Round 17 was full of interesting contests and plenty of controversy. The highlight of the weekend was a five-goal thriller between the Perth Glory…
A-League strugglers Newcastle Jets have been dealt another bitter blow, with highly-touted coach Arthur Papas resigning from the embattled club.
Papas was lured to the Hunter Valley in 2021 after a hugely successful time in Japan as an assistant coach to Ange Postecoglou, but has walked away after two seasons with the Jets.
His first season at McDonald Jones Stadium was spectacular on the eye, with the side playing some of the best attacking football in the league but narrowly missing out on a finals finish.
His second season saw a lot of the off-field issues start to become too much, as the Jets finished in 10th.
Coming back to Australia after his time in the far east, Papas was under no illusion in terms of the Newcastle job.
The Jets have been without an owner since 2021, when Martin Lee had his A-League licence revoked. Since then the besieged club has been kept afloat by a consortium of several clubs.
To say the Jets operate on the smell of an oily rag is an understatement, with the club having to work to a strict budget and being severely under the salary cap.
Papas has not been given the funds to compete with larger east coast sides when it comes to trying to sign players, instead being forced to rely on his eye for finding a bargain and promoting from the youth.
Papas worked wonders with his recruitment, bringing in high quality visa recruits like Daniel Penha and Beka Mikeltadze, as well as proven A-League talent in Rene Piscopo and Brandon Wilson.
However, he was shocked to see the state of Newcastle’s academy, which he felt was neglected by previous coaches. The youth coach at the time, now Paramount+ commentator Daniel McBreen, responded by publicly blasting Papas with a firey tirade on Twitter.
There has also been the falling out over the past season between Papas and the Jets academy director Gary van Egmond – with the relationship as frosty as the current winter temperatures experienced in Australia.
There were rumours about the coach wanting to leave in January 2023 after the club’s prolonged sale to an American consortium dramatically collapsed.
Realising there would be no further financial injection into the squad and an underperforming youth academy, Papas decided to pull the pin and leave the Jets in a hurry to appoint a new manager before upcoming trial matches in late July.
He already has opportunities to resurrect his coaching career back in Japan, where his aura of the next great young Australian coach first came from.
It was that type of aura that had success-starved fans in Newcastle, as well as supporters of other sides, wondering if he was the real deal and able to return the Jets to greatness.
The answer to that question for many is no, but given all of the club’s off-field issues not even Europe’s best coach in Pep Guardiola would’ve been able to do much better than Papas.
The next Newcastle Jets coach may not have any say in terms of budget, but one thing they need to continue improving on from their predecessor is the maligned academy.
Standards in the academy have not been right for some time and several recent Australian squads selected for underage tournaments have not had a Newcastle player – a rarity for the region, which has always been a traditional hotbed for football.
As for the new coach? The Jets may look at former cult hero Rueben Zadkovich, who left his post as Perth Glory manager earlier this season.
They could even promote from within. Former Broadmeadow Magic coach Damien Zane has been in charge of the youth team since January 2023 and is well thought of inside the club.
Arthur Papas was highly regarded, but still was not able to turn around the Jets’ misfortunes.
It is one of the most poisoned chalices in the A-League due to the lack of ownership, but it’s also a good opportunity for a young coach to try and stop the Jets from forever being grounded.