FORMER Jets captain Jobe Wheelhouse hopes to start enjoying his football again after signing with Northern NSW State League new boys Lambton Jaffas on Friday.
The 27-year-old midfielder has been without a club since requesting a release and being paid out by the Jets in February after declaring ‘‘my heart’s not here any more’’.
Contract negotiations with the Jets had broken down and, despite approaches from Melbourne Heart and Central Coast Mariners, he opted to take a break.
He was poised to resurrect his A-League career with two-time champions Brisbane Roar, but when that offer was withdrawn last week, Wheelhouse opted to join his younger brother, Abe, at the Jaffas.
‘‘I will never shut the door on an A-League career or overseas for that matter, but I think it is the right time to take a step back,’’ Wheelhouse told the Herald.
‘‘If another door opens up, it does. If not, I am pretty happy with what I’ve achieved.
‘‘I had an opportunity to go and play alongside Abe and get a bit of enjoyment back in my game.
‘‘It has been three months now. With a few things falling through, the next best thing would be to get back on the horse, have a kick.
‘‘The guys at Lambton have been very welcoming. I’m looking to provide them with a bit of experience and try to keep my brother in line.
‘‘They have agreed to try and help me with my football school as well. We are all on the same page, which is good.’’
Wheelhouse has been a professional footballer since he returned from the Australian Institute of Sport as a 17-year-old to play for Newcastle United in the old national soccer league.
He was a foundation player for the Jets and made 106 A-League appearances, the last 31 as the club’s first home-grown skipper.
After turning down previous approaches he had been excited about the chance to move to Brisbane and a fresh start.
‘‘I am obviously disappointed that they reneged on the deal, but there are a lot of people worse off than me in life.’’
Wheelhouse starts training with the Jaffas next week but is not expected to make his debut until the round-eight clash against Weston at Edden Oval.
‘‘I have been doing bits and pieces, but I don’t think my body is ready for a game yet,’’ he said. ‘‘I will start training next week and have a wedding to attend in Fiji in a couple of weeks as well.’’
Not surprisingly, Jaffas coach Dave Tanchevski was delighted to have the ex-Jets skipper on board.
The Jaffas won the First Division minor and major premierships last year to earn promotion for the first time in club history and have opened their campaign with two losses.
‘‘There were a lot of disappointed people when he left the Jets and hopefully they come and watch him,’’ Tanchevski said.
‘‘He fits into our culture and is coming here for the right reasons.
‘‘We told him we had spent our budget but would give him what we can.’’
Tanchevski said the Jaffas would not stand in the playmaker’s way if an opportunity arose for him to return to the professional ranks.