FOCUSED: Dimi Petratos believes the Jets have more depth in their attack this season. Picture: Jonathan CarrollNewcastle star Dimi Petratos is convinced the Jets can soar a little bit higher and win the A-League this season, despite missing two key strike weapons for the early part of the new campaign.
The Jets were the feel-good story of the 2017/18 season, going all the way to the grand final after finishing bottom the year before.
They prospered despite long term injuries to playmaker Ronald Vargas and striker Roy O’Donovan, and the late-season departure of Andrew Nabbout.
While Newcastle won’t enjoy the same element of surprise as they did at the start of last season, Petratos pointed out they still had success later in the campaign when they were more of a known quantity.
“I’m very confident,” he said.”I think we’ll do our best to replicate last season and go that one step further and try and win it.I believe we can.I think (coach) Ernie (Merrick) has recruited really well with the new players and kept the majority of the team.”
Newcastle head into their season opener away to Wellington Phoenix on Sunday without O’Donovan and promising young forward Joseph Champness.
Irishman O’Donovan still has eight matches of a suspension to serve for catching Melbourne Victory goalkeeper Lawrence Thomas in the face with a boot in thegrand-final loss.
Champness, who enjoyed a breakout season, is expected to miss at least the first two months after suffering fractured foot at training back in August.
Newcastle do have depth in their attacking arsenal having signed Brazilian Jair, Mitch Austin and Kaine Sheppard.Versatile veteran Jason Hoffman has also enjoyed success in a forward role in the pre-season.
Petratos felt they had the flexibility to compensate for the missing attackers.
“It will be difficult but we’ve got certain players that can play in different positions, so I think that’s a little bonus for us,” Petratos said.
He made his Socceroos debut earlier in the year and was chosen in the World Cup squad, though he didn’t get any game time in Russia.
“It was a great experience for me and I can take a lot from that I think to become a better player,” he said.