Melbourne City FC has announced the re-signing of midfielders Jess Fishlock and Aivi Luik, and the addition of American defender Lauren Barnes to its squad ahead of the Westfield W-League 2016/17 season.
Fishlock returns to the Westfield W-League following the conclusion of her spell with National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) club Seattle Reign in the United States, and will resume her player-coaching duties under head coach Joe Montemurro this season.
The Welsh midfielder arrives at City alongside defender Barnes, who has also signed on a season-long loan from Seattle.
The duo formed an integral part of a Reign side which claimed back to back NWSL shields in 2014 and 2015, with both players named in the 2015 NWSL Best XI.
Luik, who was crowned the club's W-League Player of the Year last season, returns to City for its title defence after a stint in England with FA Women’s Soccer League (FA WSL) side Notts County.
Fishlock, Barnes and Luik extend the club’s W-League squad to a total of 16 players ahead of the upcoming season, including Westfield Matildas Steph Catley, Lydia Williams, Laura Alleway, Larissa Crummer and American international Erika Tymrak.
Montemurro said he was delighted to have secured the services of three high calibre players for the club's second W-League campaign.
“Jess, Aivi and Lauren are exceptional players and we are delighted to welcome them on board ahead of our W-League title defence,” he said.
“Jess is a natural born leader and she sets a tremendous example on and off the pitch. She acts as a valuable mentor for our developing young players and it is a wonderful opportunity for them to learn from a player of her calibre.”
“Lauren is coming off a brilliant season in America for Seattle and has established herself as one of the best defenders in America. It’s great to have a player of her class here and she will add quality to our defence.
“Aivi was an integral member of our squad and she was a key figure in helping us achieve success in our first season.
“Her determination and character showed every time she stepped out on the pitch and set the standard for the level of performance we want to achieve.”
Regarded as one of the best talents in women’s football, Fishlock played a starring role in midfield during City’s maiden campaign, where she featured 11 times and scored two goals as Joe Montemurro’s side secured an historic Premiership and Championship double.
Luik provided a figure of stability in the centre of midfield, featuring in all 14 matches and scoring two goals on her way to being crowned the club’s inaugural W-League Player of the Year.
Barnes, 27, has forged a reputation as one of the best central defenders in America, becoming the first Seattle Reign player to win the NWSL Defender of the Year award after a stellar 2016 campaign.
The defender started in all 20 of Seattle Reign’s matches and helped the club set two defensive league records, including the most consecutive clean sheets (5) and most minutes without conceding a goal (531).
Barnes will help strengthen the club’s defensive stocks alongside captain Catley, Alleway, New Zealand international Rebekah Stott and new signing Teigen Allen.
The club also confirmed it will be without championship winning players Jennifer Beattie, Kim Little and Lisa De Vanna for the upcoming W-League season.
Beattie will remain with sister club and reigning English champions Manchester City Women’s FC, while Little has returned to Arsenal Ladies following the conclusion of her spell in America with Seattle Reign.
Westfield Matildas striker De Vanna joined NWSL outfit Orlando Pride after representing Australia at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.
Melbourne City FC would like to thank each player for their significant contribution to the club’s historic inaugural W-League campaign, and wishes them all the best for the future.
City begins its W-League title defence against Newcastle Jets at CB Smith Reserve on Sunday 6 November.
Melbourne City Women’s FC 2016/17 Squad: Steph Catley (C), Lydia Williams, Jess Fishlock, Aivi Luik, Laura Alleway, Larissa Crummer, Teigen Allen, Marianna Tabain, Erika Tymrak, Lauren Barnes, Rebekah Stott, Amy Jackson, Olivia Ellis, Tyla-Jay Vlajnic, Jacynta Galabadaarachchi, Melina Ayres.