Canberra United looking to extend their reign to make W-League history

RIGHT: Dubbo’s Nicole Begg kisses with W-League trophy after she captained Canberra United to last year’s title. Photo: GETTY IMAGESCANBERRA United’s experienced core group of players sets them apart from the rest of the competition and gives them a fighting chance to create history as the first W-League champions to go back-to-back.

That is the opinion of Matildas goalkeeper Lydia Williams, who returns – after missing last season while she recovered from a knee reconstruction – to further strengthen Canberra’s title ambitions.

Williams is one of seven foundation players, including star Dubbo sisters Nicole Begg and Ashleigh Sykes, in the star-studded Canberra squad for Sunday’s season-opener against Brisbane Roar at Suncorp Stadium.

While all the off-season talk has centred around competition newcomers Melbourne City and their impressive recruiting spree, Canberra have quietly added the necessary pieces to complement their existing structure.

It is that consistency and knowledge of each other’s game that Williams believes will prove crucial in the long run.

“I think we’re definitely in the top four and definitely in play-off contention,” Williams said.

“I think there’s a lot of hype surrounding Melbourne City and they’ve recruited some big-name players, [but] it’s the marathon that’s going to win the race and not a sprint.

“Canberra’s proven that we don’t always start out strong, but we do finish really strong.

“This season, having the core of last season still here, we don’t have to start from scratch again, so we can improve on that.”

Begg, Sykes, Williams, defenders Ellie Brush and Rebecca Kiting, and midfielders Grace Gill and Caitlin Munoz are survivors of Canberra’s inaugural team in 2008-09.

Matildas striker Michelle Heyman – the W-League’s all-time leading goal-scorer with 50 goals – will also return for the defending champions.

Canberra has also added Mexican midfielder Veronica Perez, English striker Jodie Taylor and New Zealand international Emma Kete, and home-grown trio Emma Checker, Jenna McCormick and Nickoletta Flannery in their quest to to win the grand final in successive years.

“In all leagues around the world it’s really tough to do the double,” Williams said.

“It’s going to be hard, but it’s not an impossible feat at all.

“The beauty that Canberra has is that not a lot of people come and go.

“The team has been training pretty much for each other for years on years now.

“There might be a little bit of tweaking, but as soon as pre-season started, we could go into how we wanted to play, which is an advantage for us compared to the other teams.”

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