Westfield W-League 2018/19 report card: Newcastle Jets
Newcastle Jets began their 2018/19 Westfield W-League campaign full of optimism after their sensational exploits in season 2017/18.
Having bolstered his squad with a blend of experience and youth, Craig Deans and the Jets looked to defy expectations and their more fancied opponents once again.
Let’s take a look at how they fared!
Record: 5W, 1D, 6L
Top scorer: Cortnee Vine (4 goals)
Most appearances: Cassidy Davis, Britt Eckerstrom, Jenna Kingsley, Clare Wheeler - 12 games
After a Round 1 bye, first up for the Jets was the unenviable task of travelling to Victoria to face eventual Premiership winners Melbourne Victory.
A sensational long-range goal from Victory starlet Melina Ayres helped consign the Jets to a 2-1 loss, but that defeat was soon forgotten with back to back 1-0 wins over Canberra United and Western Sydney Wanderers.
The Jets also mustered up a goal of the season contender of their own in that narrow win over Canberra, with Cortnee Vine striking one of the campaign's most outrageous hits.
However, that's where the fun would end for the Jets. Newcastle would lose four of the next five matches, despite grabbing an impressive 2-2 draw with Perth Glory in the middle of the run.
It was a streak that dented hopes of a top four appearance around the Hunter Valley, but the Jets re-ignited an outside bet thanks to one of their finest moments of the season - a 3-1 home win over Sam Kerr's Glory in Round 11.
That triumph over the Premiership-chasing Western Australians handed the Jets a boost but they were quickly brought back down to earth with a 4-0 thumping at the hands of Melbourne City eight days later.
However, Newcastle refused to drop their heads and won their last two matches, including a 4-1 demolition of the Wanderers, to finish a campaign on a deeply positive note.
2018/19 W-LEAGUE SEASON REPORT CARDS: Adelaide United; Brisbane Roar
BEST OF: Stunning free-kicks of the Westfield W-League 2018/19 Season
They may have run riot in their last game against Western Sydney but Newcastle’s 3-1 win over eventual Grand Finalists Perth at the beginning of January was as good as they get.
What made it even more impressive was the fact that it was achieved without inspirational captain Emily van Egmond - and that Sam Kerr had opened the scoring for Glory just after the half-hour mark.
But an inspired second-half performance saw the Jets storm back into the match with goals to Arin Wright, Tara Andrews and Vine sealing a landmark win.
20-year-old prodigy Cortnee Vine finished Newcastle's highest scorer and her screamer against Canberra in Round 3 was something to behold.
However, if it wasn't for the consistent heroics of goalkeeper Britt Eckerstrom, Newcastle may have found themselves further down the table.
The on-loan Portland Thorns goalkeeper rescued her side on countless occasions and pulled off several of the season’s best saves.
Libby Copus-Brown got on the scoreboard with a world-class effort against Sydney FC at Kogarah in a season producing 11 strong showings in midfield.
The 21-year old was joined by fellow youngsters Teigan Collister (2 goals), Tessa Tamplin (1 goal) and Vine (4 goals) in having breakthrough years.
Safe to say the Jets can look forward to the future with confidence.
While no doubt disappointed to finish seventh, Newcastle can take plenty of positives from season 2018/19.
Import Stengel was restricted to just six games and losing skipper van Egmond halfway through a season is no one’s idea of fun.
Still, Craig Deans blooded plenty of youngsters and Jets fans will be hoping they can use the experience of this year to fight their way back into the top four.