David Lowe: Another reality check for Newcastle Jets

STACKED DECK: Mark Jones during Saturday night's game against Melbourne Victory at AAMI Park. Picture: Getty Images

STACKED DECK: Mark Jones during Saturday night's game against Melbourne Victory at AAMI Park. Picture: Getty Images

Spare a thought for a Columnist Day. Now there's an idea! In the case of those writing about local flagship representatives in national competitions, this would kick in on filing day after eight rounds of the aforementioned competitions.

I'm sure I can hear violins in the background, many of you stopping what you're doing and pondering that it can't be easy writing about the Jets this week, thinking glad I'm not in the Lowey's shoes. I do appreciate your sentiment.

Will he defend coach Mark Jones – again – ask the more strident critics. Surely not? Something’s got to change, hasn't it?

 It does, so this week I am going to write about cricket!

Yep, that's right. Ten days ago Australia were a basket case, facing the worst crisis in more than a century. Today, the future looks bright, the team has a new attitude and spirit and, dare I say it, culture after one win in a dead rubber, in unusual conditions (day/night).

If only Rod Marsh had resigned earlier and allowed that renowned innovator and risk taker Trevor Hohns back to chair the panel, the Aussies would still be world champs, wouldn't they?

Totally! Let's ignore that it was largely the old brigade who took most of the wickets and scored the runs. Let's ignore the fact that the opponents have probably never even seen the newcomers.

Let's forget also that South Africa were missing arguably the world’s best batsman and fast bowler, and another top-notch quick. And let's assume that overnight our team have rediscovered patience, a determination to occupy the crease rather than dominate, and found a way to play spin on the subcontinent!


So, why the cricket appraisal? Glad you asked. Let's bring it back to the Jets.

Had Morten Nordstrand scored in the first five minutes against Melbourne City, or Andy Brennan done the same against Melbourne Victory on Saturday afternoon, and the Jets held on valiantly to a lead for 85 minutes, would we all be celebrating their courage and planning?

I'm not saying they would have done, but had they, would all be well with the world all of a sudden?

I am on record as saying that Scott Miller did a decent job last season with what was at his disposal, yet after a solid start his team went 10 games without a win. Did he suddenly forget how to coach? I think not. Opponents worked out how to play the Jets, no doubt, and there would have been injuries and suspensions.

Gui Amor has gone two seasons without winning a game with Adelaide in the first eight rounds. The fact his team recovered and won the championship in year one has afforded him patience with the fans and club. His knowledge of the A-League and of the players in opposing teams will doubtless have improved, but his overall football knowledge doesn't fluctuate wildly with the team’s results.

Kevin Muscat went at least five or six games without a win last year, and the wheels fell off Graham Arnold's Sydney last season when Alex Brosque got injured. Both have far stronger squads than the Jets, but we don't question their abilities?

I understand fans’ frustrations, and that some believe I am "kind" to Mark Jones out of friendship from our playing days, but let me ask you a few questions you can ponder or answer.

What were your expectations, given his relatively modest squad, of the Jets’ points tally after eight rounds? Would seven or eight mid- to long-term injuries hamper that projection?

If we had swapped coaches, Muscat and Jones, at the start of last week, would you have backed against Melbourne Victory? Be honest.

"Yeah, Lowey, but the Jets looked more fluent at this stage last season,” and I'd agree with that, but remember Miller had a three-month pre-season with his team.

Jones had three weeks, and has had no stability available at the selection table since round one.

"He's not up to it," the critics spit.

Do we know that for sure?

"Doesn't matter. We are sick of the same story season after season.”

Let me tell you: so am I. But after five or six changes of coach in as many seasons, do you think another is going to solve the Jets’ woes?

Are we to assume that none of the previous half dozen or so coaches had a clue? (Those with personal vendettas, please, no comments!)

"Why can't we get back to the glory days, Lowey, like seasons two and three?"

We haven't got the finances to compete. Full stop.

In seasons two and three, there was barely a marquee player in sight – Dwight Yorke, Juninho and Melbourne's Fred were notable exceptions – and the whole set-up in terms of salary cap was a lot more even across the league. So, too, as a result, was the talent spread.

Con Constantine spent a lot of his own cash to finance a title challenge, and the team featured consecutive Johnny Warren medallists, Nicky Carle and Joel Griffiths, quality defenders Andrew Durante and Jade North, Mark Bridge, Matt Thompson, Paul Okon, Milton Rodriguez and youngsters Stu Musialik, Tarek Elrich etc.

Gary van Egmond and Mark Jones did an excellent job of harnessing that talent, but, when Con withdrew the level of funding the following season, the talent dispersed, the coaches stayed, and the team went from top to bottom in a season. Did they forget how to coach? Not likely.

Today, if you can take advantage of all the salary cap concessions, your top five to seven players are outside the cap, and in theory you can pay the eighth-best player on your roster what the Jets, Mariners and others may pay their best.

The world of trust funds, negative gearing and salary sacrifice is terrific if you are wealthy enough to be part of it. At the moment, the Jets are the PAYE pluggers, battling from year to year.

I'm afraid that until the club is cashed up enough to compete in the player marketplace, we will fill the role of envious country cousins, looking on, trying hard, but pushing $#!% uphill with our out-of-joint noses. It's that simple, really.