Elrich takes flight ahead of season opener

Star winger Tarek Elrich's season took off in a thrilling way today thanks to pilot Matt Hall.

A racing heart, butterflies in the stomach and adrenaline coursing through the system.

All of the above are natural feelings for a footballer in the Hyundai A-League before they step onto the pitch in any of the top-class stadiums around the country. Their talent on the field transforms these players into hero figures for thousands of young fans who hope to one day emulate their gallant feats.

Today, Newcastle Jets star Tarek Elrich had the same mind-set that he would on game day, but this time he shed the heroic demeanour for a more nervous and hesitant one. Elrich headed out to Maitland Airport this afternoon to board a private flight with World Air Race Championship pilot, Matt Hall.

Hall, who hails from Newcastle, is a former Royal Australian Air Force fighter pilot and is the only Australian to have ever competed in the death-defying worldwide series. The Merewether resident is currently in fourth place in his maiden season leading into his next race in Budapest, Hungary, and has defied many pundits to become one of the darkhorses for the prestigious title.

In a thirty minute flight, Hall exposed Elrich to rolls, flips, spins and drops as they pulled 3.5 g-s and reached speeds of up to 400 km/h. Needless to say, the talented right-back was pleased to return to terra firma as he and his teammates prepare for the upcoming Hyundai A-League season.

“I feel a bit sick!” he laughed. “That was amazing and something that I can definitely now tick off my to-do list.”

“That was a challenge, it was tough and a good thing to do before the start of the season. It gets your stomach working, and your heart, so I-m sure that I can push my heart to its limits and play with a lot of guts,” joked Elrich.

On a serious note, Elrich and the Jets are looking forward to a fresh start after a disappointing campaign last time out in the Hyundai A-League. But after bringing in a plethora of new faces before the club became only the second Australian side to reach to knockout phase of the AFC Champions League this year, the affable 22-year-old believes that the Hunter club can build on the achievements of the past few months.

“With the disappointing season we had last year, we-ve got a lot to prove. We-ve also got a lot of critics that have backed us to come second-last and last, which happens every year, but we-re out there to prove them wrong.”

“Last season was very difficult but now we-ve got a clean slate and hopefully we can do well and get back to where we were not that long ago.”

A trainee in the inaugural season of the Hyundai A-League and a regular fixture in the Jets- playing roster thereafter, Elrich is mindful of a disturbing statistic heading into this weekend-s home clash against Wellington Phoenix; that Newcastle has not won in round one of a season in four previous attempts. Indeed, Elrich, who this week returns from a long-term groin complaint, plans on leading the charge as the Jets look to improve on their 3 draw, 1 loss opening round record.

“Wellington are a good team, but with us getting a few of our boys back before the game we should be set to get a victory and start off strong for the first time ever in the A-League,” he stated.

The Newcastle Jets take on Wellington Phoenix this Sunday, 9 August at EnergyAustralia Stadium. Tickets for this opening round clash are available from www.proticket.com.au, or by calling (02) 4915 2345.