Jets change course in hunt for success

THE Newcastle Jets have unveiled a $2.5million blueprint to provide the team with the best possible on-field and off-field resources and reconnect the A-League club with the region’s soccer community.

More than double the previous annual football budget of $1.1million, and incorporating eight extra full-time support staff positions, the new structure was finalised last Friday after coach Branko Culina was reappointed until March 2015.

It is the latest development in the dramatic transformation of the Jets since Nathan Tinkler replaced Con Constantine last month as owner, then a week later extended his licence with Football Federation Australia until 2020.

Culina is currently employed full-time and Mark Jones is his full-time assistant. Craig Deans is employed full-time but splits his duties as operations manager and youth team coach. Clint Gosling is goal-keeping coach in a part-time capacity.

Jets executive chairman Ken Edwards said the operations manager and assistant coach would be appointed as separate full-time positions under the new regime.

The Jets will break new ground by becoming the first A-League club to appoint a full-time talent scout.

They will also employ a full-time strength and conditioning coach, physiotherapist, masseur, goal-keeping coach, gear steward, youth team coach and youth team manager.

Edwards said the club would employ skills coaches, nutritionists, video analysts and a leadership consultant on a part-time basis as required.

‘‘The beauty of what we’re able to do now is, because we now have a 10-year licence, we can put in place a structure for the long term,’’ Edwards said.

‘‘We had a number of key objectives when we were setting up this structure, and it wasn’t just about the performance of the football team.

‘‘Importantly, we also wanted to get a structure in place so that we could use the coaching and support staff in the community, so we can be involved in community football in Northern NSW programs and FFA programs ... and augment and add to that.

‘‘The structure is designed to do two things.

‘‘Primarily it’s designed to put the best people and structure in place so that the team has the best chance of performing to its potential.

‘‘The other part of it, importantly to us ... is getting a structure in place that gives back to the football community.’’

It is understood the Jets studied similar football staff structures at Melbourne Victory, Sydney FC, Adelaide United and Perth Glory before settling on their own system.

‘‘The cost of the football department under the old structure on an annual basis was about $1.1million.

‘‘The budget under the new structure, on an annual basis, is $2.5million, but that is not excessive,’’ Edwards said.

‘‘That’s the benchmark for what some of the better performing and credentialled teams in the A-League are spending on their football department.

‘‘We’ve always had a full-time head coach and assistant coach, and we’ll continue with that, but in the new structure, we will have a full-time operations manager and a full-time strength and conditioning coach.

‘‘We haven’t had a strength and conditioning coach this year ... so it’s important we have a full-time specialist in charge of that area.

‘‘We will have a full-time goalkeeping coach, and we haven’t had one in the past, and the better-performing clubs have full-time goalkeeping coaches.

‘‘We now have a budget for a variety of skills coaches, and that will depend on what Branko needs from time to time, so we will be able to bring in specialist skills coaches to work on particular individuals and games.

‘‘We haven’t had a nutritionist advising the club and the players, so we now have funding for a nutritionist.

‘‘That won’t be a full-time position, but we can start educating the players and planning our campaign around that area.

‘‘We’re going to have a video analyst for the first time. We haven’t had any video analysis or software resources before, so we will now have that.’’


Having extended Culina’s contract until the end of the 2015 A-League season, Edwards said the experienced coach would be responsible for appointing or advertising for new staff. Jones, Deans and Gosling would all be assessed as part of that process.

‘‘Without doing that, we couldn’t do anything else. We had to lock Branko in and agree to a structure,’’ he said.

‘‘That was approved on Friday and we asked Branko to go away and think about how we can best roll it out from his point of view ... Obviously he has an extensive network of contacts.

‘‘He will have the ability to make direct appointments to any of those positions, or advertise for any of those positions, so it will be a couple of weeks before we’re clear on how we’re going to proceed on actually rolling this out.

