The benefits of a passionate crowd

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If you’ve never been to a Hyundai A-League game, firstly, shame on you. Secondly, why not? With ticket prices averaging the $20-30 mark, they’re generally an affordable night or day out with the family or mates, providing fans with the opportunity to experience the 90 minutes of emotions, action and thrills that is the world game.

My first A-League game was many moons ago when the Hyundai A-League had just been launched, watching the Central Coast Mariners take on Sydney FC at Bluetongue Stadium. Despite crowd attendance being significantly lower than what it is these days, the atmosphere was unlike anything I had experienced here in Australia. The rivalry between each clubs respective fans, in this case the Central Coast’s “The Marinators” and Sydney’s “The Cove” was unlike anything I’d seen previously at a rugby league or union game. For me, the atmosphere created by an albeit small crowd, was far more memorable than the match (which I think Sydney may have lost).

Saturday night’s game at Ausgrid Stadium which saw the Newcastle Jets successfully end Mebourne Victory’s four game unbeaten streak was a special night. The event coordinators and management at Ausgrid Stadium as well as the Newcastle Jets team ought to be congratulated on Saturday’s efforts. Over 17,000 Jets and Victory fans excitedly hurried into the stadium to cheer on their respective teams in what became a highly entertaining game to watch. While it was likely Harry Kewell’s presence which helped draw the large crowd, it was great to see for the development and expansion of the game and growing fan-base in Newcastle.

The power of a crowd to simultaneously lift the abilities of the home team while weakening the away team, is often touted as the ’12th Man’ – Dutch club “Feyenoord” appreciated their home crowd so much they dedicated the number 12 jersey to their fans.

But where does this atmosphere come from? What causes a crowd to so ferociously back their team? Some such as sports psychologist Professor Sandy Wolfson, believes a testosterone boost first happens even before the crowd arrive, relating to a sense of primitive territoriality.

Whatever it may be, from the word go the Jets fans set the tone of the match, “booing” Socceroo Kewell’s name as the ground announcer confirmed the Melbourne side and releasing ‘Newcastle’ banners from atop grandstands to show their support.

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Despite consistent opportunities, the Newcastle Jets looked stagnant compared to previous weeks’ efforts, as they struggled in finishing and slotting the ball into the back of the net, in Round 9 of the Hyundai A-League.

Throughout the season so far the Novacastrians have always looked quite comfortable at home, contrasted to their away experience, having lost three of their last four games away and drawing with Adelaide United at Hindmarsh Stadium in South Australia. Since the start of last season, no team has lost as many games on the road.

There is no denying the differences in the lead-up preparation to a home game compared to that of an away game.

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Travel fatigue, disorientation and unfamiliarity with an idiosyncratic pitch are all noted factors, not to mention those of an emotional nature. However I believe the biggest difference between a team’s home and away matches is the absence of their home vocal and colourful crowd.

Week in and week out the Newcastle Jets acknowledge the significance of their fans and their ability to get behind the boys, often standing in front of ‘The Squadron” arm in arm, jumping up and down, in union with their fans at the conclusion of a match.

Of course, support can occasionally be too much.

There are many theories which suggest it to be an advantage to take a penalty shoot-out in front of the opposing fans, the theory being that the pressure becomes too great in front of your own fans.

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Luckily for the Jets this wasn’t the case for striker Ryan Griffiths as he coolly fired the ball past Victory ‘keeper Ante Covic after being awarded a penalty kick.

READ THE FULL MATCH REPORT HERE

The Jets ability to capture and capitilise on their home crowd’s passion on Saturday night saw them push past a disappointing Victory to take the game 3-1, moving into third on the A-League ladder, depending upon the result of other matches.

I hope for the future of the game here in Australia in particular, that local fans continue to get behind their team and get along to the games to show their support. If we want to be considered a serious contender on the world stage to host events such as the FIFA World Cup, we must first start at a grass roots level.

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