NEWCASTLE Jets are expecting Central Coast to reinstate disgruntled midfielder Andrew Hoole for Saturday's F3 derby at McDonald Jones Stadium.
Hoole, the 25-year-old Broadmeadow Magic junior who launched his A-League career with the Jets, was dropped last week by the Mariners after a series of disciplinary breaches, including two reported no-shows at training.
Central Coast proceeded to cop an 8-2 hiding from Wellington that prompted the sacking of coach Mike Mulvey, and Mulvey's replacement, Alen Stajcic, has indicated his tenure will kick off with a "clean slate".
That could mean a recall for Hoole, who with four goals in 18 games this season has been one of the Mariners' better players.
Newcastle's assistant coach Clayton Zane, who has worked closely with Hoole at both youth-team and A-League level, said he would be surprised if the former Australian under-23 representative did not feature somewhere in Central Coast's line-up.
"I spent a lot of time working with Andrew, so I know him well, and I know what he's capable of," Zane said.
"I actually think he's a really big talent, and I would imagine any coach who comes in promising to start with a clean slate would want him in their team.
"We're expecting him to play.
"Players like Hooley and Connor Pain, who were apparently on the outer a week ago, they're probably good enough to be in their first team.
"Especially Hooley, it's a big opportunity for him, firstly playing against his old club, and also to show that he's worthy of another contract."
Hoole was considered one of Newcastle's emerging prospects when he debuted for the club as a 19-year-old.
But after three seasons, he was poached by Sydney FC, only to return to his home town a year later.
He played 26 games for Newcastle in 2016-17 and was the club's No.1 retention target, only for a two-year offer to be taken off the table because of a disagreement over a capped transfer-fee clause.
He was released and linked with the Mariners, for whom he has played 41 games in two seasons, scoring eight goals.
Zane described Saturday's derby as "a dangerous game" for Newcastle, who desperately need three points against the competition cellar dwellers to keep their finals hopes flickering.
Should Newcastle win, and other results this weekend fall in their favour, the Jets could be back within two points of fourth position on the competition ladder, with five games to play.
Zane said the Mariners would be striving to "impress the new coach", so it was important for Newcastle to "get on top early" against their traditional rivals.
The Jets are chasing a record sixth consecutive win against Central Coast, who are last by eight points and at short odds to collect their second wooden spoon in as many seasons.