Melbourne Victory coach Jeff Hopkins expects star signing Lisa De Vanna to have a huge impact on what he sees as a slightly weaker W-League this season.
The veteran Matildas striker has returned from a stint with Serie A club Fiorentina and will headline Victory's attack when they kick off the 2020-21 campaign on Sunday.
Victory will host Brisbane Roar in a rescheduled fixture at CB Smith Reserve after their away clash with Perth Glory was postponed amid the latest round of coronavirus-related disruptions.
De Vanna has bucked the trend by coming home when a host of Matildas have headed to Europe, and there will be fewer international players, especially Americans, in the W-League this season.
The 36-year-old is expected to fill the hole left up front by departed striker Natasha Dowie and has already had an effect on her teammates.
"She's a dynamic player, a real threat to opponents, a goal scorer - but what's been more important to us so far is the way she's been around the squad," Hopkins said.
"She drives the intensity of your training and your games, and insists on everyone else being at her level as well.
"She doesn't accept any passengers around the place and the girls have really upped themselves around her."
De Vanna spoke glowingly of her experience playing football in Italy but also admitted she struggled while forced to spend several months locked down in Florence when COVID-19 hit.
Hopkins feels his striker has relished being in home comforts, closer to family, and is ready to make her mark on the domestic game again.
"She just looks like she's enjoying what she's doing," Hopkins said.
"She's got her own unique way of doing things and saying things, but it's been really effective and it's been accepted by the rest of the group around her.
"She's someone we wanted to bring in to do exactly that."
The W-League fixture has already been tweaked a number of times because of rapidly changing coronavirus restrictions, but Hopkins said it had only been a minor disruption to his team's preparation.
"We never know what's going to happen with COVID and we've talked about that through the pre-season - to expect the unexpected," Hopkins said.
"It's up to us how we deal with it and the players have been fantastic."
Australian Associated Press