EVEN on the phone, you can sense Kristen Hamilton smiling at the mention of her time in Australia. On the pitch her season in the red and black of Western Sydney last year was a personal triumph, and of it too, the lifestyle and the club environment were exactly what she had hoped for.
All those reasons and more are why so many of Hamilton’s American compatriots have come to play in the W-League – at 97, it’s pretty much half of all the visa players to have signed for Australian clubs since 2008.
The deliberate scheduling, to complement the US season, is key to it, of course, but Hamilton argues that it’s only part of the attraction. While very few could claim as much impact as a player who became only the second overseas winner of the Julie Dolan Medal – and shared the Golden Boot with seven goals – US signings have been a staple for every club.
“Having complementary seasons is one thing, it’s true, but I think for a lot of people, Australia is always at the top of any list of places to visit,” she said.
“It's just a gorgeous country that you hear so many great things about. Then for us, the cultures are very similar, it's not a place where you're going to feel a sense of culture shock. People speak English, it's just an easy place to go.
“As soon as players come back from having those experiences, and you see all those photos and videos (on social media), then they tell their teammates and everyone's like, Well I want to do that.
“So I think that word of mouth is a big part of it. Thanks to social media, you can see the experiences these players are having in these countries and I haven't heard many people – or actually anyone - say that they've had a bad experience in Australia.
“It’s also true that a big factor is knowing that you're going to come to a high level of support. Off the field you get your laundry done and you get massages and you're taken care of, which is a very professional feel.
“In the US we had problems starting up (the NWSL) as well and there were teams that didn't get all the amenities that others had. Now we’ve lifted the standards here and I just feel like Australia is right behind us, in consistently raising those standards and making it a place that everybody wants to come and play.”
From the start of the W-League there have been players from elsewhere in the CONCACAAF region too: Canadians such as Carmelina Moscato and Mexicans including Arianna Romero.
Hamilton believes that in a relatively short competition, finding the right environment is key to flourishing as an import.
“The culture of Western Sydney is that once you're there, you don't want to leave and it's just that sense of family and community,” she said. “For me coming into that was such a great feeling, everyone made you feel so welcome and feel comfortable right away which I think is a big, big factor.
“Then having other teammates that I play with over here in America come down and play with me on the same team, I think that brings a level of cohesiveness that you don't necessarily get if you bring players from all over the place that haven't played together before.”
“It's easy to win those awards when you have such great teammates and facilities and coaches and everybody behind you.”