JETS coach Phil Stubbins has declared ‘‘everything is up for grabs’’ as Newcastle’s new-look squad fly north on Friday for the Townsville Football Cup.
Newcastle will play friendlies against Brisbane Roar (Sunday), Sydney FC (Wednesday) and North Queensland Fury (tomorrow week) during a 10-day camp in the tropics.
Stubbins has named a travelling squad of 23, several of whom will receive their first game time of the preseason after overcoming injuries.
In a wholesale turnover of personnel, first-team regulars such as Adam Taggart, Ruben Zadkovich, Josh Brillante, Connor Chapman, Josh Mitchell and Zenon Caravella have parted company with the Jets since the end of last season, replaced by imports Adrian Madaschi, Jeronimo Neumann, Marcos Flores, Billy Celeski, Jonny Steele and Edson Montano.
With the A-League season-opener still seven weeks away, it would appear former Netherlands international Kew Jaliens, announced recently as Newcastle’s skipper, is the only selection certainty.
The rest are competing for positions, and Stubbins was hopeful he would have a clearer idea of his options once the Jets have returned from the Townsville sojourn.
‘‘In terms of the starting XI, we’ve got a good squad and on any given day we can call on any of those players to do a job,’’ Stubbins said yesterday.
‘‘Obviously there are some players you would expect to be starting XI players, but everything is still up for grabs, really.
‘‘Unfortunately so far we’ve had a lot of players absent: Flores, [Scott] Neville, [Andrew] Hoole and Mitch Cooper – Montano and Jeronimo have just arrived – and Billy Celeski is not available yet because of fitness, so if you do the maths there, that’s quite a lot of players who haven’t been available.
‘‘It’s great to see some of those boys starting to come back, and I’d say by the time we get back [from Townsville], that’s when we’ll really start to nut out how we’re going to approach moving into the start of the season.’’
Montano, the Ecuador international striker, arrived in Newcastle on Sunday after the drawn-out process of obtaining a visa and Stubbins said he would be eased into action in Townsville.
‘‘My initial thoughts are that we’ve got a very good player,’’ Stubbins said.
‘‘He’s shown some glimpses and flashes of what he’s capable of. I’d say he’s quite a way off the rest of the group who have been training since day one in terms of fitness levels required, but we’ve certainly got enough time between now and the start of the season to get him up to speed physically.’’
Stubbins described the Jets as ‘‘the new kids in the classroom’’ and said they were looking forward to measuring themselves against defending champions Brisbane and glamour side Sydney.
‘‘It’s a good opportunity to put ourselves against a couple of teams who would have plans to do very well next season,’’ he said.
‘‘I’m sure Sydney and Brisbane will rotate their players and we’ll be doing exactly the same.’’
It will be a chance for the group to get to know each other, he said.
Newcastle’s touring party will include three triallists in former Adelaide youth team defender Allan Welsh, Manly United attacker Brendan Cholakian and South Melbourne midfielder Iqi Jawadi. Jets squad: Mark Birighitti, Ben Kennedy, Scott Neville, Taylor Regan, Kew Jaliens, Ben Kantarovski, Adrian Madaschi, Jeronimo Neumann, Joel Griffiths, Marcos Flores, Craig Goodwin, Sam Gallagher, Edson Montano, Jacob Pepper, James Virgili, Sam Gallaway, Jonny Steele, David Carney, Brandon Lundy, John Solari, Alan Welsh, Brendan Cholakian, Iqi Jawadi.