EF Talking Points: Shootout hero’s cheeky sledge after pulling off ultimate revenge act

These are the big talking points after the first weekend of the Liberty A-League Finals Series, with two upsets leading to unexpected Semi-Final matchups, and a goalkeeper’s dominant shootout form leading to revenge against her former side.

SEMI-FINAL DETAILS: Liberty A-League Semi-Finals locked in – everything you need to know
MARINERS WIN: Victory legend haunts former team in heroic display as Mariners reach Semis for the first time
HISTORY! Jets end 16-year wait for finals win with dramatic extra-time triumph over Western

Vengeance for Dumont in penalty shootout against former side

In the high-stakes, high-pressure environment of a penalty shootout, Central Coast Mariners goalkeeper Casey Dumont stepped up and aimed a message at her former side Melbourne Victory: remember me?

Dumont came back to haunt Victory on Sunday evening, adding to her formidable penalty shootout record in a 0-0 (4-2) triumph that knocked her old club out of the Finals Series.

Last season, Dumont was scoring and saving penalties for Victory in a Melbourne Derby Elimination Final. This season, she was the perpetrator of Victory’s pain in Mariners colours, scoring from the spot and saving two penalties to send the Mariners to the Semi-Finals.

There have been only eight penalty shootouts in Liberty A-League history and Dumont has now been involved in five of them, winning all five and scoring a penalty of her own in four of those spot-kick showdowns.

Dumont was contracted at Victory until the end of the 2023-24 Liberty A-League season but her decision to become a multi-sport athlete with AFLW side Hawthorn Hawks in the off-season led to the termination of her Liberty A-League contract.

In November, Dumont spoke to Optus Sport about her contract termination at Victory.

“I could be bitter. I could say a lot of things,” she said.

“But I took a leap and I was hoping Victory would take the leap with me and they didn’t, it’s that simple.

“Yes, it hurts, but it’s like any job, you can get sacked or terminated, you have to take it on board and move on. Don’t get me wrong, it hurt, it hurts so much with what happened.

“How it was handled and the articles that came out were just … it’s two different stories, but it is what it is. I have a new club and I’m ready to give my 100 per cent to them, so I wish Victory all the luck.

“Everything happens for a reason and if one door closes another one opens big time. When the Mariners reached out it was just phenomenal how open and professional they were in understanding that AFL was first because I had to focus on that.”

After her match-winning performance against Victory on Sunday, Dumont took to social media platform X to convey precisely how it felt to knock her old club out of Championship contention.

After vanquishing her former side, Dumont and the Mariners head into the Semi Finals where they will face Sydney FC across two legs.

The Mariners will host leg one on Sunday, April 21 at Industree Group Stadium (5.45pm AEST kick-off).

History for Jets under coach thrust into the driver’s seat mid-season

Ryan Campbell is doing special things in Newcastle, having taken the reins at the Jets from former head coach Gary van Egmond in mid-season.

Ryan Campbell.

Van Egmond departed his role in January to take on a job at the Chinese Football Association and Campbell, his assistant at the time, was tasked with guiding the Jets through to the end of the season.

They were sixth at the time, but three losses in Campbell’s first four games in charge saw the Jets slip out of the top six into eighth with just six games to play.

Fast forward two months and the Jets are in the Liberty A-League Semi-Finals and on the longest winning streak in club history (four games).

The fourth win of the streak was against Western United in Saturday night’s Elimination Final – the club’s first-ever Finals Series win – ending a 16-year post-season drought with a 4-2 victory in extra time.

Campbell has been in charge for 11 games, losing four, drawing once and winning six times, including an 8-0 win over Adelaide United – the biggest win in Newcastle’s history, men’s or women’s – which ultimately earned the Jets their place in the Finals due to a superior goal difference to Western Sydney Wanderers, after finishing the season level on 33 points and 10 wins.

The scenes in Tarneit on Saturday night were truly special as Campbell and the Jets celebrated cementing their place in club history – and their spot in the Semi-Finals. But as one week bleeds into the next, attention will have quickly switched to Sunday’s meeting with Premiers Melbourne City in the first leg of the Semi-Finals.

Who starts in goal for the Jets?

There’s a major selection dilemma unfolding in Newcastle as head coach Campbell welcome’s the club’s No.1 keeper Izzy Nino back to the fold following her two-game suspension.

Nino received a red card for her role in an altercation with Melbourne Victory striker Emily Gielnik in the penultimate round of the regular season; in her place came Tiahna Robertson, signed from NPL NSW club UNSW FC on an injury-replacement contract.

Robertson has shone for the Jets in Nino’s absence; the 21-year-old made seven saves on debut in the 8-0 win over Adelaide to help the Jets into the Finals, and then made seven more in Saturday’s 4-2 Elimination Final win over Western.

Nino has been an impressive performer for Newcastle in her debut Liberty A-League campaign, making 92 saves in 21 games, keeping three clean sheets and winning February’s Player of the Month award after a fan vote.

Campbell now has a big decision to make ahead of this weekend’s Semi Final first leg against Melbourne City.

Big Finals weekend breaks Australian crowds record

A special milestone has been reached just one week into the Finals Series as the fans showed out in numbers to make the 2023-24 Liberty A-league season the most attended season of any women’s sport in Australian sporting history.

The previous record, held by the AFLW for the 2023 season stood at 281,843, but it was surpassed on Sunday afternoon as 1,722 fans came through the gates to watch Victory face Central Coast at the Home of the Matildas.

With three weeks of the Finals Series still to come, there’s potential for the previous record to be blown out of the water as we head towards the climax of the longest season in Liberty A-League history to date.

Currently, the Liberty A-League total attendance for this season stands at 284,551.