Labi Haliti has a Foxtel Y-League campaign under his belt, and on Thursday night he’ll oversee his first NPL Northern NSW match as head coach.
After completing his apprenticeship under the watchful eye of ex-Mariners boss, Lawrie McKinna, Haliti has lofty hopes for 2019.
The Jets best ever finish in the competition is first place, all the way back in 2014 when they went out in the Preliminary Final to Lambton Jaffas.
Since then, the Jets haven’t cracked the top four but with the quality amongst the ranks, could this year be their best shot since that stunning 2014 run?
In 2018, the Jets Youth finished in seventh place with 24 points. They started the season strong, with four wins and a draw in their first six matches.
Trips to Asia for the Weifang Cup and the Hong Kong Soccer Sevens hurt the domestic ambitions of the young side, but with development a big focus of the side they’re valuable trips to take.
“100% worthwhile, you play against different types of players, set-ups, cultures, different everything,” coach, Labi Haliti said.
“It’s another learning step for the young players in their development and movement into their professional careers, if we can have that every year then it’s brilliant.
“We’re hoping to have it again, and it’s just another step in that process of young boys learning what professional football is like.”
The squad is one which has seen minimal turnover - promotion from within has boosted the numbers but the core of last year’s squad remains.
There’s quality there too, proven Hyundai A-League quality. Angus Thurgate is the biggest name in the squad, with league and continental minutes under his belt so far in the 2018/19 campaign.
Joining him are Pat Langlois, Jack Simmons, and Noah James – three players who train regularly with the first team and have been named in Hyundai A-League squads this season.
The young players coming through from Ben Hughes’ U/18s side will also be keen to stand up and impress, with the likes of Bailey Wells and Sam Donellan promoted into the most senior Youth team.
“We don’t want to chop and change every six months, and we’ve tried to keep the core of the NYL team together for the NPL campaign,” Haliti said.
“Compared to last year’s NPL side there have been a few changes – boys going out, and we’ve promoted from within – but it’s largely still the same group.
“The quality is there. Gus [Thurgate] will be with us, he’s in the 20-man squad, so we’ll be guided by the first team with him but it’s good to have him and it’s good for the boys in the team to have someone like him around.
“Playing NPL is very important for these boys in their development, obviously there are a few training in that highly professional first team environment with good players and coaching around them.”
They proved over the course of the 2018 NPL Northern NSW season that they can match it with the big hitters – wins over sides like Hamilton and Charlestown are proof of that.
The NPL Northern NSW isn’t an easy competition though, with the race for the top four always an enthralling one and the likes of local heavyweights Edgeworth Eagles and Broadmeadow Magic to compete with.