When the Newcastle Jets walked out onto No.2 Sportsground on Sunday evening, there were very few tipping them to walk away with a result against the three-time W-League champions Melbourne City. They made history with a 1-1 draw.
The off-field barrage against the ladies in blue and red regarding their season’s chances started with the departure of local hero and Matildas midfield maestro Emily van Egmond. Disregarding the fact she landed at City, it was a blow all on its own.
When fans and pundits got wind of the “local flavour” plan coming down from the Hunter, a thick red line was drawn straight through Newcastle’s finals hopes. Eyes turned to the Sydney-siders, and Melbourne’s two power-clubs.
So when Teigan Collister’s wonderful long-range strike cancelled out Van Egmond’s dagger-shot in the opening round of the season, it stunned a lot of people. City fans, definitely. Pundits, assuredly. But not the players in the squad.
For them, their game plan was clear. Newly appointed co-captain Clare Wheeler had already spruiked it ahead of the opener: hard work, team chemistry, self-confidence. All of these were on display at No.2, and Melbourne was stunned.
Newcastle’s reaction to going one behind in the first round shows everything that we need to know about what kind of Jets outfit we’re going to see in the 2019/20 season.
Van Egmond’s goal landed in the back of the net in the 22nd minute. 45 minutes, and a half-time break, later they had equalised. At the death, still pushing to the limits, Newcastle nearly found a winner through Jenna Kingsley.
All of this against a Melbourne squad dripping with international talent from Australia, Scotland, Serbia, and Japan. City recorded 696 passes as they dominated possession in the match. The Jets answered with just 247.
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But in the end, the determination of the squad, and their willingness to push for 90 minutes in a quest to earn a point, or even three, paid off. 26 percent possession turned into a glorious, history-making point against the sky blue southerners.
Deans has laid the canvas for how the Jets are going to play this season. It’s going to be a rearguard action, relying on defensive powerhouses like Cassidy Davis and Hannah Brewer, and midfield bombs from Wheeler and Libby Copus-Brown.
In all likelihood, Claire Coelho is going to have a busy season too, but with her bank of defenders in front of her, maybe not the worst she’s faced. City fired off twelve shots, but only three were on target. The Jets matched with thirteen.
And to be fair, Newcastle’s shooting wasn’t the greatest on the night. 46 percent of shots skimmed away from the target. Five were saved. Collister made up the final one with her cracking goal, which was nominated for Goal of the Week.
Now the Jets will have to carry their hardy performance into another star-studded clash against Western Sydney next weekend.
The Wanderers opened their season’s account with a 2-1 victory over Adelaide, and are looking to make it two. They are breaking in Bankwest Stadium as their new home venue, and have American international Lynn Williams debuting.
But Newcastle has taken one unexpected point so far this season. And now they’re every chance to do it again a second time when they face the Sydney side from 5pm on Friday evening. The game will be televised on Foxtel and Kayo Sports.