Middleby tells Jets players to consider offers

JETS chief executive Robbie Middleby has advised the club’s players to consider any alternative options, because nobody can assure them Newcastle will have an A-League team next year.

Jets players, support staff and officials have been in limbo since the Hunter Sports Group said 17 days ago that it was returning Newcastle’s franchise licence, just 18months into a 10-year tenure, citing irreconcilable differences with Football Federation Australia and concern about the round-ball code’s viability.

Secret negotiations aimed at brokering a compromise broke down last week, prompting HSG to issue a second media statement reaffirming its intention to quit the A-League.

FFA executives have since started working towards a ‘‘Plan B’’ and have held talks with Lake Macquarie businessman Andrew Poole about establishing an entity that would be largely financed and owned by the community.

But Middleby said yesterday that if players received concrete offers from rival clubs, he would understand if they decided to take the money and run.

The embattled CEO, who endured similar heartache when North Queensland folded two years ago, said he delivered the same message to Newcastle’s current players and the handful of recruits they have signed for next season, including James Brown (Gold Coast), Adam Taggart (Perth) and Mark Birighitti (Adelaide).

‘‘I don’t want to give false hope,’’ Middleby said.

‘‘I’ve told the players, ‘If something comes up that you think is a better option for you personally, you’ve got to take it, because at the moment there are no guarantees.’

‘‘Obviously I said we’d love them to hang on and see what happens, because they’re all quality players.

‘‘But if they feel moving to a new club is the right thing for them, they’ve got to do that.’’

Middleby said the impression he got from all players was that they were prepared to bide their time in the hope that a saviour would emerge.

But he understood that rival clubs were beginning to contact Newcastle’s players.

‘‘I’m quite surprised I haven’t actually had a player come to me to say he wants to leave because he can’t wait around any longer,’’ Middleby said.

‘‘But I can tell you it’s a situation where there is a bit of a merry-go-round in the A-League with coaches, and once all that settles down, the clubs will start looking to sign players. And that’s when players will start leaving.’’

Middleby said he had heard nothing from FFA chief executive Ben Buckley since April 10, when HSG dropped its bombshell.

‘‘I’m a bit surprised that FFA were in town on Monday to talk with Andrew Poole but they didn’t try to talk to [HSG chief executive] Troy Palmer or myself,’’ Middleby said.

‘‘I realise there are a lot of things going on at the moment in the A-League, but Newcastle has to be a priority.

‘‘There is so much talk about west Sydney, and obviously they have to get that right.

‘‘But what is happening in Newcastle is surely the most important thing.’’

If Buckley and his colleagues are struggling to get their heads around the mess HSG has left behind, and how they can clean it, they are unlikely to welcome speculation that another A-League franchise is on the verge of collapse.

Former Central Coast Mariners coach Lawrie McKinna tweeted yesterday that ‘‘rumours are around about another A-League club handing back their licence in the next few days’’. McKinna tweeted he would be ‘‘surprised if it’s CCM’’.

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