Merrick set to give youth a chance


Youth will be given a chance to shine across the next four weeks with Ernie Merrick keen to cast an eye toward the future.

With a majority of the squad signed and finals football an unlikely prospect at this juncture, the boss wants to see what the younger contingent can do.

Changes on the bench and potentially further alterations to the starting XI could mean a swathe of others also see minutes.

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Up against Western Sydney at home this Saturday afternoon, he’s already indicated there’ll be an elevation to the starting XI for at least one youngster.

“Joey Champness is definitely pushing for a starting spot,” Merrick said.

Joey Champness

“To miss him for 14 weeks, I think he got five goals last year and that was mainly off the bench. He’s pushing for a starting spot, and so is Gus [Thurgate].

“Angus has been going really well, Jack Simmons is a very talented under 17 international and he’s got a big future ahead of him as well.”

Named in his first ever extended Hyundai A-League squad earlier in the season against Melbourne City but cut from the gameday squad, Jack Simmons would be the third-youngest debutante ever for the Jets should he play this weekend.

The midfielder has recently seen minutes for Australia with the U-17 squad, but he’s not the only one who has spent time with a national team set-up.

Joey Champness, Johnny Koutroumbis, and Ivan Vujica have each just returned from a fortnight in Cambodia with the Olyroos squad.

Matt Ridenton

Matt Ridenton featured in the last New Zealand squad which played a trio of matches in June last year, while Angus Thurgate also spent time with an Australia U-20s side in October.

“The focus is, we’ve got four games to play, we’ll be looking at some youngsters,” Merrick said.

“We’ve got 17 players signed, out of those 17 the average age is pretty young, and up-and-coming.

“There are some quality players, we need to add to those, we’ve already signed Matt Millar who has the highest amount of goal assists in the league, so we’ve got a good up and coming young team.

“To have 17 players to coach for another year and build on that, I think we’re in a good position and there’s a lot of good, young talent here… our bench will change slightly to give them a chance.”