The politicians might choose to call it an educational trip, travelling to Melbourne to watch the top two sides clash in the A-league, but I won’t even try to sneak that one past the taxman.
It’s true I had to forego the Jets v Wellington, on a wet night in Newcastle, to go to Flemington on Derby Day, but these are the sacrifices you make in concession to passing years, friendship and tradition!
So it seems did many other Novocastrians, and a big hello to the statuesque Tanya Wood of Maitland (close enough to qualify) and her hubby Tim, and Adam D, representing a famous rugby league family in Newcastle, and the 2291 postcode, with much pride.
BODY AND SOUL: Newcastle attackers Andrew Nabbout and Joey Champness battle with Wellington’s Daniel Mullen. Picture: Darren Pateman, AAP
That little posse didn’t brave the cold on Friday night and head to AAMI Park, but if they had they would have watched Sydney FC surgically dismantle Melbourne City for much of the 90 minutes.
The margin (1-0) wasn’t large, but Graham Arnold’s team bossed the game, and having tipped you all into the $1.90 about them to win the minor premiership last week, I am more convinced than ever that quest is nearly a fait accompli.
Most impressive was the way Sydney played through a pretty decent City line-up, pulling them one way before finding an outlet for a switch of play, almost at will, until the hosts had to push on, man on man, and chase the game.
Sydney were slick, functional, and very professional, which is more than can be said for the shuttle train back to town from Flemington, post-battle.
Ready to roll at 6:15, plenty of time for a quick shower, and to take up a prime position at the casino’s sports bar, or so we thought.
More than an hour later, and stuck after going about 500 metres due to drunken (I suspect) trespassers on the tracks, I started to worry about missing the Jets’ kick-off time.
Apparently Wellington did, but that is incidental, if you can picture a 54-year-old man, with a 54-year-old bladder sitting in a stationary train, jam packed with well-dressed folk, between stations, and nary a toilet in sight.
My silent but urgent scouting for empty bottles had just begun, when the offenders were apprehended, and we were thankfully on our way. A quick update on the boys’ phones confirmed it was 0-0 at McDonald Jones Stadium, so no damage done, in either respect.
Still 0-0 when we find the big screen, just in time to watch the Phoenix commit hari-kari, and go from a shaky position at 40 minutes to a disastrous two goals down, and all but out of the game at half-time.
Roy O’Donovan, in rare touch, had an unlikely miss from a gilt-edged opportunity earlier, but was Johnny on the spot twice inside five minutes to profit from some awful defending.
There was no commentary on offer, the Great Britain v Lebanon rugby league International (pffttt) booming on the audio, but I imagine the analysts on Foxsports, “Bozza”in particular, would hardly have been complimentary about Wellington.
From a Newcastleperspective, they don’t need to care about what Wellington did, or didn’t offer.
Job done, three points banked, momentum maintained, and as my roomie PT pointed out, the chance to open up a little gap between themselves and the Wanderers, who should have had a stern test at Melbourne Victory last night.
O’Donovan’s brace takes him comfortably clear at the top of the goalscoring charts, and Andrew Nabbout would have silenced any questions about his goalscoring form, with his first of the season, a pretty curling peach from about 20 metres out at the top of the penalty box.
Communication and information can be scarce down here in Mexico at this time of the year, particularly when you are reliant on a $22 phone, but I imagine Jets coach Ernie Merrick is trying to keep a lid on emotions and gazing too far ahead, instead concentrating week to week.
“Can the Jets keep it going like this?”has become are you very popular question in the past fortnight, and Merrick will probably be posing that very inquiry to his squad for motivational purposes at this time.
There are bigger challenges ahead, have no doubt.Sydney FC, Melbourne City, and Melbourne Victory (despite their slow start) spring straight to mind, but you can only beat the team that’s put in front of you.
This busy week, the opponent is Adelaide, who are competitive, robust, and quite dangerous, particularly at Hindmarsh Stadium.
Another solid, positive performance will give the Jets a real chance of of snaring three points and maintaining their roll, and will keep a happy throng of supporters smiling.
A healthy result and performance in Honduras by the Socceroos, will also lead to miles of smiles, in anticipation of World Cup qualification next Wednesday night.
This two-legged tie is a million miles away from being a small hurdle, and the logistical challenges faced by the team have been further exacerbated by suspensions, injuriesand games to be completed by some players over the weekend just past.
I know Ange has declared the team will be bold, but I’m hoping to go to Sydney in just over a week’s time to celebrate comfortably, not cringe and curse as we chase goals.
A good solid away performance, with some key troops absent, and then a pretty much full deck to choose from in the second leg, with a monster home crowd to add some energy and belief, will do me for a scenario at this stage.
I had hoped as a side benefit of this work-related weekend away, to confidently tip you the winner of the Melbourne cup today, but it is as open as Wellington’s porous defence was on Saturday night.
I will stick my neck out just for the faithful and say that I believe it will be an imported horse wearing an odd numbered saddle cloth between five and nine.
Is it asking too much for that, a draw at least in San Pedro Sula for the Socceroos on Saturday morning our time, and then a Jets win later that day in Adelaide? Let’s hope not.
Enjoy your sporting week comrades.