19.1 C

ALW: It’s game on as Jets look to shoot down City in Maitland


The Newcastle Jets are focusing on the immediate job at hand and nothing else, according to A-League Women’s (ALW) coach Ryan Campbell.

After upstaging Western United 4-2 in extra-time at the weekend, the Hunter-based club is now just 180 minutes from a possible grand final berth.

However, standing in its way: the mighty Melbourne City, who finished on top of the ladder, eight points ahead of Newcastle.

The combatants will lock horns in a two-leg semi series, with the opening clash taking place at the Maitland Regional Sportsground on Sunday 21 April.

Then, they’ll meet again at AAMI Park a week later.

The winner will face Sydney FC or the Central Coast Mariners in the 2023/24 decider.

“We’re looking forward to the game at Maitland… that’s our priority,” Campbell said.

“City is a really strong footballing team, which is the challenge.

“I respect the way Dario (Vidošić) has his side playing.

“They’re a possession-based outfit.

“They look to build up, they don’t play many long balls at all.

“So, I’m keen to test ourselves against them.

“The last time we met, I was disappointed in the way that we approached the match.

“We were a bit negative and a bit on the backfoot, so we’ll change that.

“In fairness, there was a lot going on back then with the heat situation; the match got postponed twice.

“It was a different type of day, without an ideal preparation.

“I believe we’ve got a lot more to show this time and we’re looking forward to having two chances to do it.

“Usually, Newcastle crowds are very positive for us and obviously the last match against Melbourne Victory was awesome with about 2,500 people.

“So, with this pitch and what’s at stake, I can only imagine what it’s going to be like this weekend in Maitland.

“We can’t wait.”

I don’t think they really knew how much [hype] there was until they witnessed it last week when they were heading away and how many people got behind them

Ryan Campbell

Campbell admitted talk of a grand final appearance was premature.

“Don’t get me wrong, everyone wants to play for a title,” he said.

“But, we’re not there yet.

“We haven’t really spoken much about the decider.

“Although we’ve discussed Sunday is chance to go out and put down a bit of a marker.

“We’re here, we’re competitive and we’ll give it everything we’ve got.

“I did hear some of the girls saying it would be great if it was a Jets-Mariners grand final.

“However, I think that was more about them having the confidence to put ourselves in that situation, not actually putting the cart before the horse.

“It’s a cliché, but we just need to take it one match at a time and ensure we turn up with the right attitude on Sunday.

“Even though, it is interesting none of the girls have ever played a two-leg series before.

“I had to explain how it worked… that you can’t really win in the first part, but you can definitely lose it.

“So, we need to be resolute and not concede silly goals.

“We must approach the game positively, instead of cautiously, because it isn’t how we play.

“I think we’re now the highest goalscoring team in the ALW, following Victory’s exit.

“That’s evidence we are doing a good job… and the girls are doing well, too.

“It also shows attacking football is our go.

“We just want to go out and win every match we play.

“Attacking football draws the crowds, too.

“If you’re not scoring 47 goals, you’re not getting 5,000-6,000 people to a game.

“On top of that, it’s great entertainment.”

Speaking of scoring, Newcastle netted four against Western, with striker Sarina Bolden snaring a brace, along with Melina Ayres and Sophie Hoban.

“Although I don’t believe we produced our best performance, the fact we still won was pleasing,” Campbell told the Newcastle Weekly.

“We planned how the game was going to run and how we’d use our subs.

“But, then the lights went out in the second half.

“That sort of stuffed everything up.

“We were hoping to put Melina, Lara (Gooch) and Sophie on when the opposition was a bit tired and starting to fatigue.

“It felt like we’d got to the point where we’d worn them down and were gaining momentum.

“However, when the ground fell into darkness, we put our plans on hold.

“We never really got our rhythm back for a while after that break.

“So, the resilience to get through that period, and not concede, was great.

“Once we entered extra-time, I was really pleased with our fitness levels and our ability to go on with the game.

“Then Melina and Sophie ended up scoring.

“The latter had a real impact on the game as well, which was awesome.

“That’s a big strength of ours.

“I said to the girls before the match, we have four subs (on the bench) that anyone else would love to have in their starting side.

“When you can make four or five changes in the game, that’s almost half your team.

“So, you want to make sure those players coming on are going to make a difference.

“Having two strikers like Melina and Sarina and midfielders like Emma Dundas – who can play and then come off – and Sophie is a luxury.

“Milan Hammond had a great match, with Lara off the bench.

“Alex Huynh then came on with so much experience, knowing how to close out a game.

“She’s fantastic.

“I don’t believe she really wants to retire… Alex keeps on trying to put it off as long as she can,” he added with a laugh.

“She boasts incredible passion; she’s like that at training, on the paddock and in her everyday life.

“Alex loves the game, loves being a competitor.

“But, we’re fortunate, we’ve got a lot of those types in the club, girls that bring that extra bit of drive, which helps the whole team environment.”

Newcastle Jets A-League Women’s head coach Ryan Campbell. Photo: Michael Gorton Images

Between now and the big showdown, Campbell is advising his squad to “soak it up” leading into its maiden semi-final appearance.

“We’re all starting to notice a vibe around Newcastle and the Hunter,” he said.

“The players advertised a girls-only clinic on Monday… and they had 75 people miss out because it sold out.

“So, they’re feeling that buzz a little bit.

“I don’t think they really knew how much there was until they witnessed it last week when they were heading away and how many people got behind them.

“It’s great to see them receive that kind of recognition… it lifts everyone.

“They need to embrace everything that comes their way as it doesn’t come around that often.

“I told them we’ve got to work hard and whatever, but we also need to enjoy the fact we could have finished our campaign three weeks ago.

“Now, we have an opportunity to play two semis in front of big crowds.

“For some of them, who’ve got ambitions with their football, it’s an important period, too.

“Emma (Dundas) has been selected in the Australian under-17 team, along with Caoimhe Bray, for the Asian Cup.

“So, these upcoming matches are preparing her for that… to try and qualify for the World Cup.

“We’ve got other girls who are trying to make the national under-20 World Cup as well.

“There are lots of things that they can gain out of this experience, so they definitely need to soak it up and enjoy it.”

The Newcastle-Melbourne encounter kicks off at 3pm.

To puchase tickets, go to ticketmaster.

A-League Women’s (ALW) play-off draw

Semi-finals – Leg one

  • Sunday 21 April: 3pm, Newcastle Jets v Melbourne City at Maitland Regional Sportsground
  • Sunday 21 April: 5.45pm, Central Coast Mariners v Sydney FC at Industree Group Stadium

Semi-finals – Leg two

  • Saturday 27 April: 3pm, Sydney FC v Central Coast Mariners at Leichhardt Oval
  • Sunday 28 April: 1pm, Melbourne City v Newcastle Jets at AAMI Park

Grand final

  • Saturday 4 May: SF winner v SF winner

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