawes and Hayley Walkinshaw will lead out a team that are strong across the board with a solid bench, as they take on two top teams in the first fortnight of the season.

The Sharks struggled at times to find the back of the net in previous years, costing them a spot in the grand-final.

Will they have a chance to take home the silverware this season?

Prediction: 4th

Preview by Alison Dinh, on Twitter at @alisondinh_

Photo by Pedro Garcia

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