THE manager of incoming Jets James Brown and Mark Birighitti and home-grown star Ben Kantarovski said he was 24 hours away from activating ‘‘plan B’’ for his clients when news of Hunter Sports Group’s change of heart broke yesterday.
The Jets had signed attacking midfielder Brown from the Gold Coast and goalkeeper Birighitti from Adelaide before HSG’s decision to hand back its A-League licence.
The pair were part of an exciting young group of talent assembled by coach Gary van Egmond for 2012-13, but the Jets were in danger of losing them to rival clubs amid the uncertainty over Newcastle’s future.
Kantarovski is one of Newcastle’s established and contracted players who were were told to start looking for options outside of the Jets.
The trio’s manager, John Grimaud, said HSG’s commitment to the Jets was fantastic news and just in the nick of time.
‘‘They had until the end of tomorrow to sort things out, otherwise I had plan B in place,’’ Grimaud said yesterday. ‘‘But I’m happy for them, I’m pleased.
‘‘It was disappointing when what happened happened, but they say things happen for a reason, so hopefully it’s all been sorted out now and they can get on with the push to contend for next year’s A-League title.’’
The incoming Jets, which also includes Perth striker Adam Taggart, were due to start their contracts with Newcastle yesterday.
Grimaud said he was unsure when Brown and Birighitti would start working with the club.
‘‘I think James might come earlier to do some work on his injured ankle, just to make sure he’s ready to go when pre-season starts,’’ he said.
‘‘But I’ll let them sort things out and I’ll probably have a chat with [Jets CEO] Robbie [Middleby] next week and see what’s required by the club and Gary.’’
Newcastle have 15 players on their books and were close to re-signing attacking midfielder Ali Abbas before the shock turn of events three weeks ago. They were also well down the road in talks to retain veteran striker Michael Bridges.
Van Egmond said the Jets would move swiftly to secure the players they wanted.
‘‘It is a case of letting the dust settle. We will get to these players,’’ he said.
‘‘We definitely want to start concentrating on the squad especially with confirmation of some movement as far as rival coaches are concerned.
‘‘We want to ensure we get our squad finalised. We know there will be some competition for those players, so we need to move relatively quickly.’’
He said the news spread fast among the club’s recruits yesterday.
‘‘We have been in contact with them. All of those players are very happy,’’ he said.
‘‘We look forward to welcoming them to our wonderful city and them helping us form a very powerful football team.’’
JETS ON CONTRACT
Ben Kennedy, Taylor Regan, Nikolai Topor-Stanley, Tiago, Ben Kantarovski, Ruben Zadkovich, Jobe Wheelhouse, Sam Gallaway, James Virgili, Marko Jesic, Ryan Griffiths, Jacob Pepper, Adam Taggart, James Brown, Mark Birighitti