JOE Ledley had only been at the Newcastle Jets a month when the COVID-19 pandemic forced the suspension of the A-League and prompted the Welsh international to rush home to Cardiff and reunite with his young family.
But the brief taste of Australian football was enough for the 33-year-old midfielder to crave more.
Ledley confirmed to CEO Lawrie McKinna on Friday his interest in returning to Newcastle for the likely competition restart in July and is keen to begin talks about next season.
"Joe messaged me this morning and is keen to come back and finish the season," McKinna said. "He also asked about next season. He is interested in playing a full campaign and bringing his wife and kids out. Depending on the border situation and the timing, he might bring them with him for the remainder of this season and stay on."
Ledley, who won titles at Celtic and featured in the Premier League at Crystal Palace, made an instant impact at the Jets, despite having played little football in the previous year.
After two appearances off the bench, he played a commanding role in the 2-1 win over high-flyers Melbourne City - the final match before the league was shut down.
"His pass accuracy would have been 90-odd percent," McKinna said. "He is so composed on the ball. Also, the amount of work he does. He makes runs to draw defenders and open up space for somebody else to get the ball. He is class."
Ledley played alongside Jets coach Carl Robinson early in his career for Wales and signed a modest short-term deal partly as a favour to his former teammate.
"When Carl got the job at the Jets, he wanted me to sign for longer in Australia," Ledley said on a BBC football podcast last month. "I didn't want to go over there, not enjoy it and want to come home. The standard is a lot better than what I thought ... we play good possession-based football."
McKinna said Ledley would be in line for a contract upgrade next season but said they were unable to table an offer until a new pay deal was in place for next season, amid huge uncertainty over the Fox Sports broadcast contract which runs for another three seasons.
"Because of the CBA, we can't really table any offers because we don't know what is going to happen to the salary cap," McKinna said. "All being well, I can't see there being any issues."
Players, many who have been on the Job Keeper allowance, are facing up to an 80 per cent pay cut for the final two months of this season as part of the financial fallout from COVID-19.
Under a financial model put forward by Football Federation Australia, the governing body intends to keep almost all of the $12 million broadcast payment it received from Fox Sports last month.
Normally each of the 11 clubs receive a $800,000 quarterly grant from FFA to cover wages. But they could receive a combined figure of less than $2 million if the offer on the table is ratified. The players are expected to reject the pay structure.
McKinna said talks between the FFA, clubs and the Professional Footballers Association were ongoing and he remained confident of a positive outcome and was planning for a June resumption to training.
Ledley is among 15 foreigner players from across the league, who have returned home during the lock down. Jets coach Carl Robinson and assistants Kenny Miller and Darren Bazeley as well Roar duo Robbie Fowler and Tony Grant are also overseas.
A-League clubs are expected to resume training in mid-June.
"The FFA were to meet with Border Force and government officials on Friday," McKinna said.
A portion of the Fox Sports money, believed to be $2 million, will be used to fund a centralised hub to host the final 27 games of the regular season plus finals over a four-to-five week period
Matches are expected to be played at three venues, with Newcastle possibly being one of them.
"The draw should be finalised in the new week or so," McKinna said. "Once we get a draw we can nail down the training, accommodation and all those things."