21/04/2024

Beka Mikeltadze is the competitive driver behind the Jets. (Image: Newcastle Jets)

After a month’s break, the Jets players are eager to be back on the pitch and playing for points again. They return to A-League competition on Sunday against rivals the Central Coast Mariners in the F3 Derby.

After Round six, Coach Arthur Papas told the media it would be a ‘brutal’ break for his side, and said he didn’t want to see a drop in intensity during the time off. To make sure of this, he scheduled three friendlies to be played over the month to keep the side match fit and ramped up the training schedule.

Speaking to the media, Beka Mikeltadze and James McGarry were glowing reviews that Papas’ plan came to fruition, with the pair itching to be back on the park on Sunday.

After a slow start to the season, striker Mikeltadze averaged a goal per game in the friendlies but wants to keep that going when the A-League Men starts back.

“It’s always good to score, even during training or friendlies,” Mikeltadze said.

“You want to score every time when you’re a striker, you must. But the most important is when you play in the league.

“We’ll see, we play many games this season, I hope I score many goals.”

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The weekend will see the first edition of the F3 Derby this season after their Round one clash was washed out. It will be the 59th official meeting between the two sides, the Mariners currently lead the tally with 21 wins while the Jets have 18, and there have been 19 draws.

Mikeltadze is looking forward to the rivalry but insists he goes out to win every game.

“For us, all games are derbies,” he said.

“I understand it’s a big game for the fans and a big game for the city, but we treat all matches like this.

“All matches are derbies, all matches are finals. I plan to win all games, not draw, not lose, win.”

After finishing second in the Golden Boot last season with 13 goals, Mikeltadze has only scored one goal so far this campaign. Defender James McGarry was more positive towards the derby, but said Mikeltadze is well-loved in the team because of his competitiveness.

“I think the derby is a great way to start this second block, it’s a perfect way to get the fans back in it,” McGarry said.

“It was disappointing that first week to have it washed out, but to see the amount of fans who made the trip in that weather was great for us.

“Beka is great for us, we love his motivation to win. He’s probably at the top of the list of guys who really don’t like losing.

“He takes everything as a competition, I’m just happy he’s on our side.”

Newcastle has a lot to play for this week, sitting in 10th after the first six rounds with a game in hand. They lost their last three games against the Mariners and will have to deal with returning Socceroos Jason Cummings and Garang Kuol.

The Mariners score 83 per cent of their goals in the final half an hour, so the challenge for the Jets will be for the defenders to keep their pressure up for the full 90 minutes. They’ll benefit from having one of the best young centre-backs in the League in Mark Natta, as well as veterans Matt Jurman and Jordan Elsey.

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