Matildas star wants W-League season to remember
THE build-up has been flawless, buoyed by the Matildas' success and a ground-breaking new pay deal.
But as the W-League enters its 10th season, one of its biggest stars insists it's time for players and fans to deliver.
Sam Kerr has just won a host of awards in the American women's league (NWSL) and has been celebrated for her international exploits, but she believes the W-League is at least the equal of the American competition.
After playing for the Matildas last month in front of big crowds in Sydney and Newcastle, Kerr wants a similar following for the domestic competition.
The W-League opens on Friday evening at Allianz Stadium where Sydney FC take on Brisbane Roar FC, in a game likely to feature 10 of the Matildas.
Amid unprecedented broadcaster interest - Fox Sports and SBS will show up to two games live every week - Kerr said fans could be confident they will see a quality product.
"It's right up there," she said.
"The standards are as high as the NWSL if not higher at some clubs. The US is a new league and they have some growing to do.
"But in the 10 years of the W-League I've been treated better than I have in the NWSL, which is really surprising.
"I hope people get out and support not only the Matildas but also the W-League.
"I hope they can feel a real connection with their clubs and their home states.
"People are really proud to represent their country but that hasn't completely followed through into the state thing.
"It's football's challenge as a whole, getting people out to matches.
"A lot of people like to watch it on TV but this is a summer league, people can come out in nice weather to watch the games."
A lot of the games will be played as doubleheaders with A-League games, with the female players bolstered by the new collective bargaining deal that lifts salaries and working conditions for the players.
"Football is the world's biggest sport and women's football is the fastest growing area of the sport here in Australia," W-League boss Greg O'Rourke said.
"We want to create a professional pathway in our game that will attract the best female athletes."
Matilda Michelle Heyman, preparing for another season with Canberra after eight months out with injury, said the competition could feed off the public support for the national team.
"Everyone's jumping on board, it's so good for young kids to see female role models playing the game they love," she said.
"In the past people believed in us but we didn't really have that support behind us. It's a new world for us."