The Newtown Jets

In another life, before the internet became pervasive and when dial-up was still common, I ran a local magazine in the Newtown area.

The idea of being a czar of print, albeit on a microscopic scale, was seductive, but as the project advanced towards the first print deadline I realised I didn’t have much actual content for the public to read.

Casting my eye around the local landscape it quickly became apparent that the Newtown Jets, the local rugby league team, was important and needed to be covered. Coming from an AFL background I was ill-equipped to do the job, and so reached out to Glen Dwyer, the club’s media officer for help.

The result was a regular monthly delivery of sports reporting in the finest old-school tradition and a filled back page.

The magazine closed a long time ago, but I’ve always kept an eye on the Jets. They’ve carved out a singular style since being founded in 1908 (they are the oldest rugby league club in Australia). This is partly based on their location in Newtown, which still hangs on to its working class roots despite the inevitable gentrification of the area over the last 30 years. A key indicator of this is that the quintessential working class man, Jimmy Barnes, chose to wear a Jets jersey in his most recent video. As well, their constant and reasonably consistent battle for success armed with comparatively limited resources is a source of grim pride.

I wanted to visit the Jets again as they played the Wentworthville Magpies, who were just below them on the ladder. The last time I’d been to Henson Park, the home ground in Marrickville, was in 1999. That day was sunny. This day was not.

The Jets play in the NSW Cup, which is a sort of second division feeder competition for the big Rugby League clubs. Newtown is affiliated with the Roosters, and today had the benefit of quite a few first graders as the Roosters had a bye.

The crowd was as large and as cheerful as you could expect on a dismal Saturday afternoon, and they confined themselves to the shelter of the stands. There were some muttered concerns that the comparatively all-star team the Jets had this weekend would indulge in “showboating” and not give their all to the cause.

This was a theme repeated in coach Greg Matterson’s pre-game address in the changing rooms. In the time-honoured tradition of pre-game addresses the air turned blue with exhortation. Greg expressed his initial reservations about his new charges, but the way they had trained during the week had allayed his concerns (or words to that effect).

The first ten minutes of the game made everyone happy with three tries being scored in quick succession by the Jets. It looked like a walkover was in the offing, but the Magpies stiffened their resolve. In the second half the Jets reasserted their dominance. In the words of the official match report:

The Jets reasserted pressure at Wenty's end of the ground bit but didn't score again until midway through the second half. Tautau Moga strode away majestically for his second try after the Jets had worked a smart set play from a scrum on Wentworthville's quarter-line. Winger Adam Henry put the issue beyond doubt with a try following some more well-worked ball play. and the match concluded 26-12 in the Jets’ favour.

It doesn’t get any better than that.