HOME-GROWN midfielder Ben Kantarovski is in line to become the first Jets player to notch 150 A-League games after inking a one-year contract extension on Friday.
The 25-year-old, who made his debut at age 16 in the opening round of the 2008-09 campaign, sits on 140 games.
And it was that experience, combined with his versatility, that appealed to new coach Ernie Merrick.
“Ben has almost been around the Hyundai A-League as long as I have, although he was a wee bit younger when he started,” Merrick said.
“I think his experience will be vital in the squad that we are trying to build. As Ben is physically strong and very competent tactically, he is versatile and can play in a number of positions.”
Kantarovski’s signature leaves the Jets with four places to fill on the 23-man roster.
However, chief executive Lawrie McKinna said they were unlikely to pursue former Socceroos Robbie Kruse and James Holland, who have walked out on Chinese Super League club Liaoning Whowin.
The pair, who moved to China in January from Adelaide United and Bayer Leverkusen respectively, have left the club, who visited the Hunter in the pre-season, because of “repeated failure to honour its contractual obligations to the players”.
“My understanding is they are both keen to head to Europe,” McKinna said. “Robbie has worked with Ernie before at Melbourne Victory, but he was on a $2 million contract in China and is not keen to return to the A-League. In terms of James, midfield is an area where we are well catered.”
Kantarovski was deployed in midfield and defence in his 12 appearances last season, eight as a starter.
He was the only player from 10 that were off contract to be retained by the club.
“It’s an absolute honour and a blessing at the same time to be able to play for my home-town club and represent this region for so many years now,” said Kantarovski who enters his 10th season with the club in 2017-18. “I had interest from some other clubs, but when a new coach comes in and wants you as part of his plans, it makes the decision to stay very simple.”