In 2018, RAAF Round was an afternoon to remember for more than 18,000 Newcastle Jets fans.
Up against the ladder leaders, Sydney FC, three F/A-18 Hornets from the RAAF Base Williamtown flew over McDonald Jones Stadium in a Vic formation and wowed the crowd.
After Roy O’Donovan was sent off in the opening stages of the game, the 10-man Jets rallied to storm home to a crucial 2-1 win thanks to goals from Dimi Petratos and Andrew Nabbout.
On Saturday afternoon, the boys face off in a high-stakes encounter against the Central Coast Mariners in what will be a fourth RAAF Round encounter.
It’s a relationship with an institution of Newcastle and the Hunter Valley which the Club holds in high regard – as CEO, Lawrie McKinna explained.
"RAAF Round is a fantastic way for us to acknowledge the RAAF and the contribution they make to Newcastle and the Hunter Valley,” McKinna said.
“Our two organisations will be forever-linked through our identity as the Jets, and it’s our job to foster that relationship and RAAF Round is the perfect avenue for that.
“F3 Derby’s are always big, important, exciting games and it’s great that we’ve been able to align the RAAF with such an important fixture for the Club and for the fans.”
Head Coach, Ernie Merrick echoed his sentiments and pointed out the common threads which connected the military and sport.
“We have a very good association with the RAAF base at Williamtown and in many ways, we’ve got common goals in things like organisational structure, planning, and preparation,” Merrick said.
“They’re a major employer in the Hunter region, we’ve had a couple of boys go over there recently and they’ve been so impressed with the openness and friendliness of the people that work in the military.
“They’ve got such a tough job when they’re called in action, you have to admire what they do and how they defend the country.
“I was amazed when I saw and heard the jet fighters fly over the stadium last year, I thought it was so exciting... we went down to ten men against Sydney and went on to win the game 2-1.
“Maybe we got a lot of energy from the planes going overhead, [and] the military parade beforehand, it obviously provided a lot of motivation.
“Personally, I like that close association with the RAAF and I hope that we can develop that further.”
One player who has a history in the RAAF Round is Nigel Boogaard, who has played in two of the last three since it’s inception back in the Hyundai A-League 2015/16 season.
“It’s nice to acknowledge the impact the RAAF has on the community, there are a lot of locals who work up there and a lot of people come into the community that work at the RAAF base,” Boogaard said.
“To have the RAAF Round, the special shirt, and the flyover too, that’s a highlight, especially for the supporters.
“It’s a great day for everyone, and the important thing for me is that we pay due respect to what they’re doing up at Williamtown and make them feel like they’re a part of the Club.”