NORTHERN NSW Football chief executive David Eland is in talks with the Jets about fielding a second team in the State League that would play in the under-23 competition from next season.
The team would be made up of under-18 players and would bridge the gap between the Northern NSW Institute program squad, who play in the under 19s, and the Jets under 20s, who compete in first grade.
The introduction of a Jets feeder team would prevent a repeat of the farcical situation on Sunday when striker Dino Fajkovic had to play in goal for most of the 4-2 loss to Hamilton Olympic after keeper Jim Fogarty was sent off.
Fogarty had come into the starting side in place of Jack Duncan, who is one of four Jets in Indonesia with the Australian under-20 team.
Under Northern NSW State League regulations, to which all clubs agreed, the Jets could not call in a replacement from the NNSWIS team, leaving them without a back-up keeper.
Any change to the competition format is subject to approval by the NNSWF standing committee, but Eland was confident the proposal would be accepted.
‘‘My discussions with the Jets have been positive and I would suggest there will be four elite teams playing in the state league – first grade, under 23s, under 19s and under 17s,’’ Eland said.
‘‘That will allow us to put to the clubs that the regulations be changed and that the elite club be treated like all other clubs, which would facilitate the transition of players between the grades.
‘‘At the moment kids go into the NNSWIS program for a two-year period but they are younger now than what they used to be.
‘‘Unfortunately, what happens is that kids graduate from the NNSWIS program and are not old enough to go into Jets national youth league program.
‘‘Rather than go back and play club football for one season, we want to keep them in a professional environment for 12months of the year.
‘‘When it gets to state league next year the vision is that the Jets will field their youth team in first grade and an under-23 team, which will be under 18s for them.
‘‘NNSWIS are no longer supporting football after this year and that squad [made up of 15- and 16-year-olds] will be rebadged as the National Training Centre.’’
The Emerging Athletes Progam (14- and 15-year-olds) will continue to play in the under 17s.
Jets chief executive Robbie Middleby was not available for comment yesterday.
Eland said the proposal would be assessed at the standing committee meeting next month.
‘‘The commitment we make to clubs is that any changes for the next season are sorted out while the previous season is still on,’’ he said.
The likely change will not ease the Jets’ situation.
Fogarty received an automatic two-week suspension. There is a general bye this weekend due to the State Cup finals in Coffs Harbour. Duncan will be available for the clash with Weston on July 23, but he will not have a back-up.
Eland said he understood there was frustration on Sunday but the Jets had ample opportunity to discuss regulations before the season began.