The smiles couldn’t be wiped off the Football Mid North Coast’s Northern Representative’s players on Tuesday night, despite losing to A-league side the Newcastle Jets 5-0 in their 45-minute half.
The players knew they had been involved in something special and competed in a match every amateur player dreams of doing, facing off against a professional side in front of their family, friends and a crowd of 4,100 people.
Centreback Troy Ward summed the experience up best.
“I would happily lose 5-0 to that side and be involved in this type of game again,” Ward said.
“It was unreal out there, the crowd made it even more intense and it will be hard to ever match the feeling out there.”
The Northern Side had a nervous start to the game, conceding a goal in the opening minute.
However, they settled into the match and it took pinpoint shots into the corners for the Jets to find the back of the net, including a screamer from 25-yards out in the final seconds of the opening half.
Northern side goalkeeper Shaun Glover had the best view of the match and could see the game unfolding in front of him.
“The main thing I could see was the difference in class between the two sides,” Glover said.
“You could tell the Jets players train every single day and have been working together as a team for a long time.”
Shaun Glover speaks prior to kick off against the Newcastle Jets.
The speed of the contest was nothing the Northern Representative side had felt before and Paul Thurlow barely had time to catch his breath.
“I felt like I was sprinting the entire match,” Thurlow said.
“It was so intense, they never stop running and moving all over the park.”
The night was a huge success for the players and the Mid North Coast with Jets coach Ernie Merrick announcing at the conclusion of the game the professional side will be returning for a pre-season match next year.
The club was “blown away” by the support of the local community for the match, with the final figure of 4,100 spectators exceeding expectations.
“We certainly will be returning to Port Macquarie next year and it will be a major part of our pre-season every year,” Merrick said.
Northern Representative side’s coach Matt Baker commended Football Mid North Coast for organising the Jets coming to the region.
“Hats off to Football Mid North Coast for making it happen and to hear the Jets plan on returning for pre-season every year is terrific news,” Baker said.
“It will be huge for the development of the game and it will give the Premier League players a team to strive to be involved in every year.”
Mattew Baker speaks prior to kick off against the Newcastle Jets.
Baker and Northern Representative assistant coach Dean Riordan spent close to two hours with Jets coach Ernie Merrick in an eye opening experience.
“Ernie is a great man, he has coached all over the world at the highest level and he took Deano and myself, two average blokes from Kempsey, out on the pitch and told us stories, explained to us different training techniques and what he expects from his players,” Baker said.
“It was amazing for both of us and we were provided with invaluable information on developing players.”
A snippet of the action.