Extra Time: 'Phenomenal' Nagasato challenge makes Wright's Newcastle return extra special

She may know the ‘phenomenal’ Yuki Nagasato‘s game inside out, but Arin Wright admits Newcastle Jets face a huge challenge to stop her close friend when Brisbane Roar come calling on Thursday night.

The American, known as Arin Gilliland before her marriage last month, arrived in Australia from Chicago on Sunday, drawn back to the Hunter Valley for a third time by the city’s one-club community spirit and café owners who know her by name.

Her first assignment: shake off the jet-lag and try to keep pace with the Roar’s new Japanese playmaker and Chicago Red Stars teammate.

The pair will have likely met for coffee before the game, but football will not be on the agenda. The beautiful game is never discussed between the two good friends – even though their contribution at McDonald Jones Stadium tomorrow will likely be pivotal to the outcome.

“She’s [Nagasato] phenomenal,” Wright told www.w-league.com.au.

“It’s going to be funny because I watch her beat all these great people all the time, but now I’m going to be playing against her in the midfield rather than playing with her.


“I’ve never had to take on the role of defending her so it’s going to be very fun for me.

“And it’s going to be very challenging because I find her to be one of the most creative people on the ball.

Nagasato


“I was telling someone… you know we’re going to have to watch out for Yuki.

“People write her off because she’s in her thirties and she’s not super quick or super athletic.

“The way Yuki can juke someone on the ball and her touch and how easy it is and she can just seamlessly go by you without you knowing it is crazy.

“Being able to play alongside her for the past two years at Chicago has made me a better player.”

Wright is one of seven Chicago Red Stars in the Westfield W-League this season, but her presence in the competition never looked likely after she was married in October.

But not even the union of man and woman in eternal matrimony could keep her away from returning to Newcastle, for which Wright fell in love with at first sight back in 2016.


She says it would have been a ‘crazy decision’ to stay away. And after spending the off-season harassing Jets boss Craig Deans on social media to bring her back, she is now targeting Westfield W-League silverware.

“I love it here,” she said.

“Every time when the W-League rolls around I’m itching to come back.

“I love coming back to Newcastle so much because of the team as well.

“I have never been so close with a team emotionally as this team and I think all the players can say that.”

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Arin Gilliland