With a handful of players swapping clubs in the off-season and a genuine desire to finish above their fierce rivals, the F3 Derby is set to reach new heights in the 2017/18 season.
Central Coast Mariners and Newcastle Jets have been at each other since the very start of the Hyundai A-League and the stakes couldn’t get any higher ahead of the new campaign.
And with the fierce rivals to meet on the opening weekend of the season, both sides won’t have to wait long to grab early bragging rights over their neighbours up the M1.
F3 DERBY FIXTURES 2017/18 SEASON
Round 1 – Central Coast Stadium, Saturday October 7, 2017
Round 15 – McDonald Jones Stadium, Tuesday January 9, 2018
Round 27 – Central Coast Stadium, Friday April 13, 2018
MARINERS HIT BACK IN 2016/17
After suffering the indignity of losing twice at home against the Jets the previous season, the Mariners enjoyed the better of the F3 rivalry in the 2016/17 campaign.
Central Coast travelled up the M1 (formally F3) freeway twice, both times coming away with 1-1 draws, while the only match in Gosford ended in a 2-0 win for the home side.
And in great news for fans of both clubs, the special membership initiative – which allows full-season ticketed members of both clubs to attend the away fixture for free – will continue this season ensuring there should be big numbers at all three games.
So who will come out on top this season? Can the Jets turn the tide this time around or will the Mariners again be smiling come the end of the campaign?
CAN THEY END THEIR FINALS DROUGHTS?
While both clubs have a Hyundai A-League title to their name, it’s been lean times for both F3 outfits in recent seasons.
The Mariners haven’t featured in the Finals Series since the 2013/14 campaign, while Newcastle’s drought goes right back to the 2009/10 Season.
So it goes without saying that a top-six finish is high on the agenda for both heading into the new campaign. And there’s cause for optimism at clubs.
Central Coast made significant strides under Paul Okon last season, improving their style of football and picking up some excellent wins.
Defence has been an issue in recent seasons but the additions of Alan Baro from Melbourne Victory and ex-Wanderer Antony Golec should stiffen up the backline.
New Jets boss Ernie Merrick is assembling a handy squad in the Hunter as they look to make up for finishing with the wooden spoon in the 2017/18 Season.
Quality recruits such as Daniel Georgievski, Glen Moss, Nikolai Topor-Stanley and Petratos brothers Dimitri and Kosta will ensure there’s plenty of depth in the Newcastle side.
And then there’s the addition of former Mariners striker Roy O’Donovan. The Irishman proved he can be a consistent scorer in the Hyundai A-League during his two seasons in Gosford and the Jets will be hoping his goals can fire them to the finals.
O’Donovan is not the only player to switch clubs in the off-season with attacker Andrew Hoole and keeper Ben Kennedy swapping Newcastle for Gosford.
It all adds up to what should be three full-blooded battles between the two clubs, starting on the opening weekend of the season in October.