This year’s A-Leagues finals fairytale is ‘a bit crazy’: A 10-year journey… ended in 4 days

Less than two weeks ago, Tiahna Robertson was an NPL goalkeeper. She’s since signed for Newcastle Jets, starred on debut, and helped her new club reach the Liberty A-League finals. Robertson shares her story to ahead of a knockout final against Western United.

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Tiahna Robertson was in Newcastle with her mum when she put down the phone.

Jets head coach Ryan Campbell had been on the other end of the line; Campbell, Robertson’s former coach in the club’s academy had just offered the 21-year-old an injury replacement contract – her first senior contract at a Liberty A-League club.

Newcastle Jets travel to face Western United in an Elimination Final on Saturday, April 13. Win, and the Jets will face Premiers Melbourne City in a two-legged Semi-Final. Get your tickets TODAY, or click here for broadcast details and match previews.

“I finished talking with Ryan and shared the conversation with my mum,” Robertson tells

“She’s always supported me, taking me to academy games when I used to be at the Jets. We’d go to Coffs Harbour, we’d travel to Sydney for NPL. It was a good moment to share with her, she was just ecstatic, crying tears of joy.”

That conversation occurred in the days leading into Newcastle’s final game of the 2023-24 Liberty A-League season. The Jets needed a win against Adelaide on the road, and with first-choice keeper Izzy Nino suspended, Campbell threw Robertson into the deep end.

The Jets won 8-0 – the third-highest winning margin in any game in A-Leagues history – and Robertson made seven saves on debut. By the end of the round, the Jets had stolen sixth spot as well as the very last finals berth.

With Nino’s ban confirmed at two games, Robertson is set to play just the second game of her A-Leagues career in an Elimination Final against Western United on Saturday night.

Two weeks in the life of a young goalkeeper handed the biggest opportunity of her career to date, in the high-stakes environment of a trophy push, are best summed up in her own words:

“It’s been a bit crazy.”

“I got the phone call on the Monday and we had to do negotiations,” Robertson continued.

“I had to chat to my team, University of New South Wales (UNSW) FC, we had to have a lot of phone calls and talk about it, how I can get across to the Jets.

“I got a phone call from my goalkeeper coach, and then he passed on Ryan’s number. I ended up calling Ryan, and that’s where it all started.

“It kind of took me by surprise. I wasn’t expecting it. We just started our NPL season and I read the article about Izzy getting a red card but I wasn’t expecting to get the call saying: ‘You’re going to be playing on Friday’. 

“It was exciting. I had a little bit of nerves, but once I was in the warm-up and into the game, I got a few touches on the ball and then even just having that first save, I felt more relaxed in the game.”

Robertson’s debut was as good as they come. A late avalanche of goals from her attacking teammates in a thumping 8-0 win over Adelaide overshadowed the importance of the debutant’s early contributions in goal; Robertson made a string of big saves at 0-0 before the Jets pulled away and ultimately put themselves in position to secure a spot in the finals.

“It was really good to see the support,” Robertson said. “I had a lot of people text me – even people I haven’t heard from in years. It was really good to hear from them.

“My phone would not stop blowing up! Straight after the game and the following days after.”

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Robertson’s Liberty A-League debut came just days after signing for the Jets but in truth, the occasion was a decade in the making.

A former Jets academy member, Robertson made the tough choice to depart her childhood club in her late teens in pursuit of minutes in senior football.

Robertson was coached by Campbell in the club’s youth setup. The familiarity has helped the transition from UNSW FC to the A-Leagues.

“I was in the Jets academy when I was 10 or 11 and he was the coach then,” Robertson said.

“I think I was 18 when I decided to leave and go join the NPL in Sydney. I’ve been with UNSW FC for about three years now.

Robertson in the Jets academy.

“It wasn’t really the plan to leave, because I didn’t know whether I’d still have the opportunity to be in the A-League. I still wanted to play for the Jets, but it just wasn’t the right time for me to be there.

“Now that I’ve had experience within Sydney outside of the Jets academy, I’ve gained more experience playing against older players as well.”

Along the way, Robertson has taken inspiration from goalkeepers in the Liberty A-League who make up for their lack of height with big saves in clutch moments.

Robertson (right).

Players like Claire Coelho (1.65m), who played 48 games for Newcastle Jets between 2014 and 2023, and Jada Whyman – Sydney FC star, fringe Matilda and just the fourth goalkeeper in Liberty A-League history to play 100 league games – is only just getting started in her flourishing career, aged 24 years of age and standing at 1.67m.

“I’ve always looked up to players, keepers that were short in the league, because I’m not the tallest person,” Robertson said.

“Claire Coelho, she was a short keeper. I’ve always looked up to her. Jada Whyman is another one, she’s a short keeper – but just because they’re short, it doesn’t mean they’re not good players.”

But whether they’re tall or short, almost all keepers take an unconventional route to discovering their passion for the art of glovework – and Robertson’s case is no different.

“I originally played hockey – I was a field player,” Robertson explained.

“Then I progressed into futsal as a goalkeeper. I was playing hockey at the time, and I told my mum: ‘Look, mum, I want to play soccer’. I had always been in the backyard with my cousin kicking the ball around, I was always an active kid.

“I had to convince my mum to let me play. She said: ‘The only way you’re going to play soccer is to play goalkeeper, because that’s the safest position’.

“And now, from what she’s seen from all the injuries and that, she doesn’t think that it’s safe anymore!”

Robertson’s plea to give goalkeeping a go was accompanied by one other request: to do so at the Jets.

10 years on, that child who caught the football bug is back where it all began, excited by the prospect of donning the gloves for the Jets in the biggest game of her career to date.

Newcastle Jets travel to face Western United in an Elimination Final on Saturday, April 13. Win, and the Jets will face Premiers Melbourne City in a two-legged Semi-Final. Get your tickets TODAY, or click here for broadcast details and match previews.