Melbourne Victory starts its Westfield W-League campaign with a clash against Adelaide United at AAMI Park on Sunday.
Victory has welcomed several new additions to its squad heading into the 2018/19 season.
Christine Nairn, Samantha Johnson and Ella Mastrantonio are among those returning to the club, while Emily Gielnik, Dani Weatherholt and Grace Maher have also joined.
The relatively new-look squad begins its campaign against the Reds in the first half of the double-header at AAMI Park.
Victory's all-time leading goalscorer Natasha Dowie – who has scored 17 times in 31 games for the club – is back for a fourth season.
Former star Nairn returns, having made the most appearances (36) for Victory of any player in the squad this campaign.
Teenage attackers Kyra Cooney-Cross, 16, MelindaJ Barbieri, 18, and Melina Ayres, 19, are also part of Victory's squad, while 18-time Westfield Matilda Emily Gielnik has joined.
However, Cooney-Cross is unavailable for the opening round due to commitments with the Westfield Young Matildas at the 2019 AFC Under 19 Women's Championship qualifiers.
Victory has enjoyed a strong record against Adelaide, winning 12 of the previous 16 meetings between the teams, outscoring the Reds 44-13.
Head coach Jeff Hopkins' pre-match thoughts
on preparations for the season opener…
"It's been a good pre-season. We got the players back in the best condition they've been in. We've had players here, such as Natasha Dowie, who has been here for the whole of pre-season which is the first time she's been able to do that. Our internationals have come in early. The team has come together really well on and off the field. There's a great team spirit here and we've got through without any real hiccups. We've played four games together as a group so that team cohesion is starting to come together. I think the good thing is the players look around and they can see that we've got a much stronger side this year and they're really looking forward to the season, which is important. They get a little bit more belief than they've had the last couple of years, I can definitely see that in them."
on the new signings…
"It's always important just to refresh and rejuvenate the place, bring a few new characters and a few new personalities in and we worked really hard on getting the right type of people in as well. Christine has come back, Sam's come back, they've been here before, they know what we're all about but also they've come in and they've really added something to the dressing room, not just on the field. Dani Weatherholt has been great, a real good quality midfield player but again, brings other things to the team, she's a real team person, puts the team first and players respond to that. And obviously Emily Gielnik, I've known Emily for a long time now and it's a big coup getting her to come here and she's a really positive person. Again, a real team player and when you get a number of players like that that come into the place, it really rejuvenates the place and gets everyone nice and positive. It's been excellent."
on the importance of making a good start…
"It's very important. Every game counts and you're always a little bit apprehensive in the first couple of games, because we don't get a long pre-season, we don't get to see the opposition. A lot of the teams bring their internationals in late, they get their squads together quite late and we don't actually get to see them playing so the first couple of games we've definitely put the focus on us and how we're going to play and how we're going to take the game to the opposition."
Westfield W-League 2017/18 Round 14
Adelaide United 2-1 Melbourne Victory
Friday, February 2, 2018
Marden Sports Complex, Adelaide
Victory was edged by Adelaide when the teams met in the final round of last season.
Cooney-Cross had cancelled out Makenzy Doniak's opener, but Jenna McCormick scored a second-half winner for the Reds.
Melbourne Victory v Adelaide United
AAMI Park, Melbourne
Sunday, October 28, 2018
Kick-off: 4.15pm AEDT