After what’s being dubbed by players as the “longest pre-season in the world”, the Western Sydney Wanderers return to the pitch this Sunday afternoon for the opening game of the 2023/24 A-League Men’s season.
After reaching the Finals for the first time in several years last season, the Wanderers will be looking to pick up where they left off – that’s despite another off-season of change.
Following their spectacular fourth place finish last season, more than a dozen players exited the club with the same amount coming in.
Goalkeeper Lawrence Thomas, who joined the club prior to the 2022/23 season, said while the club has lost some experience, they’ve made up for it in youth and athleticism.
“With the turnovers, we probably lost a bit of experience in terms of age and games played, but we’ve picked up a bit more pace in the right areas,” he told the Weekender.
“We have a bit more of a younger group, we’re a bit more athletic than we were last year and we have a bit of a different playing style too.
“I can’t see why, at least at a minimum, we won’t do as well as we did last year or hopefully even better.”
A proud western Sydney local, 31-year-old Thomas played his junior football at the Marconi Stallions, Blacktown City Demons and the AIS before kicking off his senior career at Bankstown City.
In 2011, Thomas broke into the A-League with Melbourne Victory where he played for nine seasons, being crowned Champions twice as well as winning the Australian Cup.
Thomas returned to the domestic competition last year after two seasons overseas in the Danish SuperLiga where he made 56 appearances.
Thomas said he enjoyed his first season at the Wanderers last year, but he and many of his teammates weren’t satisfied with bowing out in the opening round of the Finals.
“Most of the team felt like we fell a bit short,” he admitted.
“It was probably nice for the fans to have that Finals feeling again and give them a bit more to cheer about. Hopefully we can continue that this year.”
The Wanderers will open their 2023/24 campaign against the Wellington Phoenix, who finished in sixth spot last season. In a huge treat for local football fans, Western Sydney’s men’s team will play the Phoenix at 3pm before their women’s side hit the CommBank Stadium pitch at 5.45pm, also against the New Zealanders.
“I don’t mind the 3pm kick-off, I don’t mind playing a bit earlier,” Thomas said.
“It’s also good to have the girls at the same venue as well.”
Nathan Taylor is the Weekender’s Deputy Editor and Senior Sports Writer. He also compiles the weekly Chatter on the Box TV column. Nathan is an award-winning journalist, who has worked at the Weekender for a decade.