PATO Rodriguez, sporting a new Australian summer haircut, is “ready to go” for the Newcastle Jets against arch rivals the Central Coast at McDonald Jones Stadium on Tuesday night.
The Argentine, who arrived on Wednesday on a five-month contract, has received his international transfer clearance and will make his debut off the bench in the F3 Derby.
“I am happy and very enthusiastic,” Rodriguez told the Newcastle Herald on Monday. “I feel good. I have spoken to the coach. He told me what he wants me to do, my instructions. I don’t think I will start, but I am ready to go when he needs me. I am at his disposal.”
Rodriguez said he was over jetlag and “sleeping well” but was still adjusting to the heat wave which has melted the Hunter.
“I have been well received and am comfortable.” he said. “I cut my hair, it was too hot, but I am good.”
Rodriguez hasn’t played a game in over a month after leaving AEK Athens, where he was a teammate of injured Jet Ronny Vargas, in early December.
“I am conscious it takes a while to settle in and adjust but I will give my best,” he said.
Exciting rookie Joe Champness will start on the left wing against the Mariners.
The 20-year-old, fresh from being named A-League Young Player of the Month for December, has been a revelation since pitched into the starting side after long-term injuries to Vargas and Roy O’Donovan forced a reshuffle to the front four.
Rather than threatened by the arrival of Rodriguez, he has welcomed the addition.
“Competition in the squad is great,” he said. “it is about what is best for the team. It improves everyone as players when everyone is fighting for spots. It is fantastic that we have a really great addition to the team. Having those type of experienced, quality players around me is great. That is something I am always looking to do – learn. What better than to learn from players like that.”
Champness grabbed headlines with a goal on debut in a 5-1 mauling of the Mariners in the season opener in Gosford.
“It was a really great feeling scoring on debut, a dream come true,” he said.
The former Roar youth player, who boasts the lethal combination of speed and skill, hasn’t looked back.
He reacted quickest to pounce on a Dimi Petratos corner and crunch a volley to give the Jets the lead for a second time in a gripping 2-all draw with Sydney FC last round.
“You just always want to do your best,” he said. “It definitely make sit easier with the players around you, it is a great quality squad. We are just going out there with a positive mindset and performing the best we can.”
Captain Nigel Boogaard (concussion) and Ivan Vujica (suspension) return against the Mariners but Ben Kantarovski is yet to fully recover from a hamstring injury and had an MRI on the tendon on Monday.
The Mariners, who sit in eighth spot, are without creative spark Danny De Silva (Australian under-23s).