Culina's young-guns ready for battle

The youthful charge of the Jets prepare to take on the Mariners in the first F3 derby of the new season.

The latest chapter of the ever-compelling F3 derby will be written this Friday night when the Newcastle Jets travel south to take on local rivals the Central Coast Mariners.

On the back of a historic victory over Wellington Phoenix last Sunday, the Jets will once again be gunning for all three points when they arrive at Bluetongue Stadium tomorrow evening. And, again, the young-guns of the Jets will be looking to lead the charge.

Last weekend, Jason Hoffman bagged a first-half brace against Ricki Herbert-s men, while Sean Rooney delivered a pin-point cross for striker Jason Naidovski to head home the winner in the thrilling 3-2 triumph.

As the relatively new Head Coach of a club with a strong record of producing some of the nation-s finest young talent, Branko Culina has today described the Jets as being “blessed” with a crop of gifted youngsters.

“That-s why we-re all excited at the club about the future - irrespective of what happened last year, or what may even happen this year - there is a real bright future for this club when you look at the players that played on the weekend,” explained Culina.

“You had Sean Rooney, Jason Naidovski, Jason Hoffman and Chris Triantis on and then you have Ben Kantarovski and Marko Jesic still to come in. So there-s probably six guys about 20-years-old or so who are all very, very talented,” he said.

After recently returning from a knee reconstruction which kept him out of the majority of the Hyundai A-League 2008/09 season, Naidovski is now making every post a winner in his return to the field. The towering 20-year-old scored during last month-s tour of Argentina with the Qantas Young Socceroos, and after scoring his first goal in the Hyundai A-League last Sunday, Naidovski is brimming with confidence heading into tomorrow-s derby.

Today, he revealed that he has also gained great self-belief in playing alongside some of the friends of his youth, including his best-mate Rooney.

“Sean said he didn-t have to look up because he knew I was in there,” Naidovski said of the lead-up to his winner.

“We-ve all come up through the NSWIS programs where (Jets Assistant Coach) Mark Jones has coached us when we were young and he-s got us here now.”

“So we basically know each other-s game like the back of our hand, which is a good thing that we can bring to the team. In that sense, it-s a lot easier playing with guys that you-ve grown up with since you were young,” he said.

As well as having been coached by Jones throughout their youth, the prodigious talents also had contact with Culina during their formative years as footballers, as the Jets- new mentor explained at this afternoon-s pre-game press conference.

“I was very fortunate to know these guys when they were 14-15 because I was Technical Director of Football NSW.”

“It-s a credit to the club that they have chosen to go that way, and it-s good to see that Mark Jones and the coaching staff were able to identify these youngsters at an early age. It makes it easier for myself now to be able to coach them because they have been well coached up to now,” he said.

Whilst it-s clear to see the bright futures that lay ahead of the Jets- band of babes, there-s no doubt that their sights, as well as those of Culina, will be firmly fixed on tomorrow evening-s local derby and the potential of making it two wins from as many starts.

Match Details: Friday, 14 August 2009 Central Coast Mariners v Newcastle Jets Bluetongue Stadium, Gosford Local kick-off 8.00pm Referee: Ben Williams

Live & exclusive broadcast on Fox Sports 3 and Sky Sports 1. Hyundai A-League club broadcast partner is Coast FM 96.3 (Gosford). To purchase tickets visit www.ticketek.com.au

Central Coast Mariners squad: 1. Andrew REDMAYNE (gk), 4. Pedj BOJIC, 5. Brad PORTER, 7. John HUTCHINSON, 8. Dean HEFFERNAN, 9. Nik MRDJA, 11. Dylan MACALLISTER, 14. Michael MCGLINCHEY, 16. Nigel BOOGAARD, 18. Alex WILKINSON (c), 19. Matt SIMON, 20. Danny VUKOVIC (gk), 21. Ahmad ELRICH, 22. Nicky TRAVIS, 23. Adam KWASNIK

In: Nik MRDJA (promoted)

Out: Chris DOIG (calf)

Unavailable: Shane HUKE (knee - 4/5 weeks)

Newcastle Jets squad: 1. Ben KENNEDY (gk), 2. Angelo COSTANZO, 3. Adam D-APUZZO, 4. Nikolai TOPOR-STANLEY, 5. Ljubo MILICEVIC, 7. Jin-Hyung SONG, 8. Matt THOMPSON (c), 9. Sasho PETROVSKI, 11. Tarek ELRICH, 15. Sean ROONEY, 16. Jason HOFFMAN, 17. Fabio VIGNAROLI, 19. Jason NAIDOVSKI, 20. Neil YOUNG (gk), 24. Chris TRIANTIS

In: Nil

Out: Nil

Unavailable: 6. Ben KANTAROVSKI (knee - 2 weeks), 10. Donny DE GROOT (knee - indefinite), 12. Jobe WHEELHOUSE (ankle - indefinite), 13. Shaun ONTONG (groin - 2 weeks), 18. Marko JESIC (knee - indefinite), 22. Kaz PATAFTA (back - indefinite)

*Head-to-Head: All matches (played 17): Central Coast Mariners wins 5, Newcastle Jets wins 6 (6 draws). In Gosford (played 8): Central Coast Mariners wins 3, Newcastle Jets wins 1 (4 draws)