The Football Sack looks back on a famous season for the Newcastle Jets that saw them come so painfully close to being crowned Champions for a second time.

This Season

A-League: 2nd

Finals series: Grand Final, 1-0 loss to Melbourne Victory

FFA Cup: Round of 32

Top scorer: Andrew Nabbout and Roy O’Donovan – 10 goals

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Season Summary

The Jets had their greatest season in 10 years after finishing 2nd on the ladder and making it all the way to the Grand Final, only to fall to a painful defeat to Victory.

This year’s effort was a drastic turn around after finishing dead last the season before with a vastly different squad.

It’s been a case of everything coming together at once for the Jets with owner Martin Lee and CEO Lawrie McKinna well and truly bedded in in their second year and new coach Ernie Merrick hitting the ground running by building an impressive squad with the help of McKinna and Football Operations Manager Joel Griffiths.

The Jets were remarkably consistent throughout the season until the final few weeks when they hit their worst run of form shortly after confirming a second place finish but bounced back well and truly on the final day of the season against the Central Coast Mariners.

Of course Jets fans are proud of their team for making it all the way to the Grand Final but what will also live long in the memory of many is claiming three victories from three against the Mariners and an aggregate score of 15-3 against their fierce rivals.

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Areas of excellence

The Jets’ attacking force was talked about the entire season and for good reason with 57 goals scored in the regular season.

Although Newcastle had to deal with some irritating mid-season absences among their frontline, the likes of top scorers Nabbout and O’Donovan, Joe Champness, Dimitri Petratos, Ronald Vargas and later Patito Rodriguez all shone throughout the year.

Newcastle’s defense was leaky at times but was helped out significantly by and defensive midfield partnership of Steven Ugarkovic and Ben Kantarovski. The two formed a fearsome protective barrier for their defense while also possessing the skills to start an attacking move from deep and even knock in a few goals of their own.

A lot of what made Newcastle so enjoyable to watch was the way in which they played with such attacking flair but that wouldn’t have been possible with a strong defensive midfield partnership and that was highlighted in the games when Kantarovski was absent through injury.

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Areas in need of improvement

As mentioned above the Jets never looked completely solid at the back and clearly relied heavily on captain Nigel Boogaard after shipping 12 goals in 4 games in his absence towards the end of the regular season.

Depth is something many A-League clubs struggle with and the Jets are no different with the squad down to its bare bones at times throughout the season due to injuries. This problem was alleviated slightly thanks to players like Jason Hoffman who was deployed in a number of positions when needed, however looking forward it’s a situation the club would surely want to avoid next season.

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Top Student

There are many more than suitable contenders for this title but it’s especially hard to split two players who performed brilliantly throughout the season.

The first is Petratos who was instrumental in running the game from an attacking standpoint and showed real leadership in his first season with the club.

The 25-year-old probably had a better first half of the season but more so because he set the bar so high rather than a drastic drop off in form in the second half. Richly deserving of his call up to the Socceroos squad, if he goes on to perform at the World Cup Newcastle may find it very difficult to hang onto him.

Ugarkovic is the other top student in the class due to his unbelievable consistency of performances throughout the season. There’s not really one game where he performed poorly and as mentioned above was one of the main individual reasons for Newcastle’s success.

And honestly who could forget THAT goal line clearance against Melbourne City in round 18.

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Class clown

Patricio Rodriguez. His arrival as an injury replacement for Vargas was met with great excitement from Jets fans however he never really worked out as well as many hoped.

His style of play never really suited what the Jets were looking for and hardly looked capable of the workload off the ball that a player like Nabbout got through before his departure to China.

Rodriguez is undoubtedly a skillful player but maybe one that the Jets will be willing to cut loose in the search for a longer term replacement for Nabbout on the wing.

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Grade: A

Outlook

Keeping the core of the current squad together is vital if Newcastle are to mount another serious run at finals football. There is definitely room for improvement across the park and may become worse if the club release a number of players which often happens between seasons.

The club have showed great intent already however after confirming the signing of Matthew Ridenton from Wellington Phoenix on Wednesday night. The 22-year-old was given was first team debut by Merrick and is a player he has continued to admire since leaving the Nix.

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The most important thing for the Jets is to keep this newfound wave of support and convert it into memberships for the season to come. If the club are able to attract anywhere near the numbers they did in Newcastle’s biggest games this season, they will be well on their way to establishing themselves as a force in the A-League for years to come.

Feature image credit: Sproule Sports Focus

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