With the February international window in the books and the resumption of league seasons across the globe, now is the perfect time for another Matildas big board.
If you're wondering what a big board is, it's an exercise to help assess the depth of the Australian squad, working to the hypothetical that if the Matildas Women's World Cup team had to be selected tomorrow, with games beginning in a week, who would make that hypothetical plane?
Injuries, form, and depth mean that players who are locked in now may not be locked in when push comes to shove ahead of the actual tournament.
Before we go any further, you can go reacquaint yourself with the rules and categories of the big board as well as look at who was a lock back in December, who was in the conversation, and who was considered a bolter in the first edition of the big board.
- Matildas Big Board: Kerr's a lock, but who else makes the squad?
The Matildas' Cup of Nations victory has seen players bolt out of the blue, re-enter the conversation, and pose more questions than answers. Other players have returned to full fitness, gone on outrageously good runs of form, and unfortunately picked up injuries.
While there haven't been massive changes since the last time we checked in, there have been enough moves in and out of the squad, as well as significant patches of good and bad form to warrant a revisit, so without further ado here is the second Matildas big board.
Teagan Micah, Lydia Williams, Mackenzie Arnold, Clare Polkinghorne, Ellie Carpenter, Charli Grant, Alanna Kennedy, Courtney Nevin, Clare Hunt, Aivi Luik, Katrina Gorry, Kyra Cooney-Cross, Tameka Yallop, Alex Chidiac, Emily van Egmond, Clare Wheeler, Sam Kerr, Caitlin Foord, Hayley Raso, Mary Fowler, Cortnee Vine, Emily Gielnik, Holly McNamara
Locks: Lydia Williams, Teagan Micah, Mackenzie Arnold
While there is technically no movement in and out of the goalkeeper selections, the movement between the three choices continues. Back in December it felt like a forgone conclusion; Teagan Micah and Lydia Williams were the top two choices and Mackenzie Arnold rounded out the three.
- Subscribe to ESPN's Women's Football Podcast: The Far Post
Based off the Cup of Nations alone, no one would bat an eyelid if Arnold was tasked with donning the gloves in an opening World Cup game. With Williams earning way more game time than she has in the last year and Micah heading into the beginning of the Swedish league season, there is genuine competition for the No. 1 goalkeeper spot.
In the conversation: Jada Whyman
Jada Whyman's A-League Women form sees her remain as the goalkeeper on the periphery of the selected three. A recent concussion while playing for Sydney FC hopefully means only a week away from the game.
Bolters: Chloe Lincoln
One of the most in form A-League Women goalkeepers at the moment, Canberra United shot-stopper Chloe Lincoln is a young star on the rise. She's just produced two clean sheets while away with the Young Matildas in Round 1 of Under-20 Asian Cup qualifiers.
Locks: Alanna Kennedy, Clare Polkinghorne, Charli Grant, Courtney Nevin, Ellie Carpenter, Clare Hunt, Aivi Luik
Here's where the movement begins. Clare Hunt was the most surprising selection heading into the Cup of Nations but by the end of the tournament it looked like she had been playing in the heart of defence for years. Another option at centre-back -- who happens to be a specialist centre-back to boot -- is a luxury Aussie fans will be reveling in.
Ellie Carpenter also shoots straight from in the conversation to a lock after she successfully completed her comeback from her ACL tear with her club side, Lyon. While Carpenter has returned that does not spell the end of Charli Grant in this squad. Her growth over the last eight months has been astronomical and she continues to offer both a strong defensive option and more and more of an attacking threat.
Courtney Nevin, Clare Polkinghorne, and Alanna Kennedy round out the defensive selections; Nevin continues to play week in, week out for Leicester, while Polkinghorne recently became the most capped Australian footballer, breaking the record held by Matildas legend Cheryl Salisbury. Aivi Luik retains her spot in the squad and brings an experienced head.
In the conversation: Steph Catley, Angie Beard
The Matildas' defensive stocks feel like the epitome of two steps forward, one step back. The excitement over the emergence of Hunt and the return of Carpenter has been slightly soured with news of a foot injury for Steph Catley. The extent of the injury, or any timeline on her return, is as yet unknown. However, the sight of one of the Matildas' best, most consistent performers hobbling along was not ideal 18 weeks out from the World Cup.
Consequently, Angie Beard moves up from the bolter category to in the conversation as a potential second left-back option for the Matildas. Her return to the A-League Women has been a welcome reminder of her talent. However, as mentioned in the last big board, her international future may not lie with Australia.
Bolters: Charlotte McLean, Matilda McNamara, Emma Checker
In the first edition of the big board, Charlotte McLean's name was the one that came up most as someone who should have been somewhere on the list. After more solid performances in the ALW, she makes her way on to the big board in the bolters category. At present, Emma Checker continues to be one of the best ALW defenders while Matilda McNamara will be heading into another season in Denmark with AGF. However, if this Catley injury proves to be somewhat serious, more Australian left-backs across the globe will be on high alert.
