Two months ago, canny Newcastle Jets coach Ernie Merrick described his Newcastle Jets squad as “the strongest squad since I’ve been at the club.”
One of the few things FFA got right this year was sticking to their word and letting the highest placed team host the grand final.
The buzz in Newcastle was huge, the support of the Jets was electric and everywhere. The morning of the match, the first 30 pages of the Newcastle Herald had Jets stories.
The grand final showed three critical aspects of football that most of Australia is lacking.
First is media support. Football in the Hunter has always had coverage equal to any other sports by traditional sources. In this aspect the area is unique, as no other part of the country sees football supported as an equal.
Second, the media support is mostly positive. Even in the dark times, the media tells positive stories about the local team, and while they attack other aspects – such as management of the code – the local team support doesn’t waiver.
Third, a regional city can create hype that’s equal to any capital team.
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Simon Hill said as the game started that there were 100,000 locals watching at both the stadium and live sites. That’s equal if not more than any other sporting code anywhere as a percentage of the population.
Australia’s seventh largest city clearly demonstrated the effect of positive media and media supporting football.
Further, the history of football has always been respected.
Newcastle sides like KB United held the record for crowd sizes for the NSL and – up until the first game the Northern Spirit played – had the biggest club crowd ever in Australian football.
While European migrants who arrived in the 1950s and ’60s added to and developed football, the structures and systems were already in place.
The Newcastle grand final forced many journalists to highlight the support for the code in regional Australia and most importantly that football has been around since 1880.
Those who say positive media has no effect, I give you Newcastle.
In closing, the Hunter has shown the way forward. Positive media, and respecting all of our past history and achievements will assist the overhaul of the governance systems.