WPL: New Lambton ready to take flight as Herald women's Premier League gets set to resume

ON THE BALL: New Lambton captains Toria Campbell and Lisa Cochrane watch on as young Eagles Ruby Thomas and Mia Sabotkovsi play. The club will hold Girls Rock Football clinics in the holidays. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers
ON THE BALL: New Lambton captains Toria Campbell and Lisa Cochrane watch on as young Eagles Ruby Thomas and Mia Sabotkovsi play. The club will hold Girls Rock Football clinics in the holidays. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

Toria Campbell expects the excitement of the Herald Women's Premier League return this weekend to overshadow results.

But once teams settle back into the groove of playing, the newly installed New Lambton co-captain believes there will be plenty of "unsung heroes" making names for themselves.

The departure of several high-profile players from WPL this year - before the season started and since its March shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic - has opened the door for young talent to emerge.

The Eagles lost Jets Tara Andrews and Lauren Allan to the National Premier League NSW Women's league in the off-season. Then last week experienced pair Stacey Day and Georgia Amess left to join WPL rivals Newcastle Olympic.

"Every club has gone through ups and downs over this period but I'm really proud of the attitude the girls have had, especially in the last week with all the things that have happened," Campbell, who will now share the captaincy duties with midfielder Lisa Cochrane, said.

"They've been really positive and I think everyone is just excited to get back out there. It's not even really about winning or losing now. Everyone just wants to play. I think we took it for granted and now, after having this time off, everyone's excited just to get out there."

New Lambton are defending champions in first and reserve grade. They opened 2020 with a 3-3 draw against Merewether then lost 2-1 to Adamstown before play was halted. The Eagles reignite their season against Broadmeadow at Magic Park on Sunday. The league has been reduced from 21 rounds to 14, including two already played, plus finals.

"We want to be realistic," Campbell said. "We want to win, or course we do, but I think a realistic aim for us is top four and then go from there. Any club is going to know that any tight loss could be the difference between making it and not making it because it's such a short competition. So we're just going to try to put in that extra one per cent every game and get the wins that we can and the wins that we need.

"We've got a lot of faith in the girls we've got. We've got a lot of unsung heroes. I could name almost anyone in our team as an unsung hero that doesn't get the spotlight. This is a good year for those players who might not have got much credit before to step up and show that they're an important part of this team."

It was a sentiment echoed by Cochrane, who has been with the Eagles since their maiden flight in 2018.

"There's a lot more competition for spots, so that's going to lift the level at training and that's what we want," Cochrane said. "We constantly want to get better and we want to improve and that's the sort of vibe you want at training. We have such young players and, even if we don't win the comp, it means we're building for a strong future."

Eagles coach Brad Jones has put a focus on the game's future these school holidays by running New Lambton's Girls Rock Football Holiday Clinic over three days next week. It is for girls aged five to 15 and caters to all levels.

"I don't think enough clubs give the opportunity for girls to come together and I felt there was something missing in the football landscape," Jones said.

The FIFA Women's World Cup 2023 is headed to Australia with games to be played in Newcastle.

"It's important that we don't wait until 2023 before we get on board and start actively promoting; it starts now," Jones said. "If we can make a school holiday program fun and enjoyable and the girls leave the clinic loving football more than they did when they first come then that's a good thing to help gather momentum."

In other WPL games on Sunday, Adamstown are at home to Merewether, Warners Bay play Newcastle Olympic and Mid North Coast host Thornton in Taree.