JASON HOFFMAN has put his hand up to lead the Newcastle Jets’ attack in the absence of hired gun Roy O’Donovan.
The reinvented right back has been one of the standouts of the preseason.
Hoffman has netted consistently, playing centrally and on the left, and is one of three players in the frame to play at the point of the attack in the season-opener against the Wellington Phoenix at Westpac Stadium in just over a fortnight.
Brazilian Jair, whose fitness is improving rapidly, can also play across the front three.
Untried front man Kaine Sheppard has impressed since joining the club two weeks ago. The 24-year-old produced a clinical finish in the 4-0 win over Wanderers last Saturday and is most comfortable playing in a central role.
“Anywhere the coach and the club needs me to play, I will do my job for the cause,” said Hoffman, who signed a contract extension on Tuesday until the end of the 2019-20 season. “If that means playing up top or out wide … I will give 110 per cent like I always do. I enjoy playing up front. No matter where I play I’m confident I can do a job.”
Although playing the majority of his 184 A-League games at right fullback, Hoffman is not foreign to playing at the point of the attack. He was prolific goal-scorer throughout juniors and played up front in an Aaron Mooy-led Young Socceroos at the 2009 FIFA under-20 World Cup in Egypt.
“I started [in the A-League] at age 18 as a striker and played a few years up front,” he said. “Then I enjoyed a pretty good spell as a fullback.”
His return to the front third was instigated last season under Ernie Merrick.
Pushed forward on the right in the round -12 clash against Wanderers, Hoffman scored in a 4-0 triumph.
He went on to finish the campaign with six goals, highlighted by a clinical match-winner against Melbourne City in the preliminary final to book the Jets a place in the decider.
“In a sense it is easier to adjust to a role if you have played it before,” the 29-year-old said.
“Having played a lot of junior football up top, it wasn’t so foreign to me last year when the opportunity came. Early on in my career, I guess, as a younger player you are maybe too desperate to score goals and too desperate to make a mark. Sometimes you can fluff your lines. That happened quite a lot when I first came on to the scene.
“Now, being more mature and comfortable in my own ability and what I bring to the team, it makes you more settled and more capable of producing your best.”
Hoffman has trained predominately as an attacker during the preseason. If the tall flyer doesn’t start the season as the No.9, he is likely to play on the left. Dimi Petratos will occupy the right, with Ronny Vargas as the No.10. And with O’Donovan unavailable until round nine, the Jets are going to need goals.
“To play up front you have to contribute,” Hoffman said. “The coach has always said the boys playing in the front third have to be goalscorers. It is about scoring goals and creating opportunities and, first and foremost, winning games. To win games, you have to score goals.”
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