Samantha Lewis' greatest Westfield W-League entertainers
Stunning strikes, acrobatic manoeuvres, lightning pace and cunning trickery: these are just some of the attributes possessed by the Westfield W-League's greatest entertainers.
Each season the Westfield W-League is blessed with an assortment of players of the same ilk, with spellbinding talent capable of breaking games apart and getting crowds of their feet.
Read on to find Samantha Lewis' selection of the greatest entertainers from each Westfield W-League club.
Adelaide United: Sofia Huerta
Although Adelaide United haven’t tasted W-League success in the form of trophies, the club has been home to some of the most electric players the league has witnessed across its 12 seasons.
The Reds’ 2016/17 campaign, in particular, was one of their most enthralling thanks in part to American/Mexican dual-international Sofia Huerta.
The athletic winger-turned-fullback was in red-hot form for Adelaide, directly contributing to almost half of the club’s 31 goals (the second-most across the league that season), including a crucial brace against eventual Premiers Canberra United and a hat-trick in their historic 10-2 demolition of Western Sydney Wanderers.
Her dynamic style and goal-scoring panache continued with Sydney FC two seasons later, including a Goal of the Season contender in the Sky Blues’ 4-2 Championship win over Perth Glory in 2019/20.
Brisbane Roar: Katrina Gorry
When it comes to the W-League’s most memorable goal-scorers, few can look past Matildas midfielder Katrina Gorry.
Since joining Brisbane Roar in 2012/13, Gorry has become a fan favourite thanks to her traction-engine of a right foot, her silky passing, and her Matrix-level creative vision.
With 18 goals to her name across eight seasons, the feisty midfielder was at the core of both of Brisbane’s Premiership-winning campaigns (2012/13 and 2017/18), playing almost every minute in both seasons.
This included a crucial equaliser against Perth Glory in Round 8 of 2012/13 that would ultimately help Brisbane beat Perth to the Premiers Plate by just two points.
In 2014, she became the second ever Australian to win the AFC Player of the Year award.
Canberra United: Ashleigh Sykes
Not many footballers can claim to be one-club legends – fewer still in the women’s game.
But that’s exactly what Ashleigh Sykes became, playing ten consecutive years with Canberra United before partially retiring in 2018.
Joining the club for its inaugural season in 2008, Sykes quickly established herself as one of Australia’s most lethal attacking weapons, using her blistering pace and clinical finishing to notch up 37 goals in 97 games.
She was part of Canberra’s historic undefeated double-winning side of 2011/12, scoring and assisting in two of three goals in their Grand Final win over Brisbane, as well as scoring a brace in Canberra’s Championship defeat of Perth in 2014 – the same season she won Goal of the Year for a top-bins volley in round 12.
Sykes would go on to win the Julie Dolan medal the following season, as well as the Golden Boot the season after that.
Melbourne City: Jess Fishlock
The introduction of City in 2015/16 was a tide-turning moment for the W-League.
At the heart of that shift was Welsh international Jess Fishlock, who made the switch from cross-town rivals Victory after two seasons in navy blue.
The incisive, string-pulling midfielder played almost every minute of City’s inaugural undefeated season in which they also won the double, but it was the following two seasons where Fishlock cemented herself as one of the league’s best-ever players.
With 15 goals in 27 games, the diminutive No10 led City to three consecutive Championships (including one as player-coach!), scoring the opener and being named Player of the Match in both their 2016/17 and 2017/18 Grand Final wins.
Melbourne Victory: Natasha Dowie
Exit, Fishlock; enter, Natasha Dowie. The English striker arrived at Victory in 2015/16 following successful stints with Everton and Liverpool in the Women’s Super League, and while it took a season to find her shooting boots in navy blue, Dowie soon became one of the W-League’s most exciting strikers.
With 34 goals in 57 games, the classic No9 spear-headed Victory’s resurgence following a string of poor seasons, scoring nine goals in their 2018/19 Premiership-winning campaign (joint-second-highest in the league behind Sam Kerr).
