A tough season for Newcastle Jets saw the club finish with the wooden spoon and coach Mark Jones pay the price with his job. We look back at a rollercoaster season in the Hunter and what 2017/18 could have in store.
Record: Played 27, Won 5, Drawn 7, Lost 15
Leading Goal Scorer: Andrew Nabbout (8)
Best home crowd: 11,873 – Round 4 against Sydney FC
Star performer: Andrew Nabbout
On his return from Malaysia, the former Melbourne Victory winger was Newcastle’s best attacker and top goalscorer with eight. On his day, he could cause problems for even the most proficient defenders with an ability to carry the ball at pace, beat opponents and unleash powerful goal-bound efforts. On many occasions he was a one-man band though with his attacking team-mates never reaching his level of consistency.
Breakout player: Jack Duncan
The young stopper relished the chance to be the number one goalkeeper after just eight Hyundai A-League appearances in four previous seasons. After a year with Randers FC in Denmark, the former under-20 and under-23 international started all but two games in 2016/17 and produced a series of excellent performances.
Goal of the year: Wayne Brown
The Jets’ first goal of the season was their best. Freshly-arrived English import Wayne Brown had already displayed his goalscoring prowess in the FFA Cup and repeated the dose on his Hyundai A-League debut, wriggling cleverly between two Adelaide defenders on the edge of the penalty area before firing an unstoppable right-footed volley past the despairing dive of Eugene Galekovic.
Highlight: The round two 4-0 hammering of Brisbane
Roar came to McDonald Jones Stadium in mid-October and received a good old-fashioned thrashing, with the Jets scoring four unanswered goals to record their biggest win since March 2014. Leading 1-0 into the last half-hour, Newcastle took control with goals from Nigel Boogaard, Steven Ugarkovic and former Roar player Devante Clut to the delight of the home faithful. The victory took Newcastle to the giddy heights of third on the Hyundai A-League ladder and was followed by a come-from-behind 2-2 draw at Western Sydney.
Lowlight: The end-of-season capitulation
The round 17 win over Melbourne City propelled the Jets into sixth spot and sparked real hope of finals football. Unfortunately, it was all downhill from there with Newcastle failing to win another game and collecting just two points in the final ten games of what became a wretched campaign. Bright spots in the season’s final weeks were almost impossible to find, with six straight defeats and not a single goal from open play.
What they need:
It’s a rather long list, but CEO Lawrie McKinna has ticked off perhaps the most crucial item by hiring Ernie Merrick as the club’s new head coach. With an entire pre-season to recruit and work with his playing group, the wily Scotsman has plenty of time to mould the squad into a far more competitive unit. The likely departure of Andrew Hoole along with Morten Nordstrand’s exit leaves a hole in the attacking stocks while further back, a defence that leaked 53 goals at an average of close to two per game also needs solidifying.
Acquisitions for next season:
Ernie Merrick (coach), Roy O'Donovan, Kosta Petratos, Daniel Georgievski
Losses for next season:
Outlook for 2016/17:
A new coach brings the opportunity for a fresh start at the Jets. Ernie Merrick’s experience in the Hyundai A-League, ability to recruit shrewdly and attacking instincts may just provide the catalyst for a Newcastle revival. The arrivals of O’Donovan and Georgievski are also exciting acquisitions. Fans in the Hunter Valley have waited far too long for a return to finals football and for such a proud club in a vibrant footballing region, their club’s continued underperformance is both frustrating and puzzling. If Merrick can bring the right players to the club and instill belief and confidence into his squad, a return to the glory days is certainly possible.