As many as four Newcastle Jets stars could make their first competitive appearances for the club against Melbourne City this weekend, after Craig Deans named all four in his first extended team list of the 2019/20 W-League.
Local breakout star Lauren Allan is at the fore of the list for Hunter talents, while Nicki Flannery and Nicole Simonsen could also make their first starts in the red and blue. Paige Kingston-Hogg was with the club last year, but didn’t play a game.
The Jets chose not to dip into the open market for any major signings in the offseason, despite losing Emily van Egmond to Sunday rivals Melbourne City upon her return from Orlando’s American league campaign.
In her place, Deans is relying on the arsenal of local talent that he’s built up over the past five years, including stalwart Newcastle stars like Gema Simon, Cassidy Davis, and Jenna Kingsley, the last of whom the team would be banking on chemistry.
“We’ve kept the majority of girls from last year so I think that’s going to be a bonus for us this year, with having the team chemistry,” Kingsley told the Herald in the build-up to the season kick-off. “We won three of the last four with no big-name players, so that’s obviously got to show something.”
Alongside Davis, Simon, and Kingsley, who boast 191 appearances for Newcastle between them, more local stars like Tara Andrews, Libby Copus-Brown, Claire Coelho, Hannah Brewer, and co-captain Clare Wheeler fill the first matchday squad.
Clare especially has a major role to play this season, Deans said ahead of the team’s first competitive test of the campaign. With Van Egmond headed south, Wheeler has stepped into a leadership role – one the gaffer thinks she’ll shine in.
“With the departure of Emily, Clare was the obvious choice to step into the leadership group,” Deans said. “Clare’s a player who rarely misses a minute for us, she’s super consistent on the park, and off the park.”
Deans also added that he believes the 21-year-old will do more than just bring her A-game. She’ll also lift the entire squad as one of the three co-captains.
“She’s a fantastic influence amongst the playing group,” he continued. “Add her into the mix with Gema and Cass, who are experienced players and leaders in our squad, and it bodes well for the season ahead.”
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It’s not all experience for the team either though, and that’s a good thing.
Lauren Allan especially is a new-look face in the squad, after lighting the Women’s Premier League on first last season as she played a key role in the New Lambton trident that guided the Eagles to their first title. She’s hungry to prove herself.
“It’s been a pretty surreal experience,” Allan said. “When Craig called me I was kind of speechless. It’s still a shock but I’m mainly proud of myself to have made it. I know it’s going to be hard, but I’m just trying to tell myself, ‘You made it, enjoy it’.”
Annabel Martin (knee), Sophie Nenadovic (ankle), and Renee Pountney (foot) were all ruled out of selection for the first week of the W-League.
The game against Melbourne begins at 6pm on Sunday at No.2 Sportsground.
Newcastle Jets Matchday 1 Squad: 2. Hannah Brewer, 6. Cassidy Davis, 7. Gema Simon, 9. Tara Andrews, 10. Libby Copus-Brown, 11. Pana Petratos, 12. Tessa TAMPLIN, 13. Lauren Allan, 17. Jenna Kingsley, 18. Clare Wheeler, 19. Nicki Flannery, 20. Claire Coelho (GK), 25. Teigan Collister, 30. Nicole Simonsen (GK), 31. Paige Kingston-Hogg.