Newcastle Jets CEO - and former Central Coast Mariners coach - Lawrie McKinna believes Sunday’s F3 Derby is the biggest between the two clubs since the 2008 Hyundai A-League Grand Final.
There is huge interest in Sunday’s game at McDonald Jones, with both sides harbouring finals hopes particularly with sixth-placed Wanderers set to play five more ACL group games over the remaining six rounds of the season after this weekend.
Jets are in seventh spot three points behind Wanderers while the Mariners are still in with a shout - despite their hopes being slimmer - in ninth spot on the ladder two points behind the Jets.
A win for either side would be a huge blow for their rival’s hopes, which is feeding in to the excitement in the Hunter ahead of this clash on Sunday.
“It’s probably the most at stake since the grand final. It’s a crucial game. We’re both still chasing a top-six spot and I can’t remember the last time that was the case,” McKinna told the Newcastle Herald.
McKinna coached the Mariners to great success for five years, including taking the team to the 2008 Hyundai A-League Grand Final at Allianz Stadium, where the Jets won their to date only Championship after a tense 1-0 win.
Meanwhile, a popular “reciprocal rights” arrangement between the two clubs – where members can attend derby games at their opponents’ ground for free – should ensure an attendance of at least 11,000 at McDonald Jones on Sunday.
“The first derby game we had [in round seven], there were 937 Mariners members who came up and used the deal that was set up, plus there were a few hundred other Central Coast fans there too,’’ McKinna added.
“So it was the biggest Mariners support up here for many years. Obviously a lot of them will coming back up here this week, so it’s important that we can match that support.”