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Game on as imports raise W-League bar

AAP logoAAP 31/10/2016 Emma Kemp

Stalwarts Kyah Simon and Michelle Heyman say the W-League will hit peak standard this season as clubs invest in both local and foreign talent to challenge the domination of reigning champions Melbourne City.

Imports from 20 different countries have signed up for the ninth instalment of the women's domestic competition, complimenting a bevy of Matildas stars including Sydney FC's Simon and Canberra United's Heyman.

Among the new signings is Brazil international defender Monica Hickmann Alves, who joins Adelaide as the first from her country to play in Australia, while Japanese World Cup-winner Yukari Kinga is on board with Canberra United and Sydney are set to unveil their own South American signing this week.

Though some contracts are still being finalised, clubs will collectively spend more than $1 million for the first time this season, a rise on the $920,000 outlay of the last when cashed-up City set a new benchmark in their inaugural campaign.

Premiers and champions City scored 38 goals in 12 regular-season games, in a brutal lesson on what money can do.

The club has lost its most potent strikeforces in Scottish star Kim Little and Matildas co-captain Lisa De Vanna, who is yet to sign anywhere.

But in the duo's place they've signed American Erika Tymrak and veteran Australia goalkeeper Lydia Williams, while also retaining gun Welsh midfielder Jessica Fishlock and Matildas Steph Catley, Larissa Crummer, Laura Alleway and Teigen Allen.

The general consensus is that City are still the team to beat, the gap just no longer looks as daunting to those chasing.

Simon, whose largely unchanged Sky Blues team are after revenge for last season's 4-1 grand final loss, believed the trophy was up for grabs.

"It's going to be the most incredible W-League season, just the international response and interest has been through the roof this year," Simon told AAP.

"Seeing so many international players coming to Australia to play the W-League not only boosts the brand of the game but also the quality of the competition.

"City pipped us at the post last year so we'll definitely be out to get one back on them."

Heyman will be part of one of the field's most potent attacks alongside American duo Jasmyne Spencer and Celeste Boureille but still has her eye on City after they poached Williams from between United's posts.

"City won it last year without Lydia, now they've put one of the world's best goalkeepers in the back it's going to be a challenge," Heyman said.

"But Sydney FC have a very strong squad with all the girls going back there and there's so many internationals - I think this is the most we've ever had in the W-League.

"The standard is going to be another step above what it was last year - it's hit its peak.

"The word is getting around how good the league is."

W-LEAGUE IMPORTS - WHERE THEY'RE FROM

Brazil, Canada, Chile, Taiwan, Denmark, England, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Scotland, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Trinidad and Tobago, United States, Wales.

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