Merrick: Koutroumbis and Champness progressing towards Newcastle comebacks

Newcastle Jets could soon receive a double boost with sidelined youngsters Johnny Koutroumbis and Joe Champness both closing in on a return to action.

Koutroumbis has rejoined his team-mates in training since undergoing surgery on his cancerous thyroid gland.

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Champness is also back in the mix after overcoming a fractured foot and coach Ernie Merrick is pleased with the pair's progress.

"Johnny is recovering really well," Merrick said.

"And Joey's bone in his foot has fully healed, now it's about getting really fit.

"We're making sure we don't push either of them too hard. It's progressive, but they're well on their way to recovery."

Joey Champness


Newcastle registered their first point of the season in Friday's draw away to Adelaide United and next host a Melbourne Victory side that has lost each of their opening two games.

Merrick, however, is putting little stock into those results, and has shunned any thought of using last season's Grand Final defeat to Kevin Muscat's men as a motivational tool.

"Victory as usual have signed a lot of high-quality players so it's going to be an exciting game," he said.

"Hopefully it will be a more open game than the last two, which suits us.

"We're pretty keen to play at home against Victory and it's not a revenge game.

"It's about taking three points in every match and getting into the Finals Series and taking it from there. I'm not big on this emotional revenge stuff."

Meanwhile, the Jets have signed young Newcastle locals Noah James and Jack Simmons to fresh scholarship terms.

James, 17, already trains with the first-team on a permanent basis and provides goalkeeping depth on a one-year contract, while midfielder Simmons has inked a three-year deal with the club he joined as a nine-year-old.

"Noah and Jack have both been around the first team for a while now, and they've got what it takes to play at that level," Merrick said.

"Noah trains with us every day and really pushes both Lewis [Italiano] and Mossy [Glen Moss] to their limits, while Jack is an option anywhere throughout the midfield and keeps the boys on their toes.

"It's good to have young blood in the team, the two boys are lucky enough to have plenty of talented individuals to look up to within the squad and they deserve these contracts."