With more than 170 Hyundai A-League appearances to his name, Nick Fitzgerald is counted amongst the experienced brigade in Australian football.
Given his professional debut was made for the Central Coast Mariners at age 17 however, the attacker is very much in the prime of his career.
Now aged 27, Fitzgerald has played at an array of clubs throughout Australia under some of the country’s biggest coaching names – Graham Arnold and Ange Postecoglou amongst them.
However, it was the football which current Jets boss, Ernie Merrick, likes his sides to play that was one of the main pulls for Fitzgerald’s signature.
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“I think it’s obviously the football team and the style of play that Ernie likes to play was attractive to me and Ernie was happy to bring me in, he thought I’d suit the style of play so that was a driving factor,” Fitzgerald said.
“I’ve been keeping a close eye on Newcastle and the way they play the last couple of years.
“I think they’ve been fantastic, really entertaining to watch, and it’s just about trying to get that style of play and the results with it as well.
“It’s also a great place to live, fantastic for my family, so those two factors were the strongest for me to come to Newcastle.”
There are also a number of familiar faces around the Club for Fitzgerald, who started pre-season training on Monday with the rest of the squad.
He played much of his junior football with two key turns in the Jets squad – Dimi Petratos and Ben Kantarovski.
The early days at the Central Coast Mariners back in 2009/10 also saw him cross paths with current Jets captain, Nigel Boogaard.
While he’s familiar with a number of the more experienced heads around the Club, Fitzgerald is looking forward to playing with such a diverse squad.
“Ernie’s done it really well, mixing youth and experience,” Fitzgerald said.
“You’ve got experienced players like Hoffy and Nikolai Topor-Stanley, Nigel Boogaard, and they’ve mixed it in with some exciting young talents.
“I’m looking forward to working with the likes of Joey Champness, I think he’s a fantastic prospect and someone who can really take his game to the next level.”
Competition is strong in the areas which Fitzgerald likes to play, with a number of quality players in similar positions across the front third.
The likes of Joey Champness, Dimi Petratos, Matt Millar, Jason Hoffman, Angus Thurgate, and Kosta Petratos are amongst those whom Fitzgerald will be looking to build partnerships with as the pre-season progresses.
The attacker is confident he can bring plenty to the side though – and is aiming high.
“My first priority is to get myself into the starting line-up, because it’s a very competitive squad, and I know what kind of qualities I can bring to the team,” Fitzgerald said.
“It’s just about me bringing those qualities and trying to get Newcastle back into the finals, and who knows, we could win a championship this year.”