W-League mid-season report card: Newcastle Jets

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With only a handful of matches remaining this season, it is time to examine the Newcastle Jets triumphs and dunces and grade the overall performance. 

Semester Summary: The first half of the Jets 2020/21 W-League campaign delivered more woes than successes.

They have lost four out of six matches and have struggled to establish a winning formula that adapts to their opponent’s weaknesses. 

The team’s formation has been a concoction of trial and error, as many of last year’s Jets squad was annexed and new players stepped up from the Sydney NPL.

Given the short turnaround to make the team into a cohesive unit, they are still working out their style each game.

They sit sixth on the ladder, with a six point difference to make the top four.

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Areas of excellence: Although it has not impacted their overall wins, the Jets are consistently converting opportunities into goals. So far, they have scored in five of their six games.

Veteran striker Tara Andrews remains at the forefront of goal shooters. This year she achieved a four game haul in her career, scoring consecutively in the first four rounds. 

A glorious moment for Newcastle was in their second standoff with Western Sydney Wanderers by changing the starting frontline to include Lauren Allen. The early change up saw Allen utilise her speed to score two goals that day. 

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Areas in need of improvement: They have been notorious for second half blunders. In most matches they have led at half time, but a lack of concentration and slow transitions have allowed gaps for their opponents to find. 

Coach Ash Wilson should utilise the potential of the full squad. The same players are consistently starting with only minor adjustments on occasion. Newcastle’s losing rate is 66 per cent, it is time for a change up.

A prime example in the Jets line-up includes WNPL Player of the Year Jemma House who has seen more bench than pitch, despite her goal-scoring accolades.

The Jets rely heavily on Andrews to add to their scoreboard. There is no doubting Andrew’s master in front of goal, but if the team want to secure three points, a greater contribution from the attack is vital.

Top Student: Rhianna Pollicina has been a standout player in the midfield. Her work rate is just as effective off the ball as it is on and despite being a new addition, she plays with the calmness and certainty of senior members.

Pollicina received Goal of the Round honours for the round seven clash against Melbourne Victory. Although victory slipped away from the Jets, Pollicina’s efforts showcased her quick-wits in playing off her teammate’s ball. 

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Needs improvement: Sunny Franco is an experienced player, given her professional repertoire in the W-League, NPL and in the Australian U19 side.

With previous acclamations indicative of her goal scoring abilities, it comes as a surprise that she has not scored once this season. 

In fairness, a goal does not make a player and there were moments of bad luck. Such as against Brisbane Roar where a goal post was her worst enemy. 

However, being unable to net the ball is the least of her problems. There are instances of bad first touches, losing the ball in attack and poor sportsmanship. 

Franco needs to trust her abilities, stay composed in high pressure situations and practice consistency. The goals will come if the 23-year-old can work on her gameplay. 

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Grade: D+

Outlook: There is a lot of potential from this rough-around-the-edges squad. 

They have the making of an unstoppable force within the W-League and when they figure out a stable winning formula, the opposition should fear the might of Newcastle. 

The Jets have achieved their best results when changing around the starting XI. If Wilson experiments with the talent in her team, she could find the golden recipe. 

The chances of making the finals may be slim, but are definitely not impossible. 

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Jemma Pepper
Covering the Newcastle Jets for the 2020/21 season. Bachelor of Communications (Journalism) and Bachelor of Arts in International Studies (Germany) at the University of Technology Sydney. Seven days without playing football can make one weak!