National Women's Football League 2017: Canterbury United Pride the team to beat

Canterbury United Pride have won three of the past four titles. Will they triumph again in 2017?
JOHN KIRK-ANDERSON/STUFF

Canterbury United Pride have won three of the past four titles. Will they triumph again in 2017?

The 2017 edition of the National Women's League football competition begins this weekend, kicking off a two-month campaign that culminates in a pre-final (second v third) on December 3, and a final on December 10.

Canterbury United Pride are the defending champions, after beating Capital 2-0 in last year's decider.

They remain the team to beat as the season starts, but will face plenty of competition as they look to make it four titles in five years.

Northern have a relatively youthful squad, but plenty of them are age-group internationals.
MICHAEL WELSH

Northern have a relatively youthful squad, but plenty of them are age-group internationals.

NORTHERN

Coach: Hayley Stirling

Goalkeepers: Emily Couchman, Anna Leat
Defenders: Claudia Bunge, Shayden Cathro, Bernadette Goulding, Casey Klyn, Hannah Mackay-Wright, Stacey Martin, Aneka Mittendorff, Saskia Vosper
Midfielders: Anya Gross, Kate Loye, Vegas McCaroll, Milly McWhirter, Catherine Pretty, Liz Savage, Malia Steinmetz
Forwards: Jane Barnett, Cara Lonergan, Arabella Maynard, Jess Oulaghan, Trudy Sandle, Dayna Stevens, Sam Tawharu 

Last year: Fourth - four wins, two losses; 21 goals for, nine against
Draw: v Central, @ Auckland, v Central, @ WaiBop, v Canterbury, @ Northern

For the first time in years, Northern aren't going to be able to rely on Katie Rood for goals, with the prolific striker now at Juventus in Italy. Midfielders Kate Loye and Liz Savage (nee Milne) ran the game for Glenfield Rovers in the National Women's Knockout Cup final, and will be key figures if Northern are to bounce back, after missing the finals last time around. As always, there are plenty of age-group internationals involved, including promising midfielder Malia Steinmetz, who was been in the wider Football Ferns squad a couple of times this year. Andrew Voerman

Jacqui Hand is one of several age-group internationals returning to Auckland's ranks this season.
DAVID JOSEPH/PHOTOSPORT

Jacqui Hand is one of several age-group internationals returning to Auckland's ranks this season.

AUCKLAND

Coach: Gemma Lewis

Goalkeepers: Nadia Olla, Brooke Wylie
Defenders: Liz Anton, Georgia Brown, Kate Carlton, Georgia Martin, Megan Robertson, Ally Toailoa, Amy Waters, Erinna Wong
Midfielders: Hannah Blake, Emily Gillion, Grace Jale, Nicole Mettam, Margot Ramsay, Lily Taitimu
Forwards: Britney Cunningham-Lee, Maisy Dewell, Lily Dowsett, Kathryn Gow, Jacqui Hand, Tayla O'Brien, Maxine Rawnsley, Steph Skilton

Last year: Fifth - two wins, four losses; 16 goals for, 19 against
Draw: @ Southern, v Capital, Bye, @ Central, v WaiBop, @ Canterbury, v Northern

On paper, Auckland potentially have the strongest squad in the country, featuring a wealth of age-group internationals - including the core of the current under-20 squad - as well as a number of experienced hands. Two-cap Football Fern Steph Skilton is back after four years away at college in the United States to captain the side, and will be looking to fire personally at the attacking end. The big question will be how quickly they can gel, given they are largely starting afresh, unlike most of their rivals for a place in the finals. AV

Waikato-Bay of Plenty were the surprise package last year - can they return to the playoffs in 2017?
MARTY MELVILLE/PHOTOSPORT

Waikato-Bay of Plenty were the surprise package last year - can they return to the playoffs in 2017?

WAIKATO-BAY OF PLENTY

Ad Feedback

Coach: Barry Gardiner

Goalkeepers: Georgia Candy, Angelique Tui Samoa, Amanda Wilshier
Defenders: Grace Cox, Michaela Foster, Eileish Hayes, Tiana Hill, Toni Power, Hannah Reid, Kat Robinson, Kate Williams
Midfielders: Emma Cawte, Leah Gubb, Sarah Krystman, Sarah McLaughlin, Georgia Nixon, Leanna Ryan, Helen Talbot
Forwards: Kelli Brown, Chelsea Elliott, Ella Golding, Kim Maguire, Danaya McKenzie, Grace Wisnewski

Last year: Third - four wins, one draw, one loss; 20 goals for, 15 against 
Draw: @ Canterbury, v Northern, @ Southern, v Capital, @ Auckland, v Central, Bye

Surprised more than a few people by making it to the finals last year, with the same record as the winners, Canterbury, and the runners up, Capital, who they lost to in the pre-final only on penalties. They have lost Helen Arjomandi from last year's squad, who is taking the summer off, and will miss her goals and experience, but they have gained Sarah McLaughlin, who is making her return from successive serious knee injuries. Despite losing Arjomandi, they have great continuity, which will be key as they try to keep the likes of Auckland and Northern at bay. AV

Central will count on a core of players from Palmerston North Marist.
JOHN DAVIDSON/PHOTOSPORT

Central will count on a core of players from Palmerston North Marist.

