A-League Women finalists call for more investment after record season

Sydney FC's fifth title added a final piece of lore to a record-breaking A-League Women season on Saturday evening but, with the first campaign since the Women's World Cup now concluded, Matildas attacker Cortnee Vine was among those at AAMI Park calling for increased investment to ensure the historic gains aren't wasted.

Defeating Melbourne City 1-0 thanks to a 69th-minute Shea Connors strike, the Harboursiders became the first side in Australian history to win five national women's titles with their triumph, also securing back-to-back championships in a remarkable seventh consecutive Grand Final appearance.

- Subscribe to ESPN's Women's Football Podcast: The Far Post

It served as an apt end to a season in which league administrators boasted -- without providing exact figures -- of a 611% growth in memberships, 133% increase in TV hours consumed, 108% surge in crowds and a new record for the most attended season of any women's sporting league in Australian history.

Positioned as the face of a new, post-Women's World Cup era, Vine was proud of what the league had accomplished but was adamant post-game that more could have and should be done by those touting their role in the game's growth -- especially when it came to working towards year-round, full-time women's programs.

"If you look at stats, memberships and everything, it's been a very successful year," said the Sydney attacker. "The crowds that we've been getting, it's great to see post-World Cup.

"I still feel like we could have done heaps more; more investment, more professionalism. There are coaches that are still not full-time. [Players are] not technically full-time. I'm in a different boat to the other girls -- I'm Matildas as well, so, financially, I'm in a different position -- but the other girls, they're part-time still.

"More investment needs to happen. More professionalism. I think it will grow but I feel post-World Cup was the perfect time for people to be like: 'I'm gonna invest in women's football and see where we go.'

"I'm hoping for that over the next few years."

The sister of newly crowned Macarthur FC Medalist Jake and Sydney FC academy prospect Corey, Shay Hollman, who played a key role in the buildup to Sydney's winner, has firsthand experience of the gaps that remain between the men's and women's games.

"You can definitely see the difference," she said. "I get a bit more of an insight into it because I've got two brothers in the same situation. The main thing would be pay, 100%.

"They're full-time, we're part-time. But it's also the standards, the staff, the amount of staff, the facilities, everything like that. They're still pretty different.

"I think it's just about putting money, funding into the game. Keeping up the crowds, we've been breaking records this season [for] memberships sold, fans at each game.

"But there's still a long way to go... it's not like we can fully focus on football. That'd definitely be the next step."

Vine and Hollman's words were echoed by Sydney boss Ante Jurić and City mentor Dario Vidošić, the former eyeing greater levels of marketing amidst more investment from both league administrators and government and the latter hopeful of further expansion of the league and a shorter offseason.

Despite recent fiscal challenges, officials maintain a belief the A-League Women can become a destination league for Asia, if not the world, in the years ahead. But this level of ambition carries with it distinct challenges in a rapidly growing global women's football economy.

"To get players with big profiles to come; more investment needs to come," said Vine. "The girls aren't going to come for less money than what they're on overseas.

"We're now competing with big leagues because we've gone from a 12-week competition basically to a [26 week, including finals] comp. We are fighting against them to get players to come here.

"If we're put in that position, you now need to pay more because the girls aren't going to come for less than what they can get back home or overseas. Sam [Kerr], Alanna [Kennedy], everyone that is over in the WSL, they're getting paid great money, they're professional. It's what everyone wants.

"No one's going to come unless that's what it is. Nothing happens until we invest more."