A mentally and physically refreshed Newcastle Jets first team squad hit the training track at Ray Watt Oval at the University of Newcastle on Monday eager to put their best foot forward in the race for a place in the Hyundai A-League Finals Series.
With round 23 of the competition being split the Jets enjoyed a weekend off from match play for the first time since early October, giving the players a chance to refocus ahead of the last five rounds of the regular season.
The Jets will play Melbourne City - whom they defeated 2-1 in their last meeting back in round 17 in Coffs Harbour - at AAMI Park on Saturday night.Captain Nigel Boogaard spoke with local media shortly after the conclusion of Monday’s session, and said that the squad had returned “switched on”.
“We obviously had the weekend off (from matches) with the split round,” Boogaard explained. “I think a few boys have felt the impact of consecutive games, so it was good for them to be able to regenerate.”
“Everyone was firing (and) although today was slightly lighter because it was the first day back you could see that there was a real push there, a real competitiveness and a real desire to make sure that everybody is ready for the game.”
“For us it (the split round) was about refreshing not only physically but mentally and making sure that we really come back this week switched on, ready to go down there and do a job.”
“We need to make sure that we give these last five games a really good crack (and) hopefully by the end of it we can look back and we are in the six and we have done something special this year,” he said.
Boogaard and co. put in an immense performance the last time the Jets faced Melbourne City in Coffs Harbour.
Keeping the likes of Tim Cahill, Bruno Fornaroli and Nicolas Colazo quiet is no easy task, however as a unit the Jets managed to frustrate what is ordinarily one of the Hyundai A-League’s most formidable frontlines.
Boogaard knows the same desperation, commitment and execution will be required on Saturday evening.
“There was a desperation from individuals defensively, but also a willingness to go forward and try and score,” he said. “We were clinical when we did get opportunities.”
“We know we can play even better than that and I think we have proven that in other games. We are confident that if we go down there and execute our game plan than we’ll come away with a result.”
“We know what’s at stake. We know that it’s important for us to make the six this year and everyone is pushing in the same direction.”
While the emphasis at training on Monday was understandably on Saturday’s match in Melbourne, Jets players and staff also had the opportunity to receive a skin check as part of the PFA’s (Professional Footballers Australia) Kick Out Skin Cancer Campaign.
In partnership with leading melanoma detection organisation MoleMap Australia, all Hyundai A-League and Westfield W-League based players will undergo skin checks each season.
Boogaard - who is a member of the PFA Executive - said it was good to see the player’s union, clubs and competition caring about the health of the players.
“We play through the summer period and obviously we’re out here every day training in the sun, sometimes in some pretty extreme condition,” Boogaard said.
“Today we’ve got the MoleMap people here giving all the boys a compulsory skin check, and it’s great to see that our health is a priority not only for the Club, but the PFA and the (Hyundai) A-League.”
“Every day at training the boys go through a routine to make sure that they have got sunscreen on,” he said.
Melbourne City FC vs. Newcastle Jets FC - Hyundai A-League 2016/17 Round 23
When: Saturday 18 March 2017
Where: AAMI Park, Melbourne
Kick-off: 7:50pm (AEDT)
TV Broadcast: Watch LIVE on FOX SPORTS 505
Radio Broadcast: Listen LIVE on 1233 ABC Newcastle
Tickets: Please click here to purchase match tickets
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