Lambton Jaffas talisman Jobe Wheelhouse will have more treatment on his troublesome ankle in the off-season in the hope of playing on next year.
Wheelhouse, 33, has arguably been the best player in the Northern NSW top division since joining Jaffas from the Jets in 2013 and he showed his class in defying ankle injuries to help the club to two grand final wins.
However, he has struggled this year after surgery on his broken right ankle following the 2017 decider. He didn’t play a full NPL game all year and featured 12 times, including eight appearances off the bench. He came on and scored in extra-time on Saturday to put Lambton up 2-1 but Edgeworth scored twice late to win the tie.
“I will look to get further treatment in the off-season but it’s not a priority at the moment,” Wheelhouse said.
“If it doesn’t improve dramatically, which is what the surgery was supposed to do and didn’t, I won’t be playing.”
Jaffas coach James Pascoe said the club would give Wheelhouse every chance to play again.
“I know Jobe is realistic about where he’s at and I know he’ll make a decision based on what’s best for him and we’ll support him 100 per cent,” Pascoe said.
Pascoe was “completely comfortable to go in with the same group” next season but he was unsure if former Socceroos Joel, 39, and Ryan Griffiths, 37, and keeper Brad Swancott, 39, would play on.
“We’ll give them a week to go away and analyse for themselves where they are at,” he said.
Jaffas finished fourth then gave up the lead twice to lose 3-2 to Edgeworth on Saturday in the deciding semi-final.
Pascoe was disappointed with the result but proud of the effort given the club’s injury toll this season.
“It was just such a massive effort to get there after everything that we went through,” he said.
“We added up the games missed, and there was something like 73 games missed across seven or eight key players for the season.”
He hoped to lift standards again next year at the 2017 champions.
“What this year showed is that the competition is tighter than it’s ever been,” he said.
“Take Edgeworth’s consistency out of it, everyone else is around the same mark, so if you want to go beyond where you’ve been, you’ve got to commit a bit more.
“Are people prepared to do that? If not, find people who are. But in saying that, I’d be completely comfortable to go in with the same group.”
He said the Jaffas’ focus was on a “whole of club plan”, developing more of their own players and promoting from within.
“We have three youth teams, the 13s, 15s and 16s in the finals, so we are starting to get some good kids through,” he said.
“We want to try to bring some of our own players through more readily.
“We're still a way off that because our 18s and 20s haven’t quite been up to scratch yet, but we’re working on those as hard as we are on first grade.”