Jets add Babalj to A-League Men squad

The Newcastle Jets have continued their A-League Men squad overhaul with the signing of twice-capped Socceroos striker Eli Babalj on a one-year deal.

The 29-year-old has been training with the Jets in the pre-season, after his return from a spell in Thailand, and becomes their 12th new arrival.

Babalj said he’s pleased to be part of a revamped Newcastle side under coach Arthur Papas, who he knows well.

“I’m really excited to join a team that will play a very exciting and attacking brand of football,” Babalj said.

“I believe we will be successful and give the fans in Newcastle something to be proud of.

“The biggest reason I came here was to work under Arthur again. I know his teams play great football, and he’s building something special here.”

Papas was delighted to add another attacker to his arsenal as the revamped Jets attempt to climb up the ladder after a disappointing past few seasons.

“Having first coached Eli when he was 16, I know the person and the player, and we’ve signed a man with a fantastic mentality,” Papas said.

“He is technically outstanding, physically imposing at 6-foot-4, and is clinical in the box…

“He has earned this opportunity and in return we are signing a player who has played for Australia at every level, as well as at the top tier of football in Europe and, importantly, has a point to prove.”

Babalj has played in Australia’s top club competition for three other clubs after starting his professional career with Melbourne Heart, before stints with Adelaide United and more recently Brisbane Roar in 2019.

His European stints have included time at Red Star Belgrade and AZ Alkmaar.