JETS defender Hannah Brewer could easily have been on the other side of the crunch game with Canberra United on Sunday.
But in career-best form and with the chance to end her first club’s finals drought with victory over United at McKellar Park, Brewer said there’s nowhere else she’d rather be.
Brewer was part of Canberra’s W-League premiership-winning campaign last season and played in their extra-time 1-0 semi-final loss to Melbourne City. However, she was not part of new coach Heather Garriock’s plans, which opened the door for a return to Newcastle.
Brewer sat on the bench as a 15-year-old in Newcastle’s only finals appearance – a 1-0 loss to Canberra in 2009 – and played another five seasons with the Jets before campaigns with Melbourne Victory, City and United.
The return to Newcastle came perhaps sooner than expected, but the Central Coast-based former Matilda was glad to be part of coach Craig Deans’ squad.
“Home has always been my goal, to come back here and play,” Brewer said.
“I loved playing here before but had to move away to better my football. Whether it was this year or a few years down the track, I was still questioning, but obviously I didn’t make the cut for Canberra last year and it threw me up in the air.
“But I wanted to come back here. I spoke to Deansy early on and he was keen to get me back, so I look back now and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else than right here, right now.”
Third-placed Newcastle (17 points) will move four points clear of fifth-placed Canberra (16) with victory on Sunday and guarantee themselves a top-four finish with a round to play. A loss or draw may leave them needing a result against City (16) in the final round.
Brewer said making the finals with Newcastle would be special.
“I was 15 when I started here and was playing alongside Em [Van Egmond] then,” she said. “We’re the only ones still here, along with Gema [Simon], so to be possibly making the finals, with this game’s result, is massive and exciting for us and I wouldn’t want to be at any other club.”
As for clinching a finals berth in Canberra, she said: “I’d love to. I’ve got nothing against the club down there but obviously playing against your last club, it’s always a big game and I certainly want to go out and give them a go.”
Newcastle created far more chances than Canberra in their first encounter this year but went down 2-1. Deans said that performance, especially the first half, would give Newcastle confidence for Sunday’s game.
Brewer expected a tougher assignment in Canberra, who now have Norwegian striker Elise Thorsnes.
“It’s really a whole new team [this year] and it’s taken them a while to gel because they are all so new and don’t know how each other plays,” she said of United. “When we played them here we should have take our chances and won, but we didn’t and I think even at the end of the game we were on top of them, so it’s a massive game for us but one we can certainly win and show them that we’re the better side.”
The 24-year-old, player of the match in the win over Melbourne Victory, said this was possibly her best season in the W-League.
“Last season I thought I had a really good season, but I think this season I’ve taken that next step,” she said.
“Deansy has had confidence in me and given me opportunities to get forward and play a different style of game.”
Deans will have an injury-free squad for the trip to Canberra, although several players have battled illness recently.
Newcastle had the bye last round and lost 2-1 to cellar-dwellers Adelaide before that.
Deans said United would provide a challenge to the Jets defence, which conceded both goals from set pieces against Adelaide.
“They have everyone all fit now and they’ve since signed a national team striker from Norway,” Deans said of Canberra.
“She's scored goals for them and contributed in pretty much every game she’s played.
“They’ve got Ashleigh Sykes and Michelle Heyman as well and are similar to Melbourne City, with good quality players in the front third.
“They are a challenge for us. They’ve scored 10 goals in their past two games and we’ve got to make sure we’re nice and tight at the back and try to keep a clean sheet.”
The match and Newcastle’s last-round game will be streamed live on the Fox Sports website.
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