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Australia: A-League Women's Wrap: Imports make an impact, an early injury domino effect, and a big club's existential crisis

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Each week, ABC Sport will bring you a Round Wrap of the A-League Women's competition, including winners, losers, and a good thing that happened on or off the field.

Round 2 at a glance

Newcastle Jets kicked off round two with a 5-1 thumping of Wellington Phoenix, Perth Glory claimed their second straight win over Brisbane 1-0, Sydney FC reaffirmed their derby dominance with a 2-0 win over the Wanderers, Melbourne Victory clung on to defeat Melbourne City 2-1, and Adelaide United earned their first win after beating Canberra 2-1.

Winners

The imports

As international borders started to relax in the off-season, A-League Women's clubs have looked further afield to sign overseas-based players who can bring a little je ne sais quoi to their respective teams this season.

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Some of those players were already based in Australia, playing in various state league competitions over the past few years and joining their ALW clubs for their full pre-season training. Others took a little longer to get here – with some being formally announced the week after the league had kicked off – and will only play for their clubs in a short-term loan capacity, almost certainly leaving before season's end.

Regardless of the time they'll spend here, though, round two saw the impact that these import players can have. Newcastle's 5-1 drubbing of Wellington Phoenix on Friday was orchestrated by Matildas midfielder Emily Van Egmond, who signed for her home-town club on temporary loan from her NWSL side, Orlando Pride.

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Her presence was immediately felt in Newcastle's midfield, dictating the game's tempo, connecting defence with attack, and delivering several crosses and free kicks that influenced play. Norwegian international Marie Dølvik also made an impact in her first start for Newcastle, scoring her first goal for the club and assisting two more.

Internationals were also at the heart of two tight contests on Sunday, with both Melbourne Victory and Adelaide requiring the services of their imported stars to claim all three points. Victory's 2-1 win over cross-town rivals City in the Melbourne Derby came down to goals to American duo Catherine Zimmerman and Lynn Williams, the latter of whom was only announced last week, while Adelaide earned their first three points of the season with a 2-1 win over Canberra thanks to a sumptuous chipped assist as well as a Goal of the Season contender from Japanese midfielder Nanako Sasaki.

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The question for some clubs, though, is how they will fare when their imported stars such as Van Egmond and Williams return to their parent clubs before the end of the season.

Perth Glory

After their chaotic extra-time win over Brisbane Roar in round one, we wondered whether lightning could strike twice for Perth Glory. As it turns out: yes, yes it can.

The fluctuating border situation between Western Australia and Queensland meant that Perth and Brisbane were forced to play each other twice in the opening two rounds, with Perth coming away 2-1 winners in the first leg thanks to a disastrous own goal from Roar goalkeeper Georgina Worth in stoppage time.

The second leg, played on Brisbane's home turf, ended in similarly dramatic fashion. Like their first meeting, both sides began slowly but it was the Roar who gained control of the game as the minutes ticked by, registering more shots, more corners, and more passes than their opponents. Perth goalkeeper Morgan Aquino made several outstanding saves as Brisbane attacked in waves, sending shots from Anna Margraf and Mariel Hecher wide and over the crossbar.

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But, once again, it was Perth whose persistence was rewarded. In the 86th minute, substitute striker Alana Jancevski fired a cleared corner back into the crowded penalty area, with the ball ricocheting wildly off the leg of Hecher and looping over Worth's outstretched arms.

It's the first time since the 2017/18 season, when they were spear-headed by the deadly partnership of Sam Kerr and Rachel Hill, that Perth have won their opening two games. They finished sixth that year but went on to make finals the season following. Will history repeat itself for the Glory?

Losers

Amy Jackson

Life comes at you fast in the A-League Women's competition: just when you think you've started the season well, a single injury can create a domino-effect that derails your campaign before it's truly begun.

It's perhaps too early to tell whether this is the case for Melbourne Victory, but following the season-ending knee injury to captain and centre-back Kayla Morrison in round one, small seeds of doubt are starting to be sewn around whether Victory can retain last season's championship title and even – as some had thought – do the double.

Victory looked less assured against cross-town rivals Melbourne City on Sunday afternoon than they did in their 5-1 thumping of Adelaide last week, partly due to their new-look midfield. Veteran Amy Jackson was moved from her usual defensive midfield position to slot into centre-back alongside Kiwi international Claudia Bunge, with Kyra Cooney-Cross taking Jackson's place at the base of midfield. New signing Alex Chidiac made her first start as a number ten, while Melinda J Barbieri retained her box-to-box role.

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City, recognising these shuffles and the discomfort of playing out of position, suffocated Victory's midfielders and regularly found space in behind their defensive line. The pressure would pay off just before half-time when Jackson scored an own goal, heading a City corner into her own net after a communication mix-up with goalkeeper Casey Dumont.

While Victory would pull two goals back after the hour through Catherine Zimmerman and fellow new signing Lynn Williams, it was truly a game to forget for Jackson, who capped off her own goal with a red card after tripping City winger Holly McNamara in the 87th minute.

Having lost their starting centre-back, Victory will now be without their second-choice one when they take on Brisbane Roar next week. How Victory respond to this early crisis could determine whether they hit the heights their pre-season promised.

Western Sydney Wanderers

Something is rotten in the state of Western Sydney.

A kind of malaise appears to have settled in across the club, with both senior sides under-performing in their respective competitions early on. The crisis is arguably more pointed in the A-League Men's competition, with pressure mounting on head coach Carl Robinson to turn his team around following a string of disappointing performances, including being knocked out of the FFA Cup by National Premier Leagues side APIA Leichhardt.

But there is a similar pessimism now creeping into the women's team, who have made finals just once since joining the ALW in 2012. While not given nearly the same financial or logistical support as the men's team, Western Sydney's women's side has many advantages not afforded to other teams in the women's league including a state-of-the-art training facility and home stadium, a large player development catchment including Westfield Sports High School, and one of the biggest budgets in the competition.

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Despite having the edge in this regard, the highest Western Sydney have ever finished in the ALW is fourth. Even then, though, that 2019/20 season was one in which they relied heavily on international-level players like foreign trio Lynn Williams, Denise O'Sullivan, and Kristen Hamilton, as well as Matildas Amy Harrison, Ella Mastrantonio, and Kyra Cooney-Cross. However, all these players departed the club the following season, seeing the Wanderers tumble into sixth last year and forcing yet another rebuild under new coach Catherine Cannuli.

Western Sydney currently sit seventh on the ALW ladder with one point from two games after their 2-0 loss to Sydney FC on Saturday. Next week, they take on Newcastle Jets: a club that is almost the inverse of the Wanderers, leaning into local youth development and community engagement despite their financial disadvantages.

Indeed, while financial resources and glittering facilities are one thing, a long-term vision, sustainability, and identity are quite another. Until the club marries the former with the latter, it's unlikely we'll see them live up to the "big club" label that is growing ever-emptier by the season.

Here's a Good Thing

There are strikes, and then there are strikes. This absolute thunderbolt from Adelaide United midfielder Nanako Sasaki not only helped the Reds get off the mark against Canberra United on Sunday, but it instantly became a Goal of the Season contender. And just look at that camera angle: the definition of the chef's kiss emoji.

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