JETS midfielder Ronny Vargas was a “magician” in the first half of the A-League grand final and chief executive Lawrie McKinna can’t wait to see the impact the Venezuelan has with the benefit of a full pre-season.
In a major boost, Vargas inked a one-year contract extension on Monday before he and wife Justine flew to Belgium on holidays.
“The first 30 minutes of the grand final he was like a magician,” McKinna said. “He was a different class. To have him stay on for another season is fantastic.”
Jets coach Ernie Merrick was equally excited at having Vargas on deck for a second season.
“I think Ronny was only getting started when he first arrived, and he showed us what he was capable of,” Merrick said. “To be struck down by injury like that was awful, but to come back and play the way he did in the final series was exceptional. He’ll benefit from a full pre-season here in Australia, it’s an exciting prospect and I think our fans will feel the same way.”
Vargas, 31, spent the majority of the campaign in rehabilitation after dislocating and breaking his ankle against Brisbane in round three.
Initially, it was feared the former AEK Athens playmaker’s career may be over.
However, he returned ahead of schedule in round 23. It took the silky-skilled South American three games to regain confidence before he exploded back into form.
Vargas’ wizardry wasn’t enough to earn the Jets a championship, going down 1-0 to Melbourne Victory in controversial circumstances, but it confirmed his class.
“His injury was devastating for the entire club, but to see the way he has worked to get himself back on the pitch was unbelievable,” McKinna said. “He’s a professional of the highest order and that’s shone through in everything he’s done both on and off the park. He had surgery last week to take the screws out of his foot and he feels so much better since getting them out as well. With a good pre-season, he will be back bigger and stronger and wanting to prove how good he is.”
Vargas had options in Asia but McKinna said his affection for Newcastle and the fans won through.
“He came here and the club and the town embraced him,” McKinna said. “He feels close to Newcastle and the fans because they took him in.”
Vargas’ new deal followed the addition last week of New Zealand midfielder Matthew Ridenton and leaves the Jets with two spots available on the 23-man roster.
Fellow South American, Pato Rodriguez, who scored one goal and supplied four assists in 12 appearances, has been released.
“Ronny is our marquee and it was important that we got him locked in early,” McKinna said.