The Jets coach has turned to youth for the 2012-13 A-League season, controversially disposing of some club favourites in the process
By Dejan Kalinic
Gary van Egmond has swept the broom through the Newcastle Jets, and fan favourites have been shown the door as part of his youth policy.
Full-back Tarek Elrich was the biggest name to depart, after the Jets decided the 25-year-old "no longer fitted into their up-tempo plans".
They had offered the former Australia Under-23 international a new deal - which included a pay cut - in December 2011.Elrich's departure, along with Jeremy Brockie, has overshadowed the signings of several star youngsters.
NEWCASTLE JETS - TURNING TO YOUTH
Mark Birighitti - Adelaide United, age 21
Craig Goodwin - Melbourne Heart, age 20
James Brown - Gold Coast United, age 22
Adam Taggart - Perth Glory, age 18
Scott Neville - Perth Glory, age 23
Josh Brillante - Gold Coast United, age 19
AVERAGE AGE: 20.5
OUTMario Simic - released, age 22
Kasey Wehrman - released, age 34
Jeremy Brockie - Wellington Phoenix, age 24
Tarek Elrich - released, age 25
Byun Sung-Hwan - released, age 32
Matthew Nash - Parramatta FC, age 31
Ali Abbas - released, age 25
Francis Jeffers - released, age 31
AVERAGE AGE: 28
It was the Jets who secured the signature of former Gold Coast United star James Brown, while Mark Birighitti and Craig Goodwin have also joined the Hunter Valley club.
Jets fans have lost a few of their favourites, but already have a handful of players who could easily win them over next season.
Birighitti is a fine goalkeeper and will challenge Ben Kennedy for the No.1 spot, with the former Adelaide United shot-stopper more than a good replacement for Matthew Nash.
Goodwin or Byun Sung-Hwan? Brown or Brockie or Ali Abbas or Francis Jeffers? Scott Neville or Elrich?
There are no easy answers to the questions, and the credit must go to van Egmond for being prepared to make brave decisions.
Based on the 2011-12 campaign, Brockie was undoubtedly the unluckiest to depart the Jets.
The New Zealand international netted nine goals last season but was unable to string together several strong performances, though he has now found a new home at the Wellington Phoenix.
There are still more changes to come at the Jets, who are aiming higher than the mid-table finish they achieved in 2011-12.
Unless Jets fans are prepared to settle for such results, van Egmond should be supported for being ready to try and propel Newcastle back to the top.
If there were others out of contract at Newcastle, van Egmond is likely to have made further changes.
The least the coach deserves is time, and judgments can be made next season about whether he has made the right decisions.
In the half a dozen signings the Jets have made, fans can expect exciting football, particularly from the likes of Goodwin and Brown.
English striker Michael Bridges is negotiating a new deal, and his leadership will help the development of both Brown and Adam Taggart.
The 33-year-old's re-signing would be an indication van Egmond is not putting all the pressure on younger players, and is happy to have senior players who add something to his squad.
The Jets have backed the championship-winning coach to make the changes, and he has signed exciting, young talent that will hold Newcastle in good stead.