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Robert Dillon: Sporting Declaration

DOWN AND OUT: Newcastle midfielder Ben Kantarovski receives treatment after injuring his knee against Sydney in December. Picture: Marina NeilHE has played more games for the Newcastle Jets than any other player, but injury-plagued Ben Kantarovski faces an uncertain future as he battles to regain a spot in the team.
苏州桑拿会所

Kantarovski has not played since the round-nine loss to Sydney on December 4, which was his 135thappearance for Newcastle, overtaking former teammate Tarek Elrich’s club record.

He underwent arthroscopic surgery days later to repair torn cartilage in his problematic right knee, which has now required four operations, including a full reconstruction in 2010 when he ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament.

Kantarovski has since resumed training, although the club’s website says he will not be available for another week.

But at a frank press conference on Thursday, Jets coach Mark Jones indicatedthe 25-year-old midfielder was no longer a selection priority.

“I’ll be honest with you, I don’t know why Kanta keeps getting brought up,’’ Jones said.

“Kanta is just another one of the squad members.

“He’s played limited game time this year and he’s not a vital link in us playing well or not playing well …that’s the trouble, if you sit out for a long period of time through injuries, you start to drop down the pecking order.’’

Olyroos representative Steven Ugarkovic and experienced Mateo Poljak are seemingly established as Newcastle’s holding midfielders, having each featured in 16 of Newcastle’s 17 games this season.

With Ugarkovic out suspended for Saturday’s clash with Perth, rookie Johnny Koutroumbis gets a chance in his preferred position.

“Johnny Koutrombis has done a magnificent job and I think he’s earned the right to be the next cab off the rank,’’ Jonessaid.

“I’m very keen to see what Johnny does.’’

Koutroumbis and Ugarkovic have both signed two-seasoncontract extensions, while Kantarovski is one of several Newcastle players who are effectively free agents and open to offers.

The dilemma facing Kantarovski is how to state a case for reinstatement, given that he mighthave limited opportunity to gain match fitness in the 10 remaining regular-seasonfixtures before the play-offs.

Players returning from injury often get to stretch their legs in Newcastle’s youth team, but the youth league season is over. Adding to his quandary, each week on the sidelines is unlikely to enhance his bargaining position for a new deal.

A former Young Socceroos skipper who debuted in the A-League at 16, Kantarovski would appear to have reached something of a career crossroads.

His future may well hinge on how successfully the surgeons have been able to patch up his knee, a recurring issue that has sadlyprevented him from reaching the heights many were predicting during his formative years.

His latest setback leaves both the Jets and Kantarovski pondering a tough decision.

Can he become a long-term asset for his home-town club, and possibly a future captain?

Or is it time for a fresh start, in the hope that new surroundsallowhim to realise his potential?

Either way, Sporting Declaration hopes Ben Kantarovski’s best football is still ahead of him.

He’s had a wretched run. That, unfortunately, is part of the game, but nobody would appear more entitled to a change ofluck.

RISKY BUSINESSTHEY are great for fans and the broadcasters, but the annual Auckland Nines and All Stars exhibitions are a recipe for disaster.

Over the next two weekends, the NRL’s most highly paidsuperstars will go hammer and tong in two events that count for nothing on grand final day.

And if anyone gets injured, their clubs are handicapped before a ball has been kicked in the season proper. It’s madness.

Injuries, of course, can happen at any time.

But players, coaches and supporters can probably accept such setbacks as par for the course if two competition points are at stake.

FOOD FOR THOUGHTIT couldn’t happen, could it?

No matter how badly the Knights are travelling, no matter how many wooden spoons they collect or how long they remain without an owner, the NRL needs a team in Newcastle and would never abandon this rugby league stronghold.

Or would they?

News from America might make you think twice. After 56 years in San Diego, the Chargers’ NFL franchise is moving to Los Angeles, basically because the owner has found a bigger stadium. Food for thought as “Our Knights One Chance” organisers rally support for a community-ownership model.

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