The Newcastle Jets have cleared the decks for the Ernie Merrick era, telling eight off-contract players they are not wanted for next season.
Merrick, who was appointed as the club’s new head coach on Tuesday, has run an eye over the A-League squad with Lawrie McKinna and football operations manager Joel Griffiths.
The result is that versatile midfielder Ben Kantarovski is the only man left standing out of 10 players coming off contract, although teenage striker Kristian Brymora has been offered a scholarship.
It is understood popular striker Labinot Haliti may be offered an off-field role with the club, but local product Andrew Hoole, defender Daniel Mullen, visa player Mateo Poljak, Danish striker Morten Nordstrand, back-up keeper Tomislav Arcaba and Chinese attacker Ma Leilei will not return.
Goalkeeper Ben Kennedy, on the comeback trail from a ruptured Achilles, agreed to terms with the Central Coast Mariners in March, but that deal has not yet been finalised.
Neither towering young Queensland striker Harry Sawyer, who has reached the end of his scholarship deal, nor former Adelaide NPL player Joel Allwright, who is on a short-term contract, are in the club’s plans for next season.
The cleanout means the Jets have 17 contracted players, plus Kantarovski if he accepts the offer of a one-year contract extension, leaving five vacancies for new players.
Kantarovski’s wage lies outside the salary cap under the A-League’s concession for club loyalty.
The Jets have signed Mariners striker Roy O’Donovan, Melbourne Victory defender Daniel Georgevski, who won the Joe Marston Medal as player of the match in Sunday’s grand final, and youngsters Kosta Petratos and Mario Shabow for next season.
It is understood club management have drawn up a list of potential recruits which includes 31-year-old Socceroo Mark Milligan, who is halfway through a two-year contract at Baniyas SC in the United Arab Emirates, and former Jets forward Nathan Burns.
Also mentioned as possible targets are 28-year-old Wanderers midfielder Mitch Nichols, Victory’s 31-year-old Spanish centre back Alan Baro, Adelaide midfielder Marcelo Carrusca and former Wellington Phoenix keeper Glenn Moss.
Meanwhile, Queensland winger Joe Champness, one of two youth players the Jets sent to Portugal this year to develop their games, has earned a trial with Brighton and Hove Albion’s under-23s. Brighton won promotion from the English Championship to the Premier League last month.
Champness, a former Roar youth player, has not played for the Jets but signed an 18-month scholarship deal with the club in January before joining Portuguese club Academica on loan with Antonee Burke.
In other news, Spanish coach Guillermo Amor has left Adelaide after the Reds finished ninth this season.