Newcastle will be without rising local talent Grace Macintyre and American imports Megan Oyster and Jen Hoy when they kick-off their first W-League season under the control of Jets A-League owner Martin Lee.
Coach Craig Deans will return for a third season and is busily assembling his squad as Football Federation Australia and Professional Footballers Australia thrash out a new collective bargaining agreement. Deans hopes to finalise deals in the coming weeks but said there would be a few changes from last year’s team.
He said Macintyre, who was a standout for Merewether United in their Herald Women’s Premier League 4-3 grand final win over Warners Bay last Sunday, would not back up for the W-League campaign.
Deans said it was a loss given Macintyre’s performances last season in her comeback from a knee reconstruction.
“Grace is going to do some volunteer work overseas,” Deans said. “She wants to go and do it and she’s only young, so it’s a good time to go and have that experience.
“She did well last year, coming back from an ACL, and started in two thirds of the games after missing a couple with sickness.”
An even greater loss is news Oyster will not return for a third season.
The central defender, now with the Boston Breakers in the US NWSL, was the Jets’ player of the year on debut and was one of their best again last season.
“Megan went back and got into the national team and played a couple of games, she changed clubs and had to move to the other side of the country, so it’s been a hectic year and she wants to have a break and stay at home for the off-season, which is fair enough,” Deans said. “It’s disappointing, though. We would have loved to have her back.”
Hoy, a striker from Chicago Red Stars, is also not returning. She was equal top-scorer for the Jets with Jenna Kingsley on five goals last season, which was her first with an overseas club.
“I’ve had a chat with her and I’m going to go with a different option,” Deans said.
“Last year our frontline was all similar in size and style, so I’m talking to a couple of overseas players and we’re going to bring in someone a little bit different.”
Another US import, goalkeeper Katelyn Rowland, could return. Rowland came in as an injury replacement for countrywoman Kelsey Wys (knee) last season and Deans is keen to have her back.
“Katelyn has gone back to North Carolina and she’s playing every game and they are comfortably top of the league,” he said.
“She’s in the best team in the best competition so it would be a no-brainer to get her back if I can.”
He was also in talks with another US star from last season, midfield enforcer Arin Gilliland, and was hopeful of her returning.
Northern NSW Football has funded and managed the W-League side in recent years and Deans is working with Jets chief Lawrie McKinna on the transition.
“It’s almost starting from scratch again but I think in the long run it will be worth it,” Deans said.