W-League: Claire Coelho ready to step up for Jets

FOCUSED: Jets goalkeeper Claire Coelho, pictured in training last season, is ready to take the chances that come her way for Newcastle this W-League campaign. Picture: Jonathan Carroll
FOCUSED: Jets goalkeeper Claire Coelho, pictured in training last season, is ready to take the chances that come her way for Newcastle this W-League campaign. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

Claire Coelho does not shy away from a challenge.

That has been the driving force while waiting for her time to come.

In six W-League seasons since signing with the Jets in 2013 as a 17-year-old, Coelho has made 10 appearances. Seven of those came in her second season.

She has been a second-string shot-stopper behind United States imports Kelsey Wys then Britt Eckerstrom for the past three years and Coelho's last W-League outing was a one-off while on loan to Sydney in the 2016-17 finals.

"It's been a challenge, that's for sure. It's been a process," Coelho said.

"It takes time but the thing I kept coming back to the whole time was Deansy [Jets coach Craig Deans] and Goldy [goalkeeping coach Andrew Goldman] always had consistent chats with me about the process and the time and it was just a matter of trust between the three of us that we would get there, and we're starting to get there now.

"At the time it was hard; you train and don't play. You do it for the reward I guess."

The rewards of training alongside Eckerstrom for the past two seasons has been improvement.

"She helped a lot in maybe getting that bit of love for goalkeeping back and understanding what you're there for," Coelho said.

"She was a really good training partner and I think she brought out some of the best in me and improved my game. Even though I didn't play W-League games, within the two seasons of training with her there were big improvements, especially in the diving component."

Now, with Eckerstrom not returning, Deans has put his faith in 23-year-old Coelho. He has also added Nicole Simonsen to the squad from Western Sydney.

"I'm keen. It's sort of like a 'finally' moment, but at the same time nothing is guaranteed in football, especially goalkeeping," Coelho said.

"There's one spot. I've just got to stay fit and focused because Nic is good competition in goals, so nothing is guaranteed."

Coelho has managed year-round football commitments - she plays in the NSW Premier League through winter - while undertaking a double degree in law and social science at the University of Newcastle for the past five years.

"I'm not going to lie and say I didn't want to quit at times, that's sport in general really," she said. "But there's something that just keeps you coming back, and for me that's catching a football."

The Port Macquarie product played most of the Jets' 2-1 loss to Sydney in a trial match last Sunday. They face an Australian Defence Force side in a final hit-out on Saturday before opening their 2019-20 campaign against Melbourne City at No.2 Sportsground on November 17.

"More than anything I just want to see what I can produce and in a way give back to the community and the club that has stood by me for so long," Coelho said.

"It was such a process and it still is ongoing but I want to be able to put all of that hard work of seven years on to the field and see what it has produced and just go as far as we can."

This story W-League: Jets shot-stopper planning to play for keeps first appeared on Newcastle Herald.