Locks: Katrina Gorry, Kyra Cooney-Cross, Mary Fowler, Tameka Yallop, Alex Chidiac, Emily van Egmond, Clare Wheeler
It's a case of one in, one out for the Matildas midfield stocks with an injury keeping Chloe Logarzo out of the final squad and a return from injury elevating Tameka Yallop into a lock. Katrina Gorry and Kyra Cooney-Cross cemented themselves as the first-choice midfield pair during the Cup of Nations. However, the duo started every single game and played the majority of minutes. While this could be nothing, some questions can be asked about rotation heading into a tournament environment.
Alex Chidiac's game-changing cameos made her an obvious lock and a good start to the NWSL season will only enhance her prospects. Similarly, game time for Emily van Egmond and Mary Fowler will only boost their confidence and ensure that whether they are tasked with a start or finish, they can do the job required of them.
As mentioned in the first big board, midfield remains the area of the park most stacked which is a welcome headache for Gustavsson.
In the conversation: Amy Sayer, Chloe Logarzo
Amy Sayer was one of a handful of players who didn't see a single minute of game time during the Cup of Nations. However, she has become a regular fixture in Matildas camps of late. Without seeing her on the park, it's hard to push her into the locks category.
Logarzo missed the February window with a foot injury and is now back in Kansas City with the Current, undertaking NWSL preseason. Based on this injury she is in the conversation rather than a lock.
Bolters: Grace Maher, Daniela Galic, Hana Lowry, Elise Kellond-Knight, Rachel Lowe
Unfortunately, Elise Kellond-Knight has suffered an Achilles tendon injury and has recently undergone surgery to repair it. The chances of her making a full recovery in time for the World Cup are currently unknown but it is shockingly timed off the back of an awful couple of years on the injury front for Kellond-Knight.
There are a couple of standout midfielders in the ALW who are showing off their potential at the moment. Daniela Galic iwas just away with the Young Matildas and continues to be one of the most exciting young prospects in Australian football. Hana Lowry is a youth international for Australia and has recently stepped it up for Perth Glory, scoring bangers, and exhibiting the kind of creativity that could make her an attacking weapon for years to come.
Grace Maher has also shown that she is versatile in the centre of the park and is currently in the conversation for best Australian midfielders in the league. Finally, Rachel Lowe has shown a knack for scoring in her past few appearances for Sydney. While she needs consistent game time to cement this, her current form is worth keeping an eye on.
Locks: Sam Kerr, Caitlin Foord, Cortnee Vine, Hayley Raso, Emily Gielnik, Holly McNamara
The success of the front four of Sam Kerr, Caitlin Foord, Cortnee Vine, and Hayley Raso once again worked a treat in the Cup of Nations. Pleasingly, the former three have all brought their strong form back to club land. Raso is rehabbing a face fracture she picked up at the Cup of Nations but is set to return to football shortly.
Roaring straight into the locks category is Holly McNamara who returned from her ACL injury via Melbourne City. She was one of the most exciting players in Australian football at the start of last year and made her Matildas debut at the Asian Cup. She is the kind of player who would slot easily into the formation the Matildas seem to be favouring and make an instant impact.
In the conversation: Remy Siemsen, Michelle Heyman, Princess Ibini
Remy Siemsen had a slow start to life at Leicester with an injury keeping her off the park but she made an immediate splash on debut scoring the Foxes' lone goal in a 5-1 loss to Manchester United. The result wasn't ideal but a fit and firing Siemsen is a good proposition for the Matildas. Princess Ibini has continued her good season for Sydney FC and remains a solid wide option should the Matildas need to call on her.
It's been a while since Michelle Heyman played for the Matildas, however, there is currently no better Australian striker playing in the ALW. She now leads the Golden Boot race with 12 goals scored and is well on her way to becoming the first ALW player to score 100 goals. Whether or not Tony Gustavsson sees her as a part of his plans, even as a short-term solution, remains to be seen. But there are much worse options than having a striker of Heyman's calibre to call on.
Bolters: Kyah Simon, Beattie Goad, Larissa Crummer
Kyah Simon returned to running this week, ticking off a major milestone in her ACL recovery. With five months to go until the actual World Cup, the Tottenham attacker remains a bolter option. Beattie Goad continues to impress at Melbourne Victory and as mentioned in the first big board provides genuine versatility. However, she has not had a look into the squad since Gustavsson's first matches in charge almost two years ago now. Larissa Crummer is undeniably a favourite of the Matildas coaching set up but needs to find a little bit of form. With not a lot of season left in the ALW, she drops down to the bolter category.