Mark Birighitti to stay with Jets 

 MARK Birighitti has knocked back an approach from Sydney FC and put an overseas move on the backburner to stay at the Newcastle Jets.

The 22-year-old goalkeeper signed a two-year extension yesterday that will keep him in the Hunter until the end of the 2015-16 A-League season.

His signature is a timely boost on the eve of the season  and follows  the recent retention of home-grown duo Taylor Regan and Andrew Hoole.

European scouts had cast their eye over Birighitti in a scoreless draw with Brisbane in February.

‘‘I did have ambitions to go overseas towards the back end of last season,’’ he said.

‘‘That is still there but it is in the back of my mind. There is no need to rush.

‘‘I’m coming off contract and need to keep playing football. There is no better place than Newcastle.

‘‘It is a great club with a lot of great players.

‘‘We have an ambition to achieve something and I want to be a part of that.’’

Sydney FC showed strong interest in luring Birighitti down the M1 with their keepers, Vedran Janjetovic and Ivan Necevski, off contract.

Neither was able to establish himself as a genuine No.1 and sources told the  Herald Sydney regarded Birighitti as long-term solution.

‘‘There was some interest from Sydney,’’ Birighitti said.

‘‘I didn’t want to move to another A-League club.  Newcastle gave me an opportunity to show myself.

‘‘I was lucky enough to have a good year.

‘‘Unless I do make a move overseas, I wouldn’t want to play anywhere else.

‘‘If we can keep the core of the side together, we will be a real title contender.’’

Birighitti joined the Jets last season from Adelaide, where he had served a four-year apprenticeship under Eugene Galekovic.

After a horror debut – he was sent off in a 2-1 loss to his old club  in the season opener –  the Perth product cemented his place as first choice goalkeeper and finished the season as Jets player of the year.

 The red card in round one and subsequent suspension meant that Birighitti was sitting in the stands when Sydney’s Italian maestro, Alessandro Del Piero, marked his first home game with a spectacular freekick in the 2-1 loss to the Jets.

‘‘I was gutted,’’ said Birighitti, who has Italian heritage and had long admired the Juventus great. ‘‘What an atmosphere. To have the likes of Del Piero and  Emile Heskey score in the game was a real boost for the league. I can’t wait to stop a few of his thunderbolts next Friday night.’’

After a break-out year, which culminated with his maiden Socceroos cap at the East Asia Cup in July, Birighitti understands there will be greater expectations on them, starting with the season opener against Sydney at Allianz Stadium on Friday.

Ben Kennedy, who was the Jets’ player of the year in 2011-12, has recovered from knee surgery tht hindered him during the last campaign and wants to restake his claim.

‘‘There is a lot of expectation, especially in the second year,’’ Birighitti said.

‘‘There is a lot of pressure but I feel great.’’

 Michael Bridges has pulled up well from a minor groin injury  and should be right for the first game.

Neither has been able to establish himself as a genuine No.1 and sources told the Herald that Sydney regarded Birighitti as long-term solution.

‘‘There was some interest from Sydney,’’ Birighitti said.

‘‘I didn’t want to move to another A-League club.

‘‘Newcastle gave me an opportunity to show myself.

‘‘I was lucky enough to have a good year.

‘‘Unless I do make a move overseas, I wouldn’t want to play anywhere else.

‘‘If we can keep the core of the side together, we will be a real title contender.’’

Birighitti joined the Jets last season from Adelaide, where he had served a four-year apprenticeship under Eugene Galekovic.

After a horror debut – he was sent off in a 2-1 loss to his old club in the season opener – the Perth product cemented his place as first choice and finished the season as the Jets player of the year.

The red card in round one and subsequent suspension meant that Birighitti was sitting in the stands when Sydney’s Italian maestro Alessandro Del Piero marked his first home game with a spectacular freekick in the 2-1 loss to the Jets.

‘‘I was gutted,’’ said Birighitti, who has Italian heritage and long admired the Juventus great.

‘‘What an atmosphere.

‘‘To have the likes of Del Piero and  Emile Heskey score in the game was a real boost for the league.

‘‘I can’t wait to stop a few of his thunderbolts next Friday night.’’

After a break-out year, which culminated with his maiden Socceroos cap at the East Asia Cup in July, Birighitti understands their will be greater expectation, starting with the season opener against Sydney at Allianz Stadium on Friday night night.

Ben Kennedy, who was the Jets’ player of the year in 2011-12, has recovered from knee surgery which hindered him throughout the last campaign and is determined to restake his claim.

‘‘There is a lot of expectation, especially in the second year,’’ Birighitti said.

‘‘There is a lot of pressure but I feel great.

‘‘The body feels good, I have been watching what I eat, training well, doing extras to get my body prepared for another big year.’’

Meanwhile, Michael Bridges has pulled up well from a minor groin scare and should be right for the first game.

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