The simple change leading the A-League Women towards professionalism

Jamie Dunkin
The Nightly
The A-League Women's push for professionalism helped by new contract normal
The A-League Women's push for professionalism helped by new contract normal Credit: Getty Images

When the A-League Women began the 2023/24 season, there was a sense of optimism and change in the air after a seismic Women’s World Cup.

The league had made some overt moves towards professionalism and sustainability with increased media attention and crowds, but also with Matildas hero Cortnee Vine staying with the league on a marquee deal.

As fantastic as it was for the league and Sydney FC to keep Vine, it wasn’t her re-signing that signalled a major shift in the league. Instead, it was the contracts signed by so many other players across the competition.

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Instead of season-by-season contracts that had long been the frustrating norm, players were now being signed up for two or three-year deals. Sophie Harding re-signed with Western Sydney for two years after a breakout season, while veteran Matilda Tameka Yallop returned to Brisbane Roar on a two-year deal.

Three-time championship-winning coach Ante Juric told The Nightly why this is such an important shift for the league, and of his frustrations getting to this point.

“Most clubs are now doing two or three-year deals, six years ago it was a lot easier to get players... everyone was free at the end of the year to negotiate with”.

“I don’t know why clubs only did one-year deals, it was a bit unprofessional. You don’t want to rotate your squad each year. It’s not just next year’s planning, it’s the year after that”.

“I think I was the first one in the league to offer multi-year deals when I came on board. It’s prevalent in the men’s game and should be in the women’s as we push for professionalism”.

But as clubs catch up, information remains surprisingly secretive, leading to ‘awkward’ phone calls as clubs try and recruit players.

“Now, you have a lot of awkward conversations where you find out they’re already on a two-year deal, and nobody’s told you beforehand”.

Juric’s Sydney re-signed highly-rated 16-year-olds Maddie Caspers and Indiana Dos Santos both to three-year deals earlier in 2024, something he described as important for the club’s stability, and crucial for player development.

“We want to keep them here, we want them to develop. From a coach’s point of view, I want to keep them. From a club’s point of view, you want to be able to sell them and put the money back in the ecosystem later on.”

“If we’re moving to professionalism, we shouldn’t be moving our best players on for nothing at the end of a contract”.

As for the clubs still offering solitary year deals to their players, and the agents getting their players to accept them, Juric warned of the consequences.

“I don’t know why they don’t do multi-year deals, [...] you want to try and keep your players and not have to rebuild every year.”

“Good player agents should be looking for longer-term deals for their players, there’s no safety net in a one-year deal”.

The rise in multi-year deals also answers the question of the league’s long-term stability and health - something which a major Australian outlet has cast doubt on over the last 18 months, publishing numerous stories suggesting the leagues could die off within a year.

But from a coach’s point of view, Juric says this is more media beat-up than actual reality.

“I think we’re healthy, I know the clubs are struggling a bit. I know there is some impact, there is not a lot of money floating around... but there’s a big media bash-up as well.”

“There’s a lot of good stuff happening, especially in the women’s game, but certain parts of the media don’t want football to grow, don’t want it to be big. They disrespect us, laugh at us in the papers, and from there people sadly jump on board. There’s a lot of naysayers in the game, but we need to grow and be united”.


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