NEWCASTLE’S most experienced player has a simple message for her teammates as the club approaches the W-League finals for the first time in nine years.
At 28, Washington Spirit midfielder Tori Huster is the oldest player in the Jets squad, which will take on Sydney on Saturday at Leichhardt Oval for a place in the grand final.
It will be the US import’s first play-off appearance in Australia, where she has played one season with Western Sydney Wanderers and three with Newcastle.
However, the ball-winning Florida State University product has tasted success at home, winning the Elite National Championship grand final with Western New York Flash in 2012 alongside Jets skipper Emily Van Egmond. In more than 100 games since for the Spirit, Huster has been to the play-offs three times without taking the title.
Although Newcastle are breaking a finals drought, Van Egmond, Hannah Brewer, Gema Simon and Americans Huster, Katie Stengel, Arin Gilliland and Britt Eckerstrom offer the Jets plenty of big-game experience.
Huster said the message to the less experienced players this week would be to stay focused.
“To be detail-oriented is never a bad thing,” Huster said on Tuesday.
“Now is the best time to be as focused as you can be. This is what you play for. You don’t play for just regular-season games, you play to be in the finals.
“I think if everyone can take care of what they can off the field, which is really important because this is the end of the season and bodies are hurting and players have put in a lot minutes on the field, so if you can stay as focused as you can on the things you can control, that will put you in a better spot for game day.
“Those little moments that are going to be the key moments in the game, if you’re focused and you’ve done that all through the week then you’re more than likely going to be prepared.”
Newcastle lost 3-0 to Melbourne City last week to stay third but they beat Sydney 2-0 in round two then drew 2-2 second time around.
Huster said keeping possession to limit Sydney’s attacking power would be key.
“Ever since I’ve been out here, they’ve always been a tough team to play against,” she said. “They always play good football and I think they have done that this season. They had a bit of a rough start but the second time we played them, it was a completely new team so I think it will be more of an even match-up this game.
“We know what they are really like now and it’s a good opportunity on the weekend to show what we’re about.”
Meanwhile, Stengel, the Jets’ leading scorer with 10 goals, was named on Tuesday the Professional Footballers Australia’s W-League player of the month for January.
Regardless of Saturday's result, Huster was glad to be part of coach Craig Deans’ squad this season.
“This has been the funnest season that I’ve had out here in Australia, so I’m really happy this group has made it to the finals,” she said.
“I think Deansy has put together a really good squad and I think it’s just been a lot of fun, so I’m excited that we are able to play even one more game as a team.
“I think we deserve to be in the finals, we’ve played really well this season and I’m just excited to be in the finals with this group.
“The group has been great all season and really stuck together, even through some tough games and tough results.”