Striker Sophie Harding is excited to see what she can deliver in her second W-League campaign after putting pen to paper with the Newcastle Jets for another season.
The Jets announced on Monday the Dee Why 22-year-old and long-serving Newcastle goalkeeper Claire Coelho as their fifth and sixth signings for the coming season.
It was also confirmed on Friday that attacking wide player Sunny Franco would be returning to Newcastle.
Harding featured in 11 of the Jets' 12 matches last season, starting three times.
This time around she wants to cement a place in the first 11 and help Newcastle achieve a top-four finish after the Jets' were second-last in 2020-21.
"My No.1 goal is to get in the starting line-up," Harding said. "I'm preparing to work super hard now during the lockdown and keep fit, then for pre-season work really hard and hopefully prove to the coaches and my teammates that I can be in the starting line-up.
"But more than anything, I just want to build on myself from last year. I'm grateful that I've been asked back. It means that they see my value and I'm super excited to hopefully put in some good performances this year and get the club some wins.
"There's some unfinished business with Jets. I really think that we deserved more out of last season."
Harding is based on the Northern Beaches and has not played soccer since the Greater Sydney region was plunged into lockdown due to coronavirus on June 26. She plays for North West Sydney in NSW National Premier League Women's (NPLW).
"It's tough," Harding told the Newcastle Herald. "I so badly just want to go kick the ball with some of the girls but you can only have one person who you train with.
"I'm a sprinter but I've actually got right into my long distance running. I've been challenging myself and I'm trying to do 100 kilometres in the month of August. I've been enjoying that. I've also been doing some swimming.
"It's pretty hard with the lockdown. You can't get that playing stuff. All you can do is try to keep fit and then hopefully it falls into place when we start training again."
An enforced break has also provided the chance for a refresh.
"I only had a week break between W-League and NPLW, so it's definitely been good for my mental health to be able to switch off in the lockdown," Harding said.
"Also, my dad passed away a month ago. He loved watching me at Jets. That was his dream come true to see me play in the W-League.
"I know he wanted me to go back to Jets and it's very motivating for me to go back and try to make him proud and myself proud and my family proud."
Jets coach Ash Wilson has moved swiftly to assemble a squad she hopes will push for finals. Also confirmed are Jets co-captains Cassidy Davis and Gema Simon as well as Tara Andrews and Hannah Brewer.
"Soph has a lot of raw talent and I think people forget that last year was her first year at that level," Wilson said. "She got a good taste for it and started to really understand the level that was expected in terms of work.
"She has a real weapon in terms of her power and speed, so it's about working with her to make sure that she can harness that talent even more and be even more effective than she was last year. I'm excited to see where we can push Soph this year."
Franco joined the Jets last year after two seasons out of the W-League. The 24-year-old started in all 12 of Newcastle's games.
"[Sunny] is a fierce competitor with a strong work ethic and great attitude which saw her adjust well to our team culture last season," Wilson said.
"She is dynamic, quick and powerful with clear technical ability that can be very difficult for defenders to contain.
"This is going to be important to the brand of football we want to play and I'm looking forward to working with Sunny to build on last season's performances."
While the W-League start date of November 13 has been announced, no further details of the upcoming season have been revealed.
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