Two homegrown products are keen to refuel the Newcastle Jets’ title aspirations as they soar into 2023/24.
In fact, Novocastrians Cass Davis and Archie Goodwin can’t wait for their respective A-League Women’s (ALM) and Men’s (ALM) seasons to kick off.
Newcastle begins its ALW campaign against the Central Coast Mariners on Saturday 14 October, with the ALM tackling the Perth Glory, a week later, on Sunday 22 October.
For Davis, she’s donning a Jets’ uniform for a remarkable 11th year, an achievement she’s especially proud of.
And, what makes that feat more extraordinary is she was a netballer up until the age of 12.
“I guess being told I’m too short to make it in netball made me decide to give something else a go,” Davis said.
“My dad was heavily-involved in football… he coached at the Adamstown Rosebuds and was the director of football at Macquarie.
“Also, my brother played.
“So, I just said one day ‘I’m going to make the switch and play football’.
“My first junior club was Warners Bay, then I went straight into rep at Macquarie.
“From there, I played for Northern and eventually made the move to WPL when I was too old for the previous programs.
“I went to nationals, representing the Institute of Sport, too.
“By then, I was in Year 12, and tried out for the Jets… I even missed schoolies, all the fun things, to do it.”
Sadly, that sacrifice didn’t pay off… initially.
“I was told you’re not quite there, come back next year,” Davis said.
“Thankfully, there were two girls – Hayley Crawford and Kate Hensman – who both played for the Jets, who were also my coaches at the Lake Macquarie Roosters, at the time.
“They said to me ‘we’ll get you there’.
“So, they trained me up that year and I tried out again.
“Then Pete McGuinness said to me ‘I can’t not pick you’.
“I’ve gone from there to playing every game.
“It means so much to me being a local girl playing for Newcastle.
“When I first started here, having my family, friends and people that I’ve played with, as well as the fans and members, come and support me was amazing.
“I think that’s what I’ve really loved about this journey.
“Just having that Newcastle culture and vibe around the group.
“It’s grown since I started, too.
“Now, you walk down the street and people will say ‘oh, that’s Cass Davis, who plays for the Jets… or, I know them, I’ve coached them at a clinic, or I’ve seen them at games.
“That’s what I’ve really loved about playing for my hometown.
“People always ask ‘could you have gone somewhere else?’
“But, I really don’t think I could’ve… I’m a family girl and like to be in my comfort zone.
“And, playing for the Jets really challenges me.
“I just want to keep doing better for my hometown club and helping it grow even further.”
Throughout her illustrious career, Davis has played with and alongside the stars of the game.
So, like most sports fans, she was thrilled to witness the Matildas’ sensational performance at the FIFA World Cup.
“Watching those matches, and going to the games, it really made me extra keen for the season,” she told the Newcastle Weekly.
“I’ve marked Sam Kerr and Caitlin Ford many times when they played here in Australia.
“To look at what they’re doing for the game and how much people are now behind football because of what they’ve done and their success, it’s just a credit to all those girls.
“They’ve worked so hard to get to where they are.
“I believe it could be the kick-along the ALW needs.
“I feel like our league’s been the same for a long time.
“We played 12 matches at one point, then 14 fixtures… and the competition’s been going 15-plus years.
“So, they’ve slowly increased the number of games, the pay.
“However, if you look at other codes, they’ve just gone from here straight to there.
“I think this season is going to be a big year for women’s football because we have the 22 rounds, there’s more sides.
“Plus, the World Cup created a buzz.
“People want to put more money behind the game.
“It’s the perfect time to be playing in the A-League… there are so many players returning, including a few of the Matildas like Cortnee Vine.
“That’s going to help really boost the league.
“Don’t get me wrong, the competition was at a good point before all the Matildas went overseas and started playing in England and America.
“But, having those quality players back in Australia again, and in this league, will lift crowds and quality.”
In 2022, Davis made her 109th consecutive appearance for the Jets, setting a record for the most top-flight matches in Australia for either a male or female.
However, she’s focussed on one thing in 2023/24.
“Like always, I just want to improve my game as much as I can,” the 29-year-old said.
“Even though I’m getting older, I feel like I’ve still got more to give and I just think, as a footballer, I understand things better.
“It’s an attribute of mine.
“I can read the game well and, hopefully, coach plays on the field to the tactics we need for a particular match.
“So, I’ll keep working on that leadership role, alongside manager Gary van Egmond.
“Plus, I want to win… that’s always at the top of my goal; to win a trophy.”
And, Davis’ message to the local community is simple: “Get to our games please and we’ll make sure it’s a good experience for you”.
“Newcastle’s a strong sporting area,” she said.
“Obviously, the Knights did well and credit to them; the NRLW side even attracted 12,000 people to their game at McDonald Jones Stadium, so they’re killing it.
“If our on-field performances are good, people will support us, too.
