Ryan’s absence fuels talk of Asian transfer

RYAN Griffiths could be set to leave the Newcastle Jets for a cashed-up Chinese club.

Griffiths trained with the Jets yesterday but did not travel with the squad to Wellington for the crucial clash against the Phoenix at Westpac Stadium tomorrow.

The 31-year-old, who is the club’s equal leading goal-scorer this season alongside Emile Heskey with nine and has contributed five assists, is injury free and has been a permanent member of the starting side.

‘‘He has some other things that are going on, which I can’t really talk about at this moment, more personal things,’’ coach Gary van Egmond said. ‘‘I will leave it at that.’’

For the latest points tally in the Men of Football's Ray Baartz Medal, click here.

The Chinese Super League kicks off on March 8. Griffiths, who has a year to run on his contract at the Jets, spent three years in China at Liaoning Whowin and Beijing Guoan, where he combined with older brother Joel to win a championship.

Liaoning are among a host of clubs yet to fill their overseas quota.

Griffiths was last night linked on Chinese social media site Sina Weibo to  League One club Beijing Baxy.

Any deal would include a sizeable transfer fee for the Jets.

Newcastle  knocked back an approach for Kiwi international Jeremy Brockie from Liaoning Whowin at a similar stage last season.

Craig Goodwin is likely to take Griffiths’s place on the right wing against the Phoenix.

After a spectacular start to the campaign, Goodwin’s form has plateaued  and he was left off the teamsheet for the scoreless draw with Brisbane Roar. He played 60 minutes for the youth team in a 3-1 loss to the Roar on Sunday.

‘‘It has been good for him to reboot the batteries, so to speak, and get some confidence with the younger ones,’’ van Egmond said of the Adelaide-born winger.

‘‘He came in   and it all happened very quickly for him. From that perspective – it is his first full season of A-League – they get pretty tired, players who are not used to it.’’

Marko Jesic was the other fresh face in the 16-man squad that  left for Wellington yesterday. Jesic returned on the weekend from the US, where he was on trial with the New England Revolution.

The former Olyroos front man, who is unlikely to be offered a new contract at the Jets, scored the match-sealer in a 3-1 win over the New York Red Bulls in the Desert Diamond Cup and remains hopeful of securing a contract in the Major Soccer League.

Before heading to the US, he scored a hat-trick, his third of the campaign, for the Jets youth league against the Western Sydney Wanderers.

‘‘He has a real spring in his step,’’ van Egmond said.

‘‘They say sometimes a change is as good as a holiday. ‘‘He has come back really refreshed looked really sharp at training this morning. 

‘‘Again we are looking at people with more footballing in the front area and people who threaten to score.

‘‘The one thing Marko can do is score.’’ 

Van Egmond said he would go with his strongest side against the 10th-placed Phoenix – which makes Griffiths’s  omission more startling – before rotating players for the match against Melbourne Victory at AAMI Park on Sunday.

‘‘For the mainstay of the Wellington game we will stay intact with what we have been going with,’’ van Egmond said.

‘The Melbourne game will be a bit different. We will definitely need to rest a few bodies.’’

 Jets (likely): Mark Birighitti; Josh Brillante, Taylor Regan, Dominik Ritter, Sam Gallaway; Zenon Caravella, Ruben Zadkovich; Craig Goodwin, Michael Bridges, Adam Taggart; Emile Heskey. Res: Ben Kennedy, James Virgili, Mitch Cooper, Marko Jesic, Andrew Hoole.

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