LETHAL: Jeremy Brockie celebrates his goal against Sydney FC.THERE may be a degree of apprehension among his Newcastle Jets teammates, but Jeremy Brockie will walk without fear into the graveyard on Friday night.
In their past seven visits to Wellington’s vast, intimidating Westpac Stadium, the Jets have returned empty-handed each time.
Seven games, seven defeats.
Goals for: one.
Goals against: 18.
It would be enough to give even battle-hardened veterans insomnia before they so much as board their trans-Tasman flight.
But Brockie is exuding all the enthusiasm of a kid told he can open his Christmas presents two days early.
Not only is the passionate New Zealander heading back to his native soil, but also he will do so in perhaps the form of his life.
Now 24, Brockie burst on the scene when he was a teenager with the now defunct New Zealand Knights, scoring four goals in nine starts during the inaugural A-League campaign.
But the footballing gods seemed intent on making an outstanding youngster pay his dues.
By the time this season kicked off, Brockie had pinballed around among Auckland, Sydney FC, North Queensland and finally Newcastle, playing in only 47 A-League games along the way.
A succession of injuries, including a broken ankle and broken foot, threatened to cruel a promising career.
All the while, Brockie never lost faith.
And finally it seems his fortunes have turned. Having played in only 14 of Newcastle’s 30 games in 2010-11, this season his attendance record is 100per cent – 11 out of 11.
Along the way he has scored four goals, including a cracking volley in Newcastle’s 2-1 loss to Sydney FC on Saturday.
Brockie rated his strike against Sydney as ‘‘definitely one of my best’’ but was disappointed it did not earn his team three competition points.
‘‘It took a long time to come down from space, but it just hit the sweet spot on my foot, and as soon as I connected with it I knew it was going to be flying,’’ he said.
It took a split-second, but Brockie said his dazzling goal was hours in the making.
‘‘It’s great to be feeling in this shape,’’ he said.
‘‘I worked really hard in the pre-season to prepare myself to make sure I wasn’t going to break down, and I’m getting some rewards at the moment.’’
Not that the 24-game New Zealand international – the only Jet to have appeared at last year’s World Cup – is about to rest on his laurels.
Finding a level of consistency is his main focus.
‘‘I haven’t been performing in away games as well as home games, but that’s the same for the whole team,’’ he said.
‘‘But in terms of goals and getting into goal-scoring opportunities, I’m pretty happy with how that’s going.
‘‘Hopefully I can keep adding to the tally and help the team move up the ladder.’’
Jets coach Gary van Egmond is also eager to see fewer peaks and troughs in Brockie’s form line.
‘‘He’s getting better,’’ van Egmond said.
‘‘For me, he still drifts in and out of games a little bit too much.
‘‘He scored a wonderful goal, and he’s been doing that for us, scoring goals that perhaps not many people can do.
‘‘But he has to become more effective over the whole of the 90minutes, not just on one piece of magic.’’
There would be no better place for Brockie to prove he can be a week in, week out contributor than in the New Zealand capital, which is just across the Cook Strait from his home town, Nelson.
Having represented his country at the ground they call the Cake Tin, Brockie is one of the few Newcastle players with fond memories of the venue, which is perhaps most famous for its inhospitable weather and natives.
‘‘You never know what you’re going to get in Wellington,’’ he said.
‘‘One day it can be raining and windy and a horrible place to play, and on another day there’s not a cloud in the sky and the sun’s shining … [but] Wellington always has good, passionate supporters, especially after our achievements at last year’s World Cup.’’
The loyalty of Wellingtonians, however, extends only so far.
Last season Brockie was heckled as a ‘‘traitor’’ during the pre-match warm-up, a comment he typically accepted with a wry smile.
‘‘I think that’s all just fun and games. I look at the positives, and if they’re winding me up I suppose that shows they respect me as a player,’’ he said.
On Friday there will at least be some friendly faces in the crowd.
‘‘I’ve got a few relatives in Wellington,’’ Brockie said. ‘‘My brother is coming over from Perth to stay on for Christmas.
‘‘My dad and his partner are coming across from Nelson, as well.
‘‘Obviously we’ve got Christmas Day and Boxing Day off as well, so I’ll manage to spend a bit of time back home after the game with the family.
‘‘I’ll have Christmas back over there for the first time in about five years, so I’m looking forward to that.’’
As for one day making himself at home in Wellington, the self-proclaimed ‘‘proud Kiwi’’, who is off contract this season, said it was not a subject he had considered.
‘‘I’ve never really thought about it, to be honest,’’ Brockie said.
‘‘I’m happy here in Newcastle but football’s a funny game.
‘‘Anything can happen at any time, but I don’t even know if they’d be interested in having me.’’
If Brockie keeps scoring goals like his screamer against Sydney, Wellington may have to join the queue.