LAMBTON Jaffas expect to get Jobe Wheelhouse back on the field against Adamstown on Saturday but plans to bolster their ranks with more former A-League talent this season appear on the back-burner.
Wheelhouse battled through an unhealed broken ankle in the Jaffas’ semi-finals and grand final triumphs last season before having surgery.
He was a surprise addition to the Jaffas bench for Sunday’s 2-1 loss to Charlestown in round four, but he did not take the field.
Coach James Pascoe said Wheelhouse was a late selection after Michael Kantarovski withdrew with a thigh problem, but the former Jets captain was only ever an emergency option in the game, in which Charlestown scored a 94th-minute winner.
Pascoe, though, was expecting Wheelhouse back on the pitch after his strong return to full training last week.
“We did a recovery session last night and Jobe said he’d like to get 30 to 40 minutes in the first team this weekend, so that’s stoked the fire with him sitting on the bench,” Pascoe said on Tuesday.
“He’s looked good at training and there’s certainly nothing wrong structurally with the ankle that he had the repair job on.
“It’s healed well. It’s just his fitness level now and it will take a while to get his match fitness back up.”
Pascoe floated the prospect in pre-season of attracting a retiring A-League player through the NPL campaign.
However, he said rumours that former Jets championship-winning captain Jade North could link with ex-teammates Wheelhouse and Joel Griffiths at Lambton this season were “100 per cent not true”.
North, 36, is off contract at Brisbane Roar, whose season could end this weekend.
“He was one we had tossed around, if he was coming back to town, but he’s no chance, for this season at least,” Pascoe said. “Right now I’m probably leaning towards continuing on with what we’ve got, but still, I’d love a defensive leader.
“We’ll keep our eye out for anyone outside of town coming in, but I’d be happy to finish the season with what we’ve got.”
Lambton, who will lose defender Liam O’Dell after round six, had Luke Remington, Ryan Griffiths and Wheelhouse on the bench on Sunday at Lisle Carr Oval because of injury or fitness concerns.
Pascoe was buoyed by the effort given their injury setbacks.
“We only had four who started on Sunday who started in the grand final, so for me it’s good,” he said.
“It’s good for the depth of the club.
“There’s a couple of boys there in their late teens – Tommy Waller, Dain Greentree. And Marcus Duncan is only young as well.”
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.