Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Jets and Mariners off the mark

Fabio Ferreira scored twice for the Mariners in their 3-2 win over Perth.

Photo credit: Jason Pratt Photography
The Newcastle Jets and Central Coast Mariners both started their seasons in style over the weekend recording wins in round one of the 2015/16 A-League competition. The clubs’ were given little chance to enjoy success this season by the experts with many predicting a finish at the bottom of the ladder. Most commentators had labelled them as re-building or bare of the star players the big-city sides fortuitously possess. But do the two east-coast teams have a genuine chance to kick-on from their solid showings and play consistent football for the rest of the season? Will the Mariners or Jets feature in the finals?

Rebuilding wasn’t in Mariners’ coach Tony Walmsley’s pre-season vocabulary after he appointed himself as the head-coach following an initial worldwide search for Phil Moss’s replacement. What’s clear is Walmsley doesn’t muck around; he has recruited former Sunderland player Roy O’Donovan from wherever he was in the Football world, gone about recruiting some handy players from within Australia, and told anyone who cares that the Mariners will be playing an attacking and exciting brand of football this season.
With the merry years under Graham Arnold long gone, the Mariners struggled to deliver last season and Coach Walmsley knew the club had to bring some spice to the pitch this voyage. Re-establishing their connection with the community has been the focus from owner Mike Charlesworth - who last year flirted with moving matches to the north of Sydney - and part of building and strengthening those bridges is offering a pleasing product. Enter Walmsley and his intentions.

Any sports’ fan just wants to see their team have a crack, and any football fan sure as hell doesn’t go to a football match to see a goalless draw, they want to see the ball put into the back of the net and this is what Walmsley is all about. While the Mariners might not win the majority of their matches this season, at least the fans will be able to walk away having seen a side willing to take risks in order to win the game. On the weekend they played with grit, determination and flair. They backed up Walmsley’s pre-season preaches and ended up having 24 shots on goal, compared to Perth’s 13. Their goals might have come from penalties and a re-bound, but they were loading the cannons and finding their range.
Just like their F3 counterparts, the Newcastle Jets began their pre-season with a new coach. Former Fulham Assistant Coach, Scott Miller, has taken on his first head-coaching role and with Football Australia controlling the club; Miller had little room to spend big on new arrivals. After a mass-exodus following the stripping of the club from Nathan Tinkler, he did however; have to bring in some of his own recruits. The Jets were able to secure new-captain; Nigel Boogaard, defensive-midfielder; Mateo Poljack, and Serbian striker; Milos Trifunović.

The Jets started their round one game against the Wellington Pheonix as big outsiders, but they were able to clinch a victory with goals from former Socceroo, David Carney, and the Serb, Milos Trifunović. Despite being expected to lose the game in New Zealand, Coach Miller interestingly stated after the game that the team fully expected to win the game, showing his high expectations of the side. Many have questioned whether Miller was ready for a Manager’s role, but don’t be fooled, he has spent almost a decade working in and around the English Premier League with Fulham, and that is invaluable experience. So far, he has been all class in his media appearances for the Jets, who are also trying to re-establish a community connection.
Much like the Mariners, the Jets are looking to have a big year both on and off the field after their fallout from the Nathan Tinkler ownership. However with problems come opportunities, and the Jets have a real chance to fire this year and move away from the stench of Tinkler’s reign. They are probably going to wait longer for some sustained success than the Mariners but it’s hard to say they will be waiting long after knocking off one of last year’s best sides in their opening game. The Jets face a real test on the field Saturday night against Sydney FC along with a test of their community engagement at the turnstiles. They have put in some real work to cement a solid association with the Hunter football fans and hopefully the fresh start pays off.

The two teams’ border on each other’s territory and it’s going to fascinating to see how their seasons unfold after their indifferent yet similar winter build ups. They both have new and stimulating coaches; are almost desperately trying to build their link in their respective communities, and have both started the season with impressive victories. Here’s to hoping they can continue to bump shoulders with the big boys in 2015/16.
How good is that photo by Jason Pratt of a celebrating Fabio Ferreira at the picturesque Central Coast Stadium. In the coming weeks Sport/Life/Australia will be reviewing both the Mariners and Jets game-day experiences.