F3 Derby: bloopers, comebacks and controversy


Grand final drama, embarrassing blunders, serious injuries and loads of talking points. The F3 Derby hasn’t failed to disappoint over the last 10 years.

It will be another intense and intriguing clash between these two bitter rivals on Saturday night when Central Coast Mariners make the short journey up the F3 (or M1 as it’s now known) to take on Newcastle Jets. Before the next chapter in this intense rivalry is written, let’s look back at some of  the big talking points between these two proud clubs over the years.

A fierce rivalry is born

The two clubs have enjoyed some heated battles over the 10 seasons of the Hyundai A-League but their intense dislike for each other goes back to more than three months before the inaugural season even got started. The two clubs were drawn together in the first round of the Club World Championship qualifiers. While the Mariners won the clash on penalties, the match will best be remembered for a horror tackle by Central Coast striker Nik Mrdja, which left Jets defender Andrew Durante with a badly broken leg. A skirmish in the tunnel post-match only heightened the tension between the two clubs and the Jets probably still to this day remain incensed about the whole issue. It was an ugly start to what’s an intense rivalry and has ensured there has always been a bit of bad blood between the two sides.

Mariners back from the dead

As the two best sides in the 2007/08 season, the two clubs met in the Major Semi-Final to see which team would be first through to that season’s grand final. A 2-0 win at home in the first leg for the Jets had most believing the Hunter club would progress and win hosting rights for the decider. But someone forgot to tell the Mariners the second leg was a formality. Adam Kwasnik’s first half strike halved the deficit before the home side’s pressure told 16 minutes from time when Saso Petrovski scored to level the tie at 2-2 and send the match to extra-time. With almost 20,000 fans behind them at Bluetongue Stadium, Lawrie McKinna’s side rode the wave of momentum, scoring five minutes into extra-time through Petrovski again to complete the astonishing comeback and progress to the decider, where they would tackle the Jets again. What a game!

Championship joy for the Jets

The biggest F3 Derby of them all came in 2008 when they met in a gripping – and highly controversial – Hyundai A-League grand final. A hard-fought and tense decider swung in the Jets’ favour midway through the second half, when a slip by Mariners and Socceroos defender Tony Vidmar allowed Mark Bridge to pounce. Bridge gained possession just inside Mariners half and had a clear run to goal and clinically curled a shot around a despairing Danny Vukovic. It was just the start of the drama. The Mariners pushed hard for an equalizer and felt they should have had a penalty when the ball struck Jets midfielder James Holland’s hand in the box in stoppage time. Despite howls of protest by the Mariners player, referee Mark Shield was unmoved, although Vukovic saw red for swiping at the arm of the whistle-blower in frustration. It was a sour end to an epic grand final and a day that will live in the memory of Jets fans forever.

Mariners’ fightback after Pasfield howler

Mariners ‘keeper Justin Pasfield enjoyed some success in F3 derbies but will long be remembered for his embarrassing blunder in the first clash of the 2013/14 campaign. With his side already training 1-0, the gloveman made a shocking error to gift the Jets a second goal, taking his eye off the ball when receiving a seemingly harmless back pass, the ball rolling under his foot and over the line before he could get back to clear it away. Pasfield couldn’t find a hole big enough to hide in after the error but luckily for him the Mariners scored twice in the last 25 minutes to snatch a 2-2 draw and spare his blushes.

Derby swansong for Captain Mariner  

No one epitomizes what the F3 Derby is all about better than current Mariners skipper John Hutchinson. “Hutch” is the only remaining player that’s been there since day one, right back to that now-infamous clash in the CWC qualifier which was the birth of this rivalry. While he’s won a championship and always relishes knocking off the glamour clubs like Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory, beating their bitter neighbour from up the freeway has always been a huge priority for Hutchinson. It’s why he’s often been public enemy no.1 among Jets fans in the squadron whenever they visit the Hunter.

Will Hutch enjoy a fairytale farewell in what will be his last F3 Derby on Saturday night?