While the league often rewards pacEy strikers, Dowie’s slower, smarter style of play that prioritises footwork and body position over out-and-out speed made her one of the competition’s most magnetic players – though that didn’t stop her from scoring worldies like her acrobatic Goal of the Season contender against Brisbane Roar in Round 2 last season.
Newcastle Jets: Emily van Egmond
While she made a name for herself at Canberra United, midfielder Emily van Egmond really established her world-class credentials during her five seasons at Newcastle Jets.
Like Adelaide, the Jets don’t have any silverware to show for their efforts over the past twelve years, and yet they have produced one of – if not the most – technically gifted attacking midfielder of her generation.
Similar to Dowie, van Egmond oozes class and calmness on the ball; her omniscient vision and ability to thread a pass has made her one of the league’s and Australia’s best assisters – as well as an unassuming goal-scorer.
A stand-out 2014 season saw her named Newcastle’s first and only Julie Dolan medal winner after scoring five goals in 12 games, while she also scored four in 2017/18 to help Newcastle to their best-ever league finish (3rd) since 2009.
Perth Glory: Sam Kerr
The Matildas skipper needs no introduction. While her W-League career started over a decade ago, it wasn’t until 2016/17 that Sam Kerr began to grow into the player that we all know today.
The high-flying, back-flipping speedster took out back-to-back Julie Dolan Medals in 2016/17 and 2017/18, as well as consecutive Golden Boot awards in 2017/18 and 2018/19, and now leads the league on the all-time goal-scorer list with 70 – 57 of which came for the Glory.
She also holds the record of the youngest player to debut in the league (15 years, 45 days), the youngest goal-scorer (15 years, 88 days) and the most goals in a season (17).
She is dynamic, clever, prolific and determined; everything you want in a modern-day striker.
Every time Sam Kerr gets the ball, you know that something is about to happen. If that isn’t the sign of a great entertainer, nothing is.
Sydney FC: Caitlin Foord
Like Kerr, Caitlin Foord also made her W-League debut far earlier than people expect.
Less than a year after appearing for Sydney FC in 2010/11, Foord was plucked up by Matildas head coach Tom Sermanni and thrown in the deep end of the 2011 Women’s World Cup, where she won the tournament’s inaugural Best Young Player award.
Across her eight seasons with Sydney FC, Foord has been one of the most consistent and most vibrant players, characterised by her energetic, direct dribbling and tight ball control.
Her most effective season was in 2018/19, where she played almost every minute and scored ten goals to help Sydney FC win their first Championship in over five years.
Western Sydney Wanderers: Kristen Hamilton
American import Kristen Hamilton’s time at Western Sydney may have only lasted a single season, but her impact was felt across the W-League in 2019/20.
Arriving alongside North Carolina Courage team-mates Lynn Williams and Denise O’Sullivan, Hamilton’s signing signalled a shift in the club’s aspirations. And it worked.
The Wanderers had their best-ever season, making finals for the first time thanks largely to Hamilton, who directly contributed to almost half of the team’s 24 goals.
Combining game intelligence with eye-catching turns of pace and clinical finishing, the striker ended the season as joint-Golden Boot winner and became just the second international player (and first from the Wanderers) to win the Julie Dolan medal for the league’s best player.
Wildcard: Lisa De Vanna
Of course, this list wouldn’t be complete without the inclusion of Australia’s highest ever goal-scorer, Lisa De Vanna.
Having played for seven W-League clubs across her professional career, which began in 2001 for the Adelaide Sensation, De Vanna has undoubtedly become one of the league’s – and the nation’s – greatest entertainers.
Blessed with lightning speed, a never-say-die attitude and an incomparable commitment to the teams she represents, De Vanna embodies everything that Australian football sees in itself.
With 38 goals and five trophies in eleven seasons, hers is a career that charts the growth of the women’s game from little more than a paragraph on the back page of the paper to now one of the most exciting and fast-growing spaces in world sport, thanks in no small part to the dedication and passion shown by players like Lisa De Vanna.