A roster full of local talent, Newcastle is hoping that homegrown youth can propel them forward.
A club that has never seen the W-League Grand Final and only making the semifinals twice has created the least amount of noise with their signees.
They lost Emily van Egmond to Melbourne City and have no international players on their roster.
The most well known names the Jets have are Gema Simon and Larissa Crummer. Unfortunately, it does not look like Crummer will be able to make an immediate impact since she is still nursing a broken leg.
The club returns a majority of their roster from a season ago, which will help with team chemistry. However last year’s team did finish in seventh place with a 5-1-6 record.
WHAT DID WE LEARN FROM LAST SEASON?
An overall underwhelming season after making the semifinals in 2017-18, the Newcastle Jets will hope they can get back to a top tier team.
Not all of last season was a loss, especially not in the final weeks of play. The Jets finished the year strong winning three of their final four games with one of those victories over last year’s runner-up, Perth Glory.
Not to mention those wins were after Katie Stengel, Taylor Smith and van Egmond succumbed to injuries. Their local, younger players had to step up and they did just that.
Head coach Craig Deans is highlighting his team’s accomplishments late in the season and looking for his young players to step up again.
“I think the positives from the season were when we lost multiple players to injury and all of the young players that came in performed really, really well,” he says.
“So that was a nice thing to see and they are all local Newcastle girls that came and filled in. So I feel like as a club that is certainly a positive.”
If Newcastle can keep the same efficiency from those players they may surprise some people this year.
On paper when you compare Newcastle’s roster to that of the other clubs, Newcastle does not stack up well. But people underestimating them could be their biggest advantage.
At its core, football is a team sport. Teams in any league can’t get away with having one or two top players and expect to win games. There needs to be cohesion and fluidity amongst all 11 players on the pitch.
Many other W-League teams are scrambling with the short preseason to try and get team chemistry since their rosters are so different from last season. Whereas, Newcastle returns its core and has players that have been teammates at the local level in Newcastle for years.
Everyone loves a good underdog story, but how often can the underdog prevail? Asking the Jets to go up against teams that are more experienced every week is a tough task.
While a core of the Jets are returning for this season one player they will be missing is goalkeeper, Britt Eckerstrom. While the World Cup was going on Eckerstrom was able to earn some quality starts for her NWSL team, the Portland Thorns.
Unfortunately, Ecerkstrom has not resigned and the Jets will be relying on either Nicole Simonsen or Claire Coelho to guard the net.
Regardless of who is in goal both will join the majority of their teammates as inexperienced having less than ten starts in their W-League career.
WHAT DEANS SAID
“We’re the only club that has this kind of youth academy and we want to reward them. If we think they are good enough, we want to give them the opportunity in the W-League.
“Last year, three girls coming out of the academy got W-League contracts so that is in the right direction for us. We expect this as a philosophy and over the next few years we are going to just keep working with the academy and keep producing as many local players as we can.
“I’m not saying that we are going to finish first and not lose any games during the season. It is going to be a very hard season for us but we are committed to making it work.
“In some ways I am looking forward to it because it is an exciting challenge as a coach. it is exciting for the players because they get to represent their hometown and if they are good enough they will get the rewards.”
Coming off of representing the Matildas at this year’s World Cup, Simon is going to be a player the Jets rely on heavily. The 29 year-old will anchor the backline and help settle her teammates during the tough stretches the Jets may face.
Simon, being a Newcastle native and having been a part of the club for a majority of her career gives her even more validity with her teammates. Her defensive abilities will surely have her on the scouting reports for every opposing team.
The Jets may have lost their leading scorer from last year in Courtnee Vine, but the Jets did sign their top scorer of all time. Tara Andrews has recorded 20 goals for her local club and if Newcastle is going to be successful this season she will need to increase that total.
Newcastle may not be able to blow out teams, but if they can average one-two goals a game and hold tight on defence they may be able to take some games people believe they shouldn’t.
Hopefully the team chemistry can have the midfielders playing well timed balls for Andrews to finish.
If the Jets want people to stop reminding them that van Egmond is gone than Clare Wheeler is going to have to dominate the midfield.
Wheeler won the Jets’ Player of the Year award last season so she has the respect of her teammates and her club.
Her next accomplishment will be if she can help Newcastle exceed expectations for this year and be the facilitator that Newcastle has always had.
ONE TO WATCH
The Jets have picked up a few players with high level experience and one of those is Nicki Flannery. Coming over from Canberra, Flannery also has experience on the Australia U-20 team.
The striker can alleviate some pressure off of Simonsen and allow the Jets to score from more than just one person.
If the Jets can use their team chemistry to get Flannery involved in the attack, the more likely they are to upset their opponents.