REGARDLESS of whether skipper Nigel Boogaard is cleared to return from injury, Lachlan Jackson hopes he has presented Newcastle Jets coach Ernie Merrick with a selection quandary.
Jackson spent the first three games of the season biding his time behind Boogaard and fellow veteran Nikolai Topor-Stanley - the A-League's most experienced central-defensive pairing.
The 24-year-old was finally given some game time in last weekend's 1-all draw against Perth, which Boogaard missed because of a groin problem.
The captain has resumed training and hopes to be considered for Saturday's clash with Western United in Geelong, but if he is unavailable Merrick knows he has a reliable alternative in Jackson, who has 68 A-League games to his name.
"It can be frustrating at times, and I guess over the last two-and-a-half years or so, I've thought the best way to go about my business is to try and give Ernie a headache in selections," Jackson said.
"For me, that's just about trying to train as well as I can, and if I get a chance [in a game] try and make him consider me and choose me ahead of them. So basically that's my aim, to give Ernie the hardest option I can, and every time I get a chance I can hopefully make it my own."
Jackson said the feedback he received from Merrick after his 90-minute contribution against Perth was positive.
"He was very happy with the whole back four," he said.
"We defended quite well. We limited Perth's chances to some longer-range efforts, and I think we were pretty tight around the box. The whole team defensively were very solid, and we countered on Perth when we could."
If Boogaard is reinstated, Merrick has the option of playing Jackson as left back, or possibly as part of a back three.
"I think most players' answer to that is they'll play anywhere," Jackson said.
"That's true in my case. Wherever there is a chance for me to get on the park, obviously I'll try and take it as best I can.
"My preferred position is centre back but ... if Nigel is fit, it's not my decision anyway and I'm just going to focus on this week at training."
Whoever lines up at the back for Newcastle faces the unenviable task of trying to contain the A-League's all-time leading scorer, Beshart Berisha, who has found the net twice in four games for the competition's newest franchise.
Jackson has played against Berisha on a number of occasions, including training sessions when they were teammates at Brisbane Roar.
"He's obviously a threat," Jackson said. "Any time you slip up, or you lose concentration, he could be in behind you, slipping one past the keeper. So you've got to be on your toes."