There’s a ground swell in Australian womens football right now. It’s seeing supporters wanting to raise their voice, fly flags and celebrate their team. Building off the shoulders of clubs like Canberra who have had an active support in season’s past, this movement has recently been led by Brisbane’s ‘Roar Corps’. The flow on effects created ‘Madtildas’, who were on song in France and busted out tunes during the double header home matches.
Fan culture of loud, active support is infiltrating the W-League in exciting, new ways. One of the groups to jump on board this season is the ‘Newcastle Jets W-League Active Support’.
Often active support looks amazing on TV, but the actual behind the scenes work goes unnoticed. Here’s a taste of what some of that looks like from two of the founders of the Newcastle Jets W-League Active Support, Claire and Amanda.
Flick your mind back to last season, and it was a tumultuous few months for Newcastle’s W-League side, however the seeds were already there to develop an active support.
“We didn’t have a good season. There were lots of injuries, however the young guns were fit and did a great job. Still, there was a lot of people [attending matches], it was quite impressive,” Claire reflects honestly,
“We kind of got a sense there was no sort of group atmosphere. We felt like it’s something we definitely wanted to do for the season.”
Inspired from an Australian winter in France and the Matildas active firing into action in the Womens’ World Cup, the couple agreed now was the time to capitalise on the momentum.
“We thought it was a good time to do it when we came back, it was just before the season started. Basically we set up a Facebook page and it took off from there.”
With small beginnings stemming from creating a social media platform, the ambition behind the group is simple,
“Making it a better atmosphere at the game and supporting the women. Especially after being in France, we saw how important that stuff was.”
“From the actual turn out [of Newcastle supporters in previous W-League seasons], we knew that the people who were there wanted to be there and they absolutely supported the team. That was the main driver really.”
That deep underlying passion found in Newcastle’s love to support their sports teams can be observed by anyone who attends a match in the town. I was fortunate enough to witness this passion first hand during a rescheduled New Years Eve match against Adelaide United at McDonalds Jones Stadium. Claire was also at the game,
“I think there were over a thousand of us that day at nine o’clock in the morning. Like you say it’s stinking hot so we all sat upstairs.”
“I don’t know if you remember that game, there were a couple little boys who chanted the whole time. It was “come on Newcastle” clap, clap, clap for ninety minutes.”
“At the end of the game, I was chatting to Arin Gilliland and mentioned ‘We are looking to get active support next season’. She replied ‘oh my god, you could use those two little guys, they have not shut up the whole time’. They were going the whole match, it was just lovely you know. The players see that.”
With these foundations already in place, it’s no wonder the Jets active support kicked off with a bang.
“Did you hear the roar of the crowd when we scored?” Claire begins when talking about the first home match against Melbourne City,
“Absolutely unreal, absolutely insane. It was just phenomenal. The guys in commentary were saying ‘oh my god, I think they’ve just blown the speakers’. We were so loud.”
“I think there was about 1600 people there. That’s pretty good for a stand alone W-League game.”
“After our first game at Number Two [Sportsground], the team came over. They were coming off a really good performance and everybody was really happy. They were so stoked. They said, ‘you know, you guys were absolutely amazing, you just kept us going. You kept the game moving.”
In a fantastic sign for the newly formed group, the relationship between them and players has thrived from the start.
“It was really nice feedback from the team as well. They’re really involved, they follow the page and leave messages and comments. They really appreciate the support, it’s amazing. They’ve never had this.”
It’s essential for active groups to have the backing from their club to really flourish. A strong relationship between the pair, especially the administrative side of the team’s organisation, is how this happens. This rings true with the Jets and reflects the foundations this group want to lay now in their first season and beyond.
“What we’re very mindful of is we want to be a group that completely reflects the values of the club that we represent. The Jets is a really community focused, inclusive and welcoming. We want to be those things as well.”
Providing an opportunity for Claire to reflect on her favourite part of the journey so far with the group, she recalls the build up to the first match with ease,
“We got a sense that people were really excited about the group.”
“Before the first home game, the club very generously invited 16 of us from the page to come along and have a team dinner with the players, some of the coaching staff and CEO Lawrie McKinna, who’d organised it all. It was really nice to get along there, meet the team and have a chat about what we were offering them this season.”
“We took the drum along that we use as well. All the players signed it. You get the vibe that the team are just a lovely bunch of humans as well. I think for us that was definitely the best part, just the run up to the first game and having that engagement with the club and players. It’s a feeling that something is going to be different.”
There’s always a flip-side to anything, and with the challenges facing women’s soccer in Australia, there are obviously some challenges with maintaining a supporters group.
“I think the hardest part is trying to keep that momentum going,” Claire begins.
“Especially when you have to go to McDonalds Jones Stadium. With a 30,000 seater stadium, it’s just a real challenge.”
“So for us we look at ways we can actually feel like a group and still have a space in that stadium where we can make a difference and some noise. Ideally we’d love to always be at Number Two, but that’s not going to happen [due to the double headers].”
Breaking down barriers for people to attend matches is at the very heart of why this supporters group sprouted into being.
“I want to make sure that everybody feels welcome. We want to help however we can, which may include the occasional free tickets and transport advice.”
“So we’ve got a really diverse group of people that come. People with disabilities, families, people with mental illness, a whole range of people attend games.”
“We love that because it reflects the community in Newcastle, but it also reflects the Jets as a club.”
Investment in the short term for Claire and Amanda comes with the vision of creating more interest for other people to become involved. For the meantime, the day-to-day running of the group and their social media pages remain squarely in their hands.
“I get we have to do that for a little bit. We have to keep the structure and make it interesting for people.”
Talking about more immediate wishes, Claire continues,
“I think I would just like to see people get a little bit more involved, in terms of suggestions for the page and having pre-game meet ups.”
More broadly, the dream is,
“Ideally we just want to see huge attendances at the game for the women. Ideally we would also get to do that at Number Two, and have our own actual ground.”
“I think that’s key to this whole thing. Having a smaller venue, as that crowd at a smaller venue, it seems like it’s massive. It’s a couple thousand people but Jesus, it’s phenomenal.”
Football is a place for everyone, whether you make some noise or away from the ruckus. It’s something the guys behind Jets Active Support understand well.
“We just want to keep making it accessible for people. Everybody brings something.”