NICK Fitzgerald expects to learn pretty quickly if Carl Robinson is happy with the Jets' output when the coach finishes quarantine and returns to the training pitch in just under a fortnight.
Robinson's honesty has struck a chord with Fitzgerald since the former Welsh international took the reins in February.
"You can go and talk to him and he will give you an honest answer on what you need to work on," Fitzgerald said. "He will tell you if he feels like you are going to get a game or what you have to improve. That's all players can ask for."
Fitzgerald has spoken to and received several messages from Robinson since the league was halted on March 24.
"He has checked in with individuals to see make sure they are OK," Fitzgerald said. "I don't know if a lot of coaches have done that. We had a couple of zoom meetings as well."
The players have been back in full training for nearly two weeks. Robinson returned from Canada on Sunday and is serving 14 days in quarantine in a Sydney motel. Assistants Kenny Miller and Darren Bazeley are also in isolation.
The Jets restart their A-League campaign against Sydney FC on July 24, leaving Robinson 10 days to work with the squad.
"We are getting closer to normality," Fitzgerald said. "The coaches who have stepped in, Craig Deans and Daniel McBreen, have done really well. The sessions have been quality. Nathan Renwick (physiotherapist) and Brice Johnson (strength and conditioning coach) have done a great job in keeping us fit. During this period they didn't know if they had jobs to come back to. They were still calling us every day to make sure we were OK and sending out programs.
"I thought there would be a flat spot considering it was quite a lengthy period away from training. Because of the uncertainty and not being able to train normally, the mood around the place has been really good which lifts the squad. It doesn't look like we have been away for three months. The sharpness is there, the hunger is there. We were on a bit of a roll before the season was shut down. That is why everyone has come back fit and raring to go. Even though it has been a massive break, hopefully nothing changes in terms of the boys having confidence. When we play Sydney we can continue on from where we left off."
The break was untimely for Fitzgerald, who had earned a spot in the starting side and scored the Jets' opener in a 2-1 win over Melbourne City - the last game before the COVID-19 enforced break.
The goal was the flyer's first A-League goal for the Jets and ended a near two-year drought.
"After the game we got the message that they were suspending the league," Fitzgerald said. "Personally it was a bit disappointing. The goal was a weight off my shoulders and I had been really enjoying the time under Carl and Kenny.
"Tactically, Carl knows the game very well. He has played at a high level and has also coached at a high level. Having Kenny here as well. He retired [from playing] to come and do this job. He is great for finishing but he just gives you that confidence. We were going through a bit of a tough period at the start of the year. Carl and Kenny have done a great job of lifting us back up and making us believe in ourselves.
"It starts at training. The standard has lifted. They demand intensity and quality. It's not acceptable for us to give less than 100 per cent every day at training. That's the thing I have noticed. They are both sticklers for making sure you come into training and give everything. We get the most out of training every day."
A change in formation, from a 4-2-1-3 under previous coach Ernie Merrick to a 5-2-3 has also benefited Fitzgerald.
"I prefer to play more inside as opposed to an out-and-out winger," Fitzgerald said. "The formation we have applied with the five at the back, I can play more narrow and leave the space for [right wingback] Matt Millar to get forward.
"Carl gives you freedom. You have a job to do and a structure to follow in defence. In attack, he gives you the freedom to play your natural game. I prefer to drift in and out off the wing, come inside, go outside, go a bit higher. The goal came from making a run in behind. If you have myself and Dimitri [Petratos] roaming, it's hard for defences to know whether to pick us up."
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