JORDAN O'Doherty has watched a production line of young players make a name for themselves at the Newcastle Jets.
It's a list the Olyroos midfielder is desperate to join.
Starved of regular football at Western Sydney, O'Doherty was thrust into the Jets starting side less than 48 hours after agreeing to trade places with Steve Ugarkovic.
O'Doherty responded with an industrious effort, adding drive and purpose to the Jets midfield, in a spirited 1-all draw with Sydney FC on Saturday.
"For me it was a no-brainer," O'Doherty said. "You have seen in the past that plenty of young players have been able to come here and establish themselves. It is a club that gives young players an opportunity to grow."
O'Doherty's performance - with one training session under his belt - almost mirrored that of the player he replaced.
"When Deansy (coach Craig Deans) said there was an opportunity to start, I was all for it," O'Doherty said. "That is what I came here to do - play.
"It was good but I haven't played in a while. I need more games under my belt before I really get going.
"I definitely lost my legs and need more minutes.
"It was good for me personally, and I think the lads put in a good shift as well."
O'Doherty has signed with the Jets until the end of the season, but the club has an option to retain the 23-year-old for the 2021-22 season.
"I want to be here next season and grow as a player and help the club build," he said. "Newcastle has a good history in the league and it is a very proud region. There is lots of room for improvement.
"It is up to us as a playing group, and the club all together, to get the club back to where it belongs.
"It is a case of getting the right mix. Once you have it things click. When you get momentum in this league things can happen quickly. We just have to try and finish the season strong."
Next for O'Doherty and the Jets is an F3 dery against the Central Coast Mariners at McDonald Jones Stadium on Saturday night.
"Derbies are the games you want to play in as a footballer," O'Doherty said. "No matter where you are on the table, the game is just as big and the occasion is just as big. I'm looking forward to being involved in it."
The final five games are also a chance for O'Doherty to revive his Olyroos hopes.
"I'm trying to keep my Olympics dream alive," he said. "Playing games is the most important thing."
O'Doherty made his A-League debut for home-town club Adelaide as a 17 year-old against the Jets in round one of the 2016-17 campaign.
He was lured to Wanderers by former Reds coach Josep Gombau in 2018. But the Spaniard was sacked before the season began. The playmaker made 17 appearances under Marcus Babel before rupturing the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee.
He returned in round 20 of the 2019-20 season but had not been able to cement a regular spot.
"There was a lot of experienced players brought in and for whatever reason I didn't get as much game time as I would have liked," he said. "I think Newcastle is the perfect place for me to develop and become a first-team player."
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