Ruben Zadkovich stepping up: Jets flyer taking on leadership function

AS an elder statesman of the Newcastle Jets, Ruben Zadkovich has been handed extra responsibility by coach Gary van Egmond this year.

Although only 26, the feisty and energetic midfielder is easily a couple of years older than most of the squad and has been working closely with van Egmond in pre-season.

‘‘At the end of last year I had a good, long chat with Dutchy about what he wanted from me,’’ Zadkovich said after training yesterday.

‘‘We’ve worked on a few outlets of the game, intensity and the way I apply myself in training and also having more of a leadership role with the young guys.

‘‘They’re such great kids and I remember what it was like when I was their age, so I’m looking forward to setting a good example.’’

The former Derby County midfielder said he was impressed by the new signings this season, as well as the development of youngsters from last season’s roster.

‘‘Connor Chapman [has] been a real impressive individual and he’s a player playing well beyond his years,’’ he said.

‘‘He is a really good prospect for the club and the team, but all of them have been doing great.’’

Zadkovich is also looking forward to the arrival this week of new Brazilian recruit Bernardo Ribeiro.

‘‘I can’t wait,’’ he said.

‘‘I don’t know much about him, to be honest, but I’m sure he’s a quality player.

‘‘It will be good to have another fresh face in the squad as well and someone that offers something a little bit different.’’

The team were put through an intense training session in warm conditions yesterday before their second hit-out against the Northern NSW select side at Adamstown Oval tonight.

Last month, in the corresponding fixture, a Craig Goodwin hat-trick, Adam Taggart brace and a strike from Mitch Oxborrow sealed a 6-0 victory at Darling Street Oval.

Zadkovich said the team would look to build on that display as well as try out a few new combinations practised in training.

‘‘It’s not so much about the score, though it is important to make winning a habit. It’s more about the way we play and the quality and the tempo in which we play the game.’’

? Wellington Phoenix warm up for this year’s A-League with a daunting schedule of five matches in 14 days after struggling for meaningful pre-season games in the past.

The tour starts on August 18 with a match against Newcastle in Weston, before Phoenix travel to India for a four-team tournament.

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