On November 1 2004, Football Federation Australia announced that the Newcastle United Jets was one of eight franchises to have successfully bid for a place in the newly formed Hyundai A-League. The club itself was formed four years prior in 2000 by Con Constantine after the break-up of the Newcastle Breakers club, which itself was preceded by KB United.
After coach Richard Money had assembled his squad which included Newcastle Jets legends-to-be like Matt Thompson and Craig Deans, the Jets played their first ever Hyundai A-League fixture in front of more than 13,000 people at then-Energy Australia Stadium against Adelaide United. It was a 1-0 loss, which meant the Jets first goal in the Hyundai A-League came the following weekend and belonged to Ante Milicic in a 1-1 draw with the Central Coast Mariners. Newcastle’s first Hyundai A-League win came one week later: 2-1 over Sydney FC.
Richard Money remained in charge throughout the entirety of the inaugural of the Hyundai A-League season, leading Newcastle to a fourth-place finish but went out in the semi-finals to the Central Coast Mariners. He was let go at the conclusion of the 2005/06 season (April 2006), and Nick Theodorakopoulos was signed as his replacement for the 2006/07 season and beyond. He recruited players, Joel Griffiths in particular, who would be key to Newcastle’s success in the coming years.
Theodorakopoulos’ reign didn’t last long though after he failed to lead the side to a win in its opening seven matches and assistant coach Gary van Egmond was promoted to Head Coach. Although it meant the club was onto it’s third manager in just under six months, van Egmond was able to bring stability and success to the Jets and steer them to a third-place finish in the Hyundai A-League. Newcastle just missed out on a spot in the grand final against Melbourne Victory after going down on penalties to Adelaide United at the last hurdle.
Things had been building slowly for the Jets, and it’d all come together in the best way possible in 2007/08. With players such as Adam Griffiths and Jason Hoffman entering the frame, as well as Brazillian striker Mario Jardel, things were coming together nicely. The Jets finished in second place that season after missing out on top spot by a single goal, but the best was yet to come. After being beat 3-2 on aggregate by the Central Coast Mariners in the semi-finals, for the second year running the Jets were in the preliminary final. Tarek Elrich scored his most famous goal in Jets gold against then-Queensland Roar to book Newcastle’s spot in the Hyundai A-League Grand Final.
Relocated to Sydney Football Stadium, more than 55 busloads of Jets fans and thousands more by train and car went down the F3 Freeway to play in the F3 Derby Grand Final – versus the Central Coast Mariners. It was cagey, and it took until the 63rd minute for a goal to come. It came via Mark Bridge who pinched the ball off Tony Vidmar and went on to score. Despite late scares, the Jets triumphed 1-0 and Newcastle had its first ever Hyundai A-League championship.
From the highs of 2007/08 to the lows of 2008/09. Just four wins saw Newcastle finish on the bottom of the league for the first time in Hyundai A-League history. The one shining light of the season was the club’s first ever Asian Champions League campaign, where a final-day win over Ulsan Hyundai booked the Jets passage to the Round of 16. Newcastle went down 6-0 to Pohang Steelers in that clash to go out of Asia’s premier tournament.
There was off-season change at the club as Gary van Egmond left for a job with the AIS, and former club technical director Branko Culina was named as his replacement in June 2009. His first season, 2009/10, saw the Jets sneak into the finals, where they managed to beat the first hurdle in Gold Coast United on penalties but went down 3-1 to Wellington in extra-time in the minor semi-final to go out of the Finals Series.
The 2010/11 season would bring about the biggest shift in the Newcastle Jets sands to that point. Things weren’t good financially at the club, and the FFA made the decision to sell the club to mining magnate billionaire Nathan Tinkler. He had an immediate impact, investing money into the club and bringing the world’s biggest name in football, David Beckham, to Newcastle for a trial match against his LA Galaxy. It didn’t translate to results on the pitch however and the Jets missed out on the finals for just the second time in history.
The following season began with a bang, with coach Branko Culina and son and marquee man Jason Culina stood down from their roles with the club on the eve of the season’s kick-off. Former Championship winning manager, Gary van Egmond returned to the helm and the squad just missed out on finals after defeat at Sydney on the final day of the 2011/12 season.
