EXCITING Jets winger Joey Champness will have surgery in Sydney on Tuesday to insert pins into his broken foot and is now facing four months on the sideline.
But the Jets could have a ready-made replacement in former Melbourne Victory flyer Mitch Austin.
Austin, who is returning from a knee reconstruction nine months ago, trained with the Jets on Monday and will be assessed over the next week by coach Ernie Merrick.
“We need a wide player, especially with Joey being out,” Merrick said. “Mitch is one of several we are looking at, and he was good enough to come up and join us. Regarding the skills that he has, those are the skills we are looking for. Whether we think he is the best fit, we will leave it a week to make that decision. He has A-League experience and is in his mid 20s. We will see how he goes.”
Austin, 27, was linked to a move to South Korea before rupturing the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee at Victory training in November. He did his rehabilitation at Victory but was not offered a new deal. However, he has been training with their youth team and looked sharp in an intense first session at Ray Watt Oval.
A speedster, similar in design to Andrew Nabbout and Jason Hoffman, Austin scored eight goals in two seasons at the Mariners before scouted by Victory.
“That was his first session and he is fit already because he has been training hard,” Merrick said. “We got a full report from the Victory physio who happens to be our ex-physio, Justin Dougherty. Interestingly, it was the first major injury he has had.”
It was hoped that Champness, who injured his left foot at training last Tuesday, would be back for the round-two trip to Adelaide.
“The surgeon had a good look at the scans and the metatarsal is out of shape and has to be pinned,” Merrick said. “It will be January before we see Joey. It is a great pity because he was doing so well. The nature of the game is that you have these mishaps. He will come back bigger and stronger.”
The Jets have 19 players on their books at this point, which is short of the 23 required to sign an injury replacement for Champness.
“It makes no difference to the way we are planing and organising,” Merrick said. “Right from the start, we have said we need two attackers and a (second) goalkeeper.”
The Jets are one of three clubs linked to fringe Socceroos striker Chris Ikonomidis.
“We are being linked to a lot of players,” Merrick said. “That happens when you say you need a couple of players. There are a few strikers we have spoken to. Some haven’t been the right one, some have been tied to clubs. There are a lot of players who want to come to this club. You would be surprised at the ones we are rejecting. That is a sign of how good the club is and our standards.”
Meanwhile, the Jets women’s side have signed Matildas defender Larissa Crummer to a one-year deal.