“I’m going to have to buy some gloves,” said the wag sitting next to me.”My hands are getting sore, clapping all the time!”
And with that quip Mr Glass Half-Fullsummed up the feelings of many, and seven years of disappointment wereall but forgotten.
BUILDING: The Jets are growing in confidence each week, and their long-suffering supporters are daring to dream of something special. Picture: Jonathan Carroll
In truth, some of the anxieties born in that barren period resurfaced momentarily, as Brisbane threatened in the last 10 minutes, but the Jets had played them off the park for the first hourand were well worth another three points.
Yes that’s correct, another three points, the 10th such serving this season from just 16 games, and the only team in the league to take six points from a week in which all sides played twice.
That was an achievement in itself. More importantly, the Jets won games they were expected to, something that has been a stumbling block in past campaigns.
It hasn’t been easy. The Mariners were very lively opponents a week ago, and the three-day turnaround before the heat of last Friday eveningmeant the petrol gauge for a high-energy team was flashing well before full-time against Brisbane.
The display in the first 60 minutes against the Roar would have allowedthe Jets to lead by three or four goals on another night. But when the legs started to tire, and Brisbane’s ball players found time on the ball, the Jets held firm and saw the game out in a professional manner.
A similar level of effort, energy and efficiency on Saturday nightshould be enough to send Wellington back across the ditch empty-handed, despite the addition of Nathan Burns and Matija Ljujic.
Three points on Saturday night will all but guarantee finals football for the Jets, before we reach the last third of the league season.
Truth is, many of us have been eyeing off a bigger target for a few weeks now. Even Jets coach Ernie Merrick has conceded that the teams goal’s need to be rejigged.
A couple of weeks ago I responded to a question by saying that if the Jets won their three home games against the Mariners, Brisbane, and Wellington they would finish top two, and nothing I have seen elsewhere in the league has dissuaded me one iota.
Why the early calculations and fuss? Quite simple really, but I thought I would refresh everyone’s memory, seeing as (a) the structure of the finals series has changed several times in recent years, and (b) Jets fans could be forgiven for not having noticed.
Last season the finals series was streamlined. No more home-and-away, two-legged qualifying matches, or midweek fixtures. All over in a fortnight, give or take a day or two.
In week one, teams oneand twoenjoy a well-earned rest. Third plays sixth, and fourthplays fifth, with the higher-placed team having home-ground advantage. The winners advance.
The following weekend the topteam hosts the lowest-ranked qualifying winner, and the second-placed side hosts the highest-ranked winner.
The two victors meet the following weekend, May 5 or 6, for those confident enough to book holidays, in the A-League grand final.
In a nutshell, if the Jets finish first or second in the league, they will host one game at McDonald Jones Stadium, and if they win they will play in the grand final. Every ounce of logic suggests that semi-final opponent cannot be Sydney FC, who are currently 13 points clear of the third-placed team.
At the start of the season would you have signed for a one-off clash at home, against either of the Melbourne teams, Adelaide, the Wanderers (or at a real stretch Perth Glory)for a place in the grand final?
Ernie and Lawrie McKinna would have dislocated your shoulder grabbing the pen.
Which, dear reader, makes home games against the last-placed Phoenix in mid-Januaryso critical.
It’s why I can’t imagine any complacency being allowed to take a breath, let alone flourish.
It’s why Melbourne City would have been ecstatic on Sunday, picking up one point, after playing with 10 men for over an hourand clawing back a deficit twice, against the Mariners.
The old Melbourne City might have folded in the face of such adversity.
The downside, of course, for teams one and two is that a season’s work can go down the drain, in one moderate performance, or luckless 90 minutes. That is the n way.
With that in mind, and assuming Sydney and Newcastle finish one and two, as they stand currently, what effect, and what drama and controversy would a potential loss bySydney FC in their semi-final cause?
Let’s remember that grand final revenue belongs to the governing body, rather than the two clubs participating, so everything is simplified if Sydney FC qualify. Full house at Allianz Stadium, or a bigger crowd at ANZ if further capacity is deemed necessary.
But what if the Jets were to win, and FC lost?
Cue the politics, the bean counters, the spin doctors, and the debate.
Ten years ago the Jets and the Mariners faced off at the Sydney Football Stadium (Allianz), as their respective home venues were deemed too small to host the big day. Would that be the same this May?
I’m sure that Melbourne Victory, Melbourne City and Adelaide United would be quick to offer up 50,000-plus capacity venues to host the big day, double the potential gate, but nullify the Jets’ home-ground advantage.
If the Wanderers were to squeak through, would the prospect of a monster crowd at the Olympic stadium see the Jets play there? Jets fans might help with projected demolition costs for the proposed stadium upgradeif that were the case.
If the FFA decided on a neutral venue, how well would Newcastle v Victory, Cityor Adelaide draw in Sydney? Newcastle v Adelaide at Etihad in Melbourne? Don’t think so either.
I know I’m looking well ahead, but I reckon the presence of the “country cousins”could well pose a few logistical grand final questionsif Graham Arnold’s men happen to falter at the penultimate hurdle.
Couldn’t happen, could it? Food for thought.