JETS coach Craig Deans has not ruled out recalling unsettled Steve Ugarkovic for Sunday's clash with Macarthur Bulls at Campbelltown, despite indicating he was happy with the progress Newcastle's new-look midfield are making in his absence.
Ugarkovic has missed Newcastle's past three games amid mounting speculation that he will secure an early release to join Western Sydney in a mid-season transfer.
He initially signed to join Wanderers at the end of this campaign, but Newcastle officials have twice been asked to consider requests to expedite his departure, which would potentially allow him to play in the finals this season.
After missing Newcastle's Easter Monday loss to Western United with a back injury, Ugarkovic was named on the bench for the defeat by Melbourne Victory on Saturday, but the 132-game veteran was not required.
When the Jets left on Monday for Coffs Harbour, where they drew 1-all with Perth Glory, Ugarkovic was not part of the squad and remained in Newcastle.
Asked if the 26-year-old was a chance of playing against Macarthur, Deans said: "Possibly, but I'll talk to him face to face when we get back [to Newcastle] and see where he's at injury-wise.
"And obviously when people talk about you not behind your back but through the media, it affects your mental state as well.
"He's probably a little bit confused with where he is at in his career as well."
Deans said "we'd love to have Stevie here", but given the uncertainty, the coach is entitled to have formed the view that the club is better served by allowing youngsters Angus Thurgate, Luke Prso and Ramy Najjarine to continue developing a combination.
"It's an opportunity for Stevie to not play, for Luka, Gus and Ramy to step up - three 20-, 21-year-old kids - and run the midfield in an A-League game," Deans said.
"That's a big opportunity and I thought [against Perth] Luca, Gus and Ramy showed that they've got the quality to play at this level.
"And if Stevie is not available I'll continue with those three."
It's understood that the Jets will consider releasing Ugarkovic if Wanderers can offer a suitable player trade.
"We need to respect our football club," Deans said.
There has also been speculation about the futures of Matt Millar and Johnny Koutroumbis.
Deans said Koutroumbis had two years left on his deal, while the Jets are keen to re-sign the out-of-contract Millar, if he does not return to England.
Meanwhile, Newcastle veteran Jason Hoffman is in doubt for Sunday's game after aggravating a groin injury against Perth.