An unique piece of Hyundai A-League history has today been reached as Newcastle Jets custodian Ben Kennedy celebrates a decade to the day since his debut in the competition.
Kennedy will soon enter his 12th season of service for the Jets in the Hyundai A-League - a Club the former Australian youth international joined as an apprentice in 2005.
Kennedy graduated to the Jets' professional ranks in season two of the Hyundai A-League following the respective departures of Liam Reddy and Andy Petterson from the Club.
But it was in the first match of the 2006/07 campaign that the locally born and raised shot-stopper made his Hyundai A-League bow.
On a cold, wet day at North Harbour Stadium in New Zealand on August 27 2006, Kennedy kept his first of 25 clean sheets in the Hyundai A-League in a game that ended nil-all between the now defunct New Zealand Knights and the Jets.
Since his Hyundai A-League entrance in Auckland Kennedy has made 127 competitive appearances for Newcastle - 114 in the Hyundai A-League, five (5) in the AFC Champions League, two (2) in the Westfield FFA Cup, and six (6) in the old Pre-Season Cup.
Kennedy ranks fourth on the Club’s all time appearance list and will forever hold the honour of being the first gloveman to keep his goal intact on his Hyundai A-League debut for Newcastle.
29-year-old Kennedy is currently in China with Scott Miller’s squad on the Club’s three-match pre-season tour, and may play against Liaoning Whowin FC in a friendly at Huludao City Stadium tonight - though Jack Duncan is also an option for the team between the sticks for the Jets.
Speaking following training in Huludao on Friday, Kennedy reminisced about his first match in the Hyundai A-League for his hometown Club.
“It seems such a long time ago that I made my debut over in New Zealand, and I never thought that I would last ten years in the league so I am very honoured to be able to do so and especially for my hometown club,” Kennedy said.
“From memory it was a bit wet and chilly. But in my first A-League game it was good to get a clean sheet, and it [Auckland] was probably a good place to make my debut - there was not much of a crowd.”
“Clean sheets are hard to come by so to get one on debut was pretty special - that is probably my biggest memory from that day.”
Returning to China on the Club’s current pre-season tour has also rekindled AFC Champions League memories for Kennedy from 2009.
“The Champions League was very special [and] I was lucky enough to play five games, so it was a big honour to represent the Club and the [Hyundai] A-League in the Champions League,” he said. “We were the second [Hyundai A-League] side to get through from the group stage, so that was a big honour and something we can hopefully get back into in the next couple of years.”
Kennedy said that despite a long transit from Newcastle to Huludao in China’s north, plus just the one day of light training ahead of tonight’s match with Liaoning Whowin FC, the Jets are in good spirits and are focused on putting in a good performance against the Chinese Super League outfit.
“Everyone is positive and we’re looking forward to it,” he said. “No doubt they’ll be a tough opponent - they’re in the Chinese Super League so we are expecting a tough hit out, but all the boys are focused and ready for it and just raring to get out there.”
Newcastle Jets will face Liaoning Whowin FC in Huludao, China, this evening. Kick-off is at 7:30pm local time (9:30pm AEST).