How the class of Emily van Egmond sets the bar for any No 10 in the Liberty A-League

Canberra United v Newcastle Jets | Match Preview

Matilda’s first 90 minutes for Newcastle Jets showed how she can affect the whole team’s style – even after she leaves

The return of any Matilda to the Liberty A-League comes with some hype and they usually deliver. But not many can have had more impact more quickly than Emily van Egmond.

For the first time this season, thanks to her first 90 minutes, we have a clear idea of how the Newcastle Jets are going to play – and how the presence of van Egmond, even on a guest stint, will have a huge impact on the side.

Van Egmond’s four-game stint for the Newcastle Jets got underway with a bang against Melbourne City. The 137-cap Matilda scored and assisted Newcastle’s third and fourth goals of the season respectively, an instant impact that sparked hope of an upset against the undefeated City before a Holly McNamara double dashed the home crowd’s hopes.


Still, her performance caught the eye in more ways than one. She was deployed as a creator in the mould of a traditional ’10’, tasked with sitting in the space just behind a speedy front line. From there she could either create opportunities with through balls – as she did for Lara Gooch’s goal – or capitalise on the second phase to take shots of her own.

Newcastle’s next three games will be a fascinating case study – partly in how a coach can use a player in different ways but has to choose the best one, and partly in how the three teams whom the Jets will play – all with title pretensions – might be exploited.


The way that a team organises their midfield says a lot about the way that they want to play, and it is key to understanding the shape of how a match will go.

Shape and formation are much less important than the roles that players are asked to play in the centre of the park.

Some players are better on the ball, in terms of their ability to create space and turn away from danger with the ball at their feet. Think about Kyra Cooney-Cross at the FIFA Women’s World Cup – her strength lay in her ability to beat the high press with the ball.

Others are midfield destroyers. They’re instructed to break up the flow of the opposition, to put in a work rate that shields their back-line from potential threats, and to play simple passes in possession. This role is most associated with the number ‘6’ position – the deepest lying player in a midfield three – but does not have to be. Jets captain Cass Davis is the perfect example.

Another group of players are asked to take the ball and distribute it to a teammate quickly. They may be prone to being caught out with the ball at their feet, but their vision and passing range makes up for that.

Emily van Egmond has exceptional vision, and is perfect at switching play. It is why she has often been deployed right across the midfield in her career, because she can for instance sit at the base of midfield and direct traffic.

The frustration when she is used deeper is that she can be caught out by a high press, and her movement does not always facilitate playing out from the back at the highest level. That might be one reason that coach Gary van Egmond – her father – used her in a higher role for the Jets on Sunday.

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Cass Davis is the midfield workhorse. Sophie Hoban – still young in her A-League Women’s career – was asked to be inventive on the ball. Van Egmond, the Matilda, was given licence to do what she is best at. That formula might be what helps turn the Jets’ season around.

Emily van Egmond’s guest stint will encompass three more games – against Canberra United, Sydney FC, and Western United.

Njegosh Popovich’s Canberra play with three centre backs. A defensive midfielder tasked with patrolling the back line. This season, that player has either been the inexperienced Mary Stanic-Floody, or Emma Ilijoski, who is more accustomed to wing-back.

Canberra have already conceded nine goals in only three games this season, in part due to using inappropriate players for that defensive midfield role. Using clever movement, van Egmond will be perfectly placed to take advantage of the half-spaces and create opportunities both wide and central.

Van Egmond rouses her Jets team mates against Melbourne City on November 19.

Despite their defensive woes, however, Canberra are dangerous in attack. Van Egmond will likely have to deal defensively with a Vesna Milivojevic who has been everywhere this season, and will try to pick the ball up from deep positions to play in the likes of Michelle Heyman ahead of her.

Sydney FC will be a different challenge. They play with a much more traditional back four, with Taylor Ray and Shay Hollman acting as defensive pivots in midfield. Van Egmond will find it much more difficult to find space against this sort of structure – there is little doubt that both players will be marking her tightly, and giving her very little space to manoeuvre.

The key may be to exploit the inexperience of Sydney FC’s full-backs, particularly Abbey Lemon who is much more associated with setting goals up than preventing them.

Her final challenge will be against Western United. Their midfield is physical – they often find themselves on the wrong side of the foul count as they aim to disrupt the flow of the opposition’s play.

However, their ‘6’ is the much more ball-playing focused Jaclyn Sawicki. The Philippines international can pull the strings from deep if given the opportunity, but her lack of strength on the ball can be exploited by opposition. Van Egmond’s task in this game will be shutting down the passing lanes of Sawicki to force turnovers high up the pitch and distribute to teammates accordingly.

Midfield composition is always a heated topic. If a club recruits players who are good on the ball, it will likely lead to a higher retention of possession. Players who are disruptive can create turnovers and opportunities in transition moments. Others, like van Egmond, can turn any amount of possession into effective possession. How a coach uses the resources at his disposal can not only determine playing style, but can also have an enormous impact on results during the season.

Four games may not be enough for Emily van Egmond to single-handedly drag the Jets up the table, but it may be a turning point for the way that the team plays.

There are few in Australia who are as good at what she does – but when she leaves, the Jets should continue to play with a ‘10’ who tries to do similar things.

Regardless, the impact of the Matilda has already been enormous in one game. Fans await what her impact can be over four matches – or even for the rest of the season.

Canberra United v Newcastle Jets
Sunday, November 26 2023
McKellar Park
Kick-off: 4:00pm (AEDT)
Broadcast: Paramount+, 10 Play