After reaching the semi-finals for the first time in eight seasons, the Newcastle Jets have lofty ambitions to do even better in the upcoming 2018-19 campaign.
Despite the W-League kicking off in just over a week, the Newcastle Jets will have to delay their take off until Round Two, courtesy of the bye in the opening round of fixtures. They will get their season underway with a visit to the Lakeside Stadium as they take on Melbourne Victory and will be hoping for a positive start to a campaign as they hope to build on last season’s success.
The Jets have spent the offseason working diligently behind the scenes and have secured the majority of last season’s playing group, as well as extending the contract of head coach Craig Deans.
Deans is currently the longest serving coach in the W-League and this stability has transferred onto the pitch as the Jets have retained the services of star midfielder Emily Van Egmond, as well as re-signing a raft of players including Jenna Kingsley, Cass Davis, Hannah Brewer and Clare Wheeler.
American imports Katie Stengel and Britt Eckerstrom have also returned to the squad after impressing at opposite ends of the pitch last season, while Deans has also added Matilda’s defender Larissa Crummer and US international Taylor Smith to his squad.
There have also been some noticeable departures, with Americans Arin Gilliland and Tori Huster not returning for a third campaign, whilst Nikola Orgill and Natasha Prior have joined Canberra United.
The two Americans played huge roles in last season’s success as Gilliland finished second behind Stengel with 6 goals, while Huster won the Jets’ Player of the Year award after an impressive season in the heart of midfield. Orgill and Prior were also key members of Deans’ side, with both players featuring 11 times in last season’s finals run.
Despite the losses, the return of Stengel, last year’s top scorer with 10 goals, is a massive boost for the Jets. Since her arrival in the W-League two seasons ago, only Sam Kerr (23) has scored more goals than Stengel (16), and the American striker has no doubt the Jets have what it takes to be serious title contenders this season.
“We always want to end up on top. I think a realistic goal last year was to make the semis and I think we can just progress from there and a grand final should definitely be in our sights” Stengel told NBN News.
Combined with the return of hometown hero Van Egmond, who scored or assisted 9 goals last season, the Jets will once again possess the firepower to trouble any side in the league. Only beaten grand-finalists Sydney FC scored more goals than the Jets last season and coach Deans will once again look to play an attacking brand of football.
With the addition of international calibre reinforcements in the form of Crummer and Smith to shore up the backline, Deans has put together a talented squad capable of challenging for honours.
Having watched the Jets break the club’s grand final drought last season in the A-League, there is plenty of optimism in The Hunter that this W-League side can match that feat this season, or even go one better.