NEWCASTLE Jets officials will continue exploring options that might enable them to retain off-contract winger Andrew Hoole.
Hoole’s negotiations with the club reached an impasse two weeks ago over a proposed buyout fee, believed to be worth between $350,000 and $450,00.
When Hoole’s management would not agree to the fee, the Jets took their offer for a two-year contract off the table.
At the time, Jets chief executive Lawrie McKinna said “we set a minimum transfer fee ... everybody in the squad is treated the same”.
On Thursday Jets coach Mark Jones indicated he was still hopeful Hoole would stay with Newcastle.
“He’s someone we’d like to keep at the club, and at the moment we haven’t come to an agreement,’’ Jones said.
“That’s disappointing, but we’ll try and work to an agreement as the year goes on.
He’s someone we’d like to keep at the club ... but, at the end of the day, if we can’t sign someone, we’ll sign someone else.Jets coach Mark Jones
“But, at the end of the day, if we can’t sign someone, we’ll sign someone else.’’
Meanwhile, Jones has welcomed the return of goalkeeper Jack Duncan for Saturday’s crucial clash with Melbourne City at AAMI Park.
Duncan has missed Newcastle’s past two games, a draw against Central Coast and loss to Brisbane, with a hip injury he sustained at training.
“We do that movement every day,’’ Duncan said.
“It was just a dive, an explosive movement, and I felt a little tear at the front of my hip.
“It’s just one of those things. It’s only a small tear, so only a couple of games out, but it’s all good now.’’
Duncan, who started in 20 consecutive games before he was injured, said last week’s bye had been beneficial for Newcastle’s entire squad.
“The split round has been good, just to refresh, have a couple of days off and get away from football,’’ Duncan said.
“We’ve come back in with a new energy and new focus for the next five games.’’
Newcastle are aiming for at least three wins from their final five games to make the top six, and Duncan said it was important that the play-offs were a motivation, rather than a distraction.
“It’s a game-by-game thing in terms of the focus, but the finals is what we want to play in at the end of the season,’’ Duncan said. “So it’s in the back of your head, in terms of the goal we want to get to. But in terms of thinking too far ahead, we’re just focusing on City this weekend and Wellington next weekend, when it comes.
“It’s one game by one game, and get the three points each week, and we’ll be right come the last game of the season.’’