BY his own admission, Jets tall timber Lachy Jackson had hoped to be a regular starter in the A-League by now.
But the 24-year-old centreback is adamant that Newcastle is the best environment for his development - even if he is stuck behind iron men Nigel Boogaard and Nikolai Topor-Stanley.
Jackson will again begin the season as a back-up centre half, a role he has filled since arriving in Newcastle four seasons ago.
With a new Melbourne team entering the competition and other clubs in the hunt for defenders, Jackson could have increased his chances of a regular first-team spot by leaving Newcastle.
However, he inked a two-year extension in January and is determined to increase the 16 appearances a season he has averaged.
"I didn't play as many games as I would have liked to last season," Jackson said. "I want to cement a place and start every game. Hopefully this season, I can play a lot more and really help the boys push up the table and get into the finals."
Boogaard is off contract at the end of the season but has no intention of retiring, while Topor-Stanley is signed until the end of the 2020-21 campaign.
Rather than bide his time, Jackson intends to push the senior players for a place in the start side.
"I have played close to 70 games which is enough to keep developing," he said. "I want to play as much as I can. It's frustrating at times. The experienced boys at the back are my two main rivals to get a gig. I'll be pushing them as hard as I can."
Topor-Stanley and Boogaard have amassed 533 A-League games between them and led most of the key defensive statistics in the competition last year.
"The senior boys here are very professional in the way they prepare for training and recover," Jackson said.
"That is key to staying in the game as long as possible. A lot of boys here have had 10-plus years in the game. That is the reason why they are here and why they play week-in week-out."
Jackson started in midfield, before switching to left fullback and finally left stopper in the 10-2 win over the Young Socceroos on Saturday.
"Ernie (Merrick) wants me to be versatile and I am more than willing to play anywhere," Jackson said. "Wherever I am needed, I will play. I would love to be in the middle of defence but on the park is on the park."
The Jets have the bye in the opening round of the A-League which kicks of this weekend. They begin their campaign away to the Mariners in round two.
"It was good to get the Young Socceroos game in before the start of the season." Jackson said. "It was really positive that we were clinical up front. Going into the season it is nice when your front players are firing and bagging a lot of goals."