NPL: Lambton Jaffas shape up for defence with Griffiths brothers and two new faces

Coach James Pascoe believes his championship-winning Lambton Jaffas can be stronger in 2018 after the recruitment of Bren Hammel and Cade Mapu and the decision of former Socceroos Joel and Ryan Griffiths to play again.

STRIKEFORCE: Joel and Ryan Griffiths celebrate the Lambton Jaffas' grand final win over Edgeworth at McDonald Jones Stadium on September 2. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

STRIKEFORCE: Joel and Ryan Griffiths celebrate the Lambton Jaffas' grand final win over Edgeworth at McDonald Jones Stadium on September 2. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

Joel Griffiths debuted in the Northern NSW NPL this year in his return from a career-ending knee injury and  Ryan joined Jaffas mid-season after a short stint with Western Sydney Wanderers.

The brothers helped Jaffas deny Edgeworth a third consecutive grand final win on September 2 but were unsure whether they would play on next year.

Pascoe met with the pair last week and said “they’ve indicated that they are happy to go around again”.

The Jaffas lost Riley McNaughton (Charlestown), Rhys Tippett and Nathan Morris (retired) from their 2-0 grand final victory but have secured Hammel and Mapu to help fill the void.

Hammel was a stalwart at Edgeworth but left the club in July. Mapu is the younger player of grand final scorer Ridge Mapu and joins Jaffas from Central Coast’s National Youth League squad. Both will add to the Jaffas’ speed and options down the flanks.

Pascoe was on the lookout for a centre-back to replace Morris but was pleased with the initial signings and the retention of most of his squad, which finished third in the premiership.

“I’d like to think if we can replace Nathan Morris the right way, we might be just a tad stronger,” Pascoe said. “But also because it’s the second year for the group together after such a big rebuild the year before.

“I think all indicators are we’ll be able to play even better football again, and that’s important for me. Results are most important, but I think with the cattle we had last year, we didn’t quite hit the heights in performances enough.”

“The aim will certainly be to play a nice brand of football that gets results as well.”

Pascoe was excited about the additions, especially Hammel.

“I was fortunate that I was made aware of his interest in coming to us,” he said of Hammel.

“It’s been the case with about half a dozen really good footballers and I’ve just got to be strategic in what I add, and in terms of what we lost.

“He’s someone who can play down that right side in higher and deeper roles, plus he’s got the capability to play centrally if needed.

“Add on to that his level of experience, maturity and leadership, he’s a super pick up.

“He’ll fit in beautifully and probably add a little more than we’ve actually lost.”

Cade Mapu is recovering from an anterior cruciate ligament injury but Pascoe expects him to be back in full training in December.

“He can play as a winger down either side and as a No.10 if needed,” he said.

“I’ve seen a little bit of him playing but I’ve spoken to a lot of people who suggest he’s as quick as Ridge and maybe slightly more technically consistent as his brother.”

The Jaffas return to training on Monday but captain Jobe Wheelhouse is not expected back anytime soon as he continues recovery from a fractured ankle.

Wheelhouse played through the injury in the semi-finals and grand final and will see specialist Dr Kim Slater about the problem. He has had further scans and faces potential surgery but Pascoe said: “He’s confident it’s not going to hinder him in any way come February”.