They came to the Jets hoping for a small taste of what it was like to be an elite footballer.
But a season marred by injuries and suspensions has fast-tracked the progression of teenagers Teigan Collister, Tessa Tamplin and Renee Pountney.
Now, they all want to play a part as Newcastle close their 2018-19 W-League campaign against Western Sydney in front of what is hoped will be a strong and vocal home crowd at No.2 Sportsground on Saturday night.
“I didn’t actually have many expectations,” Tamplin, 17, said. “I just wanted to come in and gain the experience as a scholarship player and hopefully get a run towards the end of the season.
“I’ve actually got a couple of games and it has changed my mindset dramatically over the weeks.”
The Dudley-Redhead junior got her chance when Sam Kerr’s Perth Glory were in town for their round-11 clash on January 12. She started, held her own and has played the two games since, including marking up against Melbourne City Matilda Steph Catley.
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Kahibah junior Pountney, 18, has been injected into games off the bench four times and twice provided the assist for goal and admitted she was “having a great time”.
“The first game I played was adrenalin rush,” Pountney said. “I can hardly remember it. It was pretty tough but it’s getting easier.
“Hopefully I get to get out here in front of a home crowd [against Wanderers]. That will be really exciting, especially at No.2 because I haven’t played here yet.”
Nineteen-year-old Sydneysider Collister made her debut in the second half of round one and has gone on to feature in 10 matches, including five times being named in the starting 11.
Tamplin and Pountney have come through the Emerging Jets pathway. Collister was playing against them for North Shore Mariners in the National Premier League NSW Women’s league when her “raw talent” caught the eye of Jets coach Craig Deans.
“She got taken off with about 20 minutes to go but by then she’d already done the damage and it was pretty obvious that she was going to be an effective player,” Deans said.
“Teigan is a bit like, wind her up and let her go and see what happens, which is not a bad thing because nowadays there are lots of players that are so predictable that become less effective. She’s certainly not predictable.
“And she has energy and speed and desire. I signed her because there was a training game and she was on the second team and they were losing eight-nil. They scored one goal and she was so excited saying, ‘Come on girls, let’s get another one’. I was thinking, ‘You’re losing eight-nil, don’t be so excited’, but at the same time I thought that’s a great attitude.”
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Collister mostly plays wide, Tamplin right-back and Pountney has proven versatile. Collectively, their emergence as players of the future has been a silver lining to a frustrating season for Newcastle.
“All of them, when asked, have done more than enough and from that point of view I’m very happy,” Deans said.
“It’s just unfortunate they got their chance in the situation they did but that’s football and that’s what everyone should be waiting for – an injury or suspension or whatever to get their chance.”
The experience has shown all three the W-League is where they want to be.
“I’ve been playing since I was four and getting an opportunity to play at this level has been what I’ve been working towards in all of the teams I have been in before this,” Collister said.
“I got more of a taste of what W-League is like than I had thought I would. I didn’t have any doubts about this being what I wanted to do before but it has just made it more evident that this is the direction I want to go.”
The match against Wanderers kicks off at 7.30pm. The outcome will have no bearing on the finals with neither side able to finish in the top four but there will be plenty of motivation from both sides to end with a strong performance.
“We want to win because if we can finish on 16 points, there’s going to be a team playing in the finals probably on 19 points,” Deans said.
“We’re obviously really disappointed that we didn’t play in the finals again but, considering a lot of disruptions that we’ve had – the pitch, the players that have been injured, the suspensions that we’ve had - considering all of that, it’s been not a bad effort if we can get to 16 points. I think we can be relatively proud or pleased with that sort of return.
“Ultimately we wanted to play in the finals so obviously there’s going to be some disappointment as well but we want to finish on a good note and make sure we keep people coming back to the club as players and supporters as well.”