Newly crowned Julie Dolan Medalist Samantha Kerr says the Australian W-League has improved immeasurably during its nine-year lifespan, but believes the competition still has a way to go before it reaches the same standard as America's NWSL.
Kerr, who plays in the United States for Sky Blue FC, was awarded the W-League's highest honour on Monday for her performances for Perth Glory last season. The Australia international, however, says that there is still a gap in quality between the two leagues - and that comes down to players in the United States receiving full-time professional contracts.
"There is definitely a difference [in standard]," Kerr told ESPN in an exclusive interview.
"The girls at Perth Glory go to work nine-to-five and then they come to training, while everyone in America is full-time professionals.
"The level of standard is increased by the amount of time they can put into it and how much energy. It's the little things.
"Obviously, there's the number of internationals too, and the U.S. players being up there as the world No. 1, so there definitely is the difference in standards, but I think the W-League is growing a lot."
Becoming fully professional, Kerr acknowledges, is going to take time as is a process that needs to continually be built upon.
"You can't just go from here to there in a year; so just keep building every year," Kerr said.
"Over the nine years we've had, [the W-League] has improved, we haven't been at a standstill and so if we can keep improving each year, I think in a couple of years' time, [a fully professional competition] will be the case. And that's how it should be."
Awarded the Julie Dolan Medal for her stellar season leading the Glory to the Grand Final, as well receiving the award for Goal of the Year, the 23-year-old Matildas star said her it was a "privilege" to receive the prestigious award.
"It's very humbling and I'm actually privileged to win the top award," Kerr said. "Being such a prestigious award, I've never won it before, so it means a lot to me and honestly it means a lot to our team.
"We thought we really deserved more to win the final this year. I know maybe on paper we didn't look like we should have been there but the team put in so much work, so it was really a team effort, I know it's an individual award but it really reflects how our team went this year."
Falling short to Melbourne City in the Grand Final in February, Kerr said the award capped off a strong season but there was one piece of silverware that she wants more.
"I'd much rather have the Premiers Plate," she admitted. "But it's always nice to get recognition for hard work, time and dedication."
While her focus has now moved from the W-League to the NWSL, Kerr knows how tough next season will be for Perth as they try to go one step better.
"We're going to have to do a lot more work than last year, because people are going to be expecting us to be good this year, which is always a different challenge," Kerr said.
"We always try to keep the team together and just try to fine-tune everything, get fitter. The Grand Final anyone can win on the day, so it's just about getting there and seeing where we go from there.
"It's definitely going to be a tougher challenge this year with everyone expecting us to be a top four team."
Flying back to the United States on Tuesday, Kerr will rejoin Sky Blue FC for her third season in New Jersey as she continues to grow her game.
"I think every year that I've been there I've had some sort of challenge or something that I've had to overcome," Kerr said. "It's been really good on and off the field.
"I've been challenged on the field, and physically and mentally. I think I've grown a lot as a person since I started playing here."