ROY O'Donovan holds mixed emotions about his first RAAF round for the Newcastle Jets.
The Irishman had never experienced anything like it when three F/A 18 fighter jets flew over a packed McDonald Jones Stadium before the blockbuster against Sydney FC 12 months ago.
Then, 14 minutes into the game, O'Donovan was sent off after a tangle with Sky Blues defender Jordy Buijs. Somehow, the Jets dug deep to hold out the defending champions 2-1. It proved a pivotal point in the Jets' campaign.
"This time last year, we were almost reaching the crescendo of the season," O'Donovan said. "Crowds were building and the fact I did get sent off and we went on to win - that might have given us something we might not have got if I stayed on the pitch. It worked out in our favour in a lot of ways.
"I'm not planning on that one this time. I hope to lift off in another way."
The Jets face a different challenge in a RAAF round on Saturday that doubles as an F3 derby.
Most attention has been on fierce rivals Central Coast, who travel up the freeway with a new coach in former Matildas boss Alen Stajcic and on the back of 8-2 humiliation to Wellington.
"A new manager will want them to come out hard, play for pride and not let what happened last week against the Phoenix ever happen again," said O'Donovan, who has scored five goals in four games against his old club. "I'm expecting them to be a lot more defensive. They will work hard to try and stop our impact players getting on the ball and having time on the ball. They will be running hard to stop every blade of grass being opened up.
"What is important for us is that we play our own game. Historically, we have not worried about other teams too much. If we do our job properly, we get the result we need. Ultimately it comes down to us. Can we play, can we move the ball quickly enough between the lines, can we hurt them."
The Jets, who are chasing a sixth straight derby win, are unbeaten in six games and can move within a point of the top six and two points of fourth if other results go their way.
"The last six weeks have been really good," O'Donovan said. "It is important that we keep that going because we have left ourselves with very little margin for error. It won't be easy tomorrow. But if we do our job properly it can be a very worthwhile exercise."
Stajcic is expected to recall attacking duo Andrew Hoole and Connor Pain, while experienced midfielder Tom Hiariej is back from injury.
However, they are without Matt Simon (suspended) and Olyroos duo Aiden O'Neil and Kye Rowles.
"A lot has changed this week, we've got the new gaffer in and things have are looking very positive," Mariners' defender Jack Clisby said. "The intensity in training this week has been great, so that's a good sign,
"It's a new way of playing and it's a new philosophy so we're just going to do as best as we can to adapt to that and as quick as we can."