Sporting Declaration: Jets hard work bringing back the banner days

ON A ROLL: The Newcastle Jets supporters’ banner that has been donated back to the club and was to feature at the game on Friday night. Picture: Lawrie McKinna Twitter

THE crowd figures alone are only promising, but Jets chief executive Lawrie McKinna is confident the club areslowly winning back the region’s football faithful.

But it’s proving hard work.

McKinna, though, and the club are not shirking the task.

After two wooden spoons in three seasons, seven years without finals and the tumultuous reigns of two fallen millionaire owners, the Jets are flying.

Sitting in second place after 11 rounds, Ernie Merrick’s side havethe best attacking record –25 goals –and are playing a brand of football that’s the talk of the league.

All that despite the loss along the way of two of their biggest signings –Ronny Vargas and Roy O’Donovan –to injury and setbacks to the likes of goalkeeper Jack Duncan and Daniel Goergievski.

In seasons past, similar obstacles would have proven far too high to overcome for Newcastle. But the Jets are holding a steady course and bringing in class reinforcements in Riley McGree and Patricio Rodriguez.

And the crowds? Well, the turnaround hasn’t been as dramatic.

Before the season, Sporting Declaration asked why Jets supporters had not stuckanywhere near asfirm as Newcastle Knights fans when it came to home game attendance, and why superior participation rates in football did not equate to bigger A-League crowds?

Not unexpectedly, it got a few offside.But how have fans reacted where it counts?

Before the Wanderers game, the Jets’ average crowd across six home games was 9540 –up from 2016-17’s average of 8645.Not a huge jump considering the on-pitch performance, but McKinna was encouraged.

“We’re one of the four clubs that have crowds up on last year, and considering two of the games were basically washouts, we’re doing OK, and we’re trying our hardest,” McKinna said on Thursday.

“We can’t do anymore on the field.We’re sitting secondin the A-League, W-League are sitting second and so are the youth league.

“We can’t do much more. We’re doing our best and we’re bringing them quality players.

​“We’re basically suffering from the last seven years, and we were involved in that last year,” McKinna added.

“But the last seven years has stuck on the club and a lot of people have said,‘we’ve had it’, but now we’re slowly winning them over.

“Memberships are over what we had last year, and considering we finished last last year, we’ve overtaken those figures, which is greatand we’re still selling memberships now.”

Off the pitch, the Jets gave out tickets to start the season and are now offering free entry for children (with a paying adult) across four games to boost numbers.

On Friday night (last night if you’re reading this in print), McKinna and the Jets were also getting involved in anOld Boys’ Reunion Christmas Day for the clash against Wanderersand encouraging fans to do the same. A huge Jets banner,donated to the club by member Ross Greig, was to be rolled down over Bay 1 at kick-off and several former players were to take part.

“All the supporters’ groups are all coming together,” McKinna said.

“We’ve got the NCL, the Squadron, Champness’ Chaps – everybody is doing their individual things but they are all coming and they’ve all been talking.

“We’re just trying to get that atmosphere back at the ground because the supporters’ groups have been talking and this is the ideal time because Ross gave us the banner.It’s going to be bring a bit of colour and atmosphere.”

Coverage not up to standardThe six-goal thriller between the Jets and Perth was the talk of the W-League last week, but not just because of the drama.Many were angry they weren’t able to see it on TV.

The top-of-the-table clash, a 3-3 draw featuring a Sam Kerr hat-trick and an injury-time Jets equaliser, was not one of the two round-eight games onFox Sports and SBS.

Some asked why the 8.15pm gamewasn’t instead livestreamed? Well, it couldn’t be under the broadcasting agreement.Hopefully the rising popularity of the league leads to more coverage. In the meantime, you can always go to the game.

Still on the W-League, and Jets boss Lawrie McKinna hopes to hold more games at No.2 Sportsground next season.

The W-League Jets are playing only once at their new home and training basethis season and it was a resounding success. A crowd of 1133 watched Newcastle lose 2-1 to Canberra at the ground. The other five home games are at McDonald Jones Stadium.

“We’ll probably look to do more stand-alone games at No.2 Sportsground,” McKinna said.

“Itwasreally successful, it gotmore publicity as a stand-alone game and it’s agreat venue.”

More than3000 stayed after the A-League game to watch the 8.15pm Jets W-League match against Perth last weekend at McDonald Jones Stadiumbut that number had dropped by the end of the game.

The Jets women host one more late game, against Melbourne City in the last round, at the stadium.