Some weeks back I chatted with a ‘colourful’ racing identity in Melbourne in regards to the pending retirement of the Melbourne Storm’s Cameron Smith.
Rather bizarrely, the conversation also revealed an astonishing fact about the Newcastle Jets, currently the A-League’s most tenuous club.
It is highly likely that Smith, the greatest of modern rugby league players, will reveal the game’s worst kept secret in the very near future. In the meantime, insiders close to the champion are under strict instructions to remain tight lipped.
My contact did so admirably. I think he realised that the story seemed a no brainer to me, yet wouldn’t budge when I persistently quizzed him on the behind the scenes conversations in Melbourne.
He’s a loyal bugger and thus, someone I respect and admire.
As a keen football fan, junior player and considerable investor in different football clubs and events over the years, he casually asked about the Newcastle Jets and the rather nervy situation in which the club has found itself.
At the time of our discussion, former Jets coach Carl Robinson had just been granted permission to travel to Sydney to meet with the suits at the Wanderers and in the days that followed, the Welshman was announced as the new mentor of the men in red and black.
That move ripped a mighty lot of hope from many Newcastle fans heading into the new season; after Robinson had briskly and completely transformed the team’s performance soon after his arrival.
History will tell us that the Jets missed the finals, however, as they scrambled desperately to sneak into sixth place, Robinson’s men played some impressive football and they could well have given considerable cheek to others had they qualified for the knock-out action.
With Newcastle CEO Lawrie McKinna understanding and desperately seeking to address the waning commitment of current owner Martin Lee, my contact was interested in the Jets’ license and the potential value of it.
The main reason behind that interest was the fact that he had twice offered to purchase the club from Lee for a sum in the vicinity of A$8 million.
He dropped this bombshell so casually that when I heard it I near dropped the phone.
On both occasions Lee had knocked back the offer, despite having invested a rumoured A$5 million to gain ownership in 2016.
Considering the apparent drain on his finances and the lack of enthusiasm the Chinese businessman had been showing towards his investment in recent times, one might have thought he may have jumped at and accepted either offer.
With COVID-19 having dented Lee’s net worth further and potentially reduced the frequency of offers being made to remove the financial burden from him, he may well have been regretting his decision to reject my contact’s offer.
However, it now appears that Lee has indeed come to terms with a Melbourne consortium, one bound to take control of the embattled club just weeks before the new season begins.
Lately, things have been a little quiet in terms of news emanating from the Jets’ front office. The main reason has been the desperate paddling of feet below the surface, as the finer details of the sale were ironed out and the new owners began to appoint those charged with restoring the Newcastle Jets to a successful place.
My sources tell me the sale will be announced on December 12, no doubt to the cheers of the Jets’ faithful.
The search for a new coach has run concurrently.
It appears that major detail has also been ironed out, with Ange Postecoglou’s assistant at Yokohama F. Marinos Arthur Papas destined to take the reins in the Hunter just a day after the transition of ownership.
Subsequently, Australian football is within weeks of saying farewell to Martin Lee and his rather unconvincing time as an A-League owner. As with Macarthur FC and Western United, the Jets will now take on a fresh feel for season 2021.
Hopefully that freshness also brings about some added financial commitment and certainty. The A-League wants that and more importantly, the Newcastle Jets need it.