This time last year the Newcastle Jets were already on holidays with a second straight wooden spoon adding on pain for fans and players alike after what set out to be a promising campaign under new ownership.

Fast forward 12 months and the Jets are possibly just 90 minutes away from making it to an A-League grand final for just the second time in their history.

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It’s an astonishing turnaround in such a short space of time and the reasons for their improvement in fortunes have been pondered and examined by the media throughout this season.

The Jets carried some core members of the squad over to the current season including Nigel Boogaard, Steven Ugarkovic, Ben Kantarovski, Jason Hoffman and the recently departed Andrew Nabbout.

These players laid the foundations for the squad and allowed numerous new players to bed in and form partnerships that have carried the side to the position they currently find themselves in.

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As for Friday night’s game, the Jets have been sweating on the fitness of captain Boogaard after conceding 12 goals in the four games since sustaining a torn calf muscle against Sydney FC.

Coach Ernie Merrick never completely ruled out Boogaard returning in time for the finals but made it clear it was highly unlikely he would be fit in time.

Thanks to a remarkable recovery however it would appear that Boogaard is in line for an extremely early return which sees him available to face City, alongside Ronny Vargas after two weeks out, in what could be the defining factor for the Jets.

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As for Newcastle’s semi final opponents, City have been a bogey team of sorts having recorded two wins and a draw during the regular season against the Jets.

The latest of these clashes in round 25 was a resounding 3-0 win for City at McDonald Jones Stadium, the venue for the semi-final clash.

The fixture came during Newcastle’s worst run of form of the season and when City were at their most desperate in an attempt to claim a finals berth so may not be a completely accurate representation of the two sides.

When considered alongside their other two meetings in the season however it may be an indication that City have the edge on their higher placed rivals.

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If the Jets are to overcome Melbourne, they will undoubtedly need to start and maintain much more intensity across the park that they lacked in the sides’ last meeting but the reintroduction of Boogaard into the back line with the calmness and organisation he brings may just prove to be the difference.

With both sides at almost full fitness and tickets running out the door, this is set to be a memorable semi final from an already memorable season for the Jets and their supporters.

Featured image courtesy of Sproule Sports Focus

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Living and studying in Newcastle. Pretty obsessed with football. Newcastle Jets and Chelsea FC fan