RETIRED: Hayley Crawford.
COACH Peter McGuinness and retired captain Hayley Crawford are confident the Newcastle Jets will be competitive in the W-League despite losing five of their best players.
The Jets, who avoided the wooden spoon only on goal difference to Adelaide in 2012-13, are preparing to kick off their new campaign next month without last season’s skipper Crawford, sole Matilda Emily van Egmond and Americans Angela Salem, Tori Huster and Tiffany Boshers.
Crawford, who was also an assistant coach last season under a female scholarship initiative, has retired from the national league, van Egmond is set to join Western Sydney Wanderers and the US trio are not returning.
Crawford, who also pulled out of the Jets’ 2011-12 campaign, said she had lost her passion for playing at the elite level.
‘‘It takes a lot of time and commitment, and if you don’t have that passion for it, it’s best not to play and give a younger player an opportunity,’’ the 29-year-old former Matilda said.
‘‘It’s a good chance for players like Maddy Searl and Stacey [Day] to step up and lead the team.
‘‘They also have so much young talent in girls like Tara [Andrews] to draw on, so they’ll be OK. They’ll do well.’’
Stalwart Gema Simon and last season’s player of the year Hannah Brewer will take over as captain and vice-captain respectively in a squad almost solely built on young Hunter talent.
McGuinness faces a huge task to make his young squad competitive but he was excited about the future.
‘‘No doubt the girls we’ve lost are quality and experienced players and we were hoping to retain them,’’ McGuinness said.
‘‘But we have plenty of other talented players and up-and-coming players.
‘‘It’s time really for those girls who have been playing for three or four years and been in and out of the team, like Maddy Searl and Rhali Dobson, to step up.
‘‘We are also looking to young players like Grace Macintyre and Jasmin Courtney to grow as players as they take on more game time.’’
The positive for McGuinness and the Northern NSW Football-managed Jets is the wealth of junior talent at their disposal.
Macintyre, Tara Andrews and goalkeeper Eliza Campbell are in the Young Matildas squad for this month’s Asian Under-19 Women’s Championship in China, while Sophie Nenadovic is part of the Australian under-17 team. Kally Lewis and Mikaela Howell have also been in national youth teams this year.
McGuinness will narrow his squad of 26 down to 20 in the coming week in preparation for the November 9 season-opener against Perth Glory.
Newcastle Jets player Hayley Crawford in action against Brisbane Roar player Vedrana Popovic.