Blackwell is arguably the Jets’ most ardent fan, a nine-year member whose life is largely built around the club. He suffered a serious workplace accident and was forced to medically retire in 2004.
In the past decade Blackwell has followed the Jets around Australia and missed just two home games since 2009. He is a regular presence at Jets training sessions and National Youth League games, and also at National Premier League Northern NSW fixtures across Newcastle.
A keen photographer, Blackwell has built a cult following on social media through his love of football, the Jets and his sheer positivity.
Newcastle CEO Lawrie McKinna described him as a “legend” that has built a close bond with the Jets playing squad.
“The boys love him,” McKinna told The World Game.
“He makes personal sacrifices to get to games. His whole life is the Jets. Even when things went bad last season he was there with positive comments.
“He puts everything on the line for the club. He’s so well-respected by everybody. He’ll be at training two or three days a week. The guy’s just a legend.”
Blackwell got interested in football after his health troubles and the 2006 FIFA World Cup as a way of spending time with his two children. But his support for the Jets went to a new level four years ago when crisis hit the club during the reign of Phil Stubbins.
“Around the 2006 World Cup there was a big push for football,” Blackwell said.
“We went to a couple of games. I’ve been around since then. I was fringe supporter when we won the seat [in 2008].
“I’ve been following the Jets for years, I’ve had a membership for nine. But I haven’t been a member all the time I’ve gone because I’m medically retired.
“Following the club has given me an in with my kids. My young bloke doesn’t go to as many games as he used to. But my daughter and I go to as many as we can.
“When Phil Stubbins took over and we sort of had a fringe Socceroos team, plus Marcos Flores, and we weren’t winning any games, I went to watch training to find out why.”
Since then he has become a regular at Ray Watt Oval training sessions, matches and club events. Blackwell has become a strong advocate of football in the Hunter region and, because medically he is unable to fly, travels by car to watch non-Newcastle A-League games to support former Jets players plying their trade for other clubs.
He believes passionately following the club has given him a new focus in life.
“I was off work and for a couple of years I basically really struggled,” he admits.
“I’ve got a high-end mental health issue with depression and anxiety. Going and dropping my daughter off at uni and then going to watch the blokes run around, for an hour and a half or two hours, basically gives me a reason to get out of bed in the morning.
“I think I’ve probably missed two home games in the last nine years, because basically I couldn’t walk. There’s days when it could be 35 degrees and a change comes through and I can’t walk, one side of my body goes numb and that’s the end of me.”
Blackwell said the transformation of the Jets this season has been brilliant and credits the impact of McKinna and coach Ernie Merrick.
“I think its one of the best things to happen in a long time to be honest with you,” he said.
“To come last last year and to be where we are now. I thought if we’d made the six it would be a good result. Be to be in the grand final and to actually have it in Newcastle is a completely different level. I reckon it’s brilliant.
“Lawrie, he’s always looking for ways to market the Jets. Ernie’s one of the funniest blokes you’ll ever talk to. He’s just so cool and so laid back.
“I think that flows through to what happens on the field as well. He doesn’t say much at training. If we’re going to win it we’ll cop one but score two at the other end, which is something the other couple of other coaches we had didn’t seem that dynamic (sic).
“We’ve had a lot of pitfalls and luck, but you sort of make your own luck.”
Blackwell will be part of the packed house at McDonald Jones Stadium on Saturday.
“I think Melbourne Victory played their grand final last weekend, he said.
“120 minutes, that’s them done. They have to recover, come to Newcastle and play against the home crowd. I’m hoping it’s going to keep going our way.
“We’ll wait and see. To win the grand final would be sort of like climbing Everest. If they can pull it off it would just be amazing.”