The more things change, the more things stay the same.
It’s a common phrase which could well apply to Jason Hoffman, who this weekend brings up his 100th match in Newcastle colours.
It’s a career which has taken many twists and turns – Hoffman began as a striker in Newcastle, winning a championship – before a move to Melbourne and the backline.
And while 2018, has seen Hoffman primarily play at the back, injuries in the squad have forced a move to the frontline at various times where he has struck some telling blows.
The only piece of the puzzle missing from a career which has come full circle, is another Championship.
Born and bred in Newcastle, Hoffman is a Hunter product through and through, developing primarily through Hamilton Olympic.
It was in 2007 though when his career, exited the hanger and rolled onto the runway. Championship winning coach, Gary Van Egmond gave Hoffman his debut start in round two of the 07-08 season and immediately liked what he saw.
The very next week the Jets travelled across the ditch to Wellington and the then 18-year old started for the first time in the A-League.
Although, it was only one of three starts in his debut season, Hoffman had the crucial A-League experience he needed regularly playing in 30 minutes stints off the bench.
“He was a mouse! He didn’t say too much, but he had a very good attitude. We all knew he was a great athlete,” former Jet and current Newcastle Jets Football Operations Manager, Joel Griffiths said.
“He would have learnt a lot from that [Championship winning] year.”
On that famous afternoon in February 2008, Hoffman provided spark from the bench as Newcastle won their only Championship to date.
But, just as Hoffman’s career looked set to soar, he battled injuries over the next two seasons and was restricted to just 14 appearances, before a chance to move down south to the newly formed Melbourne Heart (now City) opened up.
After plying his trade in Melbourne for a couple of seasons he became a first-team regular before former Jets coach Scott Miller brought Hoffman back to his hometown club, where he became one of Newcastle’s most consistent performers.
To put that into context, Hoffman has missed just seven out of 77 matches since returning to the Jets, starting in all but three of his 70 appearances.
This season under Ernie Merrick, Hoffman has blossomed, playing in various roles across the park and it has been a change in mind-set which Merrick feels has helped.
“Jason has never really reached his full potential, but, he is beginning to show what he can do now,” Merrick says.
“He is an athlete, he’s quick, he has got huge endurance and can take on heavy workloads during matches. I just felt as though he was operating in the wrong areas and he needed to have a much positive outlook to his approach to the game.
“If he does something well Jason thinks he is lucky and he is not good at patting himself on the back, I just felt he needed to not only be patted on the back by me for what he does well, but he needs to pat himself on the back occasionally.
“He doesn’t realise how good he is technically and tactically.”
With five goals already in 2018, Hoffman has almost doubled his entire A-League account in one season, having scored six goals across his ten previous seasons.
Merrick says it is fantastic to see a local player having such an impact on and off the park.
“He’s a home-grown Newcastle boy and that’s great for the development of the club, it’s great to give home grown players an opportunity.”
While he raises the bat this weekend for his 100th Jets appearances, a historic double century of A-League appearances approaches and is just 20 matches away.
At 29, Hoffman is like a fine-wine – getting better with age – and he is showing no signs of slowing down.
By the numbers:
- 7th Most Capped A-League Player in Newcastle Jets History - 99
- 8th Highest Goalscorer in Newcastle Jets History - 11
- Championship Player – 2007/08