Jets' rivals circling Mark Birighitti

GOALKEEPING recruit Mark Birighitti says Newcastle remains his No.1 choice but admits rivals clubs are already circling amid the uncertainty at the Jets.

Sydney FC and Melbourne Heart are reportedly chasing the signature of the 21-year-old Adelaide keeper, who is with the Reds until their Asian Champions League group stage commitments end next month.

Birighitti said he was open to speaking with other clubs but wanted to stick with the Jets, who signed him in January.

‘‘A few clubs have been in contact with my agent but there’s nothing yet. They’ve just spoken,’’ Birighitti said yesterday.

He said he was devastated when he heard Nathan Tinkler’s Hunter Sports Group wanted to hand back its A-League licence.

‘‘I was really, really looking forward to the move. I was pumped up,’’ Birighitti said.

‘‘Hearing that news was shattering, but I was told by my manager to remain patient.

‘‘[Jets coach] Gary van Egmond called me the other day to speak about a few things – where he’s at, where the club’s at and where I’m at – and it’s all under control and the rest will take care of itself.

‘‘My first option is Newcastle, I signed with the club because I heard it’s a great club with a great background. I just hope everything sorts itself out.’’

Jets chief executive Robbie Middleby believes the A-League grand final on Sunday will signal the start of a crunch period for the club and their hopes of keeping the side together.

After the decision eight days ago by HSG, Jets players, officials and supporters have been hanging on to the hope that the club’s future can be secured.

But the door has opened for rival clubs to pick apart the Jets roster.

Birighitti, Gold Coast livewire James Brown and Perth striker Adam Taggart are exciting young talents the Jets had signed before HSG’s shock announcement.

Jets players have been paid a month in advance.

Middleby said none had approached him about leaving the club.

But he said the club was in a difficult position until its future was guaranteed.

‘‘In the meantime, if a player comes to us and wants to leave, we can’t hold a player back,’’ Middleby said.

‘‘There’s some very good ones in there, like Birighitti, James Brown and Adam Taggart.

‘‘It’s probably easier for them to go somewhere else because they haven’t actually come into Newcastle yet.

‘‘But I haven’t been contacted by their agents yet to say that they want to leave and I have been in contact with the agents and the players themselves. It just depends. It’s a waiting game.’’

He believed the club had been lucky not to lose any players but said the situation would change after Sunday.

‘‘I think the thing we’ve got going for us is that coaches have not been appointed for next season elsewhere,’’ he said. ‘‘That’s worked in our favour, but the grand final is this weekend and I think after this week there will be a lot more movements.

‘‘There is interest in all of them, especially the likes of James Brown.

‘‘He was wanted by every club in the league.

‘‘It’s just a matter of time, but to their credit none of the players want to go. But the longer it goes on the bigger the chances are that they’ll leave.’’

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