Young Talent Time

Young friends and teammates JASON HOFFMAN and JASON NAIDOVSKI is giving new hope to Newcastle Jets this season

Young friends and teammates JASON HOFFMAN and JASON NAIDOVSKI is giving new hope to Newcastle Jets this season

The off-season departure of Joel Griffiths on loan to Beijing had many thinking the make-up of Newcastle Jets- team would fall apart, but out of the shadows have two names have appeared as those that could carry the strike force for the steel city.

Take a look at the match summary from Newcastle-s opening round fixture against Wellington Phoenix and you-ll see who they are. Just two names are recorded for Jets-s three goals: Jason Hoffman and Jason Naidovski.

New coach Branko Culina showed his faith in the two 20-year-olds and it paid dividends. After Hoffman had slotted the first two goals for his side in the round one match, Naidovski came on to put away the third with just six minutes left in the game. It was a winning combination.

“We pretty much know each other-s games like the back of our hands,” Naidovski says. “We-ve played with each other since we were young so it-s good to know someone who knows how you play and you know how he plays. “It makes things a lot easier, especially on the field.”

The two youngsters went through the New South Wales Institute of Sport (NSWIS) together and have a big year in front of them - first with the Jets, then at the Youth World Cup in just a month-s time.

“It-s a big year for a couple of the young boys in this team and also in the league with the Youth World Cup in Egypt in mid-September,” Hoffman says.

“National team duties give you that extra spark to do well every day you go to the training park.”

A Newcastle local, Hoffman found the transition to the A-League franchise quite easy, but knowing someone in a professional setup can make things smoother too. Naidovski had the help of his friend, but also Jets assistant coach Mark Jones, who both had played under during their days at NSWIS.

“It-s easier for me being a local boy… but when you go into a professional setup, often as a young player, you can be a bit edgy,” Hoffman explains.

“To have your mates - someone like Jason who I-ve known for years who also plays the same position - we can learn things together and it just helps with the initiation process of settling into the A-League.

Hoffman and Naidovski hope to emulate the feats of another of their NSWIS teammates, and a former Jet, too.

James Holland, who made his Socceroos debut last year against Singapore, left Newcastle at the start of January to join Dutch club AZ Alkmaar. After two years plying his trade in the A-League, he signed a four-and-a-half year deal with the current Eredivisie champions.

“Me, Jason, James were all in the NSWIS together under Mark Jones,” says Hoffman. “James has had a really good last season or two. He excelled really quickly, played really well for the Jets and then went overseas.

“I think the World Cup with me and Jase (Naidovski) and the other young boys, it-s a really good opportunity for us to go and get some valuable experience with the national setup and come back from that into the clubs and hopefully do really well and finish the season strong.

“Hopefully by that time we-ll be playing regularly and (have) cemented a spot in the Jets XI and we-re in the finals series. And hopefully we can do what we did two years ago where we won the title.”

The person deciding those starting positions and helping to nurture the next crop of young Jets guns is Branko Culina. While Culina-s Newcastle coaching career may still be in its infancy, Naidovski believes he has already had an impact on his game.

“Branko-s been really good, he-s been really positive towards us young players - giving us a clean slate,” Naidovski says.

“He-s not been babying us, but just looking after us and making sure that when we do step out on to the field, we-re ready and we can produce for him, which I think is a good thing.

“As a young player, you don-t want to be thrown out in the deep end; you want to make sure he-s ready. By Branko just talking to us and giving us positive vibes around the joint, it-s making us take the positive actions out onto the field.”

For Hoffman, it-s Culina-s ability to express what he wants from players that is helping him achieve his potential on the pitch.

“(Branko-s) really good with his people skills and he knows how to get a message across and boost the confidence in the whole team. On a personal note, Branko-s been really good to me. He-s worked on composure in front of goal that has often been a thing I-ve struggled with because I-ve gotten in good positions, but haven-t put it in the net.

“Starting with the Wellington game, Branko said to do repetition at training and it paid off in that first game and I got two goals, so I-m hoping that continues and Branko continues to show faith in the young guys and hopefully we can repay his faith back.”