The National Premier Leagues (NPL) Queensland Women’s competition returns this weekend with new teams, an updated format and a strong crop of contenders vying for honours in 2021.
The season commences with 17 sides before splitting into two at the halfway mark to pave the way for a connected two-tier system incorporating the incoming Football Queensland Premier League (FQPL) Women’s division.
Before then, though, comes a blockbuster Round 1, featuring a Grand Final rematch between Lions FC and Logan Lightning and seven other must-see fixtures.
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The new campaign brings additional teams into the mix, with Brisbane City, Olympic FC, Peninsula Power and Virginia United coming into the picture as Football Queensland prepares to introduce the FQPL Women’s competition from 2022.
Lions enter as Champions for the second season running after defeating Logan in last year’s Grand Final, retaining the trophy they first won in 2019.
However, the Richlands side were unable to make it back-to-back Premiership doubles after finishing second behind Gold Coast United in the race for the title. Gold Coast seized that piece of silverware after compiling 17 wins from 20 games during an exceptional regular season campaign. They will hope to go a step further this time after losing out to Logan in a Semi Final upset.
All eyes on new sides – There will be plenty of attention paid to the competition’s new and returning teams in Round 1. In particular, the season-opening clash between Olympic and Virginia could provide a glimpse of their respective aspirations. City, meanwhile, are set to hand out several debuts in their meeting with Sunshine Coast Wanderers, who join Western Pride in coming back into the competition following their absences in 2020. Peninsula Power, the fourth addition announced last November, host Mitchelton FC in Round 1.
New competition structure – The first half of the 2021 season consists of 17 rounds, with all teams playing each other once. The split then occurs in July. That will see the top eight teams form one group, while the bottom nine will form a secondary group. The team that finishes first in the secondary group at the conclusion of the season will secure a spot in the NPL Women’s competition in 2022, with the remaining eight to form the FQPL Women’s division in 2022.
Dominant forces to duel once more – Premiers Gold Coast and Champions Lions were the clear standouts last season, finishing 10 and seven points ahead of third-placed Capalaba respectively. Both sides again look strong going into 2021, suggesting they will be jostling for spots at or near the top of the table. It’s a burgeoning rivalry that will only grow stronger over the coming months.
Football Queensland commentator Jarrad Neck’s predictions for the 2021 season
Premiers: Lions FC
Champions: Capalaba FC
Top Four: Lions FC, Capalaba FC, Gold Coast United, The Gap FC
Dark Horse: Western Pride/ Moreton Bay United
Player of the Year: Eloise Fryer
Golden Boot: Shea Connors
Youngsters to Watch:
Georgia Beaumont (The Gap FC) – Having represented the Junior Matildas and spent time in Brisbane Roar’s system, Beaumont is a striker blessed with a knack for scoring goals and a natural ability that could take her far in the game.
Kijah Stephenson (Brisbane City) – After earning a place in the 2020 NPL Women’s Team of the Season following a string of outstanding performances in attack for the QAS, Stephenson will look to continue her development in new surrounds at Corporate Travel Management Stadium.
Anabelle Gibson (Gold Coast United) – Gold Coast might have struggled to overcome key injuries last season if not for the versatile Gibson, who did a superb job replacing senior team-mates in defence while also proving her ability to play higher up the pitch.
Brisbane City – Jemima Moore
Capalaba FC – Billie Murphy
Eastern Suburbs – Tessa Andujar
Gold Coast United – Isabella Habuda
Lions FC – Shea Connors
Logan Lightning – Brittney Lacek
Mitchelton FC – Jess Hogg
Moreton Bay United – Laini Freier
Olympic FC – Teani Karalouka
Peninsula Power – Ali Schaefer
QAS – Ellen Gett
Souths United – Rie Kitano
Sunshine Coast Wanderers – Kayla Moore
SWQ Thunder – Lauren Spreadborough
The Gap FC – Sofie Persson
Virginia United – Stefanie Mayhew
Western Pride – April Gleeson
Image: Lions FC