Culina confident ahead of Coast contest

Despite being written off by many pundits before the Hyundai A-League 2010 Finals Series has even begun, the Newcastle Jets will step onto Skilled Park on Saturday evening brimming with confidence.

Despite being written off by many pundits before the Hyundai A-League 2010 Finals Series has even begun, the Newcastle Jets will step onto Skilled Park on Saturday evening brimming with confidence.

The sudden-death Semi-Final against Gold Coast United is expected to be another backs-to-the-wall effort by the Novocastrians, after key players Michael Bridges and Ben Kantarovski were ruled out during the past week through injury.

However, Head Coach Branko Culina will make the journey north with his troops in buoyant mood with the timely return of Sean Rooney (calf), Nikolai Topor-Stanley (hip), Jobe Wheelhouse (groin), Labinot Haliti (suspension) and Korean import Jin-Hyung Song (hamstring) all adding to the Jets- playing stocks.

Another reason for the self-belief within the Newcastle camp is the Hyundai A-League Finals experience within the squad, with numerous current players being part of the Jets- 2007/08 Championship winning side.

“They might have better-known individuals but I think we-re a better team when we-re all available,” Culina said of the two line-ups.

“I also think that they don-t have what we have; we-ve got Adam D-Apuzzo, Matty Thompson and Tarek Elrich, who have all played in a Championship winning team and in the Finals. I don-t think they have players who have been in that situation, so that will count for something when it comes to Finals football.”

Indeed, the Jets have played in all but one of the five Finals Series since the inception of the Hyundai A-League, a remarkable achievement that only NSW rivals Sydney FC have been able to equal.

During this time players donning the gold jersey of the Hunter-based club have shown heart, determination and a certain resilience that comes from continually carrying the underdog tag, something that Culina believes is a key character trait that could be the difference for his side come Saturday night.

“We know that this is do-or-die. We know that there-s no next week if we don-t get the result. For that reason, with the players that we-ve got, I think you-ll see a much improved performance.”

“We-ll benefit from the last four games because we were hurt, of course we were hurt, I mean one week you-re playing for a top-two (finish) and then three weeks later you-re written off by everyone who thinks you-re just making up the numbers.”

“This is a proud club; this club has bounced back after being written off many times before. That-s one of the things you can-t buy. You can-t buy character, you can-t buy tradition and this club has got that. There are still a number of people here that have been here from pretty much day one and that-s why we-re confident,” the coach stated.