TWO days after slamming the histrionics of Sydney defender Jordy Buijs, Jets coach Ernie Merrick has praised the toughness of Newcastle skipper Nigel Boogaard, who is likely to miss the rest of the season.
Boogaard was on Tuesday found to have a fractured tibia and torn calf in his left leg from an incident late in the 2-1 win over Sydney on Saturday night. He is expected to miss between six to 10 weeks, giving him only a slight chance of featuring in the finals.
The centre-back, who shook off a knee muscle strain to take on Sydney, walked off in the 82nd minute as the 10-man Jets fought to retain their advantage at McDonald Jones Stadium.
Buijs, on the other hand, came in for heavy criticism for his theatrics an hour earlier when rolling on the ground and holding his face after a seemingly minor collision with Roy O’Donovan, who was sent off.
Merrick told the Herald that Buijs “put on an injury display like a B-grade actor that was embarrassing”.
On Tuesday, he praised the resilience of Boogaard in facing his injury blow.
“He’s taken it well, he’s a tough character, mentally and physically,” Merrick said. “He walked off the park and if I ever ask him how it is, he always says it’s 100 per cent, ready to go, but he’ll have to sit out for a few weeks now.
“He’s had a great year with he and Nikolai [Topor-Stanley] as the centre of defence, their stats this year have been better than any other pair in the league.”
Merrick held out little hope of having Boogaard back this season, which could end for the Jets with the grand final on May 5.
“Because he hyper-extended his knee, there’s a compression fracture on his tibia,” he said. “It’s not a slight fracture, it’s fairly major.
“The good news is there’s no damage to the articular area of the knee and nor has the ACL been damaged.
“If either of those had been damaged, it would have been very bad and he would have been out for a very long time.
“The good news is it’s a six to 10 week injury. It’s unlikely, but there’s a very small chance he could play in the finals, but he doesn’t have to have an operation. He can go straight into rehabilitation, which he’s doing upstairs as we speak.”
Boogaard is off-contract at season’s end and Merrick said the injury would have no bearing on the club’s desire to retain the 31-year-old.
“His contract negotiations will continue. It will make no difference to those. We want to keep him at this club,” he said. “He’s very good technically. Strategically, he’s a good on-field leader and he’s a good person to have around on and off the field at the club.”
The Jets next play on March 17 against Welllington and Merrick indicated Lachlan Jackson would get first crack at replacing Boogaard.
“Lachlan Jackson comes into consideration, Ben Kantarovski can play as a centre-back, so can Ivan Vujic and Johnny Koutroumbis, so we’ve got a few options,” he said. “Lachlan seems the most obvious one because he’s played twice now against Sydney and has done a very good job.”