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ALW: Maitland rolls out welcome mat for high-flying Jets

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Maitland is determined to give the high-flying Newcastle Jets’ A-League Women’s (ALW) side a massive homeground advantage this weekend.

The Ryan Campbell-coached outfit booked its maiden semi-final appearance on Saturday after knocking over Western United 4-2 in an extra-time thriller.

The victory not only put the team into the Hunter club’s history books.

But, it enables the girls to play their first fixture, of the two-leg series, at the Regional Sportsground against Melbourne City on Sunday 21 April.

And, Maitland City mayor Philip Penfold said the community was keen to roll out the welcome mat.

“We’re thrilled the upcoming play-off is taking place here,” he stated.

“We’ve been very glad to have a few of the ALW games at Maitland already this season.

“Look, we’ve built a fantastic facility and like they say in Kevin Costner’s movie, Field of Dreams, ‘if you build it, they will come’.

“Here they are.

“So, to not only get those home and away matches throughout 2023/24, but a semi-final as well, in Maitland is great.

“We’re very proud of the women and of our involvement with the Jets in general.

“Most people are aware the men train at our precinct… and I think it’s a testament to the work council’s done to produce such a high-quality facility.

“So, we’re extremely excited for the ALW squad and we’ll do all we can to whip up interest and make sure we attract the biggest crowd we can.”

Penfold said Newcastle’s side, which booked a top six berth in the last round, deserved as many spectators as possible.

“I understand their win over Western was their first in a finals appearance,” he told the Newcastle Weekly.

“So, they’ve done a brilliant job representing the region.

“I have no doubt Maitland will get behind them, too.

“We feel like we’ve adopted the Jets in a way, with the men training here and the women bringing their games to town.

“I’m positive council, as well as the community, will do all it can to rally support and turn up en masse this weekend.”

One aspect of the ALW team that’s impressed Penfold is its resilience.

“They’ve had to deal with their original coach Gary van Egmond leaving mid-season, then Matilda Emily van Egmond could only play four matches, keeper Izzy Nino was suspended for the past fortnight and there’s been constant talk about the ownership of the club,” he said.

“It must be very hard to focus on the day-to-day goings on and what you need to do with all the outside noise.

“I guess that comes with the territory of being professional or semi-professional sportspeople.

“However, they’ve shown they can match it with the men and concentrate on what’s important with their role and not get blindsided by other things at the club and within the sport.

“They’ll be ready to go.

“We’re very, very proud of them.

“And, I’m confident Maitland will come out in droves to support them on Sunday.”

Gates open at 2pm, with the match kicking off at 3pm.

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