Hyundai A-League Grand Final preview: Jets v Victory
Every club that finishes with the wooden spoon starts the following season seeking redemption.
The Newcastle Jets have not only achieved that; they've earned the right over the last 28 games to host the Hyundai A-League Grand Final for the first time ever.
After seven years without finals football, the rush for tickets in the Hunter Valley has been unprecedented and Saturday's night showpiece is the talk of the town.
Looking to spoil the party are experienced Hyundai A-League Grand Final participants Melbourne Victory who reached the decider courtesy of their dramatic extra-time win over defending champions Sydney FC last weekend.
Chock-full of players with big-game know-how, Victory will present a massive challenge for the Jets and are even favourites in the eyes of many observers.
A resurgent force against a regular finals side - who has the edge in the biggest game of the season?
PREVIOUS MEETINGS THIS SEASON
Round 8: Newcastle Jets 4 - 1 Melbourne Victory
Former players came back to haunt ten-man Melbourne Victory as the Newcastle Jets ran riot in an eventful win at McDonald Jones Stadium.
Andrew Nabbout scored either side of half-time to help set up the come-from-behind victory.
Kosta Barbarouses opened the scoring for the visitors in just the fifth minute but another Victory old-boy Daniel Georgievski equalised inside the quarter-hour.
The contest swung in the home side's favour with Mark Milligan's red card just before the half-hour mark and Nabbout scoring his first goal shortly afterwards.
The Jets made their numerical advantage count in the second half with Joe Champness extending the margin before Nabbout completed his brace late in the contest.
Round 13: Melbourne Victory 2 - 1 Newcastle Jets
Melbourne Victory exacted a measure of revenge for their round eight defeat and notched their first home success of the season with a crucial win.
Kosta Barbarouses swept home the game's first goal after 33 minutes with Jason Hoffman equalising on the stroke of half-time.
But Besart Berisha raced onto Leroy George's first-time ball over the top early in the second half and thumped his finish inside Glen Moss' near post.
Mark Milligan spurned a chance to put the result beyond doubt from the penalty spot after Ivan Vujica had bundled over Jason Geria in the box.
However, his failure to convert proved inconsequential as the home side did enough to snatch all three points.
Round 19: Newcastle Jets 2-0 Melbourne Victory
A dogged Jets side defeated Victory with skipper Nigel Boogaard and Riley McGree on target, but it was goalkeeper Jack Duncan who stole the show with a superb display.
The Jets skipper opened the scoring after half an hour, glancing home a header from a curling Dimi Petratos free-kick.
McGree made the points safe with his first goal in Newcastle colours, guiding home a Jason Hoffman cross with 20 minutes remaining.
Duncan made a number of eye-catching saves in each half to deny the visitors who lost their own goalkeeper Lawrence Thomas when he was stretchered off in the second half with a neck injury.
Last five (old to new): L, L, L, W, W
The Jets suffered a form slump at the back end of the regular season, losing three straight games, having been defeated just four times in their previous 23 outings.
But they regained momentum with an 8-2 pounding of the Mariners, before seeing off Melbourne City in last weekend's semi-final, earning the right to play host to the season's climax.
Last five (old to new): W, W, L, W, W
Victory - as they often do - have hit form at the right time, winning four of their last five games and seven of their last nine, scoring 20 goals in the process.
After easing past Adelaide United two weeks ago, Victory produced their most significant result of the season last Saturday night, knocking out the reigning champions in extra-time to reach their sixth Hyundai A-League Grand Final.
Newcastle Jets: Club stalwart Ben Kantarovski will miss the Grand Final with a hamstring injury, while regular goalkeeper Jack Duncan is also highly unlikely to feature, despite being named in the initial match-day squad. Wayne Brown is ruled out with a calf problem.
Melbourne Victory: Kevin Muscat has suffered a big blow with standout defender Rhys Williams unable to overcome a calf injury which also saw him miss the semi-final last weekend. Long-term absentee Mitch Austin is the only other front-line player unavailable for Victory.
WHAT THEY SAID
Jets head coach Ernie Merrick: “I just have never really focused on opposition teams, I've never really talked much about them. You have to respect any team that we're playing in the Grand Final because there's a reason why they're in the Grand Final and Victory are a very good team, but we'll focus on how we play.”
Victory head coach Kevin Muscat: “I don't think I've worked with a more resilient group than the one I've got at the moment. It was unbelievable what they went through (against Sydney FC) and the performance they put on. I can only imagine how our members and fans felt watching that and the pride that they would have enjoyed and we made a lot of people happy on Saturday night and we certainly look to do that again on Saturday.”
Melbourne Victory have won on just one of their previous 12 visits to McDonald Jones Stadium, a 1-0 win in January 2016.
Newcastle Jets 2 - 1 Melbourne Victory