2012/13 begun with one of the biggest squad overhauls in Jets history: the likes of promising youngsters Scott Neville, Josh Brillante, Craig Goodwin and Adam Taggart all heading to the Jets. The biggest signing was that of a former England international and cult hero, Emile Heskey. He and Ryan Griffiths scored nine goals each, but Newcastle again missed out on the finals with defeat on the final day to the Wanderers meant the margin was just one point.
There wasn’t nearly as much transfer activity to kick off the following Jets season, and it took five rounds for Newcastle to win their first match of the season: a 2-1 win in Adelaide. Results weren’t up to par though, and Gary van Egmond was relieved of his duties in mid-January of the 2013/14 season. There were positives though, with the return of club hero Joel Griffiths and Adam Taggart winning the Hyundai A-League Golden Boot at age 20 with sixteen goals.
Taggart’s magnificent season saw him earn a move to English Championship club Fulham in the offseason prior to the 2014/15 season. There was plenty of experience brought into the club in the form of Adrian Madaschi and Marcos Flores, playing under new boss Phil Stubbins who was in a Hyundai A-League job for the first time. It ended up being a season to forget: just three wins in 27 league matches, best remembered for the mid-season dismissal of a clutch of senior players. Newcastle finished the season on the bottom of the Hyundai A-League ladder.
After what had been a long season for Jets fans, it looked like Hyundai A-League football in Newcastle could be all over after Nathan Tinkler attempted to hand in the club’s licence. FFA instead terminated the licence and issued a new one immediately: the new entity still operating as the same Newcastle Jets. A performance review saw Stubbins stood down from the top job, and appointed former Fulham assistant manager Scott Miller as the club’s sixth manager. The 2015/16 season under his reign was always going to be a tough one, and Newcastle missed out on the finals for the fifth season running.
There were again big moves in the leadership department prior to the 2016/17 season: FFA announced the club had been sold in its entirety to Martin Lee’s Ledman Group and former Gosford Mayor and Central Coast Mariners boss, Lawrie McKinna was appointed as the club’s CEO and club legend Joel Griffiths took up an ambassadorial role which would eventually develop into one as football operations manager.
Midway through the pre-season however, Scott Miller was dismissed and Championship winning assistant manager Mark Jones was signed as the club’s newest manager. The pre-season had seen the signing of players such as Andrew Nabbout and Wayne Brown. After a positive start which saw Newcastle take five points from their opening three matches, the Jets went on to win just four of their next 23 matches to finish bottom of the ladder for the first time and Jones was relieved of his position.
This saw the appointment of former Melbourne Victory and Wellington Phoenix boss Ernie Merrick as manager for the 2017/18 season. There was a swag of players brought in including Daniel Georgievski, Roy O’Donovan, Dimi Petratos and Ronald Vargas among them and they helped get things off to the best possible start with a resounding 5-1 win over the Central Coast Mariners in the opening round of the Hyundai A-League season. They finished well in the regular season too: an 8-2 rout of their F3 rivals in Gosford.
Newcastle enjoyed their best season in recent memory, claiming a record-high 50 points in the league and qualifying for the finals for the first time since the 2009/10 season. The first semi-final was played against Melbourne City in front of nearly 20,000 people at McDonald Jones Stadium: and what a moment they were treated to, as Riley McGree’s magnificent scorpion kick helped earn the Jets their first Grand Final appearance in nearly ten years. Played in front of a full house at McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle weren’t able to complete the fairy tale and went down in heartbreaking fashion: a 1-0 loss to Melbourne Victory.
|Most appearances||Ben Kantarovski - 174|
|Most appearances as captain||Nigel Boogaard - 63|
|Top goalscorer||Joel Griffiths - 34|
|Most goals in a season||Adam Taggart (2013/14) - 16|
|Biggest win||8-2 v Central Coast Mariners,
Round 27, 14 April 2018
|Longest winning streak||Four - 4 January 2008 to 27 January
2008; 29 November 2009 to 20
|Longest unbeaten streak||Seven - 14 October 2005 to 25
November 2005; 13 November
2010 to 15 December 2010
|Largest home crowd||29,410 v Melbourne Victory,
2018 Hyundai A-League Grand