Newcastle Jets are in touching distance of ending a long drought from the Westfield W-League finals, and it is striker Tara Andrews who is the flag-bearer for a host of local products playing their part in a strong campaign.
Now in her seventh season at the club, Andrews is comfortably Newcastle’s all-time top goal-scorer. Though she is still only 21, Andrews is very much the elder stateswoman of a host of local young players coming through the ranks.
Newcastle boasts a rich tradition in women’s football. Given its role in rearing the likes of Cheryl Salisbury, Kate Gill and Jo Peters, Newcastle is perhaps more prolific than any city in Australia on a pro-rata basis.
The last time the Jets reached the Westfield W-League finals was way back in season one when that famous trio featured in the club colours.
Now Andrews hopes she can be part of the next generation of local players to restore the local game to its former glory.
“I looked up to those three when I was growing up,” says Andrews. “We have had some great players come out of Newcastle. Hopefully we can now keep that going with some talented young players coming through, and help take the Jets into the semi-finals.”
The young Novocastrian has enjoyed a strong season, further boosted by call-ups to recent Westfield Matildas camps.
Andrews also competed in the United States’ based W-League for Colorado Pride during the off-season, where she was named the league's best.
“That gave me a lot of confidence, also being with the Matildas. My football has improved in the past two years, so it’s looking up for me and hopefully I can continue going forward and becoming a better player.”
This Sunday Newcastle Jets host Melbourne Victory in the Fox Sports/ABC TV match where a win will be a massive boost.
Newcastle boasts an incredible defensive record this season, conceding just nine goals in as many matches. It is a statistic that would be even more impressive but for a shock 5-1 defeat against Adelaide United.
“We have a very solid backline,” says Andrews. “The four we have working together are a really good backline and we have worked really well defensively as a team unit as well.
“We are a young team, so we don’t have that extra experience, and we don’t have those star players than can win us games. We work more as a team and work really hard together, which is a strength of ours.
“Last year was pretty good too. We had a good team then as well and nearly made the semis. Hopefully we can get there this year, we probably need to win two out of three matches. Hopefully we can do that, and I think we can.
“More people are coming to our games, and that happens when you are winning games. There is more in the news and more people want to come to the games when they know we can win.”