Choosing the North Wales Women’s Football League Team of the Season for 2021-22 was not difficult.
Over a competitive nine-month campaign, one team totally stood out, three others were very impressive and the rest all experienced high and low points.
A major plus was every team managed at least one win and there were a lot of positives among any negatives.
After three years of Covid and various disputes and controversies wreaking havoc with the league’s well-being, 2021-22 at last delivered a full season of action, introduced us to many new faces and provided encouraging participation numbers.
The players I’ve chosen mainly represent the best teams. There’s no ‘let’s give every team a mention’ for the sake of sentiment and keeping people happy.
That wouldn’t happen with any other league so why should it for this one?
So here we go….several excellent players were not chosen and can consider themselves unlucky to miss out, but this is just one man’s opinion.
At least I did get to see all teams competing at least once, unlike with the Adran North where I did not view enough games to warrant a Best XI selection.
Bethan Thomas (Northop Hall)
While Northop Hall had an ordinary season, their outstanding goalkeeper was more often than not her usual excellent self.
Bethan, who has won the North Wales League title with Hall in the past, earned wide praise for her performances this term from opposing teams.
Saskia Wynne-Thomas (CPD Y Rhyl 1879)
Almost an ever-present for the champions this season, this elegant right-back, whose former clubs include Prestatyn and Denbigh Town, was a true stand-out player for newly-formed 1879.
Never was she more at her best than in the final decisive game of the season at NFA, which 1879 needed to win to secure the title. For a second time in the league campaign, Rhyl prevented the free-scoring hosts finding the net – and Saskia played a blinder.
Georgia Spibey (NFA)
Brilliant new addition to the league this season, Georgia developed into a really impactive left-back/wing-back.
Her long, and very accurate, throws-ins were a real asset to the team and she proved a great motivator to all around her.
She also earned Player of the Match in the NWCFA Challenge Cup Final 4-3 defeat to Ardal North champions Llandudno.
Carol Lewis (Amlwch Town)
Without the skipper’s efforts in recruiting a squad last summer, Amlwch may well not have had a team in the league this season.
As it was, the Anglesey side surpassed expectations by finishing fourth and were in the title race for a good part of the campaign.
Leading the way was Carol Lewis, an inspirational central defender and positive force whose performances just get better season-upon-season.
Steph Farley (CPD Y Rhyl 1879)
A team does not concede just 13 goals in 18 matches without having a great defence – and Steph Farley played a big part at the back for 1879.
Strong, fit and always using the ball well, Steph really came to prominence this term, alongside players such as Saskia Wynne-Thomas, Rosie O’Brien, Alicia Duke and Sophie Haywood, as well as goalkeepers Loz Jones, Megan Robinson and Elle Evans.
Rachael Thomas (CPD Y Rhyl 1879)
If there was a league player of the season award (there actually might be and I haven’t been told) captain Rachael would be a prime candidate.
She has already won her club’s Manager’s Player award.
The former Liverpool prospect and Wales Under-16, U-17 and U-19 international scored some truly wonderful goals this season, including one via a free-kick which earned Rhyl a point at home to Amlwch in a game which could have seen the undefeated record end.
Over the season Rachael scored a magnificent 18 goals and probably would have had more were she not so unselfish in attacking positions.
Jordan Roberts (CPDM Bangor 1876)
After 1876 lost so many strikers early in the season, other players were needed to step up and score the goals and no-one did better than Jordan, who was so consistent in finding the net, hitting 15 in all.
Not the tallest of players, Jordan shows magnificent heart and her skills and work-rate as an attacking midfielder are a credit to her.
The 20-year-old previously won the North Wales Under-16 Cup with Bethel, played for Caernarfon Town in the Welsh Premier and represented Wales. Great player.
Becca Bannister (CPD Y Rhyl 1879)
This outstanding performer scored 17 goals this season – and many of them were spectacular.
She is one of the best strikers of a ball in North Wales football and her passing ability and deliveries from set-pieces are sublime.
Alongside captain Rachael, she makes up one of the best midfield pairings in North Wales. Deservedly won Players’ Player at the 1879 end-of-season awards.
Ashleigh Mills (NFA)
Although she didn’t play as many games as others in this team due to army duties, the matches she did feature in saw her in tremendous form.
Ashleigh would be a first pick of mine in most ‘best of’ teams.
She runs from first whistle to last, her shooting is awesome with the left foot a magic wand, she is always either on the ball or available for it and her competitiveness and aggressiveness in the tackle is something every manager needs.
Emily Bentley (CPD Y Rhyl 1879)
Scorer of 21 goals this season, including two crucial ones in the title-winning 3-0 victory at NFA.
Nicknamed the “Duracell Bunny” by a well-known Rhyl 1879 figure because of her ability to keep on going from opening minute to last, Emily is a nightmare for defenders because she never lets up.
If she improves her finishing a couple of notches, she will be a really top player.
She is still just a youngster and has great pedigree, having had spells at Burnley and with the former Rhyl FC in the Welsh Premier.
Sade Benjamin (NFA)
Best finisher in the league for me.
Going through one-on-one with the keeper, shooting from distance or from an opportunity in the box, Sade is a target-hitter and her 26 goals this season prove that.
Physically strong and great from dead-ball situations, Sade has come on in leaps and bounds from her days with Rhyl Development, where she was a raw talent needing a little fine tuning.
Rachel Lloyd (NFA), Alicia Duke (CPD Y Rhyl 1879), Ellie Sian Jones (Amlwch Town), Gwen Roberts (Bangor 1876), Zoe Stopford (Holywell), Jen Cox (Llangefni Town), Candice Nellist (Rhyl 1879), Hana Wellings (Llanystumdwy), Loz Jones (CPD Y Rhyl 1879), Emily Jones (NFA), Holly Mayers (Northop Hall), Molly Brown (NFA), Amy Glendinning (Northop Hall), Beth Jones (Welshpool). Grace Mpuku (Llanystumdwy), Tesni Hughes (Amlwch Town).
And many others……