It’s a sombre time for New Zealanders both at home and abroad after the horrific events in Christchurch some eleven days ago.
For Matt Ridenton, returning to his native homeland this Saturday for the second time as a Newcastle Jet, it’s been a period which has had a profound effect.
As the nation has banded together, with the support of the world behind them, the young Kiwi midfielder has spoken about the reflection and reaction of the near-fortnight since.
“It was a massive shock for me as a New Zealander. We pride ourselves on how safe it is as a country, so to have something happen like that was terrible and it hit a lot of people quite hard,” Ridenton said.
“The way the country has reacted and everyone there has supported each other has been awesome to see, and something that makes you proud to be a Kiwi when you see something like that.
“I believe the All Whites futsal goalkeeper was one of the victims, so even the football community has been directly affected by the tragedy and it really was a sad week for everyone in New Zealand in general.
“It shows that, at times, it is just a game and it’s something that can be used as a platform to support everyone in and around the community. Wellington did a great job of that, showing New Zealand’s support.”
And while it is just a game, this weekend against Wellington Phoenix is as crucial a game as ever for the Newcastle Jets who are in need of all three points to maintain the rage in the hunt for a spot in the top six.
Following defeat at the hands of the Mariners in Round 22, the equation has become more difficult for the Jets with five points still separating the Jets from sixth place.
With five games remaining, points at every stage count more than ever and as a direct contender for a spot in the six, Wellington is a team from whom the Jets will need to take all three points.
One area which hasn’t proved as fruitful this season as it did in the last is the goals scored column, and that has been a focus in training during the international break.
“Every game for us now is pretty much a must win. We’re chasing that top six, and at the moment the goal for us is to score goals,” Ridenton said.
“We’re not going to win these games if we’re not scoring goals, and that’s probably been our downfall this season is not putting teams away when we have the chances, and then being caught out.
“If we can score some goals early against Wellington and put them under pressure, that suits our game a bit more.”
The midfield is an area where the Jets boast a lot of depth despite the likely absence of Ronny Vargas due to an aggravation of a hamstring injury in training this week.
Even with the Venezuelan’s absence, Ernie Merrick can still call on almost half a dozen men to do a job in the centre of the park.
The return of Ben Kantarovski from injury presents direct competition to Ridenton ahead of Saturday in Wellington, but it’s a challenge that he and his fellow midfielders welcome.
“It always keeps you going, it’s good to have that competition,” Ridenton said.
“Kanta has been out for a few weeks, but it’ll be good to have him back. I think he brings something a little bit different for us, and to have his experience around the squad and at training is good as well.
“Hopefully Ronny will be back soon, and he can add some X-factor in the final third for us. There’s me, Steve [Ugarkovic], and Nick [Cowburn] in there as well so that’s good competition for all of us.”