The Jets are ready to take on the Mariners in the 59th edition of the F3 Derby. (Image: Newcastle Jets)

Despite having no A-League Men games for the last four weeks, Arthur Papas believes his side is the fittest he’s ever seen them. Getting four weeks of intense training into the squad has put them in the situation to be able to springboard into the rest of the season.

After their round four clash with Melbourne City, Papas told reporters his team would need to be ready for a “brutal” block of training. When speaking to the media on Friday, he was confident he’d done his job.

“It was brutal, it was constant work,” Papas told reporters on Friday morning when asked how their break was.

“They’ve come out of it fitter, stronger and faster. Our numbers have been through the roof during this break.

“We’ve broken every GPS metric that’s available to us during both conditioning sessions and friendlies.”

Papas made it known through the opening six rounds that he would’ve appreciated a larger pre-season. He doesn’t believe he had enough time with his squad to get them ready for the first matchday, especially the international players.

Newcastle had no players named in the Socceroos squad for the World Cup, so he had access to the full squad over the four-week break. He took it as a blessing in disguise and is happy with what he’s been able to achieve over the month.

“I certainly think it was a benefit for us,” he said.

“During pre-season, there were quite a few new faces and it’s well-known I had questions about the amount of time we had to prepare.

“Over the course of this month, it’s been great to have them all together on the training pitch together. It’s a credit to the players who have made the effort to be better and get closer with one another as well.”

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The Jets are back in action on Sunday when they travel down the freeway to take on the Central Coast Mariners in the F3 Derby, which has a newly announced trophy. The clubs were meant to face off during round one before the match was washed out.

It will be the 59th official meeting between the two clubs, the Jets will be searching for their 19th win. The Mariners are on the hunt to extend their lead, currently, on 21 wins, there have also been 19 draws.

The Mariners will be boosted by a trio of returning Socceroos, including teenage sensation Garang Kuol. Papas insisted he wasn’t fazed by the prospect of facing the international stars, he’s confident that his players can the side over the line.

“They should be proud of where they’ve been and what they’ve achieved, but it’s not too much of our concern,” he said.

“It could have two effects on them, they could hit a wall after being on such a high that it takes them a while to get going again. Or on the other hand, that high could bring them back and carry them through the rest of the season.

“Coming back with a Derby is so important to us, it’s even more important to our fans.

“We’ve had a lot of good crowds this season, we’re hoping to see a full away section to restart this part of the season.”

The Jets failed to score in their last three games before the break, Papas said they were unlucky with their chances and they would put plenty of work into it during the break. Papas said he’s been particularly impressed with Beka Mikeltadze, the Jets talisman who averaged a goal per game over the friendlies.

“I’ve seen some good signs going forward,” he said.

“We were finding the right areas and scoring, and the types of players we wanted scoring to.

“Beka [Mikeltadze] was good, played himself into some form, we’ll just have to hope that keeps going.”

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