There is no denying the acquisition of Jets striker Jenna Kingsley will prove pivotal to Newcastle Olympic’s championship aspirations but the signing of a lesser-known player has coach Harmonie Attwill equally excited.
In her first Herald Women’s Premier League coaching role Attwill has assembled a crack squad and on paper Olympic are looking the team to beat.
The Northern NSW National Premier League club have taken over Wallsend’s WPL licence and the bulk of the Red Devils squad have made the move.
While Jets midfielder Libby Copus-Brown is a notable loss, they have picked up strike weapon Kingsley from Warners Bay and retained former W-League players Olivia Kennedy and Alesha Clifford.
The trio share a wealth of experience and will be key to any success. But the addition of former Emerging Jet Jemma House bolsters Olympic further.
House has been playing in the United States college system for the past four years and was last seen in WPL in an impressive eight-match cameo for Warners Bay in 2016. The striker is expected to combine with Kennedy and Kingsley for a lethal Olympic attack.
The Pelaw Main 23-year-old returned to Australia in December and turned up at Olympic’s WPL trials.
“She’s a great pick up for us,” Attwill said. “Her knowledge and her touch … she could play W-League. She’s really solid on the ball, has really good vision and her touch is impeccable. I’m really excited to see her play.”
House played two seasons with Laramie County Community College before joining University of Wyoming then Nova Southeastern University in Florida. She played NCAA Division 1 and 2 and is keen to see how her time there translates in the WPL.
“I’m excited to see how the competition is from 2016 until now and to see how it’s developed,” House said.
“We haven’t had a game yet but I think we’re looking really good and the season is going to be really fun with the group of girls that we have and it’s exciting to see how we’ll go.”
W-League is a goal for House. Jets striker Lauren Allan chose a similar pathway, playing US college football before returning to have a break-out season with New Lambton that earned her a W-League contract.
“I was in a place in my soccer career where I wanted something different, so I went for it and it came at the right time for me,” she said.
“It was good. I am looking at potentially taking that next step, but I’ve been out of the Australian soccer program for a little while, so I’m just going to play to my best potential then see where that takes me.”
Olympic have also picked up midfielders Tulia Palozzi and Imogen Tusek and fullback Emily Frost. Palozzi and Frost return to WPL after a few seasons off and Tusek was part of Merewether’s then New Lambton’s championship-winning squad in 2018 and 2019 respectively.
The WPL has lost several big-name players this season with Jets Tara Andrews, Cassidy Davis, Allan and Copus-Brown all heading to NSW NPL Women’s.
The WPL is scheduled to start on March 6 with Broadmeadow, who have signed former leading scorer and W-League player Adriana Jones, hosting Warners Bay. The game may however now be rescheduled after news the Matildas will play Vietnam in an Olympic qualifier at McDonald Jones Stadium that night.
Olympic open their 2020 campaign in Taree against Mid North Coast on March 8.
“Our goal is to absolutely make finals,” Atwill said. “That would be a major disappointment if we didn’t make that … with the quality we have in the squad there’s no reason why we shouldn’t. Anything beyond that would be a bonus.
“For us, there’s a lot of quality on the park and there’s a lot of experience but we need to make sure as a squad that we really put that into action. We can all the names on a piece of paper but at the end of the day if we can’t play as a team and put forward the things that we’re doing at training and play how we want to play then we’re just a team of individuals.”