Former Newcastle Jets captain Hayley Crawford has delivered her verdict on the team’s chances in the 2019/20 season, and despite admitting Emily van Egmond’s departure is a “major blow,” believes the local flavour will bring success.
There’s no “sugarcoating the fact” that longstanding local hero Van Egmond has headed south in a switch to the sky blue of Melbourne City, the retired W-League star said, but revealed she backs the remaining stars to step up in her place.
“It’s going to be hard, I don’t think you can sugar coat it,” Crawford said in the build-up to the W-League’s opening round this weekend.
“I think you need to be really honest that she’s arguably Newcastle’s greatest ever player. To fill a hole like that is going to be tough but I think the girls will know that. Everyone is going to have to go to that next level a bit and push themselves.”
There’s plenty of rising youngsters, and proven W-League talent, already chomping at the bit to step into the departed Matildas shoes, however. Chief among them, Crawford said, was Newcastle’s scoring superstar Tara Andrews.
The Women’s Premier League golden boot scorer 48 goals in her regional campaign this year with New Lambton – just two short of a ton in 21 games – and has a career record of 28 goals in 74 appearances for the club.
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Andrews also shone in her stint in the American second division with Colorado, where she slotted home 24 key goals in 23 appearances for the Pride.
“Tara Andrews for me has always been someone that makes things look really effortless,” Crawford said of Newcastle’s leading goalscoring lady, and added that she believes the green and gold of Australia could again be in Tara’s future.
“I think if she has a big season she can make Newcastle finals material and hopefully get a Matildas call-up, because I know she has the potential to be there. I think she’s a key player and always has been over the years.”
Alongside Tara, Crawford pointed to club co-captains Cassidy Davis and Hannah Brewer, both of whom have stacked up dozens and dozens of top-level appearances for their hometown club in the W-League.
“Those two bleed the Jets, they bleed Newcastle, those two at the back for me are ones that you know what you get,” the team’s former captain said.
“You’re always going to get a consistent, solid performance. For us to have any chance of making the finals we’re going to rely on those two to have the solid, consistent games they have week in, week out.”
Though many aren’t tipping Newcastle to qualify for the finals again in a year that many have dubbed a “transition period” for Deans’ outfit, Crawford said that she could see the Jets firing into a place where they become “interesting” dark horses.
“I can guarantee it’s going to be an interesting year no matter what, and I don’t ever think you can write the Newcastle local girls off, that’s for sure,” she said.
“They haven’t got the internationals, but it will be nice to see what the hometown girls can actually do. You’ve got pros and cons to that obviously, the pros are that you’re investing in local talent, you know they’re going to be there for the long run.
“We’ll see how that pans out this season, I wish them nothing but the best but one or two might have been nice to complement the local talent. We’ve always shown the underdog tag suits us nicely over the years.”
Newcastle’s 2019/20 season begins at 6pm this Sunday afternoon, when they welcome Van Egmond’s new team Melbourne City to No.2 Sportsgound.