JETS coach Branko Culina yesterday hinted he could deliver the ultimate birthday wish to youth league midfielder Scott Balderson an A-League debut on Sunday against North Queensland.
The blond tyro turns 20 on Friday and has impressed Culina, assistant coach Mark Jones and youth team Craig Deans with his recent form.
A season-ending knee injury to marquee man Fabio Vignaroli and suspension to Ben Kantarovski has left a gaping hole in central midfield.
Culina has touted captain Matt Thompson, Jobe Wheelhouse, Kaz Patafta and Adam D'Apuzzo as possible replacements, but Balderson would be his most audacious selection.
"Scott Balderson is training with us and he could give us a bit of grunt," Culina said. "He impressed me on Friday in the youth game, him and Mirjan [Pavlovic].
"My opinion is they were outstanding and the coaching staff of Jonesy and Deansy have a big rap on him as well, so we're comfortable."
Sydney-born Balderson represented Australia at the under-19 Asian Cup in Thailand last year.
He has been a standout since joining Newcastle's youth team this season from NSW Super League team the Northern Tigers.
Culina said he had no issue in taking a gamble on youth.
"With young players, sometimes you need to just put them in," he said. "You don't know how they will measure up at the next level until you give them a go, but you've got to give them a go.
"He's a good player, he's strong and he has a good passing range, although he'd be there more for the hard yakka if we use him."
It was obvious the Jets are a team on a three-match winning streak from the wide smiles and laughter at yesterday's training session, but Culina warned against complacency as they prepared to face the Robbie Fowler-led Fury at EnergyAustralia Stadium.
"That's another challenge. The very match you're expected to win, teams drop off and lose it, and hopefully it's not the case for us," Culina said.
"Mentally this is a vital game for us. It's an important game because the Christmas [Day] trip to Perth will be a nightmare.
"For that reason we need to make sure we get maximum points, particularly after the Gold Coast game.
"When you win against Gold Coast you need to back it up, and they have got a midweek game as well, so hopefully that will assist."
Meanwhile, two of last Sunday's goalscorers, Wheelhouse (hamstring) and Sean Rooney (calf), were rested from full training yesterday as a precaution.