A new Hyundai A-League season will inevitably bring new stories to the fore, but Fox Sports pundit and former Caltex Socceroo Mark Bosnich believes defending champions Melbourne Victory will remain the team to beat.
Hyundai A-League and Westfield W-League Season 2018/19 launched with much fanfare on Monday, as players and media converged for what is set to be one of the most exciting seasons yet.
A host of new faces have joined the 10 Hyundai A-League clubs vying for the most prestigious silverware in Australian football.
Sydney FC will be seeking to claim their third consecutive Premiers Plate, and perhaps go one better after they fell short in last year's semi-final. Melbourne Victory, meanwhile, will have a target on their back after winning the Championship over a resurgent Newcastle Jets in Season 2017/18.
Despite the list of contenders preparing to step up to compete, Bosnich believes Kevin Muscat's men are favourites to go all the way again this season.
“I think you have to say that Melbourne Victory [are the favourites] with the signings that they’ve made,” said Bosnich.
“But, they will have a crosshair on them. Teams will be wanting to beat them.”
Which team is going to be crowned Hyundai A-League 2018/19 Champions?
Keisuke Honda, capped 98 times for the Japan national team, was excited for the new season ahead, his first on Australian shores.
"After moving to a new country, it's very busy," said Honda. "Obviously I announced my national team retirement after the FIFA World Cup. In that time, I got an offer from Melbourne Victory.
"I spoke to Kevin [Muscat] and the Chairman, and many people within the club. Their ambition made me think 'One more time, I want to try.' I want to also play in the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2020."
Brisbane Roar's Adam Taggart was raring to go for his side's opener against Central Coast Mariners on Sunday. The striker, who previously played for Newcastle Jets and Perth Glory, is aiming for a consistent season.
"Obviously I'm always wanting to score goals," said Taggart. "But I think my main goal this year is to stay fit [and] enjoy football.
"It's just exciting to be in a new environment, and a really professional environment, so I'm looking forward to this season.
Equally tight will be this year’s Westfield W-League season. Brisbane Roar were crowned Premiers in 2017/18, yet it was Melbourne City who took out the Championship. And, to complicate things further, Sydney FC went on a 10-game unbeaten streak despite losing their opening three games.
Perth Glory striker, Sam Kerr, who was recently nominated for France Football's inaugural Women’s Ballon d’Or, was excited for the upcoming season.
“That would be the icing on the cake, to bring a Championship to my home state,” said Kerr.
“Hopefully this year’s the year, I’m really happy to be back in the Westfield W-League. That was a big part of my decision — to be home, to be comfortable, that’s when I play my best football.”
Former Westfield Matilda, Kate Gill, said the players have raised the standard of the Westfield W-League due to their hard work.
“[International players] bolster the league, but I don’t think we should detract from our local talent,” said Gill.
“I think we’ve got amazing role models in the girls that play in this league, our Westfield Matildas have been going from strength to strength. The players that do what they do, day in, day out, it’s phenomenal to see.
“And with young girls being able to see that, and being able to know they can go play in the Westfield W-League for their chosen team — I think that’s incredible.”
Former Westfield Matilda, Sarah Walsh, was over the moon for the start of the season.
“I just pinch myself every time the Westfield W-League comes around,” said Walsh. “I think we’re quite blessed to have our heroes playing.”
The Hyundai A-League kicks off as Adelaide United host Sydney FC at Coopers Stadium on Friday, October 19 at 7:50pm AEDT.
Six days later, Western Sydney Wanderers host Sydney FC on Thursday, October 25 at Marconi Stadium to start Season 2018/19 of the Westfield W-League. Kick off is at 7:30pm AEDT.