A-League: Jets aim to have Vargas replacement on deck in December

MISSING PIECE: Ronny Vargas and coach Ernie Merrick at training. The injured marquee hopes to return in late February. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers
MISSING PIECE: Ronny Vargas and coach Ernie Merrick at training. The injured marquee hopes to return in late February. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

NEWCASTLE Jets hope to have a replacement for injured marquee Ronny Vargas on deck in mid-December and ready to go when the transfer window opens on January 3.

What’s more, the player will be contracted until the end of the season, opening the way for him to play alongside Vargas once the classy Venezuelan returns.

“We are trying to get a player in mid-December so they have had a couple of weeks training with the boys before the transfer window opens,” McKinna said. 

Vargas, who suffered a broken and dislocated left ankle playing against Brisbane in round three, is out of a CAM Boot and on track for a return in late February.

“Ronny’s rehabilitation is going well, and if it continues, the plan is for them to play together,” McKinna said. “It would be an injury replacement but he would be strengthening the squad.”

A-League clubs are allowed five visa players. The Jets have three – Vargas, Roy O’Donovan and Wayne Brown. A season-ending knee injury to Jake Adelson has created another opening on the 23-man roster and scope to add a foreigner.

Until now, the Jets have been patient in finding a replacement for Vargas.

The side’s progress – they sit in second spot on 17 points after nine rounds – has lessened the urgency.

Plus, the Jets are restricted to bringing in a free agent if they make a move before the window opens. 

Waiting until January also opens the option of getting a player on loan. 

Dimi Petratos’ outstanding form since moving from the right win to cover for Vargas in the No.10 role has also impacted on their thinking.

“We are in talks with a couple of players, a wide player and a No.10,” McKinna said. “Foreigners with good credentials. They have to be quality. We are not just going to sign someone for the sake of signing someone. A few Aussie names have come up but for one reason or another they are not available.”

Vargas, who set the league alight with his vision and silky skills in the opening three rounds, has been involved in the process of finding a replacement.

“Ronny has been at big clubs and played a number of games for Venezuela,” McKinna said.

As for the future of the 31-year-old, who is on a one-year deal, McKinna said: “We are very confident that Ronny is going to come back well from the injury,” McKinna said. “Once we get an indication that he is going to be all right, we will start talking about next season, definitely.”

Meanwhile, Nick Cowburn will miss the away clash against Perth on Saturday and could be out for up to a month with a knee injury.