JETS coach Craig Deans is hoping skipper Nigel Boogaard can provide his teammates with a "massive" boost by proving his fitness for next week's daunting showdown with Sydney FC at McDonald Jones Stadium.
Boogaard has missed the past seven games with a fractured leg but flew to Melbourne with the team last week and was an unused substitute in their back-to-back losses to Western United (2-0) and Melbourne City (3-1).
Deans said Boogaard played an important role on the trip to Melbourne, even if he did not receive any game time.
"Nige came down, as much to be around the squad, as captain of the club," Deans said. "He has a big influence on the team, and the levels and expectations around training.
"He's a strong personality and we need him around at the moment."
With the comparative luxury of a nine-day turnaround before the clash with Sydney, Deans should have ample time to assess if Boogaard is ready for a return to the starting line-up.
"He's got a full week of training next week," Deans said.
"We'll push him hard next week, and if he gets through a full week of training before the Sydney game, then absolutely he's in contention to come back in."
Asked what it would mean for Newcastle to have their skipper back, Deans replied: "It's massive. Since he's been here, when he's out, you do see a drop in the performance.
"That's what happens when you lose the true leaders of your club.
"At the moment, the big burden goes onto Nikolai [Topor-Stanley] and he has to shoulder that himself.
"But if Nigel comes back in, it shares the load with Nikolai ... we lacked a little bit of experience, steel, whatever you want to call it [against City]."
Boogaard, the 34-year-old veteran of 269 A-League games, is yet to reveal if he intends to play on next season and will be determined to make every game count.
Deans will also welcome back Irish striker Roy O'Donovan for the Sydney game, after being suspended for the loss to competition leaders City after accumulating five yellow cards.
Winless in their past 11 starts, the Jets next face the two-time defending champions.
"We were under no illusions about how difficult the game[against City} was going to be," Deans said.
"We tried to keep them quiet, but there is only so long you can keep that amount of quality players quiet."
Deans took heart from Steve Ugarkovic's late goal for Newcastle.
"To go 3-0 down, and to not throw the towel in and to keep working hard and score a goal, and still have the energy and the commitment to keep working and trying to change the game, I can't fault their efforts," he said. "It's just the difference in quality that was the difference in the game."