Skipper Nigel Boogaard believes the start of Newcastle Jets’ AFC Champions League campaign could also have a positive impact on the club’s Hyundai A-League top six hopes.
The Jets take on Indonesian champions Persija Jakarta at Hunter Stadium on Tuesday night in the first of two must-win play-offs to reach the ACL group stage.
If Ernie Merrick’s side are victorious against Persija, they will then head to Japan to take on reigning ACL winners Kashima Antlers for a spot in Group E of the 2019 tournament.
The ACL qualifiers come at the same time the Jets are looking to push for the top six, currently eight points back with nine games to go, starting with Melbourne City on Friday night.
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But instead of cursing the extra workload and potential travel on the squad, Boogaard hopes it could have a positive effect.
“It re-energises the group as well,” the Jets captain said.
“There might be players who think they are not really getting an opportunity to play, but there is a heavy schedule coming up.
“Everyone in our squad will be relied upon. Hopefully Tuesday night is a positive result and off the back of that we can find some form in the [Hyundai A-League] and push on with it and make the group stage.”
While it’s been 10 years since the Jets last featured in Asian’s top continental club competition, Boogaard is no stranger to it.
The veteran central defender has played in the competition on three previous occasions for former clubs Central Coast Mariners (2009) and Adelaide United (2011 and 2013).
“As an Aussie footballer playing in the A-League, apart from finals series, [the ACL] is where you want to be,” Boogaard said.
“You are challenged up against players who are unknown. In the A-League you start to know how teams play.
“But coming up against different opponents and having to deal with travel and some big crowds and hostile environments, it’s what you want to do as a footballer.
“It’s exciting but the first step is to win this first game and then we have a tough trip to Japan if that’s the case.”
If the Jets can get past both Persija Jakarta and Kashima Antlers, they will be pitted alongside Johor Darul Ta'zim of Malaysia, K-League outfit Gyeongnam FC and the winner of another playoff match in Group E.
You can watch the Jets' clash with Persija Jakarta at Hunter Stadium in Newcastle LIVE on Fox Sports 505 from 7pm on Tuesday night.