Newcastle legend Joanne Peters has warned the W-League about falling behind other high-profile leagues like the NWSL, and more recently England’s Super League, and suggested failure to keep up could see Australia’s biggest stars jump ship.
Joey’s foresight on the future of Australia’s top-flight women’s league comes after a series of major departures to the United Kingdom. Sam Kerr was the first, penning a monster two-and-a-half-year deal to join English giants Chelsea.
Just last week, fellow Matildas star Hayley Raso became the latest to defect, inking a six-month contract with Everton. The Merseyside Blues had allegedly been chasing Raso for some time, and finally got their woman on January 15.
Now, rumors have already sprouted regarding another W-League star—this time, Sydney striker and Australian veteran Caitlin Foord. Reports have put her right in the crosshairs of Arsenal’s transfer policies, and coach Joe Montemurro’s plans.
The W-League isn’t exactly a sinking ship. It may even be classed as on the rise, as teams prepare to enter a new, independent model in the near future. But what Australia is struggling to compete with is the blossoming future of football.
Right now, Australia’s premier league is sandwiched against North America’s top-flight competition, the National Women’s Soccer League, so that players can bounce between Aussie and US clubs and play around the calendar.
With the rise of English and European football, however, and the Premier League prestige and wallets, a new threat is rising for the W-League.
The best course of action? Take the fight to them, Joey Peters says. Extend the W-League, add fixtures. Make it a full-blown competition, with reverse fixtures and more support from clubs and the FFA. Rival the growing English power.
It’s not just an empty threat either, at least according to Peters. The Newcastle legend, who played for her hometown club in the very first year of the competition, believes the W-League has what it takes to be one of the world’s best.
“The televised games I’ve seen have been great quality, the players are amazing considering the conditions they play under… extreme weather, short seasons, small pay, high expectations,” Peters told The Women’s Game.
“I’ve always thought it deserves a full season, especially when the goal is to be world champions. I played the first season and 10 years later it hasn’t grown?”
“It won’t be long before all our best players follow Sam Kerr overseas to places like the English league, and we’ll be left with a development league, which has merit if that’s you want, but then your goals need to change.”
This isn’t the only time she’s echoed those sentiments either.
Earlier this year, the Jets legend suggested the league was going be “left behind” unless everyone involved “took a good serious look at ourselves.”
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“Are we happy to complement other national leagues around the world or are we going to take a stand? It’s very possible to be able to make it a world-leading competition in its own right,” Peters suggested.
“It can’t be about the individual now; it’s got to be about the collective. But if our best players then go over to Europe, that’s making a big statement and the English league would certainly suit our Australians in terms of the environment, the culture, and where England is actually moving ahead.”
Part of that flow-down from the biggest players leaving Australian shores would be the compounding issues of the high-ranked Matildas falling away.
The national squad nearly failed to qualify for the 2019 World Cup at all. Once there, the campaign was one to be forgotten. It’s that direction, and what happens when the talent pool goes elsewhere, that has Peters worried.
“It’s going to be harder to qualify [for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo than we think,” Peters added. “We don’t like to remember we nearly didn’t qualify for France.”
“The Matildas are still in a transition period of their culture and coaches dominating the narrative. We have such quality players who are now so experienced and know each other so well, I’d love to see them be given more freedom to play with confidence. Hopefully, this is the tournament we start seeing the Matilda’s potential shine.”
It may be an ominous warning, but when the 2009 Australian Women’s Player of the Year, who boasts 110 caps from her illustrious 14-year playing career across Australia, South America, and the US says it, it’s probably best to sit up and listen.