It’s the newest rivalry in the A-League Men but Newcastle Jets coach Arthur Papas says his club’s recent history with Western Sydney is nothing to do with him.
Coach Carl Robinson’s decision to quit the Jets and join the Wanderers last year ahead of the 2020-21 campaign, eventually luring Bernie Ibini with him, created tension between the clubs.
The ex-Jets contingent at the Wanderers has only grown this season with Johnny Koutroumbis and Steven Ugarkovic making the switch.
Remy Najjarine – who was on loan at Newcastle last season – and fringe Socceroo Dimitri Petratos are others in Robinson’s squad with Jets’ history.
For Papas, who began his tenure with a 2-1 loss against Central Coast Mariners last weekend, he’s focused on the present and not those who may have been at the club before his arrival.
“Whoever leaves, we wish them all the best but we’re not worried about who isn’t here anymore,” Papas said.
“Don’t even think about it to be honest.
“The boys that have come in are really desperate to play for this club and that’s the main message.
“You want to be desperate to play for this club, not just use it as a stepping stone.
“That’s why we’ve really looked at certain types of characters as well that are in it for the long-haul.”
The Jets too have their fair share of players who have spent time in the Wanderers camp.
Newly-appointed captain Matthew Jurman is an ex-Western Sydney player, as are Jordan O’Doherty and Kosta Grozos.
Both teams have undergone significant off-season overhauls and Robinson expects that to be a factor in Sunday’s clash at Commbank Stadium.
“Both teams are very new. We’re new and they’re new, trying to get a gauge on them is very difficult,” Robinson said.
“They’ve brought in a certain profile of player, which is probably exciting for Newcastle.
“It’ll be a very interesting game.”
In a boost for the Jets, Papas said veteran Jason Hoffman is hopeful of playing despite coming off early against the Mariners with a hip issue while Dylan Murnane is pushing to make his debut for the club.
Robinson has made one change to his extended squad with defender Tass Mourdoukoutas returning after being sidelined for two weeks due to a suspension from last season.