Ben Kennedy welcomes competition for Jets spot

BEN Kennedy was the Jets’ player of the year last season, but the home-grown goalkeeper is taking nothing for granted, starting with tonight’s opening pre-season trial against Broadmeadow Magic at Wanderers Oval.

The Jets will go with their strongest line-up against the Northern NSW State League leaders in the first of four local trials.

Given his performance last season, Kennedy has earned the No.1 spot but the arrival of Mark Birighitti has ensured competition will be fierce.

‘‘I don’t expect to walk up and win the spot. I have to earn my spot like everyone else, and that’s what I’ll be looking to do,” Kennedy said.

‘‘It is good to have competition. You always have to improve to get the position.

‘‘Obviously having a quality keeper in Mark here makes me work harder. It is good to have him around.’’

Birighitti has spent the past four years as understudy to Socceroos and Adelaide captain Eugene Galekovic.

The ambitious 21-year-old was given an extended break after helping the Reds to the Asian Champions League quarter-finals, but has looked sharp since joining the group 10 days ago.

Kennedy is expected to get first crack in goals tonight and is looking forward to the game against his old club.

‘‘It is good to be actually playing a game,’’ he said.

‘‘The pre-season has been quite hard. A lot of diving and getting up and down off the ground. The body is a bit sore but it is all about getting fit, and goalkeeper fit. It is tough but in the end it will pay off.’’

Kennedy won two premierships in his two seasons at Broadmeadow and expects to be tested tonight.

‘‘It will be good to go back there,’’ he said.

‘‘They are winning the State League and have a decent squad. It should be a good challenge for us first-up.

‘‘Hopefully we can put in a good performance. I’m sure if we play the right way we will get a good win.’’

Kennedy hopes to form a successful combination with a new-look back four.

Nikolai Topor Stanley, Byun Sung-hwan and Tarek Elrich are gone, and Ruben Zadkovich, who shared defensive duties with Elrich, has been pushed into midfield.

Scott Neville comes in at right back, trialist Josh Mitchell is likely to partner Tiago in the centre of defence and fellow contract hopeful Lee Seung-yong will start at left back.

‘‘It will be different from previous years, not having boys like Tarek, who had been here from the start,’’ Kennedy said.

‘‘One of the main things is to build up combinations, not just with us at the back, but the whole team.

‘‘That’s what we use these games for and that’s what we’ll be looking to do.’’

Meanwhile, Jets young guns Josh Brillante, Connor Chapman, Mitch Cooper, Jack Duncan and Adam Taggart have been named in the Australian under-20 side to compete in the Asian Football Confederation under-22 qualification tournament in Indonesia starting next week.

Although the tournament is for under-22 players, Football Federation Australia will field the Young Socceroos (under20s) as part of their preparations for the AFC U-19 Championship in the United Arab Emirates in November.

The Jets quintet confirmed their place in the 23-man squad after impressing at a training camp in Brisbane this month.

Australia open their campaign against the host nation on Thursday, July 5.

Their other games are against Macau (July 7), Singapore (July 10), Timor-Leste (July 12) and Japan (July 15).

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