Lambton Jaffas midfield talisman Jobe Wheelhouse is focused on getting back on the field, perhaps as early as this weekend, and not on mounting speculation about his future at the club.
Wheelhouse has not played since fracturing his ankle in the 5-0 FFA Cup loss to Edgeworth two months ago when the Jaffas sat on top of the NPL ladder.
The Jaffas, who will finish third or fourth, have felt the former Jets captain’s absence and are hopeful of having him back for the finals.
Wheelhouse said on Tuesday his ankle was better and he was aiming to play some minutes this Saturday in the Jaffas’ final-round clash with the Jets Youth at Edden Oval.
However, Wheelhouse did not want to comment on his future until after this season.
There has been increasing speculation that the 32-year-old, who joined the Jaffas in 2013 after leaving the Newcastle Jets, will move to a rival club next season.
The Herald has been told Edgeworth, Broadmeadow, Charlestown and Maitland have courted the 2014 grand final man of the match. He is friends with Magic coach and former teammate Ruben Zadkovich, while Charlestown now have his former Jaffas coach, David Tanchevski, at the helm. He also has close ties to two-time defending premiers Edgeworth, who appear front-runners to secure Wheelhouse if he leaves Jaffas.
Lambton coach James Pascoe said he would sit down and talk with Wheelhouse and other players about 2018 after this season.
“I’d be pretty shocked and disappointed if people wanted to leave what we've built this year, but at the end of the day people make their own decisions,” Pascoe said.
“As a club we’ll work through those things after the end of the season.”
Heading into the finals, Pascoe was hopeful of having Wheelhouse and Nathan Morris back from injury, although Ben Hay (knee) was in doubt for this weekend.
He said Morris, who has medial ligament damage, has been told he could play again this year if he strengthens the muscles around his knee. He said Wheelhouse had non-contact training last week and ran again on the weekend.
“It’ill be a nice couple of bonuses if they come off,” he said.
Meanwhile, veteran goalkeeper Brad Swancott, 38, will play on next season and “transition over next 12 to 18 months into key off-field role at the club”.
However, Pascoe was unsure whether former A-League golden boot and player of the year Joel Griffiths, 37, would continue.
“We’ve left it open-ended,” Pascoe said. “I’ve told him we’re going keep 10 points in the PPS if he decides to go around again and gets through pre-season to a reasonable degree.”
He said Griffiths’ workload as the Newcastle Jets football operations manager was another factor but the “intention from both ends was for him to go around again”.