A lack of an out-and-out goalscorer and a reliance on youth really hurt the Jets, making the decision to let Jeremy Brockie go all the more baffling.
Things didn-t quite go to plan for Newcastle this season. While there were some bright points, the Jets were undone by a lack of consistency and, unusually for a Gary van Egmond side, a clear plan of how to achieve their aims on the park.
The season started well, with good wins against Sydney FC, Central Coast and Melbourne Victory but they couldn-t maintain the results, as the opposition worked out how to stop their main weapons and results began to suffer.
By the end of the season, the Jets had the second worst goal difference in the competition, conceding a mighty 45 goals over 27 rounds. The strangest result of all was the round 23 5-0 thrashing at the hands of Melbourne Victory. The result in part due to the decision to field a vastly inexperienced starting XI against perhaps the most dangerous attack in the competition.
That said, there were some individual highlights for the Hunter club - but they will never be enough to mount a serious title charge. The Jets have plenty of talented players and will be fighting off offers from rival clubs if they don-t want to lose their best in the off-season. But the challenge is to get the rest of the squad playing at the same level.
Defence Goalkeeper Mark Birighitti was named the Jets- player of the season at their recent awards night. Signed from Adelaide United where his chances of breaking past Eugene Galekovic were slim, the 21-year-old took over from regular No.1 Ben Kennedy and didn-t look back.
But age was probably the main problem for the Jets at the back this season. With Nikolai Topor-Stanley, Tiago Calvano and Tarek Elrich leaving the club, they paid for their lack of experience. The likes of Scott Neville, Josh Mitchell and Sam Gallaway are all good young players but what they would give for someone like Patrick Zwaanswijk or Jade North alongside them. Shoring up that porous defence must be first priority in the off-season.
Midfield Again, van Egmond-s youth policy cost the Jets some much needed bite and nous in the middle of the park. Craig Goodwin looked to be one of the standouts of the season but faded as the weeks went by; the same can be said for James Virgili, or the undoubted potential of James Brown or Josh Brilliante.
But where was the experience and squad depth to back them up? Young players can do it on occasion but relying on them to deliver that level of performance every week without adequate support is asking too much.
Skipper Ruben Zadkovich certainly grew into the captain-s armband but he-s not a match-winner and that perhaps is what the Jets lacked most in the middle.
Attack Emile Heskey grabbed plenty of headlines this season and a few sniffy comments from those who tried to jump on the bandwagon of criticism from his days in the Premier League.
The Englishman delivered for Newcastle but he-s never been prolific and could have been better used with more support and a more suitable strike partner. Instead, he was paired with a similarly ageing striker in Michael Bridges. Great technique, quick thinking, good feet - but fitness remained an issue and again, he was hardly prolific.
The big questions upfront: why did Jeremy Brockie leave last term and why was Ryan Griffiths allowed to go before this season was over?
Coach Gary van Egmond is a good coach and his experience at the AIS, along with the club-s Emerging Jets program puts Newcastle in good stead for the future.
But “Dutchy” can-t live off his old grand final win anymore. Jets fans have been vocal in their displeasure this season, as have the local press, and the pressure is on.
With the frustration of missing the finals fresh in the mind, Hunter Sports Group chief executive Troy Palmer has already said GVE is going nowhere but the club-s recruitment policy will likely be under close scrutiny over the coming months.
This is the club-s third season without finals football; for a rich footballing region like the Hunter, that-s just not good enough.
Newcastle Jets Overall Grade: D-