Fairy-tale grand final appearance for Newcastle ends in ‘shocking’ result
By Liz Clarkson
Hunter Stadium sold out as Newcastle fans flocked to their first home grand final since 2008. (ABC: Liz Clarkson)
Win or lose, since the Newcastle Jets secured a space in the 2018 A-League grand final, it was always going to be a fairy-tale evening.
The city was awash in blue and red as 30,000 fans made their way to Hunter Stadium and thousands more braved the cold to enjoy the game at the various live sites throughout the region.
At Speers Point Park families rugged up to see the game on the big screen as it lit up the water across Lake Macquarie.
Newcastle Jets fans watch the A-League grand final on a big screen after failing to get a ticket to the sold-out match. (ABC: Liz Clarkson)
Back at the stadium, Melbourne Victory would not be making their way into town quietly. Five thousand fans were making themselves as known as is possible when you’re the away team at a grand final.
The energy during the pre-game entertainment was palpable.
Fans were on their feet, scarves in the air as they waited for their heroes, the players, to take the field.
As the two teams walked down the tunnel, there was a pause in the entertainment, an acknowledgement that history was about to be made.
For the Newcastle Jets, the honour of hosting the grand final in their own backyard is something they don’t take for granted.
The evening was always going to be a fairy tale for Jets fans, after finishing 2017 with the wooden spoon.
Earlier in the week, Jets striker Jason Hoffman remembered the 2008 grand final and reflected on the 10 years in between.
“As a wide-eyed 18-year-old I may have taken it all a little bit for granted,” he said.
“As you realise now, I’ve had to wait ten long years of grinding away trying to get this close again.
“I’ll enjoy this occasion come Saturday because I know good players go throughout their career and they never make the final.”
The whistle blows
It’s a nervous wait but once the game began it was back to business for the players.
It wasn’t the start that the Jets were looking for.
Victory scored in the ninth minute off a free kick. Victory’s Leroy George kicked the ball long, it fell to Kosta Barbarouses and the ball deflected into the net off John Koutroumbis.
It would end up being the winning goal of the evening as Melbourne Victory lived up to their name and took the championship from the Jets 1-0.
The Victory show off the silverware following the win over the Jets in the A-League grand final. (AAP: Dan Himbrechts)
No fairytale ending for Jets fans
“I’m absolutely gutted,” said Jets fan Aaron, who was watching the game at the live site at King Edward Park in Newcastle.
“We all tried to get a ticket and they sold out so quick so we thought this [live site] will be the next best thing and it was great to see the turn out but shocking [result].”
Despite the loss, the crowds still enjoyed the community spirit.
“It was a little disappointing but it was fun, good atmosphere. I’ve been following a little bit of soccer this season but it was just awesome to be out and doing something with the Newcastle community,” said one fan at King Edward Park.
In Melbourne, Victory fan Tamara Shaw, her daughter Ashlee Shaw and neighbour Ron Nordobrook enjoyed the game more than Jets fans at the match did. (ABC: Joseph Dunstan)