“Of course, winning is the key but if that’s what we have to do, while making the games exciting and fun for the kids and their parents, then hopefully they’ll stay and watch the Jets no matter what.
“That’s important for us this season: to build that connection with the community and gain regular support.
“We’ve got a good small base of people, who come each week, however it needs to grow.
“It would be great if Newcastle jumped on board, whether it’s football, league, hockey or anything.
“We need to keep growing the sport [here] and just get bums on seats.
“I don’t think many realise the effect of having so many people at a game… how it’s going to impact on us, via sponsorship for example, in the future with better pay, facilities and conditions.
“So, watch a match.”
At the other end of the spectrum is young gun Goodwin.
Although still only 18, the striker’s gearing up for his fourth season with the Jets.
He started in the club’s academy, from under-nines, and moving through the ranks, to under-16s.
“It’s been unreal, although it’s also been tough, especially for me with all my injuries,” Goodwin said.
“But, I’ve found ways to get on top of them and finally grabbed my chance through Craig Deans.
“He was my technical director pretty much throughout the academy journey.
“Ironically, he also gave me my shot in the senior team.
“When that opportunity presented itself, I just had to take it with both hands, perform and earn my spot.”
A Cooks Hill United junior, under the tutelage of his dad, Goodwin was always destined for great things.
“When I heard about the Emerging Jets, I wanted to trial straight away,” he said.
“So, football was pretty much my life when I was a kid.
“I remember writing in all my yearbooks, saying I want to be a professional footballer, playing overseas, playing for Newcastle.
“I watched all the games and everything, so it’s pretty much a dream come true for me.
“However, there’s still a long way to go.
“I want to play for Australia – that’s the main objective.
“I’ve come through the junior ranks of the national sides, the Joeys and Young Socceroos.
“The next is the Olyroos at the 2024 Olympics in Paris.
“That’s definitely another big goal of mine.
“And, to represent the Socceroos, that would be unbelievable.
“So, I’m going to push for that as hard as I can.”
Goodwin’s accession to the ALM was hardly surprising, given his natural talent.
But, that didn’t mean he took his foot off the accelerator either.
“Everyone had to trial at under-nines for the Emerging Jets… and there were hundreds of kids,” he explained.
“Each month, they cut the numbers down.
“I reached the final stage, however you still had to perform to keep your spot in the academy.
“That was a big thing for me.
“I was kind of on-edge for a lot of my years because of my injuries.
“Also, if I missed matches, I knew I had to play hard when I got back in the team.
“Pretty much, every NPL season I played, I finished as the top goalscorer, regardless of how many games I’d taken part in.
“I just wanted to be the best in my team, be the best in the academy and pretty much make my family proud.
“That was the main thing, keeping my head straight and working hard.
“The injuries have certainly been frustrating.
“Because I’m young, I’m always eager to play… I want to get out there, show what I’ve got and what I can do for Newcastle.
“I think one of my biggest strengths was keeping my head screwed on and not being negative about things.
“You don’t realise how much you enjoy playing the game until you’re out for a long while.
“So, when I get the chance to play, I want to make an impact and do the best for the club.”
That includes a first-up appearance against the Glory this month.
“I’m hoping to play in round one,” Goodwin said.
“It’s going to be a season to build myself physically and mentally (again).
“Over the past three years, I’ve probably only played 26 or so matches in the A-League.
“So, I definitely want to cement my spot in the team.
“Performing when I get the opportunity, and securing a starting role, is a big aspiration for me.
“I’m aiming to be the top goalscorer.
“If there are goals that look out of reach, I am going to try and reach for them.”
With a new coach in Rob Stanton at the helm, as well as newcomers in the playing group, Goodwin believes there is good reason for positivity among the Newcastle faithful.
“As a young lad, you kind of notice those things when there’s a good environment,” he said.
“This year’s probably the most included everyone has felt, we’ve just created a bond during this pre-season that I don’t think I’ve felt before in any team.
“There’s still competitiveness between us because, at the end of the day, there are only 11 players who take the field to start a game.
“That means we’ll all work hard and push each other, which is vital to be successful.
“If someone slackens off, then it won’t work out.
“However, we’re a tight-knit group and I’m confident we’re going to do really well.”
As for being a “genuine” local in the Jets’ outfit, Goodwin embraces the role model tag.
“100%, every time I step out to play, I just want to do good for the fans and community,” he said.
“I was once the little kid, who was in the stands – pretty much in the Squadron with my shirt off, throwing it around – wanting the club to do well.
“So, it’s important to thank our supporters.
“They’re the ones who watch us, so we’ve just got to perform.
“It’s why we thank them after every single game.
“They’re the ones who look up to you, so you want to inspire the next generation any way you can.”
For more sports stories:
- NRLW: Team work and trust the keys to success, says Griffiths
- GALLERY: Another amazing reception for victorious Knights
- REAL NRL: Huth, Lamb share Player of the Year honours
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