Three injuries have created an ‘unexpected’ A-Leagues Finals storyline from a parallel universe

It has been a whirlwind season for Courtney Newbon, who was a last-minute signing for Central Coast Mariners at the start of 2023-24. Now she prepares for Sunday’s reunion as Melbourne Victory’s goalkeeper four months later.

Finals football always hits different. From the quest to hoist the Liberty A-League trophy aloft, to the storylines that line the road there – but there is one crazy storyline that stands out ahead of Sunday’s Elimination Final between Melbourne Victory and Central Coast Mariners.

In a parallel universe, the goalkeepers would be flipped for the do-or-die showdown at the Home of the Matildas; Victory could have had Casey Dumont, while Courtney Newbon could have still been a Central Coast Mariners player.

Instead, Dumont will suit up for the Mariners as Newbon stands in between the posts as a Victory player.

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What makes this fascinating is the fact Newbon started the season as a last-minute replacement signing for Central Coast heading into Round 1 before the Mariners opted against extending the short-term deal in favour of recruiting Victory legend Dumont, who had departed Melbourne at the end of 2022-23 to take up a deal with Hawthorn in AFLW.

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“It’s just one of the situations where everything happens for a reason,” Newbon told

“For me it comes back to riding the wave and taking it one game at a time. Trying not to think too much about it but it’s definitely a pretty cool parallel.”

There are so many layers heading into this weekend’s decisive showdown.

It is a reunion for Newbon and the Mariners, while it is the 23-year-old’s first A-Leagues Finals match as a starting goalkeeper.

“It’s not something I thought would be happening at the start of the season,” she said. “For it to be happening is quite cool. I’m definitely riding the wave.”

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Having fun has been the motto for Newbon in the midst of a whirlwind season.

Before this term, she had not played in the Liberty A-League since a stint with Perth Glory in 2021-22. It is not something she dwelled on. It gave her the chance to continue with her Masters of Clinical Exercise Physiology, which she completed around six weeks ago.

“Just a bit of a go-with-the-flow mindset,” Newbon, previously named Goalkeeper of the Year in NPLW NSW, explained. “I was fully prepared to just be focusing on my masters over this summer.

“For a chance like this to come up, you have to grab it with two hands and see where it takes you. Like I said, riding the wave.”

Courtney Newbon during her time with the Mariners this season.

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Then a week out from the 2023-24 season, an injury opened the door for Newbon at the Mariners on short notice.

“That for me was just really focusing on having fun and enjoying myself,” she said, having debuted against rivals Newcastle Jets in Round 1.

“At the time, I didn’t really know how long anything was going to last so I was just taking it as it came. Everyone plays their best football when they’re having fun and that was my focus.”

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Newbon flourished in her four appearances for Central Coast.

Yet those impressive performances were not enough to secure a contract extension as the Mariners eventually lured Dumont back to the competition.

“I knew it was short term so like I wasn’t necessarily upset that it wasn’t extended because I knew where I stood,” she reflected.

“I was more focused on being able to put performances in that I was proud of and ones I could use to back myself in the future. I was quite happy with it all.”

She added: “It (the move to the Mariners) was completely unexpected and not something I was waiting for, so for it to come up in the manner it did and for myself to go out and make myself proud, stay calm, composed and enjoy my football, looking back on, I was very proud of myself to do that.

“Being able to do that under quite a bit of pressure in terms of the scenario that the first game was, being an F3 Derby.”

When her adventure in Gosford came to an end, it gave Newbon a chance to again focus on her Masters and studies.

She wasn’t “waiting for something to pop up” but then an injury to Victory back-up goalkeeper Miranda Templeman in January presented her with another opportunity on an injury-replacement contract in the Liberty A-League.

Initially reserve to Lydia Williams, an injury to the Matildas legend has led to Newbon assuming the starting role and she has not looked back in 12 appearances so far, including a clean sheet in the 4-0 rout of defending champions Sydney FC that sealed Victory’s Finals spot in the last round.

“It’s been great,” she said. “From the moment I got here, everyone was very welcoming and I couldn’t have asked for anything more. It definitely makes it a lot easier to fit into a team when everyone is welcoming you with open arms.

“I’ve just been focused on having fun and enjoying football. Playing a simple style of football. To do it at a club like Victory is something I never thought would happen. I’m enjoying it and having fun.”

Newbon has played without fear in the A-Leagues and it comes back to her childhood.

Thrown into football aged four, Newbon also played rugby league up until 12 but she was not always a goalkeeper. More often than not she was playing full-back.

There was a moment that changed everything.

“I would’ve been about 10 when I was on my way to trials for the local rep team and I told my mother in the car that I was going to go in goals,” she reflected. “She was not very happy but here we are.

“I don’t think he (her dad) had much of a say to be honest (laughing).”

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Why goalkeeper? Newbon – who looked up to Germany and Bayern Munich goalkeeper Manuel Neuer – explained: “At the time, I was playing rugby league so I wasn’t scared.”

It has been memorable time for Newbon in Melbourne so far.

Aside from the results and performances, she has been able to learn from Williams and a squad stacked with Matildas talent, including Emily Gielnik, Alex Chidiac, Elise Kellond-Knight and Emma Checker.

“They’re a wealth of knowledge, right? They’re just people you can go to and ask questions about certain situations in a game or how to deal with certain scenarios,” Newbon said of the Australia internationals.

“Which has been an amazing help, particularly first coming into the team a lot of them really got around me and helped me understanding how the team wants to play and what the target is.”

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Newbon wants to stay with Victory beyond this season. She is also a player with ambitions to play for the Matildas.

“It inspires everyone (to play for the Matildas),” she said. “I can only imagine what it’s like to play for your country. If that opportunity came up, I would grab it with both hands.”

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