WHERE are you now, you 25,000 turncoats? Why have you disappeared, when they need you most?
You know who you are.
Three years ago, when you heard the Newcastle Jets would be hosting the A-League grand final against Melbourne Victory at McDonald Jones Stadium, you couldn't get online quickly enough to score yourself a ticket.
A big event, in our own backyard, in front of a sold-out crowd of 29,410. How good!
New-cas-tle, New-cas-tle New-cas-tle.
Sure it was a disappointing result, thanks largely to some now-infamous incompetence in the video referee's room, but as they say, it's never the same unless you're there at the game.
Anyone watching the broadcast around the nation on that bittersweet Saturday night in May, 2018, could have been forgiven for forming the opinion that there was a remarkable synergy between the team and the town.
Those Novocastrians, jeez they love their sport. What great fans. What community spirit.
What a study in contrast last Saturday night.
A visit from defending two-time champions Sydney FC surely rates as a highlight in any A-League team's season, yet the crowd of 4404 at McDonald Jones Stadium spoke volumes.
Sadly it was one of the better turnouts at Turton Road this season. Indeed, since 5374 attended the round-three home clash with Western Sydney, it has been all downhill from there.
The Jets' average home attendance this season is just 4095, a 41 per cent decline on the 6949 they averaged last campaign, when spectators were locked out of almost half the games because of coronavirus restrictions.
There were COVID-19 logistics to negotiate earlier this season, too, but it's clutching at straws to use that as an excuse, judging by the Newcastle Knights' average home crowd this year (20,155).
To be fair, crowds at sporting events are still returning to the levels before coronavirus, and the A-League has been hit as hard as any code.
Scheduling multiple matches midweek and on Sunday nights was never going to help their cause.
And it hardly needs to be pointed out that the Jets sit in the competition cellar after a 12-game winless run, so they are not exactly a promoter's dream at this point in time.
Some might query who in their right mind would pay good money to go and watch them.
But this is by no means an unprecedented situation for the Jets and their fans.
In fact, I would suggest it's a long-term trend, dating back to the formative seasons of the A-League.
Let's take a stroll down memory lane to 2006-07 - season two of the new competition - when the Jets were beaten 2-0 at home by Melbourne Victory in round seven, in front of a 4635-strong crowd.
That defeat prompted the sacking of coach Nick Theodorakopoulos, whose replacement, Gary van Egmond, transformed a winless team into play-off contenders.
Four months later, a crowd of 24,338 flocked to what was then known as EnergyAustralia Stadium to cheer the Jets on in a 2-0 semi-final victory against Sydney FC. That's a 20,000 turnaround in attendance in the space of half a season.
Apparently that's how we roll, here in Newcastle.
Bring David Beckham or the Socceroos to town, and there aren't enough seats to accommodate all the blow-ins jumping on the bandwagon.
Retaining those bums on seats a week or a fortnight later, however, has been akin to Mission: Impossible.
What makes the disappearing act even more intriguing is that the Knights seem immune to such fluctuations.
Even during the dark days in which they collected three wooden spoons, crowds of 20,000-plus were still turning out to support Newcastle's embattled NRL flagship.
The punters didn't just abandon them. They kept turning up, week in, week out, even during the record 19-game losing streak under Nathan Brown.
The theory that Newcastle is a "rugby league town" might explain the discrepancy in crowds, although that strikes me as a tad simplistic.
In terms of participation numbers, soccer dwarfs the 13-man code in this region, and in most parts of Australia.
But for whatever reason, the kids in the under-10s, or the weekend warriors in the over-35s, seem more interested in playing the game than watching it.
It's been a conundrum that is still unresolved, 16 years after the A-League kicked off.
Maybe things will never change. If they don't, then it remains to be seen how long the interim consortium who are propping up the Jets financially continue to pick up the tab. Good luck trying to sell a club with a stadium that looks almost deserted on game day.
Anyway, regardless of whether it's three years or three weeks since you last attended a Jets fixture, there is no time like the present.
Tonight they're at home to arch-rivals Central Coast Mariners. It's the 52nd A-League derby, and possibly the last one that inspirational Newcastle skipper Nigel Boogaard will get to play on home turf.
Even if they haven't seen you in ages, I'm sure the Jets would welcome you back like a long-lost friend.