Perth bound former Newcastle Jets Captain Ruben Zadkovich with his fiance Bianca Foteff, relaxing at Bianca’s parents home in Cooks Hill. Ruben wanted to stay at the Jets, but has been told that he doesn’t feature in the clubs plans. Picture Jonathan Carroll RUBEN Zadkovich never wanted to leave the Jets.
In the end, the wholehearted midfielder felt he had no choice.
Zadkovich last week agreed to terminate the final year of his contract at the Jets and will head west on a two-year deal at Perth Glory.
‘‘It is bittersweet,’’ Zadkovich told the Herald yesterday.
‘‘I love Newcastle. I think everyone knows that. It was such a massive honour to lead the Jets. It was one of the highlights of my career and something I hold very close to my heart.
‘‘All the fans, members, sponsors, business owners, media – all of the honest, hard-working people I have made friends with in Newcastle – I’d like to think I’d be friends with them long after the stadium lights are out. That is what I will be taking away from Newcastle.
‘‘It was a hard pill to swallow at first.
‘‘From what I have learned in football, you are best to be around people who really want you.
‘‘[Hunter Sports Group CEO] Troy Palmer told me that if I wanted to stay until the end of the contract, go for it, and that he would support me.
‘‘When it came down to it, the Jets didn’t really see me in their plans.
‘‘While that can be a slap in the face, you just have to find the positives.’’
Zadkovich played 97 games in four seasons at the Jets.
He won the club’s Ray Baartz medal in 2013, finished third last season, and 10th inthe Alex Tobin Medal for the Fox Sports player of the year.
The only Jet to start every game last season, Zadkovich was called in to a meeting with club management last month and told of the interest from Perth.
‘‘I was not outwardly looking to leave,’’ he said. ‘‘I was keen to stay here and captain Newcastle as long as I could.
‘‘Management made it clear to me that I was not in their plans moving forward.
‘‘I was told it was more a business decision. They wanted to free up some money in the cap and look for more attacking players. Initially it was a shock. I thought there would have been a bit more loyalty and respect shown. Football is a business. I’m no mug. I know what it is like.’’
Although yet to speak to Zadkovich, coach Phil Stubbins believed the best outcome had been reached for both parties.
The Jets have missed the finals for the past four years, and Stubbins decided something – someone – had to give.
‘‘I certainly needed, along with the direction of the staff, to make some changes,’’ Stubbins said. ‘‘Everyone knows Ruben is a very good player and has been a good servant for the Jets. There is no doubt about that.
‘‘Having looked at the squad, and a good salary goes to a good player, it was felt that we needed to get somebody else in at the pointy end who could service the needs of the team in the front third.
‘‘We had quite a few players in that central midfield position who could fulfil that role – Ben Kantarovski, Josh Brillante, Zenon Caravella, Mitch Oxborrow – and quite a bit of money tied up in that position.
‘‘When the interest came from Perth and they offered him the time frame of the deal they did, it made sense.’’
On the surface it might have seemed a cut-and-dried decision for Zadkovich. But nothing is that simple when, like Zadkovich, you have given your heart and soul to a club – to a region – for four years.
‘‘I had so much going on and, to be honest, it [the decision] was getting the better of me,’’ Zadkovich said.
But any lingering doubts were dispelled after a get-to-know-you chat with Glory coach Kenny Lowe.
‘‘I asked him what role he had in mind for me,’’ Zadkovich said. ‘‘He laughed and said, ‘I just want you to do what you do.’ It was a simple sentence, but it says a lot.
‘‘He doesn’t want to change me. He knows I can more than hold a spot in that position and he is grateful to have me. That means everything to me. To have people who want you, I will look to repay that faith by giving them 150 per cent.’’
Zadkovich and fiancee Bianca Foteff have recently bought an apartment in Cooks Hill and are in the process of planning their wedding next May.
‘‘We have a lot of things going on,’’ he said. ‘‘Things like this happen for a reason. That is the silver lining. It gives me and Bianca a chance to let our relationship evolve. It is a new challenge for both of us.
‘‘She has never lived anywhere but Newcastle, whereas I have been around the world a few times.
‘‘Her family and friends are very supportive.
‘‘We will set up camp somewhere near the beach.
‘‘All the people I have spoken to over there love Perth and the area around it.’’ Zadkovich will replace retired Glory skipper Jacob Burns, who now works for the club in football operations
‘‘I think that says a lot about the kind of club they are looking to build,’’ he said.
‘‘They are keeping the good-quality players involved in the club when their careers have finished.’’