Despite last season ending in a shambolic grand final VAR decision, the Newcastle Jets had an undeniably wonderful season in 2017/18.

Approaching the new campaign, there is an air of optimism and excitement surrounding the club – an unfamiliar feeling for loyal Jets fans prior to head coach Ernie Merrick’s arrival. The Jets have done smart transfer business in the off-season and have looked notably bright in pre-season friendlies.

Last season:

A-League: 2nd
Finals: 1-0 loss at home to Melbourne VARctory in the Grand Final.
2018 FFA Cup: Round of 16

2017/18 was the best season the club had in years. Not only were the results going the right way, the football itself was fluid, entertaining and fast. Newcastle were defensively consistent, the midfield operated at a high tempo and creative players had license to express themselves. Let’s not forget Riley McGree’s absurd scorpion kick that was robbed of a Puskás Award by Mo Salah either.

They’ll win the league because:

The desire for redemption will provide motivation to a team that has quality all over the pitch. On their day, Dimitri Petratos, Ronald Vargas and Joey Champness are unstoppable in attack. Ben Kantarovski looks like the player he always should have been and has Steven Ugarkovic alongside him doing the running in midfield. Nigel Boogaard and Nikolai Topor-Stanley offer a strong defensive partnership and leadership at the back. If marquee man Jair Eduardo hits the ground running, the Jets will be a force to be reckoned with this season.

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They’ll be cellar dwellers because…

The inertia of last season will see Newcastle return to their usual mediocrity. Until December – when Roy O’Donovan returns from his 10 match ban – the Jets won’t have an out-and-out striker. Is Jason Hoffman a reliable talisman to lead the line? Will Jair offer enough going forward? These are a lot of ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ that could haunt the Jets this season.

Talk around the water cooler… look smart in front of your colleagues with this valuable piece of information

As a junior in Newcastle, Jason Hoffman was primarily deployed as a central striker. He was converted to a right back while with Melbourne City under John Aloisi.

The off-season brought…

A lot of promise and optimism for Novocastrians. Transfer business has been intelligent and the club have done well to replace the players lost in the window. Jair is an attacking player fans are excited about. Mitch Austin and Matthew Ridenton are proven A-League players that provide quality and depth. We’ve also seen a number of contract extensions, most notably with Petratos putting pen to paper to extend his contract until 2020.

Key player

Dimi Petratos. When Dimi’s in the mood, the Jets win football matches.

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One to watch

Joey Champness. Every time he has the ball at his feet, it feels like something exciting is about to happen. He’s just one of those players. Champness made his presence known in the A-League last season and will look to solidify himself as one of the most exciting young prospects in the country this season.

Full squad list

Goalkeepers: 1. Glen Moss, 20. Lewis Italiano, 40. Noah James

Defenders: 3. Jason Hofman, 4. Nigel Boogaard (C), 13. Ivan Vujica, 17. Daniel Georgievski, 18. John Koutroumbis, 22. Lachlan Jackson, 28. Patrick Langlois, 29. Jake Adleson, 44. Nikolai Topor-Stanley (VC)

Midfielders: 5. Ben Kantarovski, 6. Steven Ugarkovic, 7. Dimitri Petratos, 10. Ronald Vargas, 16. Nick Cowburn, 23. Matthew Ridenton, 32. Angus Thurgate

Forwards: 8. Jair Eduardo, 9. Roy O’Donovan, 11. Mitch Austin, 14. Kaine Sheppard, 19. Kosta Petratos, 24. Joey Champness

Ins and Outs

Ins: Jair Eduardo (Yanbian Funde, China), Mitch Austin (Melbourne Victory), Lewis Italiano (Stirling Lions, WA), Matthew Ridenton (Wellington Phoenix), Kaine Sheppard (Avondale, VIC)

Outs: Riley McGree (Club Brugge), Patricio Rodriguez (Moreirense F.C.), Jack Duncan (Al-Quadsiah), Wayne Brown (Sutton United), Mario Show (Central Coast Mariners)

Feature Image Credit: Sproule Sports Focus

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Intern at The Football Sack covering The Newcastle Jets A-League and W-League home matches!