BEN Kennedy never imagined playing for anyone but the Newcastle Jets.
But an opportunity to re-establish himself as a first-choice keeper at the Central Coast Mariners was an opportunity too good to knock back.
Kennedy on Friday agreed to terms on a one-deal with a year option at the Mariners, bringing an end to 10-year association with the Jets.
The Jets had offered the 30-year-old, who ruptured his Achilles in the pre-season, a one year extension.
The Jets deal was slightly less than the Mariners, but the decision to head down the freeway was more football-based.
With Paul Izzo departing the Mariners for Adelaide, Kennedy will get first shot at the No.1 spot. Jack Duncan is entrenched in goals at the Jets and is in talks about extending his contract.
“We know how much Ben loves Newcastle and the Jets,” Kennedy’s agent Joel Grenell said. “Football-wise this makes sense. He is guaranteed the No.1 spot. The situation Ben is in. He hasn’t played football this year and Jack has done quite well. Coaches are quite loyal to goalkeepers and if Ben has two years in a row without playing his career could effectively be over if Newcastle don’t offer him a new contract.”
Former Jets Ivan Necevski, 37, and Adam Pearce, 20, are the other keepers on the Mariners books. Another former Jet, Matt Nash, is the goalkeeping coach.
“It is all about timing,” Grenell said. The time is right for Ben to make the move and play some games.”
Jets football operations manager Joel Griffiths said they were disappointed to lose Kennedy, who made his A-League debut in 2006 and played 114 games.
“We have done everything right by BK in terms of his rehabilitation and offering a contract extension,” Griffiths said. “He has chosen to go to the Central Coast. I want him to be happy and hope he gets to be No.1. I just wish it was at another club.”
Meanwhile, coach Mark Jones is adamant a couple of bad result does not make the Jets a poor team.
After heavy defeats to Melbournce City (4-0) and Wellington (5-0), the Jets host a resurgent Wanderers on Saturday.
The Jets have travelled on the edge – inside and out – of the top six for much of the campaign.
“The world doesn’t change in two weeks,” Jones. “We did a good job to get where we got too and it is extremely disappointing to miss out on the six.”
“At crucial times we haven’t been clinical enough in front of goal and we have let ourselves down in conceding soft goals at times. A lot of those were individual errors. We work on those at training and just need to do better. That includes myself, the assistant coach … everyone.”
The Jets, who have 11 players off contract, have signed Melbourne Victory championship-winner Daniel Georgievski for two years and are in talks with several other A-League players headed by Mariners striker Roy O’Donovan.
“We want players who can play in the best teams in the league,” Jones said. “We are not after second best. We want to win the league so we want the best players. Daniel has been there and done that and been successful when push comes to shove. The more quality we get in the team, the better we will execute.”
Wanderers have gone in the opposite direction to the Jets. After 21 rounds they were on 24 points, two above Newcastle. They drew nil-all with Adelaide before consecutive 3-1 win over Wellington and City to move to 31 points, five clear of seventh placed Phoenix.
“They have gotten on a purple patch,” Jones said. “Brendan Santalab has scored five goals in two weeks. That is the difference. You have to take your opportunities and they have done that of late. That is not to say that we can’t go and do a job.”
Santalab is out suspended but Jones remains wary of an attack which has found its groove.
“Wellington had a few out and the boys who came in stepped up,” Jones said. “They have Nicolas Martinez who is a great footballer, [Mitch] Nichols is clever as well and Jumpei is excellent. They have some dangers as does every team. Apart from Sydney FC, who have been amazing all year, everyone has beaten everyone. You need to step up and make sure you are on your game.”