Dare to dream Jets fans.
By the end of tonight’s A-League grand final I pray Melbourne Victory will be looking for a new name. Something along the lines of Melbourne “Thanks For Coming”. It won’t be that easy, I know. It never is in a grand final.
But Melbourne Victory certainly did the right thing by beating Sydney in extra time last Saturday, granting Newcastle home-ground status for the decider. In the process hopefully they ran themselves into the ground and lost a couple of assistant coaches along the way.
To win it, you have to be in it, and Kevin Muscat’s men will be up for this occasion, prepared and ever combative tonight.
However, the script couldn’t have been written much better for the Jets.
To win a championship, a few things have got to go your way and if you were looking for omens, you might argue Riley McGree’s Scorpion King goal against City the night before qualifies.
It’s been that kind of year for Newcastle and the turnaround has been a joy to behold. A skillful team with a licence to play. Setting oppositions on their heals with a collective focus on going forward.
More goals in one season than the previous two speaks volumes.
Opposition teams have given up possession at their peril to a defence well organised at the back, and able to pass out without fans doing likewise. The exact opposite in fact, so skilfull has been the resolve.
Through thick and thin, it has been pretty to watch and a tribute to coach Ernie Merrick who kept his word in creating a team that entertains. Winning has been the fruit, but having a crack the blood and bone.
The loss of Andrew Nabbout midway through was a blow. His dynamic contributions and combinations with Dimi Petratos left any opposition vulnerable.
But even Nabbout’s departure was handled with aplomb. Management didn’t stand in his way. They wished him well and we still made the GF.
The early season injury to Ronnie Vargas similarly worked out. Straight into recovery with a prediction he’d be back in time to push for finals football. How true it has turned out.
In the meantime, others have stepped up.
Jack Duncan has been brilliant in goal, and although now cruelly ruled out of the decider, Glenn Moss is a more than capable replacement, such is the balance and depth of this year’s squad.
Joey Champness has been a revelation. Electrifying off the bench and on the ball, setting up attack and scoring himself when the opportunity presents.
And what more can you say about the Hoff? Big engines, bigger heart – he’s played a role that looms as large from the local brigade as captain Nigel Boogaard, who has literally played on with a broken leg.
You never go the early crow, but there are reasons to believe. The heart is on the sleeve where this town proudly prefers. And no doubt it’ll end up in the throat at times tonight, like any grand final contest, before dreams willing, the Jets soar to victory.