WITH its start date confirmed and Rounds 1-4 of fixtures revealed, the countdown to the 2021/22 W-League campaign is well and truly on.
The action is set to get underway on December 3, with Melbourne Victory returning to defend the crown as reigning Champions after a Grand Final triumph over Sydney FC last season.
Until the end of 2021, the W-League and A-League will proceed based on a conference system. As Wellington Phoenix enter the league for the very first time, the New Zealand outfit will join all the NSW-based sides in one conference, with the remaining clubs making up the second conference for Rounds 1-4.
With teams from each state grouped together there are derby fixtures galore. Looking ahead to the first four Rounds of action, w-league.com.au takes you through the key fixtures to mark in your calendar.
Round 1: Phoenix make W-League bow
Wellington Phoenix create history in 2021/22 as the club enters the W-League for the very first time, kicking off the season's action against Western Sydney Wanderers on Friday, December 3.
The 'Nix become the 10th W-League side, with two more committed to joining the competition before the 2023 FIFA Women's Cup set to take place in both Australia and New Zealand. Wellington's A-League and W-League sides are likely to be based in Wollongong until the Trans-Tasman bubble is reinstated, meaning the club's first 'home' W-League fixture will be played on Australian soil.
With a new W-League side kicking off a fresh campaign boosted by the broadcasting deal signed with Network 10 and Paramount+, the very first fixture of the 2021/22 season is shaping as the perfect event to beckon the W-League into an exciting new era.
- Wellington Phoenix v Western Sydney Wanderers (Friday, December 3 - venue TBC)
Round 1 - Victory return to action as Champions
Nearly eight months on from Melbourne Victor star Kyra Cooney-Cross' match-winning strike in the 2020/21 W-League Grand Final, the reigning Champions return to defend their crown with a home fixture against Adelaide United on Sunday, December 5.
Victory beat the Premiers Sydney FC 1-0 on that day in April, 2021, with Cooney-Cross' strike coming direct from a corner in the 120th minute of play just as a penalty shootout beckoned. Now, with a title to defend and the chasing pack eager to make up ground, Jeff Hopkins' side will need to be at their best to fend off the likes of Adelaide, who have plenty of motivation to improve this season.
The Reds stormed home in 2020/21, winning three of their last four games including a 3-1 triumph over the Wanderers in front of a record crowd of 5,159 in the final game of the season. But it was too little, too late for Adrian Stenta's side, finishing in fifth place behind Canberra United on goal difference alone.
These two sides met once in 2020/21, with Victory notching a 1-0 win away from home in Round 6.
- Melbourne Victory v Adelaide United (Sunday, December 5 - AAMI Park)
Rounds 2, 4 - Double the Sydney Derby action early doors
With all four NSW-based sides grouped together with Wellington in the conference system, W-League fans can expect plenty of fireworks as a pair of Sydney Derbies occupy the calendar in close proximity.
In Round 2 Western Sydney Wanderers will play host to Sydney FC at Commbank Stadium on Sunday, December 11 before the Sky Blues repay the favour in Round 4, welcoming the Wanderers to Leichhardt Oval on Monday, December 27.
It's a similar scenario to last season when the two sides met in Rounds 1 and 4. The Sky Blues began the campaign on a tear of form, and the Wanderers were no match for their local rivals as Ante Juric led his side to two comprehensive wins (2-0 in Round 1, 3-0 in Round 4).
The departure of former Western Sydney head coach Dean Heffernan opened the door for Catherine Cannuli to take on the role in 2021/22, and the former Wanderers player and assistant coach knows just how important taking points from her side's early Sydney Derbies will be.
- Western Sydney Wanderers v Sydney FC (Saturday, December 11 - Commbank Stadium)
- Sydney FC v Western Sydney Wanderers (Monday, December 27 - Leichhardt Oval)
Rounds 2,4 - Melbourne Derbies test current Champions against former heavyweights
Melbourne City fans will be hoping a disappointing W-League campaign was just a blip on the radar after a seventh-place finish in 2020/21.
A 6-0 loss to Victory in Round 3 helped set the tone for what was to come last season, and City boss Rado Vidosic will be eager to atone as a pair of Melbourne Derbies appear on the calendar early doors.
City meet Victory in Rounds 2 and 4 in 2021/22, with the first coming on Sunday, December 12 at AAMI Park. The same venue will play host to the second meeting between the two sides on Boxing Day as the Champions from the past two W-League seasons go head-to-head for local bragging rights.
- Melbourne City v Melbourne Victory (Sunday, December 12 - AAMI Park)
- Melbourne Victory v Melbourne City (Sunday, December 26 - AAMI Park)