THE Newcastle Jets hope to attract their largest home crowd of the season to Saturday’s blockbuster against Sydney FC, as they continue to defy the A-League trend of declining attendances.
Newcastle’s average turnout at McDonald Jones Stadium has increased from 8645 last season to 10,429 in this campaign, despite a couple of games being adversely affected by weather.
That represents healthy growth of 20.6 per cent, which appears almost certain to continue improving given that the Jets are likely to host at least one play-off on home turf.
Newcastle are one of only two A-League clubs whose home crowds have not gone backwards this season. Adelaide are also up 5.7 per cent (10,116 from 9596), but the other eight clubs have all experienced a downturn.
The worst hit have been Brisbane Roar, whose crowds have declined by a staggering 36.9 per cent, from 14,152 to 8920 in the space of 12 months.
The Jets are hoping for a crowd of at least 15,000 on Saturday in their top-of-the-table showdown with the competition leaders.
Their best home attendance this season was 14,833 against Perth in round two, after almost 4000 fans capitalised on a free-ticket promotion.
Since then, Newcastle have smashed club records for most regular-season wins and most goals in a season and have already secured their first berth in the finals since 2008-09.
Newcastle chief executive Lawrie McKinna said the club were “doing everything we can” to encourage home-ground support.
“I don’t know what more the club can do,” McKinna said. “Off the park, the boys are out in the community, they’re playing great football. It’s exciting to watch.
“We can’t do any more. We need the Newcastle fans to come out and support the team.
“Whether you’re a league fan or a soccer fan, a football fan, just come out and watch a great game of football.”
McKinna has experienced first-hand the atmosphere a bumper crowd can generate at Turton Road.
“It makes a huge difference,” he said. “I can remember coming up here with the Mariners [as coach], and there were 22,000 fans for that semi-final [in 2007-08], when we got beaten 2-0.
“It was deafening. And that’s what we want. We want to scare the pants off Sydney when they come up here.”
Meanwhile, Jets skipper Nigel Booagaard will need to pass a fitness on Friday to take his place against the defending champions.
Boogaard injured his knee in last week’s 1-0 win against Brisbane and had scans earlier this week. He trained lightly on Wednesday but coach Ernie Merrick will not risk him if there is any chance of aggravating the injury.