Jets captain Nigel Boogaard. Picture: Max Mason-HubersREGARDLESS of the result of Saturday’sA-League final, the Newcastle Jets have done the city and the entire Hunter region proud with their efforts on and off the field in 2017-18.
The season has been a gripping one from start to finish.
A thumping first round win over arch-rivals the Central Coast Mariners was an early omen but after two wooden spoons in three years, nobody was getting ahead of themselves.
Even as the season progressed, with the Jets established in a clear second place, there was a feeling that it was all too good to be true, that somehow, against the odds, the wheels would fall off again as they had in previous years.
That nagging worry evaporated after the club’s season-defining victory against Sydney FC on March 3. Even after that win, most football pundits had already written the sky blues into the season decider, but as the Sydneysiders’ loss to Melbourne Victory showed last weekend, there are no certainties in football.
That loss has handed Newcastle an unexpected home final, and all of the advantages that comewith it.
It might be standard A-League procedure to award the final to the highest-ranking team, but there will always be pressure to play the match in either Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane, and the A-League is to be congratulated for allowing itto stay at McDonald Jones Stadium.
That decision means the eyes of the footballing world will be on Newcastle on Saturday night: hence theplea from Newcastle City Council chief executive Jeremy Bath for supporters to be on their best behaviour.
It also means that the FFA has confidence in Newcastle’s ability tohost such a high-profile event, a confidence buttressed by itssuccess as one of five host cities for the 2015 Asian Cup, and as the venue forSeptember’s Matildas win over Brazil.
And it’s not only the football world watching Newcastle. The lead-up to the final has given the regiona solid dose of national media attention this week –a rare opportunity to promote our city on a wider stage.
Hopefully, the Jets will defeat their Victorian opponents, and the focus will stay on the city for a little longer.
Even if (heaven help) the result does not go our way, everyone involved with the Jets can hold their heads high as having achieved far more than even the truest of true believers could have reasonably expected.
And with most of the team signed on for next year, tonight could be just the beginning.