In February, two lucky Newcastle Jets Members got the opportunity of the lifetime - a money-can’t-buy experience.
Across two games in the Christmas-New Year period, Round 10 v Adelaide United and Round 12 v Brisbane Roar, the Club offered a huge prize to Members who were through the gates at both fixtures.
A chance to travel with the boys – flights, accommodation, meals, the lot included – to Japan for our historic AFC Champions League play-off against Kashima.
That was, of course, provided we triumphed in the preceding AFC Champions League qualifier the week prior to the scheduled February 19 clash with the Japanese giants.
At half-time in the Brisbane Roar game, the winners names were called out: Daniel and Scott Eacott.
The father-son duo are long-time fans but only recently made the dive into Jets Membership, joining at the beginning of the season in a move which Scott, Daniel’s dad, calls ‘very lucky’.
There was a big hurdle to their potential overseas journey though, in the form of Indonesian champions, Persija Jakarta.
The game at Newcastle Stadium, as it was known for the game, was a heart-in-mouth affair with the visitors equalising with fewer than 20 mintues remaining and the game going into extra-time.
Daniel described the game as ‘one of the most scary times of my life’, but it was a feeling that turned to relief when Nigel Boogaard turned home in the first half of extra-time and set-up the 13-year-old’s first trip overseas.
From there, things happened quickly for the pair. Itineraries and key timings were shared, some late-night shopping for climate-appropriate clothing, and time off from work and school organised.
An early departure from the Club’s training base at Ray Watt Oval – 5am on Saturday morning, following Newcastle’s big 3-1 win over Melbourne City the night previous – and the boys were right in the thick of the action.
“Everyone was pretty chill… I was expecting everyone to be really intense, but they were very welcoming and it was really nice,” Daniel said.
“We travelled everywhere with the side, got to go watch training and help out with different things, have a kick-around with Ernie and Clayton.
“I got to have a really good talk with Roy O’Donovan when we got off the plane [on the way back to Australia], and that was probably the best part.”
“They were incredibly generous with their time, [and] I ended up writing to Joel to thank him, Lawrie, everyone,” Scott said.
“All the players were so fantastic to Daniel… Daniel’s year at school went happy with Roy O’Donovan replying to him on Instagram [last January] through to Daniel sitting down with Roy and spending time with him.
“All the support staff, Ernie included, were fantastic and we got to see all aspects of the game preparation.”
While the clash with Kashima didn’t bring about a result that any Novocastrian had hoped for, the experience for the pair was still next-level.
Described by Daniel as ‘excitement’ throughout the whole day, he and Scott had the opportunity to watch the game alongside former-Jet, Andrew Nabbout.
Situated almost on the goal-line, they got to see Ronny Vargas’ goal up close and even got a run on the broadcast as the camera panned to the travelling Newcastle support.