Football Federation Australia has killed off the North Queensland Fury and let Gold Coast United die. But it must do everything in its power to keep the Newcastle Jets alive after owner Nathan Tinkler decided to walk way this morning.
Why, you might be asking? What makes the Jets different to the Fury and Gold Coast?
A few things, in my opinion. History for one.
As I wrote back in September 2010 when Con Constantine went under and before Nathan Tinkler stepped in, Newcastle is a proud footballing region.
The connection to the round ball game goes back around 130 years. There are few older in Australia.
The Hunter has always been a battling region, and the same can be said for its representative teams in the NSL and then the A-League.
It has produced countless Socceroos. Some can be included in the discussions of Australia’s greatest ever footballers. Like Reg Date, a striker from Wallsend who was a fearsome goalscorer. And Ray Baartz, the skillful attacking player who payed for Australia 49 times. A teenager who joined Manchester United in the late 1960s, Baartz unfortunately missed out on the 1974 World Cup after a freak injury in a friendly game.
And, of course, Craig Johnston. The kid from Lake Macquarie who conquered English football during a fantastic seven year stint at Liverpool FC.
They all came from Newcastle, along with many others who have represented Australia in the beautiful game, both men and women.
There’s also the future. Who else will the talented kids of the Northern NSW Football Federation play for? Who will they aspire to be and who will give them a chance if there is no local professional club? Where will the next Young Socceroo captain Ben Kantarovski, midfield general Troy Halpin or Joey Luke Remington go to?
There’s also the fans. Newcastle clubs have always had fans, and I’m not talking two or three thousand. This season, under new community programs and ticket initiatives, they have grown. They have grown from strength to strength. The passion for football in this city is there.
Newcastle football supporters have often been maligned – from KB United, to Rosebud, Australs, Breakers, United and finally the Jets, yet they have endured and endured. They have persisted. They keep coming back.
They have survived David Hall and Constantine, and hopefully they will survive Tinkler’s departure.
A rare ray of light came on February 24, 2008, in the Jets grand final win over the Central Coast Mariners.
Newcastle finally has a world class place to play in Hunter Stadium, and a stadium deal that doesn’t send it broke. It has the foundations for player development with strong junior clubs in the area and its own long-standing State League in operation, in which the Jets youth league team now plays.
Should the FFA hand Newcastle and the Hunter region over to rugby league entirely? No.
Should Australia’s seventh largest city only have one professional sporting club? No.
Can the FFA afford to abandon one of the foundation A-League clubs? No.
Should they prop up the Newcastle Jets until a new owner can be found? Yes.