WITH each passing week, Joe Champness is looking more and more like Newcastle’s gain and Brisbane Roar’s loss.
When the 20-year-old attacker arrived at the Jets for pre-season training, his L-plater status was underlined by the fact he was signed on a scholarship, not a full first-team contract.
It did not take long for that situation to change.
Goals in pre-season games against Melbourne City, Canberra Olympic and Wellington earned him a two-year extension and an A-League debut – an occasion he marked with a goal off the bench in the 5-1 win against Central Coast.
Last week came another milestone for the 2016 Young Socceroos representative, his first appearance in Newcastle’s starting line-up, as replacement for injured marquee signing Ronny Vargas in their 3-0 win against Wellington.
After a 77-minute stint, easily the longest of his five-game career, he received a “very impressive, young Joey” assessment from Jets coach Ernie Merrick said.
And while Champness is semi-surprised by how quickly he has risen through the ranks, he also gave a glimpse of the self-belief that has helped launch his career.
“As a footballer you have to be confident in your ability to be able to impact on games,” he said.
Born in New Zealand, Champness played in Brisbane’s youth team last year before he was released, a setback that has proven to be a blessing in disguise.
As a footballer you have to be confident in your ability to be able to impact on games.JOE CHAMPNESS
“The door kind of closed at Brisbane, through different circumstances, and I guess the opportunity came to come to Newcastle, and I just grabbed it with both hands,” he said.
“I was very excited.”
Described by Jets skipper Nigel Boogaard as “a good young lad …who'll get at defenders and cause them some trouble” Champness said he was relishing Newcastle’s up-tempo attacking philosophy, which has yielded a league-best 13 goals in five games, four more than the next best team.
“Our team always has a positive mindset, to be aggressive from the get-go,” Champness said.
“So there’s definitely no pacing ourselves … being an attacking player, attacking minded, I’m really enjoying it. But also, from a team perspective, we’re structured in defence and we showed that on the weekend.”
Newcastle’s next two fixtures, against Adelaide on Saturday and defending champions Sydney FC a week later, shape as their sternest tests so far this season.
Even though they will be on the road in both games, the Jets have no intention of playing conservatively.
“We have full belief that, whatever opposition we come up against, we can be successful,” Champness said.