The Westfield W-League five years on

More than five years after its inception, the Westfield W-League continues to change the face of Australian women’s football.

More than five years after its inception, the Westfield W-League continues to change the face of Australian women’s football.

The creation of Australia’s first semi-professional women’s football competition in 2008 was a landmark moment in itself, but its development in the time since has been equally important. And nothing illustrates this better than the improved standard of football in the W-League five years on.

Like the Hyundai A-League, the quality of play has improved with each season, especially as the competition attracts more and more foreign talent. And those who have been there from the beginning – like Canberra United striker Michelle Heyman – believe that is reflected in the most evenly fought competition yet in 2012/13.

“I think the level of the football has improved a lot since day one,” says Heyman, who played with Sydney FC and Central Coast before joining Canberra.

“Technically it’s stronger and a lot quicker than what it was.

“Even playing over in Denmark [with Brondby earlier this year], I still think our league is of a higher quality.

“We’ve got a lot more better teams, especially this year, and the players are spread out everywhere.

“Everyone’s actually brought in international players and I think it’s made our football in Australia a lot better.”

The league has seen many changes, with the competition expanding back to eight teams this season with Wanderers FC and advances in technology contributing to better officiating.

For those like Heyman, it’s a far cry from the pre-Westfield W-League days, where players were competing in state leagues and lacking opportunities to advance their careers.

“Without it, I wouldn’t be who I am today,” Heyman says.

“I never got scouted when I was young playing in Illawarra so the W-League was the only thing that helped me get to the Matildas.

“Personally, it’s the best thing that’s happened to me.”

Heyman believes the increased number of international players in the competition has also opened up doors for Australian players to play overseas with the exposure generated by the free-to-air television deal also proving valuable.

She hopes Australia’s women can become one of the world’s top three sides in the near future, and outgoing Westfield Matildas coach Tom Sermanni believes the Westfield W-League has ensured a strong player base for the national side for years to come.

“[Before] we really had nothing domestically in place underneath the national team to be able to identify players or give players a chance to develop,” he says.

“What the Westfield W-League has done is give us a serious, meaningful, senior domestic league.”

One we hope will only get stronger with each season.