After finishing as the runner-up in last years A-League Grand Final, Ernie Merrick’s Newcastle Jets have endured a disappointing 2018/19 campaign and look set to miss out on a return to the post-season.

Opening up the A-League archives, here is a look at five other times when a grand finalist has failed to maintain similar form in the next season.

Central Coast Mariners 2006/07

Perennial cellar dwellers nowadays, the Mariners lost the inaugural A-League decider against Sydney FC and failed to return to finals the season after.

Michael Beauchamp and Dean Heffernan jetted off to Germany for the season, while Tony Vidmar arrived from NAC Breda in the Netherlands and future Socceroos captain Mile Jedinak played a part on a short-term deal.

Central Coast were well in the finals race after a period of just two losses in 12 games between September and December, but four losses and a draw in the final five fixtures put the nail in the coffin.

The Lawrie McKinna-led Mariners finished on 25 points, four shy of a spot in the post-season and would suffer further heartache after losing in the grand final again the following year.

Melbourne Victory 2007/08

Kicking off with another side coached by Merrick, the Victory were fresh off their incredible 6-0 thumping of Adelaide United in the grand final at the Telstra Dome when they entered the 2007/08 campaign.

Melbourne lost key midfield playmaker Fred before the beginning of the campaign, and also suffered from Adrian Leijer’s departure to Premier League side Fulham.

In the eight-team competition, the Victory incredibly drew their first five matches before winning the next two to remain unbeaten.

But one win in their next 10 games – a period that included six losses – consigned the reigning champions to a fifth-placed finish, four points away from the finals, before returning to the promise land the season after.

Adelaide United 2007/08

On the flipside of that grand final humbling was a forlorn Adelaide outfit that sought to return to the finals and put the embarrassment behind them.

Cassio, who would go on to become a popular figure at the club, joined from Brazil as the Reds poached Eugene Galekovic and Kristian Sarkies from the Victory.

Star defender Matthew Kemp went the other way to play his football in Melbourne, and he would turn out to be a big loss as Adelaide had the equal third worst defence in the league in 2007/08.

The Reds finished a point further back of the Victory, and to add salt to their wounds, they would fall at the hands of Melbourne on the big stage again in 2008/09.

Newcastle Jets 2008/09

The Jets claimed their maiden A-League crown in 2007/08 with a 1-0 win over the Mariners, but all progress went out the window in their next campaign.

Newcastle never won consecutive games throughout the course of the season, totalling just four victories overall.

Four winless games to begin the campaign and just two victories in their final 13 fixtures told the story for Gary van Egmond’s side as they ended the season rooted to the bottom of the table, four points away from the nearest competitor and 10 points out of the finals.

This sparked a decade of mediocrity for the club as the endured issues off the field, right up until their return to prominence last season.

Adelaide United 2016/17

Featuring for a second time, Adelaide United again failed to back up a positive season nine years after their last major backwards step.

After falling to the Victory in the 2009 grand final, the Reds did not contest the A-League championship again until 2016 where they would earn redemption with a commanding 3-1 victory over the Western Sydney Wanderers at Hindmarsh Stadium.

It was a busy pre-season of outgoings for the Reds as they aimed to defend their crown, with the likes of Craig Goodwin, Bruce Djite and Stefan Mauk all leaving Guillermo Amor’s side.

It took Adelaide nine games to finally win when they beat Wellington Phoenix in December, but they would win just four more times in a disastrous season for the club.

A gap of 13 points separated the ninth-placed Reds from the top six and spelled the end of Amor’s reign at Cooper’s Stadium.

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Nick Hughes
nick.hughesy6@gmail.com