Elrich shocked at Jets dismissal

TAREK Elrich said last night that Jets coach Gary van Egmond had assured the wholehearted defender he was a part of his plans despite uncertainty over the A-League club.

Yesterday the club’s most capped player was informed his services were no longer required.

Fellow crowd favourites Jeremy Brockie and Ali Abbas were also shown the door in the start of a clean-out after the club missed the A-league play-offs for a second straight year.

Elrich had been the lone survivor from the 2007-08 championship side and had set his sights on breaking Andy Roberts’s record of 234 for the most national league games for Newcastle.

‘‘Gary told me when the club looked like folding that wherever he ended up I would be with him,’’ a gutted Elrich said.

‘‘They rang me this afternoon and said there is a press release about to go out, but I already had text messages saying they had signed these new players. They talk about loyalty, that is all rubbish.

‘‘Gary was telling me how great I am, how he had the pleasure of working with me, that I was great for the team, great for the community but they were trying to cut costs.’’

The Jets Facebook page was bombarded with messages after the announcement, the majority from disgruntled fans disappointed at the decision.

The backlash prompted the Jets to post a ‘‘clarification’’ on their website.

It said: ‘‘The Jets made an original offer to Elrich prior to Christmas (2011), which he and his manager declined, seeking higher payment.

‘‘Since then, the coaching and medical team decided that Elrich no longer fitted into their up-tempo plans and did not revisit the offer.’’

The move sparked an angry response from Elrich on social network Twitter.

‘‘Just to clear the air @NewcastleJetsFC offer me a contract months ago. It was 20% less then I was already on. I went back with my wage minus $5000 which is still a pay cut. Don’t make me look like I’m asking for more money.’’

Elrich also posted a photo of a text message from van Egmond after the 3-2 win over Gold Coast at Hunter Stadium on January 4 which read: ‘‘Well done today mate. Real team before yourself performance. I wish I had a few more like you. Dutchy.’’

Van Egmond left the Herald a message saying he was available to talk, but the Herald was unable to make contact with him again.

Chief executive Robbie Middleby did not respond to messages from the Herald and the club’s media manager said there would be no further comment on Elrich’s claims.

The club had earlier put out a release in which van Egmond thanked Elrich for his contribution.

‘‘Tarek has made a fantastic contributor [sic] to the club for a number of years and we wish him the best for whatever the future may hold,’’ the release said.

‘‘He was foundation player and member of the team that won the grand final in 2007/08, so it’s with a heavy heart that we say goodbye.’’

Yesterday’s departures overshadowed the announcement that Melbourne Heart youngster Craig Goodwin and Perth Glory right back Scott Neville had signed two-year contracts.

Elrich joined the Jets as a trainee in the inaugural A-League season and has since played 134 games.

In the absence of a marquee player he has been the face of the club and lauded for his charity and community work.

The 25-year-old did not enjoy his best A-League season but started in 25 of his 26 appearances. He was relegated to the bench in the final round.

‘‘Towards the back end of the season [when pushed into an attacking role] my game picked up,’’ he said.

‘‘I don’t think you have seen the best from me. I am a growing footballer.

‘‘I thought I had a future here. I have knocked back bigger offers in the past to stay in Newcastle.

‘‘I love the place, love the people and I enjoy the lifestyle.’’

Elrich predicted he would not be the last senior player to be off-loaded when their contract was up.

‘‘From what they said, I can’t see those senior boys signing on again,’’ he said.

‘‘They told me they were trying to cut costs and get young cheaper players in. I’m 25.’’

Elrich’s manager Tony Ralis was stinging in his criticism of the Newcastle club, in particular van Egmond.

‘‘Scott Neville was being chased by Sydney and the Glory wanted him to stay, so that excuse does not wash with me,’’ Ralis said.

‘‘In a time when the world craves loyalty, respect and honour, Tarek has provided all that and more for the Jets and has been treated with a lack of all the above.

‘‘Newcastle is a great town with beautiful people.

‘‘They are one of the top two franchises in the league but unfortunately the bloke driving the bus doesn’t have a licence.’’

Elrich had an offer on the table from a rival A-League club, believed to be Wellington, before yesterday’s axing.

His preference would be to move closer to his family in western Sydney, but he will not rush into a decision.

‘‘I am going to Bali on Wednesday for a holiday,’’ he said. ‘‘A bit of time away will do me good.

‘‘I will wait on the Sydney clubs [Sydney FC and the new West Sydney franchise] and see who they appoint as coaches.’’

Elrich said he had been overwhelmed by the reaction of the fans yesterday.

‘‘It gives you goosebumps when people tell you that whatever club you go to they will support,’’ he said.

‘‘It is a shame that all the people who bought the new jerseys with Elrich on the back did not get much wear out of it.’’

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