HIGH-octane Jets winger Nick Fitzgerald watched more football than he cared to last A-League season.
On the fringes at Western Sydney, the 27-year-old started in just three games and didn't play a minute in the final three months of the campaign.
What began as a feel good homecoming story for the Blacktown boy turned into a disaster.
But in the space of three months, Fitzgerald has moved from one of the toughest periods in a roller coaster career to one of his most anticipated.
One of the stars of the pre-season, the speedster is set to make his A-League debut for the Jets against the Mariners in round two. Newcastle have the bye in the opening round this weekend.
Not only has Fitzgerald's love for the game returned, significantly he has been scoring goals.
"After the season I had last year, it was about coming up here and enjoying my football again," said Fitzgerald, who was released one year into a three-year deal at Wanderers.
"Newcastle is obviously a fantastic place to live. The boys have been great and have welcomed me into the squad. I'm really loving going to work every day and feel like I have become a better player as well."
The left winger scored a double - the second a first-time shot after an angled run across the top of the penalty box - as the Jets wound up the pre-season with a 10-2 rout of the Young Socceroos on Saturday.
Consistent goals has been the missing component of the two-time championship winner's game.
The kind of football that Newcastle play, I think really suits me. It is attack-minded and there are some great players hereNick Fitzgerald
He hasn't hit the target in the A-League in the past two seasons. Before that, his biggest haul was four, which he collected in consecutive campaigns from season 2015-16.
"Ernie [Merrick] has been great for me as has Clayton Zane," Fitzgerald said. "The kind of football that Newcastle play, I think really suits me. It is attack-minded and there are some great players here. It was a matter of learning from Ernie and what he wants in terms of positioning and getting myself in the box.
"The goal on the weekend, it was great football. It is always enjoyable to play in a team which likes to play football. We have been working hard on our combinations.
"We are playing the Mariners in round two, which is a big game, it's a derby. This weekend will be an opportunity to see what style they play and how they are going to attack so we can counter act that."
On the outer at Wanderers, Fitzgerald had plenty of time to look at - analyse - other A-League teams.
"I watched the Jets a lot last season," he said. "They played some great football. There were games where they shouldn't have lost but they somehow found a way to lose.
"That is what we have to change this season. If we are dominating a team we have to go on with it - keep scoring goals, keep the foot on the pedal and not rest.
"We have done that in the pre-season. The game on the weekend, we didn't take the foot off the pedal. We wanted more goals. Everyone was hungry, everyone wanted to get on the scoresheet."
Fitzgerald made his A-League debut at the Mariners - the first of his five clubs - in 2009-10 before returning to Gosford midway though the 2012-13 campaign and playing in a grand final win over Wanderers.
"I have some good memories from the Mariners," he said. "That was a break-out season and I won a championship there. Against a former club you want to go out and prove yourself, even more so in a derby."
The bye, as well as give the Jets an extra week to prepare, has allowed Fitzgerald more time to spend with baby daughter Aubrey, who was born eight days ago.
"My wife was a week overdue and we would have been pushing it if we had a game this weekend," said Fitzgerald, who also has a two-year-old son Harrison. "They are everything to me and my inspiration to play well."