CENTRAL

Coach: Simon Lees

Goalkeepers: Brooke Bennett, Aoife Gallagher-Forbes, Courtney Norman
Defenders: Jenna Barry, Mackenzie Barry, Rose Morton, Sarah Morton, Evie Newman, Amber Phillips, Kate Watson, Molly Woodhead
Midfielders: Aimee Atkins, Emma Crewe, Sophie Crewe, Leah Gallie, Anna Hinton, Ella James, Aniela Jensen, Chantelle Lebon
Forwards: Georgia Barnett, Meisha Boone, Aleesha Heywood, Tilly James, Hannah Robert

Last year: Sixth - one win, one draw, four losses; five goals for, 17 against
Draw: @ Northern, v Southern, @ Capital, v Auckland, Bye, @ WaiBop, v Canterbury

The return of Simon Lees as coach after three years away is a cause for Central to be optimistic. He took the team to fourth place last time he was in charge in 2013, and will be hopeful of getting the best out of a side that consists largely of players from the Palmerston North Marist club. Experienced midfielder Leah Gallie will captain the side, and the team will be looking for goals from strikers Meisha Boone and Aleesha Heywood, while age-group internationals Amber Phillips and Sarah Morton will be key figures in defence. George Heagney

Capital will be looking to go one better than last year's second place, and have added former Football Fern Sarah Gregorius.
DAVID JOSEPH/PHOTOSPORT

Capital will be looking to go one better than last year's second place, and have added former Football Fern Sarah Gregorius.

CAPITAL

Coach: Emma Evans

Goalkeepers: Natasha Ingram, Cushla Litchwark
Defenders: Katie Barrott, Libby Boobyer, Ellen Fibbes, Francesca Grange, Emma Lavery, Serena Murrihy, Tessa McPherson, Carolyn O'Reilly, Rosie Wild, Ella Wilson
Midfielders: Kennedy Bryant, Maya Hahn, Bex Jefferies, Maggie Jenkins, Lena de Ronde, Emily Stotter, Asha Strom, 
Forwards: Sarah Gregorius, Klara Gronevik, Emma Main, Jade Morrissey, Michaela Robertson

Last year: Second - four wins, one draw, one loss; 16 goals for, eight against
Draw: Bye, @ Auckland, v Central, @ WaiBop, v Canterbury, @ Northern, v Southern

Last year's beaten finalists look even stronger this year. The return of New Zealand under-20 defender Serena Murrihy from WaiBop strengthens what was already a stingy defence. Up front, they've lost Briar Palmer, but have a more-than-handy replacement in 82-cap former Football Fern Sarah Gregorius. She scored 36 goals in 17 games in all competitions through the winter, and will join an already potent attack featuring her Upper Hutt teammate Emma Main, and Wellington United's Swedish forward Klara Gronevik and her teammate Michaela Robertson. Throw in age-group stars like under-17s duo Maya Hahn and Maggie Jenkins and it looks like another strong campaign ahead. Liam Hyslop

Aimee Phillips will be a key attacking threat for Canterbury United Pride.
DAVID ALEXANDER/PHOTOSPORT

Aimee Phillips will be a key attacking threat for Canterbury United Pride.

CANTERBURY UNITED PRIDE

Coach: Mike De Bono

Goalkeepers: Victoria Esson, Una Foyle, Briar Guyan
Defenders: Emma Clarke, Annie Gilchrist, Rebecca Gillett, Tahlia Herman-Watt, Chloe Jones, Rebecca Lake, Meikayla Moore, Gabrielle Rennie, Marisa van der Meer
Midfielders: Beth Elliott, Macey Fraser, Whitney Hepburn, Annalie Longo, Mikayla Wieblitz, Sophie Williams
Forwards: Mel Cameron, Britneylee Nicholson, Aimee Phillips, Arna Roberts, Jayda Stewart, Cody Taylor

Last year: First - four wins, one draw, one loss; 20 goals for, nine against
Draw: v WaiBop, Bye, @ Northern, v Southern, @ Capital, v Auckland, @ Central

The defending champions have set the benchmark in recent years and again shape as favourites. Football Ferns squad members Victoria Esson, Meikayla Moore, Aimee Phillips and Annalie Longo won't be available every game, but when they do front, they'll be crucial to the team's success. Balanced with experienced locals and bright young talent, including national under-17 players Macey Fraser and Gabrielle Rennie, the Pride look formidable across the pitch. The return of prolific goalscorer Mikayla Wieblitz from a serious knee injury is a further boost as the Pride chase a fourth title in five years. Brendon Egan

Shontelle Smith is one of several Dunedin Technical players who form the core of Southern United.
JOE ALLISON/PHOTOSPORT

Shontelle Smith is one of several Dunedin Technical players who form the core of Southern United.

SOUTHERN UNITED

Coach: Terry Parle

Goalkeepers: Tessa Nicol, Samantha Richards, Morgan Whitson
Defenders: Sophie Dijkstra, Mikaela Hunt, Kelsey Kennard, Coral Seath, Zoe Thomas, Laura Wallis
Midfielders: Sophie Aitken, Sam Baldwin, Katie Foulkes, Kirsty Hayr, Eleanor Isaac, Holly Johnstone, Elise Mamanu-Gray, Olivia de Ronde, Shontelle Smith, Eva Zellekens
Forwards: Renne Bacon, Mikayla Gray, Aynsley Martin, Emily Morison, Lara Wall

Last year: Seventh; no wins, six losses; nine goals for, 30 against
Draw: v Auckland, @ Central, v WaiBop, @ Canterbury, v Northern, Bye, @ Capital

Every game is a cup final for Southern United, who are seeking their first win in this competition since 2013, when they beat the northern-based contingent of the national under-17 side. Fellow strugglers Central will be their best chance of getting one, though they won't be putting any special focus on that match, which comes early, in week two. Terry Parle has taken charge on his return to Dunedin after several years overseas, and is looking to refresh the team's culture. They will be looking to build on the impressive winter work of Dunedin Technical, who became the first Football South team to ever make the semifinals of the National Women's Knockout Cup. AV

 - Stuff

Comments

Ad Feedback
special offers
Ad Feedback