They lost the A-League grand final in hugely controversial circumstances but Ernie Merrick made sure Newcastle knew they'd already won.
Saturday night's 1-0 loss to Melbourne Victory cut the Jets' romantic story short in the final chapter, when they could have made history as the first Australian side in any sporting code to go from wooden spooners to champions in one season.
It pained Merrick, a self-described video assistant referee fan, that the maligned technology had failed so spectacularly in the most important match of the season.
He was also irate at what he perceived as Melbourne Victory's negative tactics, declaring "I would hope not to coach a team that plays like that" - a dig at former protege Kevin Muscat.
But amid all the hostility and heartbreak, Merrick was sure of one thing - his battle-hardened Jets were back in business.
"I told the boys they've won," Merrick said.
"They've won this season from that perspective, they're winners and they've done so well to come from bottom and go to the top.
"We've made enormous ground, we've really put ourselves on the A-League map.
"We're not a team that's easily beaten. We've won a lot of games, we've scored a lot of goals, and every team in the league we've beaten at least once.
"It's a credit to the boys, to what they've achieved.
"I just think we can build on this team and we'll be in the finals next year, especially given that we've got 18 players re-signed."
Skipper Nigel Boogaard is among the majority who'll remain in the Hunter next season, which the Jets will start as genuine title fancies for the first time since winning their only title in 2008.
But Merrick could well start the campaign without striker Roy O'Donovan, who could cop a long ban for his reckless studs-to-the-face challenge on Joe Marsden Medallist Lawrence Thomas.
The club could also lose its Scorpion King if on-loan midfielder Riley McGree is summoned back to Belgian parent side Club Brugge.
"It's not something I really want to comment on at the moment, it'll work itself out in the next few weeks," McGree said.
"I've definitely grown on and off the field and it's been great being around this bunch of lads.
"So many positives and I can definitely tell I've improved."