On Sunday afternoon, the Jets will open their Hyundai A-League 2018/19 season with a trip across the ditch to face Wellington Phoenix.
It’ll be the 35th time Newcastle has faced off against the team from New Zealand, and they’ll be looking to beat the Phoenix in Wellington for the just fifth time in history.
FIXTURE FACTS: The key numbers ahead of our season opener
Here’s five things you need to know about the Round 1 clash.
It’s opening day for the Jets, and Sunday’s clash will be the first time that the Newcastle Jets have stepped out onto the pitch for a Hyundai A-League match in 169 days.
Since then, the Jets have embarked on tours of China and Spain, played in two FFA Cup matches, and enjoyed a series of positive results in pre-season friendlies.
Newcastle enjoyed a spectacular beginning to the Hyundai A-League in 2017/18 with that 5-1 away win over Central Coast Mariners – can they do similar this time ‘round?
New man in charge
Wellington are one of the unknowns heading into this season and much of that is down to the new man in the technical area: Mark Rudan.
The former Sydney United 58 boss has made the step up to managing his first ever professional side, and has gone about making this Phoenix team his own with a raft of new signings.
Rudan did suffer defeat in his first ever match in charge of Phoenix, going down 1-0 to NPL Victoria side Bentleigh Greens in the FFA Cup 2018 Round of 32. The Phoenix will be determined not to let Rudan’s first Hyundai A-League game in charge end similarly.
Tough times abroad
Newcastle has traditionally struggled on the road in New Zealand, and that’s something which is heavily reflected in the stats.
We’ve played Wellington 18 times across the ditch, and have won just four times.
Even if you factor in the former Kiwi team, New Zealand Knights, we’ve only won five times in 21 attempts in NZ.
Stack of new faces
While it hasn’t been as drastic a pre-season in terms of player turnover that Jets fans have experienced in the past, there are still half a dozen new faces who could be in line to make their debut for the club this season.
The headliner is Brazillian striker Jair, who is yet to play a competitive game for the club, but there are also the likes of Kaine Sheppard, Mitch Austin, and Lewis Italiano.
Likely to make his Hyundai A-League debut for the Jets will be Matt Ridenton, a former Wellington Phoenix player himself.
New and improved Ronnie
With just four weeks of training under his belt before the start of last season, Ronnie Vargas dazzled teammates and opponents alike before injury cruelled the majority of his maiden Australian campaign.
Now with a full pre-season under his belt, a fully healed ankle, and an understanding of what to expect in the Hyundai A-League, the Venezuelan trickster is set to light the competition on fire.
Vargas has struck up a combination with Jets attacker Dimi Petratos in the pre-season which is creating scoring chance after chance. With both looking at their best this year, signs are good for Jets fans ahead of Sunday’s season opener.