Sky Blue road trippin’

It’s a Friday afternoon, where would you rather be? It’s time for another away day following Sydney FC, this time a trip to Newcastle to see the Jets and our mighty W-League team in action.

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With the new North Connex tunnel getting us out of Sydney in a matter of minutes, despite a breakdown (not the MMTV truck) holding up traffic, this was always going to be a smooth journey. A Spotify mix of 2020 Triple J hottest 100 songs courtesy of navigator and Sydney FC super-fan Michelle filled the car as the kilometres flashed by. We were parking up in the car park in less than 2 hours and on the search for pre-match refreshment. The Sunnyside Tavern was a bit of cross-country to get to, a walk down the side of the ‘canal’ not giving off any Venice vibes whatsoever, but we met the Jets hardcore W-League fans there and enjoyed a quick pre-game beer.

Now, what is becoming a trend before and after W-League games is the comical jibes from uneducated home fans when a double-header is on that doesn’t involve one of the A-League teams. ‘Hur hur, you’ve got the wrong shirt on’ or ‘Your team’s not even playing’ or ‘What are you wearing that for?’ I find it quite amusing, but I think Michelle’s fist gets more and more clenched the more she hears it. W-League, we have a long way to go to get the word out to the masses.

The impressive structure of the McDonald Jones stadium was a buzz of activity with moments to go before kick off, a queue for tickets, but there were no issues getting in and finding seats. Covid protocol dictated that we had to sit in our allocated seats, but after enduring the biting wind howling along the very back seats of the vertiginous West stand, the relative warmth of a barren home terrace behind the goal was earmarked and we set up base camp there (don’t frown, we were super Covid safe). Masked up and caught out many times trying to eat and drink through masks, this was a new experience.

Sydney FC should have gone ahead early on, Siemsen 1-on-1 with the Jets keeper but shooting straight at her, and it was one way traffic for most of the first half. Courtnee Vine shanked a shot just over and Princess Ibini shaped to repeat that goal from last week but the ball went just wide. That was until the home side found themselves with numbers in the box from a looped free kick, and some static defending from the visitors allowed a clever header to find the Jets player in space to tuck a shot into the corner of the goal to give Newcastle the lead. Sydney’s first-half dominance returned nothing in the goals column, not for the want of trying, and it was a frustrated Sydney FC team, clad in their sparkling white away shirts, that trudged in at the break.

The second half started in familiar fashion, Sydney FC on the attack, and they were level within a couple of minutes. Some cool work from Vine down the right, the ball eventually falling on the edge of the area, where Taylor Ray thumped in a shot past the despairing dive of the Newcastle keeper. There were hair-raising moments at the other end, maybe the angle of viewing from our vantage point made the play look a lot closer to the visitors goal than it was. The Sky Blues took the lead with a moment of brilliance. The lead up to the goal was slow motion, the Sydney girls playing hot potato with the ball, but Rachel Lowe took grip of the situation and launched a shot from outside the area that caught the home keeper out and the ball dipped in just under the cross-bar. Great stuff! From then on, it was a matter of how many Sydney could score, but the best chance fell to the Jets with a free-kick on the edge of the area in the last minute that whistled over to relief from the away team.

Three more points! Get in!

The main course out of the way, it was time for dessert, and we stayed in position as honorary Jets A-League supporters for the night, cheering on the home team against the old enemies from the West. Ali Abbas acknowledged our cheers as he warmed up in front of us. This was a thoroughly entertaining game, Nicolai Muller’s disallowed goal had me off my seat, what a finish, only to be denied by VAR. It became more of a pantomime when Bernie Ibini made his appearance from the bench, a chorus of boos every time he touched the ball, while the home fans chanted for Lachlan every time they won a corner. Wanderers tried their best to give the two goal lead away, but the game ended 2-1 to the visitors, a disappointing zero point Friday for the Jets, despite some vocal encouragement from the fans.

A catch up with Blacktown Spartans NPL coaching supremo and Jets fan Lucas was a highlight, Australia has some great coaching minds coming through the ranks. And Michelle met with some of her Active Support crew after the game as impeccably-timed heavy rain lashed down, stopping for a brief photo. Home by 11pm with little traffic on the motorway.

Another fantastic day out following top-flight Australian football. Back to work, back to school and back to real life might make these games a bit harder to get to as the season goes on, but so far this has been a cracking start to the season. More please. Now I’m off to find out more about the Novocastrian Super Hero H-Foot…

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