Eight new faces were parachuted into the Newcastle Jets squad as Ernie Merrick’s side started the week of Remembrance Round with no ordinary training session.
Members of the Royal Australian Air Force, who are based around 20kms north-east of McDonald Jones Stadium at RAAF Base Williamtown, jointed the Jets for a high-intensity session in the Hunter Valley.
Now one of their squadron – ‘Big Brendan’ – is in the mix for a starting place for the Round 5 clash against Perth Glory, on Saturday, 9 November, joked Merrick.
The exercise is to grow the bond between the club and the Air Force, and the Scotsman was full of praise for the actions of his new recruits both on and off the football pitch.
“They were really impressive, the two girls – Olivia and Ashley – for a start, they would certainly walk into a W-League team so I’ll have a word with Craig Deans regarding those two,” Merrick said.
“Big Brendan – the big fella up front who plays over-35 football – he can certainly score goals so, needing goals the way we do, I think we might be signing Brendan after today.
“Bobby Burns nearly killed one of their players, I think we was overdoing it, apart from that, everyone survived and we all had a lot of fun.
“The air force based down in Williamtown, those people are very important to this country.
“The role they perform in protecting Australia, they go into situations far more difficult than we do and I think it’s very important to acknowledge that.
“The fact the number of Australians and New Zealanders that have died in the wars is amazing. We should never forget.”
With a pre-match ceremony and fund-raising activities arranged for the weekend’s match with the 2018/19 Premiers, Newcastle talisman Dimi Petratos urged Jets fans to fill the seats and show their support.
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“I think it’s a very important game for us, and important to come and support the remembrance game,” Petratos said.
“Hopefully we see a lot of fans at the game on the weekend and we’ll do our best to turn the tables and get a win this week.”
One of the temporary Newcastle Jets players, Olivia Tannock, admitted the experience of working out with a Hyundai A-League squad was an eye-opener.
“Men’s football is a lot faster, a lot quicker, so I was just trying to keep up with them,” she said.
“Their drills are very organised and efficient so I got a lot out of it.
“They are really friendly, they were welcoming and included us in everything. It was really good to get to know them.