But, finally, match day for the club that since mid-May has been refreshed and rejuvenated under the positive ownership of Football Federation Australia (FFA) has arrived.
I may be biased – even paid to be – but in my heart of hearts and from my foundation as first and foremost a fan, I passionately believe that the club has turned a corner. For good.
From my unique and privileged viewpoint, I have watched dozens of people both publicly and privately break a literal and proverbial sweat to help us reach this day.
Forget a team effort, it’s been a true club effort to ensure that a strong and motivated Newcastle Jets team will take to the field in the land of the long white cloud this afternoon (AEDT).
It shouldn’t be glossed over: FFA has a lot to be thanked for.
Not only did the governing body save the Jets financially five months ago, they have been proactive in helping the club re-establish its links with the community, and defining its culture.
From their senior management to their emerging staff – too many people to name individually – FFA representatives from all departments have been helpful, absorbing extra duties into their already busy days so that we, the Jets, have the chance to grow.
Of course, the men that FFA chose to lead the team for the next two seasons at least, Scott Miller and Jean-Paul de Marigny, have also played integral roles.
Freely and frankly, Miller and de Marigny will admit that there’s plenty more that can be done at the club. But, quite noticeably for anyone who has taken the time to venture to Ray Watt Oval at the University of Newcastle to see the team train, the standards and professionalism have lifted. A new, exciting, collaborative culture based on unity, hard work, and still a fair share of laughs, is growing.
Away from the training track the coaches, players, management and staff have worked hard to connect with members, fans, and media.
From early morning trips to radio stations, a 1,000 kilometre circuit around Northern New South Wales, school visits, kick-abouts with fans at the beach, fan forums, club store openings, innovative jersey launch activations, and business networking events – plus much, much more – the club has sought to recognise and respect the real part of the journey that so many individuals and organisations around the Hunter are.
As of today – game day, just in case you’d forgotten! – over 7,300 individuals have opted to join the 2015/16 ride as club members, while businesses including Beechwood Homes, Inspirations Paint, the Greater Building Society, and Varley Group have pledged their support as major partners.
Within the above organisations are some truly keen individuals who believe in the Jets story and want to help make the club a success. They will probably do so with little public acknowledgement or fanfare, but their contribution will provide a telling impact in the overall scheme.
Indeed, Brett Wilson from Beechwood Homes has flown to New Zealand to see the team play today, while Joel Goodsir from Inspirations Paint’s enthusiasm and ideas are infectious. In Hamilton, Ingrid Kaczor and her colleagues at the Greater are working tirelessly to help the club establish community programs rivalling any across the Hyundai A-League.
Mid-May vs. mid-October for Newcastle Jets? Chalk. Cheese.
No matter the result against Wellington, today’s kick-off marks the start of an exciting new chapter in Newcastle’s football history. At this juncture, the people of Newcastle, the Hunter, Lake Macquarie, Port Stephens, and Northern New South Wales have a clear choice: Step aboard the plane, or stay on the tarmac.