For the first time in Hyundai A-League history, the Grand Final will be played in a regional city as the Newcastle Jets host Melbourne Victory on Saturday night.
The Jets come into the clash on the back of their pulsating 2 - 1 victory over Melbourne City last weekend, where they came from a goal behind a half-time to claim victory.
Local Jason Hoffman was the hero, netting the winner while Riley McGree’s scorpion kick will ensure the match goes down in history.
Melbourne Victory won through to the Grand Final via a dramatic ‘Big Blue’ in Sydney last weekend where Terry Antonis went from villain to hero, netting a late extra-time goal to book the glamour club’s place in the big dance.
This season, the Jets and Victory have met on three occasions with Newcastle winning both matches at home 4 - 1 in round 8, and 2 - 0 round 19, while Victory won their only meeting in Melbourne 2 - 1 in round 13.
The home side will be without goalkeeper, Jack Duncan for the Grand Final. He injured his quad in last weekend’s win and will be replaced by former New Zealand international Glen Moss.
Jets’ coach Ernie Merrick says his side should enjoy the Grand Final build-up.
“I’m certainly not trying to contain their emotions, I want them to have fun, I want them to have a lot of fun and really enjoy themselves – it’s a special week,” Merrick said.
He says his side’s mindset will be key on Saturday.
“Whether we are the favourites or the underdogs it shouldn’t change having a positive approach to playing a game where there won’t be a lot of opportunities given – it will be a very tight contest.
The Newcastle boss has a simple message for his players.
“Stay in the present, this a great time and don’t worry about the future, don’t worry about the past, stay in the moment.
“We’ve done so well, let’s give it all we’ve got and let the outcome look after itself. Stick to what your job is, raise your game maybe one percent – that’s all we need.
“The way we defended and closed down City and used that as a launching pad to attack was just first class – it went exactly according to the game plan.”
By the numbers:
- This will be the first time Newcastle Jets play Melbourne Victory in a finals match.
- The Jets have won their only previous Grand Final appearance in 2008, while Melbourne Victory have won three of their five appearances in the big dance.
- Jason Hoffman is the only Jets player remaining from their 2008 Grand Final winning side.