W-League: Newcastle Jets coach calls for longer season and deals

Jets coach Craig Deans believes Football Federation Australia needs to “bite the bullet” and give W-League players a longer, more professional competition.

Jets Hannah Brewer and Emily Van Egmond

Jets Hannah Brewer and Emily Van Egmond

But regardless of any changes, Deans says Newcastle have a good opportunity next season to build on their drought-breaking finals appearance last Saturday.

Newcastle finished third in the 14-round, 12-game regular season and bowed out of the finals, their first in nine years, with a 3-2 extra-time loss to Sydney. The competition wraps up on Sunday with the grand final between Sydney and Melbourne City at Allianz Stadium.

​The Jets have Newcastle-based Matildas star Emily Van Egmond secured for another season but the club will have to assemble the rest of the squad for 2018-19. 

“I’ll have to talk to the club and see what the plan is,” Deans said. “But I’d like to sign more players on longer-term contracts, but that’s not where the W-League is at yet.

“I know, if it was available, I could sign 10 players tomorrow on two-year contracts and not just Australian-based players, but internationals as well for multiple seasons, because people want to come here now.

“For me, that’s where the FFA and people who run the W-League have got to look at it and say how do we make the competition more professional and how do we get to a longer season?”

The W-League, which is less than a third in length of the A-League, attracts many American players on loan because it fits neatly inside the end of the US NWSL and start of its following pre-season. Americans Britt Eckerstrom, Katie Stengel, Tori Huster and Arin Gilliland were key players for Newcastle this year.

Deans, though, believed the W-League needed to be longer, regardless of the impact that had on attracting overseas talent.

“I’d play for 27 rounds. I’ll find an international player who would be here for two years, easy,” he said. “I’m not afraid of having to find them, and I’m not afraid of not having international players.

“The competition has to at some point bite the bullet. 

“The first year of the A-League I played with Newcastle and I think Mateo Corbo was the only foreign player we had, whereas now every team has five.”

The W-League side this season came under the umbrella of the Martin Lee-owned Jets for the first time. Northern NSW Football had predominantly operated and funded the team in the past.

Deans was hopeful of similar support from the club next season. 

“From what they’ve given us this year, they’ve taken it seriously and I’m sure they want it to be the best it can be,” he said. “I could get all the Americans back here tomorrow, it’s just a matter of knowing what’s available and the direction we want to go with the team.

“And I’ve already had conversations with other senior players not at this club who want to come here, so I think we’ve got a good opportunity to build on what we’ve done this year.”

He said having Van Egmond on the books “makes it easier to talk to other players”.

“Once you say we’ve got Emily here, and a few others, people start to take you seriously and again that’s credit to the club to give us the opportunity to get people like Emily here.”