After a promising start, Scott Miller’s revolution of the Jets failed to really take off as they finished the Hyundai A-League season out of the finals. We look back at a rollercoaster campaign in the Hunter and what 2016/17 could have in store.
Record: Played 27, Won 8, Drawn 6, Lost 13
Leading Goal Scorer: Milos Trifunovic (9)
Best home crowd: 14,486 – Round 5 against Western Sydney Wanderers.
Star performer: Mark Birighitti
“Birraz” has always been a talented shot-stopper but produced his most consistent campaign in the Hyundai A-League in 2015/16. The 25-year-old, who overcame a horror facial injury early in the season, went on to play 26 games and kept three clean sheets, making a total of 98 saves, including two from the penalty spot. With the Jets often on the back-foot in a lot of games this season, Birighitti was called into action a lot and often pulled his side out of the mire. It seems inevitable he’ll be off to Europe next season with a host of clubs reportedly keen on his services.
Breakout player: Nick Cowburn
After the early season release of Korean left-back Lee Ki-Je, Cowburn found himself thrust into an unfamiliar position. But the 21-year-old handled it with aplomb, improving as the season went on and forming a good combination with the likes of Nordstrand and Kitto on the left flank. In all he played 22 games, making 49 tackles, 53 clearances and 45 interceptions. His versatility and team-first mentality is a huge bonus for Miller and the Jets.
Goal of the year: Morten Nordstrand
A renowned scorer of spectacular goals, the Dane’s best came against Wellington in the club’s come-from-behind 3-2 win in round 20. Leonardo went on a surging run through the heart of the Phoenix defence before laying the ball into the path of Nordstrand. He produced an exquisite right-footed strike which curled past Glen Moss into the far corner of the net. A sumptuous strike which was voted the club’s best at their recent awards night.
Highlight: Derby delights
There’s nothing like wins over your nearest neighbours and fiercest rivals to light up a season. And the Jets certainly got the better of the F3 Derby in 2015/16, winning both games in Gosford as well as playing out a draw in the Hunter. Their 1-0 win over the Mariners in February snapped an eight-year winless run on the Mariners home turf and they backed it up with a 4-2 demolition in the final round to end the campaign on a high. Jets fans certainly enjoyed the occasion, throwing wooden spoons onto the pitch to highlight Central Coast’s poor season.
Lowlight: A horror in the Hunter
With their finals hopes well and truly alive in late January, the Jets were on the end of an embarrassing 6-1 hiding against Perth Glory in front of their home fans. Despite taking an early lead, the Jets capitulated after the break, conceding four times after skipper Nigel Boogaard was sent off. And Boogaard’s discipline was also a negative during the season, the defender saw red four times, making him the most dismissed player in Hyundai A-League history.
What they need:
Under Miller, the Jets were a well-structured, defensively strong outfit which were hard to beat for much of the recent season. But goals were hard to come by with their return of 28 the worst in the competition. If things are to improve they need to find some creative flair and spark in the front third. A classy number 10, with Leonardo now gone, is a must to help unlock opposition defences, while speed in wide areas is also an area that’s lacking.
Acquisitions for next season:
Losses for next season:
Milos Trifunovic, Leonardo, Enver Alivodic, Ryan Kitto, Brandon Lundy, Cameron Watson, Josh Barresi
Outlook for 2016/17:
Despite missing out on the finals again, the Jets made some significant strides in the season just gone and there is room for optimism in the Hunter. With a seemingly solid foundation formed under Miller, sprinkle in a few new key signings and the portents are there for a successful football side. Consistency will be key, too often in recent seasons following up a good performance with a poor one. The potential is there, can they get the most out of it to surge up the ladder?