Homegrown Newcastle Jets product hoping to follow in hero's footsteps

Not unlike a number of young footballers throughout Newcastle, the Hunter, and Northern NSW, Nicholas Martinelli has looked up to those in Jets colours since he was a boy.

Jets member #5907, Nicholas was sat on the hill watching his heroes train in the days leading up to the club's first ever Hyundai A-League Grand Final back in February 2008.

Then just five years old, Martinelli's hero was Joel Griffiths.

Both eyes were firmly fixed on the striker during that training session more than 10 years ago, and both Nicholas and younger brother Daniel (Jets member #5909) were over the moon to have their photo taken with and a signature from the man himself.

The pair were interviewed by both 1233 ABC Newcastle and by NBN News on the hill that day, telling journalists they only had eyes for Joel Griffiths.

In 2014, when Griffiths rejoined the club for a second stint, the brothers still had posters emblazoned with the famous number nine from those fateful weeks back in '08 adorning the bedroom walls.

Jets Academy U16
Martinelli (back row) with Newcastle's U16 team.

"I saw Nicholas at the presentation night, and his parents were telling me about how he used to come and have his picture taken and chase autographs," Griffiths said.

"He's the only one in the Jets system at the moment, that I know of, that's looked up to me personally as a kid and has gone on to play for the club.

"I like those stories, they're the stories that you want because they're the future. If that kind of thing can contribute to young kids like him coming through and becoming professional players, it's really good.

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"And it's after you finish playing that you recognise just how much those kind of things mean. When you reflect, it's always a nice thing to have kids looking up to you."

For those who have kept a close eye on the junior Newcastle Jets ranks over the years, Nicholas Martinelli might be a familiar name.

He's scored goals in the blue, red, and gold of Newcastle since 2013.

In 2018, Martinelli came into his own with an incredible 33 goals in 25 games for the Jets' U16 side, playing up two years in the NPL Northern NSW U18s competition.

Within those 33 goals throughout 2018 were two four-goal hauls in matches against Edgeworth and Valentine, plus a solitary goal in the 7-1 grand final demolition of Lake Macquarie.

Jets Academy U16
Newcastle's academy team after their NNSW NPL U18 Grand Final win

It's a storm to form so remarkable that it earned the youngster a call-up to train in the Australia youth setup.

Coach of Newcastle's U16s side in 2018 and former Hyundai A-League Golden Boot winner, Daniel McBreen, was full of praise for the way the striker has come on in leaps and bounds this season.

"He's a good player. Holds up the ball well, brings players into play, good in the box," McBreen said.

"Not the fastest player, he won't beat someone one-on-one with pace but he knows that. He's a smart footballer and he plays to his strengths.

"Nick's a really nice kid, he's from a lovely family… he wanted Joel's autograph back when he played at the club, and now he's player of the year."

Martinelli with Jets CEO, Lawrie McKinna
Martinelli with Jets CEO Lawrie McKinna