Jets dump key midfielder Caravella

Newcastle Jets boss Phil Stubbins has told key midfielder Zenon Caravella he is not required next season as the embattled club continues to cull their most experienced players.

FourFourTwo spoke exclusively to the in-form veteran about what has been a season to forget for the club, players and fans.

It’s been a tough year, off and on the park for the Newcastle Jets. What has it been like from a player’s perspective?

Of course, it’s been very difficult. After half-retiring last year and coming back I really just wanted to enjoy my football. As a player you always want to be in a winning team with a great culture and it’s a real shame the way things turned out for us this year. Newcastle is a great football region with fiercely loyal supporters and you can’t help just wanting to play for them when you put on that shirt.

Following the resignation of Jets CEO and Chairman, five players and three coaching staff were then sacked. How difficult was it to regroup?

There’s been a lot of media speculation about the behavior and actions of the players but to be honest as a group we just all wanted the best for the team at the time. Of course it’s a bitter pill to swallow when so many of your friends, colleagues and coaches just have their contracts terminated and we’re coming last. There are players in that group that have played at World Cups.

But at the end of the day there’s an owner and there’s a coach and they have their reasons for making the decisions they do. The remaining players just had to put their heads down and do their jobs, myself included. Playing football and not politics has always been number one for me. I get out there and play. Regardless of everything, I still wanted to win for the fans.

As a senior player, did your relationship with the coach become strained after that?

I don’t want to talk too much about Phil because he has his own ideas and vision for this club. Of course, it was extremely difficult to accept what I thought was my teammates and coaches blamed for our position on the table and I did speak out about it. But we tried to put things aside and he even offered me captaincy after that. I didn’t accept it because it just didn’t feel right to at the time. I felt if I had accepted captaincy I would be accepting watching my teammates have their contracts torn up.

Even still, after all that, we seemed to be able to work together and move forward. I just focused on working hard and focusing on my football. As the most senior player, captain or not, I felt it was my responsibility to step up and do my best for the team.

It will come as a big shock to Jets fans that Phil Stubbins has chosen to not retain you. Did it surprise you?

In some ways it did, in others it didn’t.  Rejecting the captaincy wouldn’t have gone down well and I don’t blame him for holding that against me, if that’s his reason for not re-signing me. But then he called me a shining light to media and to myself on several occasions so I’m not really sure what the real reasoning is. He told me personally that he has too many midfielders, but he has 13 or spots available on the roster.

Maybe after what happened this year, the relationship is irreparable. Either way, again, it’s his decision.

But I will say I’m disappointed to leave as I really love this region. My family is settled here, I have really learned to call Newcastle home in many ways. The fans have been very good to me and not just to me, to us as a club. They are as hungry for success as we are. I hope things turn around mostly for them – they’ll be there long after the players and coaches are. They deserve a bit of glory.

Do you have opportunities to play elsewhere?

I have a couple of opportunities in the A-league but both are interstate. I have a small family and it gets to a point when it’s unfair to keep moving them around, particularly when my eldest child is starting school next year. I’m not ruling out continuing in the A-League but I am definitely thinking very hard about making a permanent move back home to FNQ to build my coaching academy, Caravella Coaching. I started it when I went back to Cairns and loved coaching kids – I have a great passion for grassroots and want to continue to give back to the region.

But if I do quit football at the highest level I can say I’ve had a fantastic 15 years of doing what I love for a living. I’ve won a few trophies and played in the Asian Champions League, so I can’t complain. But even though I only just turned 32 and still think I’ve got a lot to offer, I might be ready for some normality as well.