WHEN a young Jason Hoffman set his sights on becoming a professional footballer, the first goal was to play one game for his hometown club.
Hoffman rarely missed a Breakers or Newcastle United match at the ground now called McDonald Jones Stadium.
On Thursday night, Hoffman will run out on the same pitch for his 200th A-League game when Newcastle take on Wellington Phoenix in a clash crucial to the Jets’ flickering finals hopes.
The 30-year-old was focused on Wednesday on helping the Jets bridge the gap to sixth-placed Wellington to five points but he was able to reflect on a career that started in Newcastle ahead of his milestone game.
Hoffman, who also played 80 times for Melbourne City, will become the 28th player to reach 200 A-League appearances.
“Probably when I was 12, I realised I wanted to work hard and try and get one game and if I could be a professional player and play one match, that was obviously the start,” the Hamilton Olympic product said.
“I guess to fast forward 13 seasons now to 200 matches, it’s something I’m really proud of. And I’m proud to say that through the tough times I’ve shown some resilience to reinvent myself and try and give my best for whatever team I’ve played for. Without a doubt, playing for Newcastle has definitely been a highlight of the career.”
Hoffman played 29 games in three seasons with Newcastle before heading to Melbourne. Since returning in 2015-16, he has been a regular for the Jets, playing 25 games in each of the past three seasons and offering utility value as a wide defender or a forward.
He said it would be “absolutely fantastic” to celebrate his 200th game at home playing for Newcastle.
“Before becoming a player for the club, I was a fan,” he said. “I was a massive fan of football in the region and the team at the time, and for me to play for that team … you ride the wins and losses as a player, but for me it hurts a little bit deeper being a fan as well.
“For me to play 200 matches and bring that milestone up at this club is extremely important and something I’m very proud of.”
Hoffman scored last Friday night in the 5-1 rout of Western Sydney Wanderers, which the Jets hope proves a turning point in a season marred by missed chances.
Runners-up last season, Newcastle need to win most of their remaining games to make the top six. The Wellington clash is the first of three in a row at home for the Jets.
“If it wasn’t for people around the club reminding it was 200 games, I wouldn’t have known,” Hoffman said.
“The focus is clearly on the performance first and making sure last week wasn’t just a fluke.
“I guess the hard work we’ve been putting in without the goals, it finally happened last week, so we need to repeat that and make sure we’re ready to go tomorrow night.
“It’s a huge match for the club and if we want to repeat what happened last year and make finals, then this is going to be a match – it won’t be all or nothing – but it will definitely be extremely important in keeping in touch with the top six.”