EXCLUSIVE: Unprecedented media coverage, a professional approach and the league’s biggest crowds make Newcastle W-League heaven, says the Jets’ recent recruit Melissa Barbieri.
The 31-year-old national team shotstopper signed with the Hunter club from Melbourne Victory on the eve of this W-League season and has been stunned by the level of interest in the Jets’ W-League side.
Almost 1000 fans turned out last weekend to see the team defeat the Reds 3-0 in round two.
In the lead-up to the game Barbieri - affectionately nicknamed "Bubs" - was splashed across Newcastle Herald’s dedicated football lift-out.
And the story of the club’s former player Hayley Crawford controversially quitting the club was back page news in the paper recently.
Just as Melbourne has become an A-League epicentre due to Victory’s massive crowds and superstar signings, Newcastle is becoming the W-League equivalent, Barbieri told au.fourfourtwo.com.
“Newcastle … it’s really well supported throughout the community," she said. "You get coverage on the news with TV interviews out at training.
“It’s definitely something new that we have to get used to. A lot of the girls aren’t used to the media attention but slowly but surely we’re getting more fans out there [to the games], especially after they saw how we played against Adelaide.”
And it's a Jets team that on paper could conceivably challenge the stranglehold on the competition enjoyed by Brisbane Roar and Sydney FC who virtually field the national team between them.
Barbieri has been joined by the enigmatic but brilliant striker Lisa De Vanna, talented Sydney FC midfielder Linda O’Neill and dual World Cup winning German football superstar Ariane Hingst – who now captains the Jets.
That’s a huge injection of talent - but this weekend’s clash away to Roar will test just how good this Jets side is.
“We’ve got the older heads and Ariane has that winning mentality, and younger ones coming through like Emily Van Egmond, Nicola Bolger," said Barbieri.
"And Linda O’Neill – who scored with virtually her first touch [against Adelaide]. She can attack players which is something the W-League has lacked.
"The combination of her with De Vanna is going to be dynamite."
The Matildas skipper has heaped praise on first time coach, former Socceroo Clayton Zane. The one-time Jets and Northern Spirit striker has taken to his role easily, she said.
“With Clayton at the helm we’ve got a really good chance," said Barbieri. "He’s got such a football mind he’s just working tactically each week on how we can break down the opposition.
“It’s a good mix of players and if we play the right way on the day there’s no reason why we can’t beat Brisbane or Sydney.
“I hope everyone in Newcastle believes we should be winning the league. We have high hopes ourselves but we’ve got to put it together on the park.
“He knows exactly what he wants and what he needs from us. He’s a very good communicator and that’s half the battle with women’s football.
"We like to understand a lot of things and he’s able to communicate that.”
As for communicating retirement talk, Barbieri isn’t saying too much on the speculation but conceded coaching was on her horizon.
And she took a cheeky parting shot at her former club Victory who controversially de-listed the shot-stopper on the eve of the new season.
The Melbourne-born keeper - who travels to Newcastle from her base in Melbourne each week - said the Hunter Sports Group treated all their teams – A-League, NRL and W-League – equally well.
“Now with the Hunter Sports Group looking after all the teams we feel like a massive family, which I’ve never had before," she said. “I love it here; it’s refreshing to be valued.
“It’s nice to have people look after you. I have a goalkeeper coach in Clint Gosling who’s great. He looks after all the Jets keepers and he made me feel important straight away.
“I haven’t had that in Melbourne for a long time. It’s refreshing.”
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