JETS coach Craig Deans had to convince American midfielder Tori Huster to back up from a tough domestic season to have a third stint with Newcastle last campaign.
And after the first game of the W-League season, Deans knew he had made the right move.
Huster was named the Jets W-League player of the year at the club’s annual awards night on Tuesday at Newcastle City Hall.
The 28-year-old from Washington Spirit, who had last played for Newcastle in 2014, answered the call from Deans and helped the Jets make the finals for the first time since 2009. She then starred in the epic extra-time semi-final loss to Sydney.
The midfielder featured in all but one game, a loss to Canberra, for Newcastle but was subbed off three times as she managed foot and groin injuries.
“I think when she didn’t play, we lost,” Deans said.
“And her effort in the semi-final was pretty special, given she didn’t train all week. She came out and played 120 minutes and played really well.
“She scored two really important goals, against Victory away, Adelaide away. They were big moments.
“When you look at all that, she was obviously a very important player for us.”
Deans said Huster “wasn’t going to come” and was “worried she might need a break” after the US National Women’s Soccer League season, but he was pleased he convinced her to make the trip.
“The moment I knew it was a good decision to bring her was in the first game against Western Sydney,” he said.
“We were in the last five, 10 minutes and up 2-1 and she just lifted to another level, made some tackles and did some work that we hadn’t had in the previous couple of years.
“I just saw she was going to make a huge difference to the mentality of the team, more than anything, and she showed that every time she went on the field.”
As for Huster returning next season, Deans said “all the American girls have indicated they’d like to come back”.
Local junior Clare Wheeler received the inaugural Cheryl Salisbury Dedication Medal, captain Emily Van Egmond was voted members’ player of the year and US striker Katie Stengel was recognised as the club’s leading scorer for her league second-best effort of 10 goals.
The Cheryl Salisbury award was established to recognise a Jets W-League player with outstanding attitude, effort and dedication on and off the field and in training throughout the season.
Deans said the 20-year-old midfielder was a deserved winner who worked hard to get into the squad and keep her spot after missing the first two games following Young Matildas duties.
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