PRETENDING you are not in New Zealand has proven to be the most successful method of coping with the Newcastle Jets’ horror track record in Wellington.
The Jets returned home last night from the Kiwi capital with their first point there since September 9, 2007, through a 1-1 draw with the Phoenix on Sunday.
After seven years of misery that included just one victory at the Cake Tin in eight matches, keeping the squad operating on Australian time has been hailed as partly the reason for the improvement.
The squad flew into Wellington on Friday and instead of acclimatising to New Zealand time, which is two hours ahead of Australian time, the Jets chose to continue under their existing schedule.
‘‘We obviously haven’t had a winning record here in the past and to come away with a draw is better than a loss,’’ Jets high performance manager Lee Clark said.
‘‘We would have preferred a win, but I suppose travelling two days before the game helps with the club paying for us to do that.
‘‘The players get to sleep there two days before the game, so they’re not disrupted with travel. They just get up and prepare like it’s a normal day.
‘‘This time we stayed on Australian time and didn’t bother changing to New Zealand time, so we didn’t lose sleep.
‘‘We stayed in our own pattern for the whole time we were here.’’
Players slept to their normal Australian schedule and ate breakfast between 10am and 11am, instead of eating at 8am like in the past.
A two-hour time difference may seem insignificant to a team’s performance, but Clark said benefits of keeping footballers in their existing routines is huge.
Clark has previously used the method on trips to Auckland to play the New Zealand Warriors when he worked at the Knights.
‘‘If we got in reasonably late two nights before and you get up at 8.30am for a 9.30 breakfast New Zealand time, that’s us really getting up at six, so it cuts down sleep time for us,’’ he said.
‘‘Sleep and nutrition are the two main components of recovery and preparation, so we didn’t want to take away from it.
‘‘It’s not something that is necessarily new.
‘‘We’ve done it in the past.
‘‘When I was with the Knights, we’ve travelled on Australian time, but I think it’s the first time the guys here have done it.
‘‘The general consensus from the boys was that they felt better.’’
Preparing the long-haul trips to places like Wellington and Perth is a process Clark begins when the draw is released in the pre-season.
The Jets plan to work under Australian time when they return to Wellington on February 27 for their rescheduled mid-week game against the Phoenix and for future matches against Perth Glory at nib Stadium, which can to up to three hours behind Newcastle time.
The Jets also decided to dine as a team outside of the hotel for the first time in Wellington, which senior player Ryan Griffiths believed helped produce the improved result across the Tasman.
‘‘I think this trip has been a successful trip.
‘‘I think we’ve learnt a lot from mistakes of the past,’’ Griffiths said. ‘‘Besides staying on our schedule, we also ate outside the hotel and I think that’s good for team camaraderie, atmosphere and feeling, so you’re not just stuck in a hotel.
‘‘It’s hard to keep your mind fresh if you’re sitting around a hotel all day.
‘‘A lot of the younger players are probably happy to do that. Myself and a few of the older boys like to get up and have a coffee here and there.’’
■The Wellington Phoenix are playing down a report they will host English Premier League giants Tottenham Hotspur in a pre-season match this year.
Reports on social media websites said that Spurs will play in Wellington in July.
Most Premier League clubs undertake pre-season tours and Spurs have been linked with a visit to Asia.
Phoenix general manager David Dome said negotiations had taken place with several English clubs but no deal had been reached.