Defending champions New Lambton have sustained a double blow ahead of the Herald Women's Premier League resumption in less than two weeks with senior players Stacey Day and Georgia Amess leaving to join Newcastle Olympic.
Day, a former W-League defender, and strike weapon Amess were key signings for the Eagles when they joined Northern NSW Football's top-flight women's competition in 2018.
New Lambton finished third in their maiden season then were virtually untouched last year on the way to securing the minor premiership-championship double.
This season heralded many changes for the Eagles. Keelan Hamilton left the club after two years at the helm to take up an assistant coaching role with the Newcastle Jets' W-League side. New Lambton also lost Jets players Tara Andrews and Lauren Allan, who are playing in National Premier League NSW Women's, as well as the experience of midfielder Sophie Jones and goalkeeper Imogene Tomasone.
The Eagles opened their championship defence with a 3-3 draw against Merewether and 2-1 loss to Adamstown before the WPL was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.
They reignite their season against Broadmeadow at Magic Park on July 12.
But they will do so without Day and Amess after the club broke the news that the pair had left through a statement on the New Lambton Football Club facebook page on Monday night which read:
"The departure of Stacey Day and Georgia Amess to an inner city club, just 2 weeks before the recommencement of the season is disappointing on several levels, however spurs our conviction in developing our own players and cultivating a club culture and loyalty that runs deeper than season to season. We thank Stacey and Georgia for their service with the club and wish them all the best for their future."
Amess told the Newcastle Herald on Tuesday "it was not an easy decision to make".
"Firstly, I want to thank the club for the last two seasons. It's been great and it was probably two of the best seasons I have ever had, physically and personally for myself as well as in a whole group environment," Amess said.
"It was a tough decision and it's something we've been stewing on for quite a while. It was hard to leave the girls and the club but we were just after a bit of a different challenge and we feel like Olympic will offer that.
"We approached Olympic. There's no money involved at all. It's purely just to try to enjoy football and we're just looking for that extra challenge."
The move comes a week after Olympic announced they had lost big guns Jenna Kingsley, Olivia Kennedy and Alesha Clifford, all who have W-League experience, due to changed circumstances.
Eagles coach Brad Jones, who replaced Hamilton this year, believes the departure of Day and Amess will galvanise his squad and give younger players an opportunity to press claims for first-grade positions.
"I'm disappointed with how it happened with just two weeks to go, but they want to try something else and I really do wish them well and I hope they find what they're looking for," Jones said on Tuesday.
"We had a chat as a playing group last night at training and there's probably a few girls in our squad who were fringe first-grade players that probably could've got a first-grade start elsewhere this season. We just turned around and said the competition is there, the spots are there, step up and take them if that's what you want to do. Some of those girls were probably staring down the barrel of seeing a few minutes, now they see an opportunity to have a go at it."