After years of pain and near misses the Newcastle Jets were finally rewarded with finals football for the first time since the inaugural W-League season.
W-League veterans Hannah Brewer and Gema Simon will take up the right and left back positions respectively.
Britt Eckerstorm returns between the sticks after a sensational first season that saw her announce herself with her sheer athleticism and acrobatic saves. She was one of the best in the league last season and was a top priority re-signing for the club.
Can the Jets repeat and push for the big prize?
In the build-up, everyone at the Jets, from the coaching staff down to the players have made no secret of their desire and belief to once again make the finals and even push for a maiden title this campaign.
On paper, their squad has virtually stayed the same and look just as strong as it was last season.
Undoubtedly, the biggest losses for the Jets this season will be the qualities of player of the year Huster who will miss this season with an injury. Huster, along with Van Egmond and the ever-improving Wheeler where the beating heart of midfield last season.
They were aggressive in pressing and upon winning the ball back were quick to supply the likes of Gilliland and Katie Stengel with that killer ball to hurt teams on the counter.
In a couple of games without her last season, Newcastle certainly missed her, and it will be up to Wheeler to try and fill that role.
In attack, in terms of goal scoring, Stengel will be fielding the expectations. Producing another solid haul will be a key component once again with the likes of Jenna Kingsley expected to show more this campaign as well.
Gema Simon (Defender)
Simon, who made the Matildas squad off the back of the 2017/18 season, was just lucky to make an appearance last season after playing through a cartilage injury. The club stalwart is fit again after undergoing surgery to repair her damaged cartilage and adds further stability to the defence. She also allows Brewer to shift back to her preferred right back position after occupying the left back role for the majority of last season.
Emily van Egmond (Midfield)
The Jets captain is back after a stint with NWSL club Orlando Pride but spent time away from the pitch after sitting out of the Matildas matches against France and England. Van Egmond was joint second overall with assists last season and her telepathic connection with Stengel will be key once again if the Jets are to have another successful campaign. With no Huster to share the workload with her ability to control the big games in the middle of the park will be vital.
Katie Stengel (Forward)
Coach Craig Deans wanted a point of difference to the forward options of the past when he signed her last season and Stengel proved to be exactly that. Topping the Jets goal scoring charts with 10 goals, it was back to her glory days at Bayern Munich. The American continued her scoring form netting six to pick up club golden boot with new NWSL side Utah Royals. A crowd favourite in her first stint at the Jets, many will be expecting Stengel to produce the goods once again.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Jenna Kingsley (Forward)
After scoring the winning goal in the opening game last season, Kingsley was unable to find the back of the net in what was a disappointing campaign by her own standards. Kingsley told the Newcastle Herald that she simply wasn’t aggressive enough last season.
“When I got the ball I tended to release it rather than run at players, and my asset is my speed, so I think I need to use that more this year and be more confident with taking players on,” she said.
During the Newcastle WPL season, Kingsley appeared to have nothing more on her mind than being direct, managing to score 27 goals for Warners Bay and will be hoping that translates into W-League form this campaign.
Larissa CRUMMER, Cortnee VINE, Jenna KINGSLEY, Tara ANDREWS, Gema SIMON, Claire COELHO, Sophie NENADOVIC, Clare WHEELER, Cassidy DAVIS, Hannah BREWER, Emily VAN EGMOND, Taylor SMITH, Katie STENGEL, Renee POUNTNEY, Paige KINGSTON-HOGG, Tessa TAMPLIN, Britt ECKERSTROM, Panagiota PETRATOS, Teigan COLLISTERand Libby COPUS-BROWN