GARY van Egmond’s Canberra mission was to make the Newcastle Jets a tight-knit group, and the coach was rewarded when his team romped to a 9-1 victory over the ACT Rockets last night.
The Jets will return to Newcastle today after tearing the ACT representative side apart with some superb play at McKellar Park.
Striker Ryan Griffiths finished with a hat-trick and veteran Michael Bridges scored a double as the Jets slotted six second-half goals in brisk Canberra conditions.
The Jets have spent this week at the Australian Institute of Sport, where van Egmond was head coach before joining Newcastle.
“It wasn’t just about the game, it was getting away with the players and using the AIS facilities with players living with each other so they’re used to each other on and off the football park,” he said.
“This [training] component is a lot more game-orientated.
‘‘We trained hard the past two days because we wanted them under fatigue so they could carry out the instructions, and to their credit their attitude and performance was excellent.”
The Jets had beaten Northern NSW State League heavyweights Broadmeadow 3-1 in their only previous trial game.
They were not expected to be troubled by the Rockets’ part-timers.
The Jets opened the scoring after just five minutes when Griffiths pounced on a loose ball to give his team the lead.
But the Rockets unexpectedly hit back when Alex Oloriegbe received a gift from the Jets defence minutes later.
Griffiths got his second from the spot before half-time and new recruit James Brown added to the tally to give the Jets a 3-1 lead at the break.
From there the floodgates opened and the Jets’ fitness and finesse dominated.
First it was another new signing, former Melbourne Heart left-back Craig Goodwin, who blasted home a shot from outside the box.
Substitute Bridges extended the lead when his shot was deflected over the goalkeeper’s head.
The Rockets’ task was made even harder when defender Nick Hamilton was sent off with 18 minutes remaining.
James Virgili scored then crossed accurately for Griffiths to complete his hat-trick with a close-range header.
Bridges earned and scored a penalty in the 90th minute before youngster Mitch Oxborrow completed the rout in injury time.
Swiss defender Dominik Ritter was solid in his 20 minutes, and Van Egmond said he was still searching for more attacking options.
“Really happy with the attack, we’ve got some good competition for places and competition breeds success,” he said. “We’ve got another one or two places for attackers, so from a coaching perspective I’m pretty happy with where we sit at this moment.”
Van Egmond started with Griffiths at the point of the attack flanked by Virgili on the left and Brown on the right.
Virgili had a hand in several of the goals in a promising showing after earning few opportunities in the senior squad last season.
Jets starting line-up: Ben Kennedy; Scott Neville, Tiago, Josh Mitchell, Craig Goodwin; Ben Kantarovski, Jacob Pepper, Ruben Zadkovich; James Virgili, Ryan Griffiths, James Brown.