CHAMPIONSHIP-winning captain Jade North was given a fond farewell despite Newcastle United going down 2-1 to A-League arch-rivals Central Coast in the F3 derby at EnergyAustralia Stadium last night.
North will take with him fond memories of his four years in Newcastle, and the 11,413 fans at last night's game gave him an emotional send-off.
North flies out tomorrow for a medical with his new club Incheon United in Korea's K-League.
Good mate Joel Griffiths did his bit by converting from the penalty spot to get the party started in the ninth minute. But Mariners striker Sasho Petrovski rained on the parade with a 67th-minute equaliser and Matt Simon ruined it when he put the visitors ahead 2-1 in the 80th.
Fittingly, North did not let the after-match melee interrupt his farewell.
As players traded barbs in a heated exchange after the final whistle, North was busy swapping his shirt with an opposition player.
Many fans stayed as North completed a subdued lap of honour after the players had retired to the sheds.
"Winning the championship here and being captain was certainly one of the highlights of my career," North said. "Just lifting that trophy above my head and being a part of Newcastle in doing that is something I will never forget."
North took his tally to 80 games for the Jets last night. That ranks him second on the all-time list of most matches for the club behind midfielder Matt Thompson.
Thompson has never missed a match for the Jets and has an A-League record of 87 appearances.
Part of the pre-game entertainment included interviews with young fans who were asked what they thought of the departing skipper.
"He's the greatest player ever," one youngster said.
"We love Jade North," screamed another couple of supporters.
The crowd also saved their biggest cheer for North when ground announcer Glen Hawke introduced the team before the match.
"The fans were brilliant and I can't thank the crowd enough for staying around at the end there and giving me a goodbye," North said. "I just can't thank them enough because they have given me a lot here, and hopefully I've given them a lot as well."
North, 26, last season became the first indigenous Australian to captain a premiership-winning team in a national soccer league.
Born in Taree, North grew up on the Gold Coast and played his junior soccer with Burleigh Tigers and Rochedale.
A member of the Australian Institute of Sport in 1999, North played for Brisbane Strikers, Sydney Olympic and Perth Glory before arriving in Newcastle to kick-off the A-League in 2005.