In line with the PFA’s commitment to providing policy leadership to ensure Australian football is the best governed football nation in the world, is internationally competitive on and off the field and is a central part of Australian culture, ‘The PFA Post’ analyses issues impacting Australian football. 

The inaugural PFA Post examines the W-League careers of the 511 Australian players who have played in the competition since its inception in 2008.  The Post reveals that the W-League sits at the heart of Australia’s competitiveness on the global stage and highlights that opportunities for the development of players have not kept pace with rapidly improving workplace and performance standards.  

Tracking every match minute played in Australia’s premier women’s domestic competition, the research highlights the importance of the W-League in relation to Australia’s international competitiveness. The research reveals that opportunities for the development of Australian talent have flat-lined, despite the W-League’s increased ability to attract and retain domestic and international talent as a result of collective bargaining.  

With the objective to provide a rich depository of information to support the decision-making of current and future players, the research revealed a range of important insights; including:  

  • 263 W-League players, more than one in every two, have been capped for Australia at youth or senior level; 
  • four in every 10 youth internationals graduate to become full internationals at a senior level; 
  • since 2008 Australian players played 929,497 minutes, or 78 per cent of the total match minutes available. The remaining 263,272 minutes were played by foreign players (22 per cent); 
  • there are less opportunities and playing contracts for Australian players than in the W-League’s inaugural campaign despite the competition having expanded from eight (8) to nine (9) teams following the introduction of Melbourne City; 
  • the average span of a W-League career is 3.3 seasons; 
  • the number of matches played on average by each Australian player in the W-League is just 25.9; and  
  • the past three seasons have witnessed an average of 38 overseas players in the W-League, with playing contracts afforded to foreigners at an all-time high in 2018/19 (40), revealing steady increase from 2008, when only nine foreigners took the pitch with W-League clubs.  

Having illustrated the importance of the W-League in preparing the next generation of Matildas, the research highlights that there are two paths forward as the game seeks to enhance its international competitiveness and ensure increased opportunities for Australian players; both of which are inextricably linked.  

Option one is simply increasing the number of matches – or, ideally, creating a full home-and-away calendar for the W-League for the existing nine teams.  The second is expanding the W-League’s footprint – and subsequently professional opportunities – through a robust and considered approach to W-League expansion.  

The more teams in the competition will naturally produce more match minutes and more opportunities, particularly when areas with high female participation rates are considered for expansion. Utopia is a combination of one and two; an expanded W-League with a full home and away season. The opportunities for Australians within the W-League and within our National Teams would, in the context of these trends, increase significantly.  


  • 929,497 minutes played by Australians in the W-League from 2008 to 2020 (78% of total) 
  • 86 Australian players have played abroad from 2008 to 2020 
  • 187 foreign players have played in the W-League (27% of total) 
  • 263,272 minutes played by foreigners in the W-League (22% of total) 

A W-League Career at a Glance 

The average Australian W-League player appears in:

  • 25.9 matches across 3.3 seasons with 1.4 clubs 

The average foreign player appears in:

  • 16.6 matches across 1.7 seasons with 1.2 clubs 

Domestic Players: Minutes and Matches 

Season 3 of the W-League witnessed the exit of Central Coast Mariners, with the number of Australian players in the competition dropping 17% to 120.

Despite this, Australian players were seeing more match time and by Season 4, with as few as 114 players, the average of 554 minutes per season was the highest it had ever been.

With the inclusion of Western Sydney and more home-and-away matches from Season 5, playing opportunities would increase, but although the average total minutes per season also rose, this was not consistent with more game time, with the 55 minutes per game in Season 4, dropping to 47 minutes by 2014.

The inclusion of Melbourne City FC the following season may have increased opportunities for more Australian players, but the number of minutes they are playing each match continues to decrease, with 2020 seeing an all-time low of 42 minutes per match. 

Foreign Players: Minutes and Matches 

The average number of contracted players in the W-League peaked in season one (159), fell to its lowest in season 2011-12 (114) and has only gradually increased to 158 last season (2019/20). 

Australian Internationals 

A remarkable 263 W-League players, more than 1 in every 2, have been capped for Australia at youth or senior level.  

This not only illustrates the quality of domestic player in the W-League, but a visible pathway which identifies 4 in every 10 youth internationals graduate to become full internationals at a senior level. 

Players Abroad

Between 2008 to 2020, 86 Australian players from within the W-League have played abroad.

  • 86 players – Number of players who have played with professional clubs overseas
  • 205 clubs – Total number of professional clubs played with overseas 
  • 3.2 seasons – Average length of an overseas professional career 
  • 2.4 clubs – Average number of clubs played with overseas 
  • 16.8% of W-League players who have played with a professional club overseas 
  • 21.9 years – Average age of a first professional overseas contract 
  • 45 – Number of W-League players who have played in the US college system 
  • 38 – Number of US college players who have not returned to the W-League 
  • 27 – Number of active US college players 
  • 2.8 – Average number of years spent in the US college system 

The next edition of The PFA Post will be published in mid-December 2020.