PS4NPLQLD Quartet Soar With Jets
Words: Michael Flynn
Four PlayStation® 4 NPL Queensland products are forging a path to national prominence this summer with Hyundai A-League club Newcastle Jets.
Despite being at different stages in their respective careers and development, Lachlan Jackson, Braedyn Crowley, Bon Scott and Ryan Ensor have all found a home in northern New South Wales after impressing in recent seasons in Queensland’s elite club competition.
20-year-old defender Jackson, previously with Brisbane Roar Youth, has been the most prominent of the Queensland contingent at the club this season – making seven Hyundai A-League starts since late October after debuting with Roar in the national top tier at the end of last season.
Jackson earned his chance in the top team at left back after injury to Korean import Lee Ki-je and, while well aware that nothing can be taken for granted in professional football, he believes he is beginning to settle into life as a Hyundai A-League player.
“Each game I have grown in confidence and each game I approach with a bit more experience and I feel a bit more comfortable out there,” Jackson explained.
“I want to play regular A-League football. If I can continue to do that and make it a contest for when other players come back from injury, then that can open up the doors and it will be great for next season as well.”
In recent weeks Jackson and his fellow Jets defenders have been tasked with closing down some of the league’s most ruthless attackers – including Roar’s Jamie McLaren, Melbourne Victory’s Besart Berisha and Melbourne City’s Aaron Mooy.
He explained the learning curve has been steep, but it is also a challenge he is relishing.
“They pounce on your mistakes, so you’ve got to be switched on for ninety minutes and that’s a big step-up from the youth league and the NPL.”
He added, “You really have to stay focused one hundred per cent of the time.”
Jackson offered the following advice to aspiring defenders across the PlayStation 4 NPL Queensland age groups hoping to emulate his advance to the professional ranks.
“Make every day count. Don’t just turn up to training but try to learn every day and take advice from the coaches and the senior players in the squad because a lot of them have been there and done that.”
Joining Jackson in the Jets line-up in recent weeks is 19-year-old striker Crowley – who was recognised as the PlayStation 4 NPL Queensland 2014 Young Player of the Year award for his returns with Northern Fury.
Crowley spent last season with the club’s Foxtel National Youth League side after impressing Jets coaches with his performances at Fury in both PlayStation 4 NPL Queensland and the Townsville Football Cup tournament.
He said opportunities for promising players to show their wares as part of the national second tier are increasingly evident – especially in regional areas such as Townsville.
“I think the NPL is a great pathway for the younger boys to get a chance to get into the youth teams and first teams at A-League teams,” he said.
“Nobody probably ever thought I would get the opportunity in Townsville and they were telling me ‘you got to move’ – but if you keep working hard you really can take that chance.”
Crowley said he still closely follows the fortunes of Fury, where his brother Jacob played in 2015, and that he also remains in contact with former coach Ian Ferguson.
“Working under Fergie, who came from an A-League team and played professional football in Scotland, there were certainly things that he taught me that have stayed with me.”
“Sometimes I just go to him for advice. I was at Fury for two years and he was a good mentor so it’s good to have a chat with him.”
Despite Crowley’s praise for the talented player pathway in Queensland, he admitted the move to Jets was an eye-opener to the cut-throat nature of professional football.
“It’s that mentality and discipline - you’ve got to be switched on at all times,” he explained.
“You could play good one week and then bad the other week and you can easily get dropped – that’s what it’s like at a professional club. “
Waiting in the wings at Jets are Foxtel National Youth League duo Bon Scott, previously with Western Pride, and SWQ Thunder product Ryan Ensor.
While the bright lights of the Hyundai A-League are unlikely to shine on them this season, both are continuing to develop their talents as part of the club’s youth set-up.
18-year-old goalkeeper Scott, who is a product of the Queensland Academy of Sport and was part of a Young Socceroos training camp earlier this year, said he was aware that as a shot-stopper opportunities to play in the top tier are less frequent.
“It’s just part of being a footballer really. Everyone goes through it and of course goalkeeping is a bit different and harder, but you just have to make sure you are training well day-in and day-out,” Scott explained.
“I’ve been watching how (Jets A-League goalkeepers) Mark Birighitti and Ben Kennedy go about their work and it gives you motivation to try and get to their level.”
While echoing Crowley and Jackson’s recognition of the step-up from PlayStation 4 NPL Queensland in terms of professionalism and competition for places, Scott said his time at Pride, and also previously at Brisbane City and QAS, was equally crucial to his development.
“Going to any new club you have to learn and pick things up as you go and that moulds you into the footballer you want to be and as a person as well.”
“It’s a bit like a smorgasbord, you take on the advice and the coaching from all the clubs you are at and adapt it and make it work for you.”
For 18-year-old attacking midfielder Ensor, that means drawing upon lessons learned during the tough times. He said his experiences at Thunder – which included a run of 23 straight losses - was an unlikely source of inspiration.
“I think having that season has given me a lot of good qualities because you had to fight every week. It was tough to stay motivated but I also learned a lot from that,” Ensor explained.
“A lot of players that have come through the Jets ranks probably haven’t experienced a season where they lost every game eight-nil or anything even close to it.”
Now in his second Foxtel National Youth League season with Jets – and playing last winter in the PlayStation 4 NPL Northern New South Wales division – Ensor said he has no regrets about making the move from the rural south-west to the larger industrial setting of Newcastle.
“I’ve loved every second of training and never had a day where I’ve thought ‘I don’t want to go to training’ – I’ve loved all of it,” he enthused.
“It’s pretty much a dream come true. Playing football on good fields with good players and good coaches – you can’t ask for much better.”
All four agreed that the comradery of the club’s Queensland contingent – which also includes former Gold Coast United player Mitch Cooper – has made the transition to a new city and new club easier for all.
Scott explained, “We all look out for each other. Everyone at the club gets along but you always have a soft spot for your fellow Queenslanders.”
Crowley concluded tongue-in-cheek, “Everyone knows you don’t mess with the Queensland boys.”