A-League: Defender shapes up as Jets tackle Aussie 19s

FIGHTING FIT: Jets fullback Daniel Georgievski is expecting the Australian under-19s to "go 120 miles an hour" on Thursday. Picture: Marina Neil
FIGHTING FIT: Jets fullback Daniel Georgievski is expecting the Australian under-19s to "go 120 miles an hour" on Thursday. Picture: Marina Neil

DANIEL Georgievski wasn’t happy with the physical shape he was in when the defender first touched down at the Jets 15 months ago.

The high-octane fullback was not going to make the same mistake, even if that meant doing the hard yards on honeymoon in Cuba.

Georgievski married fiancee Emily in July and they then travelled to Havana.

“Cuba is a different world,” the 30-year-old said. “It is so far back but interesting at the same time.

“I made sure I looked after myself. I didn’t like the way I came in last year on a fitness level. I definitely held my weight and condition. Cuba doesn’t have the best gyms, but I did a lot of running and played beach soccer every day.

“I kept myself busy. We had a program and I stuck to it.”

Georgievski and the Jets program takes another step on Thursday when they take on the Australian under-19s in a friendly at Pluim Park.

The Australian team, which includes Jets utility Angus Thurgate, is preparing for next month’s Asian Championships.

“I think it will be harder [than a normal friendly],” said Georgievski, who is expected to start at left back. “The younger boys always want to go 120 miles an hour. 

“Every team we come across, it is a learning curve for when we play a team similar to it in the league and maybe the Asian Champions League. It’s a chance for us to get more fitness and keep learning.”

The match is also an opportunity for trialists Mitch Austin, Kaine Sheppard, Ryan Scott and Lewis Italiano to press their claims.

Austin, who is in his third week at the Jets, received a positive medical report on the knee he had reconstructive surgery on 10 months ago and appears set to be offered a contract.

Sheppard, who has scored 14 goals in 20 games for Avondale in the Victorian National Premier League, and keepers Italiano and Scott are expected to play at least half a game. A number of the Jets youth team players will also get game time.

The Jets also have hit outs against Sydney FC and Western Sydney locked in this month.

Georgievski said coach Ernie Merrick has “tweaked things” after their rise last season – jumping from the cellar in 2016-17 to second place and a grand final berth.

“We have been together a year but we are still learning,” the fullback said.

“Going one step higher than last year is a goal for myself and the whole club. Winning the league would be something you never forget. Now everyone believes [we can do it]. From last year to this year, that is the only change.”

The Jets were outsiders at the start of last season, but given their success and the new-found stability, expectations have risen.

“When you perform well in any league in the world, that is how it is,” Georgievski said. “It will be a bit different this year.  The extra pressure is understandable. That comes with the territory. We have tweaked our game and you have to. Newcastle are the team people want to beat now.”