LABINOT Haliti was one of the first at Jets training at Ray Watt Oval on Monday morning.
It was a ritual the 31-year-old followed during a 164-game A-League career that spanned more than a decade.
This time, instead of giving every ounce of energy on the pitch, he stayed on the periphery, watching, listening, scribbling notes as Ernie Merrick put the squad through the session.
It was the start of a journey that Haliti hopes mirrors the path he took as player.
Haliti has made the leap to coaching and is assisting Lawrie McKinna with the Jets youth team.
On Wednesday night, he sat on the bench beside the experienced mentor for the first time as the youth went down 3-2 to Northern NSW NPL contenders Valentine.
“I am very passionate about it – 24/7, I am football, football, football,” Haliti said. “Coaching was a natural progression. Being at the club for so long, knowing the club and giving it so much on the field, I thought I could offer myself in a different role. Newcastle gave me my first break as a player and this is a chance for me to give something back. As a player I always gave 100 per cent and nothing will change in that regard. Throughout my career I have had different types coaches and you learn from all of them.”
Haliti has two of the A-League’s best mentors in McKinna, who took the Mariners to two grand finals, and dual championship-winner Merrick.
“No-one starts with experience,” Haliti said. “I have two great people behind me in Lawrie and Ernie. They both have experience and have won things. It is good for me to work with people who have been there and done that, and are still doing it.”
Haliti completed his B-Licence accreditation at a nine-day course in Canberra last month, where he was joined by former and current A-League stars Archie Thompson, Richie Garcia, Jason Culina and Carl Valeri.
“It was a very good group,” he said. “It was good to listen to a different point of view and was another learning curve for me.”
Haliti made six A-League appearances for the Jets last season after returning from a knee reconstruction. He had opportunities to play overseas and in the national premier league, but after 164 A-League games at the Jets and Wanderers and a stint in Poland, he opted to retire.
“I enjoyed every moment of my career,” he said. “I have been involved in grand finals, the highlight being the 2014 Champions League title. To be a part of that and play almost every minute … I have done everything I wanted to do. People said once you retire it is over. I didn’t see it like that. The way the club has opened the doors for me from day one as a player, and to be involved with the club in another way, it was an easy decision. I could not ask for a better place to be. I am passionate about the region. I know the mentality of the people and I know what is expected.”
Meanwhile, the Jets, Melbourne Victory and Western Sydney have been linked to a move for former Socceroo Dario Vidosic.