A-League: recalled Jets defender embraces favourite tag

OPPORTUNITY: Jason Hoffman will start his first game of the season against Wellington. Picture: Jonathan Carroll
OPPORTUNITY: Jason Hoffman will start his first game of the season against Wellington. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

IT is the type of banana-skin game in which the Jets have slipped in the past.

Newcastle are $1.90 favourites to beat Wellington at McDonald Jones Stadium on Saturday night.

The home side are unbeaten and sit in third place on seven points, five points and five places above the visitors, who are yet to win a game and gave up a 3-0 lead to draw 3-all with Brisbane in Wellington last start.

The Jets were in a similar position when they travelled across the ditch in round five last season. They had recorded a win and two draws to be nestled in the top six and faced a Phoenix outfit which had opened with four losses.

Roy Krishna scored a first-half brace to lead the Phoenix to a 2-0 win.

Indeed, the favourite’s tag is one that the Jets have never carried well.

But experienced defender Jason Hoffman, the lone survivor from the 2008 championship team, believes this group is different.

Nikolai Topor-Stanley, Dimi Petratos, Daniel Georgievski, Ronny Vargas and Roy O’Donovan have won silverware elsewhere and since touching down in Newcastle have helped forged a new mentality.

“This group is very different to years gone by,” Hoffman said. “We have a lot more leaders in key areas. The expectation is to go out and entertain. We want to score a lot of goals and win football matches. We won’t feel the pressure. It is about doing our job and making sure we entertain. That little bit of quality with different personnel this year has made us into a team that expects to do well.”

Hoffman had a mortgage on right back last season and is determined to make the most of his recall for Daniel Georgievski (hamstring) after a pre-season stalled by back and groin injuries.

“It has been exciting to see that we have made the best start in the club’s history,” Hoffman said. “That is a big positive, but you want to be a part of it. For me, playing a lot last year, you expect to be a regular. But you can come unstuck if you expect things. You have to keep improving and keep working hard. This week is an opportunity for me to come in and do a job for the team, first and foremost. I will give everything I can, and hopefully that is enough to have an extended run and hold down a place in the starting team.”

Hoffman, who became a a dad three weeks ago, replaced Georgievski in the 12th minute against Wanderers and played a key role in Dimi Petratos’ equaliser in the 1-all draw.

“I have always liked to get forward,” he said. “Since becoming a fullback a fair few years ago, it was always about learning the defensive side. I have adapted well in that area. Now I want to add assists to my game and pitch in with a couple of goals. The final pass is definitely something I need to work on. Hopefully I can deliver on that in the next few weeks and we can get good results.”