JETS skipper Jobe Wheelhouse will not risk further damage to his knee by rushing back for the Jets' game against second-placed Adelaide at Hunter Stadiuy.
Desperate for three points after two wins and a draw from their past 10 games, the Jets will also be without Dominik Ritter (hamstring). Fellow defender Scott Neville (hamstring) was to be assessed today before coach Gary van Egmond finalises his squad.
Van Egmond named Wheelhouse, Ritter and Neville in a 22-man squad on Thursday.
Wheelhouse, who has not played since suffering a grade-one medial ligament tear in his right knee at training on December 4, had hoped to return today but has now targeted the game against two-time defending champions Brisbane Roar at Hunter Stadium next Saturday.
"My knee's coming along well and I've done two full sessions with the team in the last 48 hours and I'd really like to play tomorrow, but it's probably a little bit too soon, so I'll definitely be back for Brisbane," Wheelhouse said after training on Friday.
"The physio and the coaching staff left it up to me, so I don't think I've really done enough.
"A grade-one tear in your medial, and it's only just been a month, so it would be pretty silly for me to jump in after only training with the team for 48 hours.
"I probably just need another week with the team to test it out. It hasn't really been tested in a tackle and I haven't really knocked a pass over 30 yards yet either, so it's probably still a little bit ginger, but in the last four to five days it's come along in leaps and bounds."
Frustrated by the team's recent results, the 27-year-old midfield leader was tempted to play today but feared a premature return could result in more time on the sidelines.
"Speaking to a few of the other senior boys, they're asking whether I'll be back, and I really want to get out there and try to help the team start winning again. That's everyone's priority, and I'd love to be back out there, but I think it's just a few days too soon," he said.
"I think it's pretty plain and simple for everyone to see that we've had our defensive frailties over the last month or so, and even in the first six or seven weeks we weren't great in defence either, but in saying that, that doesn't just stop with the back four.
"It starts from the front three or four, and the midfield as well.
"We need to defend better as a group and we've done a little bit of work on that this week, and I think that's where we need to improve."
Van Egmond said Ritter, who did not play in Newcastle's 2-1 loss to Melbourne Heart on Tuesday, was still struggling with hamstring tightness and would not play.
Neville was replaced by Adam Taggart in the dying stages of the Heart failure and was to be checked today to see how well he recovered after training yesterday.
"He is a little bit tight, so again, we just need to assess that with the physio and we'll have a talk to him in regards to how he is," van Egmond said.
"Dom won't play. He's still not 100 per cent with that hamstring - he's a little bit tight - so the last thing we want is for it to go and be a four-to-six-weeker, so we're taking a bit of extra precaution with him and give him an extra week."
As the Jets prepare for their third game in nine days, and in response to back-to-back losses to the Heart and Victory in Melbourne, van Egmond said he was contemplating making other changes.
He spent the last 10 minutes of yesterday's training session speaking to defender Tiago Calvano and indicated striker Michael Bridges was a chance of playing as a sub but not as a starter in tandem with leading scorer Emile Heskey.
"We have to assess what the players are going to be like, because the last thing you want is long-term injuries, and you can get that from fatigue," he said.
"Obviously from the other point of view, you still need to ensure people are getting selected on merit and deserve to be selected on the form they've been displaying, so it's a little bit of both."