Newcastle will not have former skipper Gema Simon before round five but will be boosted by the return of three Young Matildas when they face Sydney FC on Saturday at McDonald Jones Stadium.
The Jets beat Western Sydney Wanderers 2-1 on Sunday at McDonald Jones Stadium to start their W-League campaign but they face a tougher task against the two-time premiers and champions in round two.
Matildas defender Simon was not expected back from overseas in time for the Sydney game and the scheduling of the Norway Cup final means she will miss the opening four rounds of the 12-game W-League season.
Simon is playing with Norwegian club Avaldsnes, who play their Cup final on November 19 against Valerenga – the same day Newcastle host Canberra in round four. The foundation Jet will likely be back for the away clash with Adelaide the following weekend.
Although yet to sign for Newcastle, coach Craig Deans said: “I can’t see there being too many problems.”
While Simon’s return has been delayed, Deans will welcome back Sophie Nenadovic, Cortnee Vine and Clare Wheeler from China, where the Young Matildas fell at the final hurdle in the hunt for an Under-20s Women’s World Cup berth. Australian lost 3-0 to China at the AFC Under-19 Women’s Championship on Saturday.
“We’ll probably have to pick them up a bit,” Deans said.
“It will be disappointing for them but at least we’ll have three more players and they are quality players.”
The boost in stocks will help the Jets, who went on the attack against Wanderers with a back-three formation. It meant the likes of former Wanderers player Nikola Orgill, American Arin Gilliland and midfield general Emily Van Egmond got through a mountain of work racing back in defence.
“The back three works,” Deans said. “We’ve got Arin, who can run all day, Nik Orgill is the same. [Gilliland] has just played 20-odd games in America, so she's fit. Gema Simon is the same and hopefully she’ll come back in a couple of weeks.
“She and Sophie can play in that position, so I think the system works well for the players we have, because there’s people around the ball in the front third.
“But it will take a little bit of time. A back three is a little bit of extra work coaching-wise, but I think it suits our players. The style of play doesn’t change though.
“We finished with a 4-4-2 because it suited the game better and I think it’s nice to be flexible.”
The W-League Jets kick-off at 5pm Saturday in the second of five home double-headers with their A-League side.