‘‘The important thing for us is we’ve agreed on a structure, and now we’re going to go and find the best people, including assessing the people in the current positions in the club, to make sure that we’re going to get the best people long-term.’’


Edwards said the Jets would extend their roots into the fertile soccer nursery that thrives in their own backyard, and take steps to play Youth League and W-League women’s games as curtain-raisers to A-League matches at EnergyAustralia Stadium to promote a club culture.

‘‘Previously it’s been A-League and, totally separately, it’s been the national youth league. We’re desperate to pull them together and create a club,’’ he said.

‘‘There are some logistics issues and FFA issues, but wherever possible we’re going to look to play national youth league games as curtain-raisers to the A-League games as often as we can.

‘‘We’re keen to talk to Northern NSW Football about opportunities for the W-League team to play curtain-raisers where possible before A-League games.

‘‘We’re trying to get everyone integrated ... The cornerstone of Nathan’s plan for the Jets was that it had to be returned to the community. We need to reconnect with the football family and the wider community.

‘‘Previously, where Branko might be more inclined to go to Sydney for a trial match, that won’t be happening any more.

‘‘We’ll be focusing our pre-season camps and any trial matches in regional northern NSW and the Hunter Valley, so we might have our pre-season camps at places like Coffs Harbour and playing games in other locations within our region.’’


Edwards, chief executive John Tstasimas and the yet to be announced board of directors will manage and administer the Jets and, for the first time, Culina will have at his disposal an advisory board to discuss and resolve soccer issues.

In preparation for the establishment of that committee, Tinkler, Edwards, Culina and Jets captain Michael Bridges met with prominent Newcastle soccer identities Ray Baartz and David Lowe over lunch on Monday to pick the former Socceroos’ brains.

‘‘Previously, Branko was isolated and didn’t have any formal consultative links to anyone in the community, so we are now setting up this football advisory board,’’ Edwards said.

‘‘We wanted to talk to a couple of senior people from the football community in Ray and Lowey, to tell us what was important to them and what they think we need to be doing, and we’re looking to build on that in a more formal way through that advisory board.

‘‘[Monday] was the first opportunity we’ve had to sit down since Branko was reappointed ... and start getting advice from people who know a lot about football and this community.’’


Having cut his administrative teeth in Brisbane in the 1980s and early ’90s, Edwards saw first-hand the benefits of a sporting club employing someone who could identify talent.

Cyril Connell, who died in June last year, spotted the likes of Darren Lockyer, Wendell Sailor, Karmichael Hunt, Lote Tuqiri and Petero Civoniceva in his role as the Brisbane NRL club’s recruitment manager for most of Wayne Bennett’s coaching reign.

‘‘Importantly, and I know Branko is particularly excited about this one, we’re going to have a full-time head scout for Newcastle, the Hunter and northern NSW,’’ Edwards said.

‘‘My experience is through the Broncos and Queensland and Wayne Bennett.

‘‘And one of the reasons the Broncos have been so successful for such a long time is through a guy called Cyril Connell, who spotted so many of their players at schoolboy carnivals and junior tournaments.

‘‘We’re not aware of any other football club that has a full-time head scout, who will trawl through the schools and the junior clubs throughout the region, looking to spot talented young kids, so we’re all really excited about that.

‘‘We will be recruiting for this position – we haven’t got anyone in mind at the moment – but the head scout will need to establish a network of other scouts throughout the region.

‘‘By integrating with Northern NSW Football, we’ll really be able to identify and create career paths and opportunities for young players.’’


The Jets will use corporate consultant Peter Cox, who has worked successfully with Manly rugby league coach Des Hasler, to educate Culina and Bridges on leadership issues.

‘‘The guys have had a tough couple of years as a group, and it’s important that we manage change sensitively and provide them with some tools to focus on the new direction and all the opportunities that they now have, compared to where they were previously,’’ Edwards said.

‘‘Peter will come in and help Branko and Michael rebuild the leadership dynamics in the team.’’