JASON Hoffman, the last man standing from Newcastle’s A-League grand final triumph almost 10 years ago, believes this season’s team are capable of similar heroics.
And this time he won’t take it for granted.
Hoffman was a 19-year-old winger in his debut season when the Jets outgunned arch rivals Central Coast in the 2007-08 title decider, playing 15 minutes off the bench. A decade on, he has 175 A-League games to his name but has not since appeared in the play-offs.
But with Newcastle enjoying a record-breaking season, in which they trail only competition leaders Sydney FC with eight preliminary rounds to play, Hoffman has no intention of allowing this opportunity to slip.
“Coming in as a professional in my first year, 2007-08, I think I took it for granted, to be honest,” Hoffman said.
“The fact that we played finals football, we made a grand final, and then obviously to win the championship, it might have been a bit surreal at the time, and I didn’t really ever get a chance for it to sink in.
“Previous to that year, I was always part of a strong club at Hamilton Olympic and I was used to winning things … but it’s my 12th year now as a professional, and you can see how hard it is to make finals football, let alone a grand final, and then to win it.
“The desire to get that feeling back for the Newcastle Jets, my local club, would be at an all-time high.”
Hoffman said there were “certain similarities” between this season’s squad and their 2007-08 predecessors.
“To start with, our position on the table,” he said. “To be at the top end of the table is obviously exciting, going into the last few matches, and then hopefully finals.
“But the mentality of the group is also very similar. We always want to attack and score goals.
“We feel we’ve got goals in us, and … as long as we don’t concede and keep winning games, hopefully we’ll get to something like a grand final, like we did in 07-08, and take it from there.”
Newcastle can take a significant step towards a top-two berth in the play-offs with a win against Western Sydney at Spotless Stadium on Friday night. The Jets are already four points clear of third-placed Melbourne City, who played their round-20 game last week.
A win, or even a draw, by Newcastle would heap further pressure on City, especially as the Jets have a far superior goal difference.
“The Wanderers are in very good form at the moment,” Hoffman said. “They’re a strong team and have always been a very strong club. In saying that, the focus for this week has still been on us. We’ve had a week off the be refreshed and … hopefully we can get back into the swing of things and that momentum of playing well.”
Hoffman and another home-grown talent, Australian under-23 representative Nick Cowburn, have both agreed to contract extensions that will keep them in Newcastle until at least the end of next season.
Cowburn, who has made only five appearances this season, all off the bench, admitted he did consider other options but was happy to show faith in Jets coach Ernie Merrick.
“There were offers, but to be around friends and family in this area, that’s a no-brainer for me,” Cowburn said.
“I’ve spent copious amounts of years building myself as a player here in Newcastle and I want to continue that, because I feel Ernie is the right coach to guide me in my development.”
Used in a variety of roles since his A-League debut in 2014, Cowburn said he was hopeful of establishing himself as a specialist, rather than an all-rounder.
“In the Aussie [under-23] set-up, I was playing primarily as a right back, but here at [Newcastle’s] training I’ve been between a right back and centre-midfield role,” he said. “So really I’ve been tagged as a utility player, but I would like to cement my spot as a centre midfielder. That’s what I’m hoping for with this next year of the contract.”