The Newcastle Jets are out of the Asian Champions League – beaten 4-1 by titleholders, Kashima Antlers, in their final qualifying match last night.
Ronald Vargas equalised for the visitors before the J-League club outgunned the Jets.
Newcastle is still in A-League finals contention – it needs a win against Adelaide on Sunday.
And that match is now the priority for the Jets.
Ernie Merrick admits the busy schedule has taken a toll on the side, describing Kashima as “a far superior team” which will go close to defending its title.