Warners Bay unveiled surprise new signing Tara Pender at John Street Oval on Sunday and the former W-League player had an immediate impact in the Panthers' 7-1 thrashing of Adamstown in Newcastle Herald Women's Premier League.
The dynamic 23-year-old played the 2016-17 and 2017-18 W-League seasons with the Newcastle Jets before two Herald WPL campaigns with Warners Bay in 2018 and 2019.
Pender had started the NSW National Premier League Women's (NPLW) season with APIA Leichhardt but joined the Panthers last week and was the catalyst to an onslaught of goals in the second half on Sunday.
The game was deadlocked at 1-1 at the break. Warners Bay left-back Georgia Cook opened the scoring from a wide area around the 15-minute mark but Adamstown levelled around 10 minutes later through Maddy Howard and Rosebud finished the half looking the sharper and more likely of the two sides.
Warners Bay coach Craig Atkins told his team to "go back to basics" at the break and the Panthers regained control of the match two minutes into the second half when Pender slipped unmarked through the Adamstown defence and chipped advancing goalkeeper Alex Tagaroulias from outside of the 18-yard box.
It was one-way traffic from there. Alannah Russell was on the spot to bury the rebound from close range after Tagaroulias had swatted away a shot from Cook in the 54th minute.
Mattiese Loretan buried a long-range effort into the top left corner in the 72nd then captain Elodie Dagg well and truly killed off the game with a hat-trick in a devastating six-minute period.
Dagg scored with two well-struck goals from the edge of the 18-yard box in the 77th and the 83rd and a header in the 81st after a pinpoint delivery from the Panthers' other new signing Lilly-Jane Babic, who had been playing for the Emerging Jets in NSW NPLW.
"In the first 15, I thought we had the game," Atkins said. "We scored a good goal but then they scored from out wide and we got into a bit of a panic.
"We stopped doing what we do and tried to hold onto the ball for too long and communication went again.
"We just can't keep doing two halves of football like that because if you're playing a team like Magic, you'll find yourself 5-0 down at the break.
"It was just a simple half-time talk again because I know what the girls can do and it was a great response."
It was an important win for Warners Bay, who improved to 12 points and consolidated third place by moving five points clear of Adamstown (7) in fourth.
Pender was not the only new big-name signing to pop up during round six over the weekend. Former Jets striker and multiple Herald WPL leading goalscorer Jenna Kingsley has signed for New Lambton (0) and came off the bench for the Eagles in their 6-0 loss to Maitland (6) at Alder Park on Friday night.
Jemma House scored another hat-trick - her third of the season in four appearances - when defending champions Newcastle Olympic (15) twice came from behind to beat Charlestown Azzurri (3) 7-2 at Darling Street Oval on Saturday.
Charlestown striker Lori Depczynski twice gave Azzurri the lead but Olympic levelled through House then Georgia Little to have the game locked 2-2 at the break.
House made it 3-2 when she scored from the penalty spot six minutes into the second after Olympic midfielder Keely Gawthrop was fouled in the box. Jade Mcatamney (59th) and Georgia Amess (78th) scored before House completed her match treble in the 88th. Brooke Summers scored in injury time.
Unbeaten leaders Broadmeadow (18) were 3-0 winners over Mid Coast (4) at Taree Zone Field on Sunday.
Round 6 results:
Newcastle Olympic 7 (Jemma House 3, Georgia Little, Jade Mcatamney, Georgia Amess, Brooke Summers) beat Charlestown Azzurri 2 (Lori Depczynski 2) at Darling Street Oval on Saturday. Half-time: 2-2.
Maitland 6 (Bronte Peel 2, Mercedes McNabb, Ashleigh Childs, Taleah Mountford, Emmeline Pepper) bear New Lambton 0 at Alder Park on Friday night. Half-time: Maitland led 3-0.
Warners Bay 7 (Elodie Dagg 3, Tara Pender, Georgia Cook, Mattiese Loretan, Alannah Russell) beat Adamstown 1 (Maddy Howard) at John Street Oval on Sunday. Half-time: 1-1.
Broadmeadow 3 (Kobie Ferguson, Ash Brodigan, own goal) beat Mid Coast 0 at Taree Zone Field on Sunday. Half-time: Magic led 3-0.
Points: Broadmeadow 18, Olympic 15, Warners Bay 12, Adamstown 7, Maitland 6, Mid Coast 4, Azzurri 3, New Lambton 0.