JETS coach Mark Jones will continue to back youth.
Jones worked extensively in youth development before stepping into senior coaching roles. He, more than most, knows the importance of giving players a chance.
So when the first-year head coach lost 100 plus-game veteran defenders Daniel Mullen and Jason Hoffman to injury, he had no hesitation in pitching rookies Lachy Jackson and Ivan Vujica into the fire.
It proved a masterstoke. The pair, combining on the left channel, were rock solid in the 4-0 triumph over Brisbane Roar on Sunday.
“You have to do the right thing and give the boys a chance,” Jones said. “If they don’t get a chance, then they don’t see light at the end of the tunnel and they don’t want to play for you. I will give them a chance every day of the week.”
Jackson, 21, had started 12 A-League games before Sunday. It was 19-year-old Vujica’s second game and first start.
Add right back Nick Cowburn (21 and 34 games), midfielder Steve Ugarkovic (22 and 13 games), keeper Jack Duncan (23 and 10 games) and attacking midfielder Devante Clut (21 and 18 games) and there is real freshness about the squad.
Jets captain Nigel Boogaard, who played alongside Jackson in the heart of defence, was full of praise for the youngsters.
“Credit to them, they did really well and will make it hard for the others to get their spots back,” he said. “Our coach is willing to give youth a go, and there is enough experience on the field to help them through games. Both boys stood up and did their job. They will have their ups and downs. That is always the possibility with young players. As of tomorrow we concentrate for the weekend. It is the second game of the season … things can change very quickly.”
Hoffman (calf) is in the frame to return against Western Sydney Wanderers at Spotless Stadium on Sunday.
But with Mullen sidelined for at least two months, Jackson appears set for an extended run at left stopper.
“This next period is key for him,” Boogaard said. “It is a good opportunity for him to cement a spot and show people he deserves to be playing at this level. I believe he has the potential to go a lot further than the A-League. He has a big future but he has to really take his opportunity and grasp it, and really want it.”
The Jets lost all three encounters to Western Sydney last season. The grand-finalist have since turned over a number of personnel and have a new home at Spotless Stadium.
“It will be a good challenge for us,” Boogaard said. “They are definitely a different opponent to last year.”