THE Newcastle Jets' A-League side are preparing to kick off their season against the Mariners in Gosford on New Year's eve as scheduled but the latest COVID-19 crisis is certain to delay the start to the W-League side's campaign.
The re-emergence of the coronavirus in a growing cluster in Sydney's northern beaches has resulted in border closures, effectively locking NSW off from most of the country.
Teams that travel to the Greater Sydney region will be required to enter quarantine for 14 days on return.
Newcastle is not a COVID-19 hot spot but Football Australia is not taking any risks and was working overnight to make adjustments to the A-League and W-League schedules.
The likely scenario is that NSW-based teams will meet each other and franchises in states without travel restrictions will do likewise until the situation calms down.
The Jets were already away to the Central Coast in round one, before hosting Western Sydney on January 5.
Their first game interstate is against Melbourne City at AAMI Park on January 8.
"There was a hook-up with FFA this morning," Jets chief executive Lawrie McKinna said on Monday. "They are still working on things and will be guided by the government, but there will be some chops and changes due to the border restrictions.
"We are certainly preparing to be playing the Mariners on New Year's Eve. Nothing changes for us on that front."
However, it is a different scenario for the W-League side. They were to host Brisbane Roar (December 28) and Adelaide (January 1) before travelling to Perth to meet the Glory (January 10).
"At the moment, due to COVID those games won't be happening as per schedule. We are waiting for the draw to be amended," McKinna said.
Jets W-League coach Ash Wilson said although her team was "ready to go" they were adaptable to change.
"We are excited and ready to play," she said. "If we have to wait a bit longer, we will manage the training schedule to account for it. If we have to play at our usual time, we are OK with that as well.
"We are just grateful that Football Australia are trying to find solutions to these challenges to make sure the league goes ahead.
"We have worked hard in pre-season and we are really looking forward to the season kicking off. It would obviously be a shame if it got to this stage and we can't play.
"We are not thrown too much by the potential for the start to be put back. We will manage what we need to manage."
Regardless of the COVID crisis, the Jets were to alter the opening two home games due to No.2 Sportsground being out of play.
The surface underwent maintenance after hosting the Northern NSW NPL grand final and won't be ready until mid-January.
"They did some maintenance and there are still some bare patches on it," McKinna said. "Newcastle Council has kept us up to date with everything that is going on and it should be ready in a few weeks."
The W-league side have been training at Darling Street Oval. The Jets A-League side played a trial at Maitland Sportsground last month, but it has not been cleared to host W-League games, leaving McDonald Jones Stadium as the only alternative.
In a welcome boost to an A-League pre-season dogged by departures and ownership dramas, goalkeeper Jack Duncan confirmed he will be at the Jets for the 2020-21 season.
As first revealed in the Newcastle Herald in November, Duncan has inked a one-year contract, his third stint with the club.
"Obviously things off the pitch have been up in the air in the past two months but it's all sorted and now I can just look forward to the season which is great." Duncan said.
"We bought a home just before we left last time so it seems like a long-time coming to finally settle in, but it's been great. The house is just around the corner and it's just great to be home.
"Newcastle is my home now - it's where I wanted to come back."
Duncan, 27, has spent the past two seasons in Saudi Arabia at Al-Qadsiah FC, who were relegated from the top tier.
He appears to have the jump on Lewis Italiano, who finished last season as the No.1 shotstopper but missed three weeks of pre-season with a quad strain.
"Jack will add to the strength of the squad." Jets interim coach Craig Deans said.
"Obviously he has been he before, he knows everyone and he fits in. He's been part of a successful team here in the past and hopefully he can bring his experience from overseas and the last time he was here.
"It's going to be challenging each week for him and Lewis, but it's something that's good for the club and good for the both of them."