IN­SIDE W-LEAGUE

Inside Sport - - EDITOR'S LETTER - BY FOX SPORTS’ AMY DUG G AN

Nerves, that’s what you feel as you run out onto the field. The smell of fresh-cut grass, the dark­ness of the tun­nel gives way to sun­shine on your face as you cross the white paint of the line. You know the ba le is about to be­gin. There’s noth­ing quite like the first or the last game of a sea­son.

No ma er the game, it’s a fan­tas­tic time to be in­volved in women’s sport. The un­prece­dented suc­cess of our golden girls over the past few years has led us into un­charted ter­ri­tory. One thing is for cer­tain, we’re in a boom, a growth phase for fe­male sport. The announcements keep com­ing like fire­crack­ers: they’re big, they’re bright and they’re colour­ful. More money, more spon­sors, new leagues; fi­nally we’re all pay­ing a en­tion.

Women’s foot­ball is on that wave and has been for some time and while there will al­ways be goals to kick in terms of equal­ity, this is the first time in the game’s his­tory we have full-time pro­fes­sional play­ers. And slowly, they’re be­gin­ning to be pro­vided with full-time sup­port. Cov­er­age on Fox Sports, fa­nat­ics like the web­site TheWomen’s

Game  and PFA are giv­ing the girls a voice, a plat­form, and fa­cil­i­tat­ing the game’s growth.

With record numbers of ju­nior girls play­ing the game, it will con­tinue to grow. Maybe not the same way some other sports are, but a slow sus­tained burn will keep the heat on.

The ninth W-League is set to be hot. This year, with all eyes watch­ing, foot­ball has the chance to re­ally show off, with the play­ers pre­sented with an op­por­tu­nity to achieve leg­end sta­tus.

Again the bar is be­ing raised – al­most all of the Rio Matil­das are re­turn­ing. The big names like Sam Kerr, Alanna Kennedy, Steph Cat­ley, Caitlin Fo­ord and Michelle Hey­man are signed on and the league is a ract­ing new and top-class in­ter­na­tion­als. Sea­son nine is start­ing from a bench­mark that we’d not wit­nessed un­til the in­tro­duc­tion of Mel­bourne City last sea­son. Clubs now know what it takes to be the best, and are slowly but surely in­vest­ing more and more into the women’s ver­sion of the game. The W-League’s also an im­por­tant step in player path­ways, with sev­eral young stars mak­ing the move each sea­son into the top flight, onto representative hon­ours and pre­sented with op­por­tu­ni­ties to play glob­ally.

Watch­ing the squads as­sem­ble ahead of the first game on Novem­ber 5, the depth and qual­ity of this sea­son’s W-League is ex­cit­ing. Fans can’t wait to see if Mel­bourne City can do it all again, un­de­feated, or if Syd­ney FC and Can­berra United learnt enough last sea­son to top­ple the de­fend­ing champs. No doubt there will be a few up­sets and there’s al­ways the team which sur­prises ev­ery­one, even the ex­perts. Goals will be scored, the next su­per­star un­cov­ered and that player who’s been around for years but never re­ally stood out be­fore will get her chance to shine.

That’s the best thing about step­ping over that white line: nerves turn into adren­a­line, prac­tice turns into per­for­mance, and the ba le for sil­ver­ware be­gins.

Women’s foot­ball is on a wave and has been for some­time.

Mel­bourne City after win­ning their semi over Bris­bane Roar ... and ready to go again.

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