Jets skipper Nigel Boogaard will be capable of handling a full game if coach Ernie Merrick rolls the dice and starts him in Fridays nights do-or-die final against Melbourne City at McDonald Jones Stadium.
Boogaard has not played since he suffered a fractured kneecap in the 2-1 win against Sydney on March 3, and the initial prognosis was that he would be unlikely to play again this season. But the 31-year-old is set to brave the pain barrier, and after completing more than a week of full training, he has convinced Merrick he is capable of going the distance against City.
“I think Nigel would be 100 per cent, if I needed him to start,” Merrick said before his teams final ball-work session on Thursday. “I wont release the starting 11, but I feel confident that Nigel and Ronny Vargas, if we needed them for a whole game, they would do it. If we needed them for part of a game, theyd do it.
“I havent placed any restrictions on who can play what and how long for. Its a semi-final, its hopefully a very big Novocastrian crowd, and whoever I put on there will be [capable of playing] for the whole game. Im not even worried about saying: I can only give him half an hour or 45 minutes. This is a finals game and its very important.”
Asked if choosing Boogaard would be a gamble, given that he has not played in almost eight weeks, Merrick replied: “Thats my job, to gamble, but I make sure Ive got the odds in my favour. Knowing how the boys trained, knowing all their fitness details, if there is any injury concerns, and knowing how weve played all year, is what I base my decision on. Really, the odds are in my favour when I gamble. I dont feel its gambling at all.”