NEWCASTLE Jets captain Nigel Boogaard was lucky in his junior days to have regular access to professional footballers.
It’s a luxury not many up-and-coming players on the Mid North Coast have these days, but Boogaard knows just how important the Jets visit to Port Macquarie and the Hastings will be on Tuesday.
“It’s massive for us because there is a massive football community through the Mid North Coast,” he said.
“I know through my junior days a lot of players would play there and then have to relocate to Newcastle or Sydney to give it a good crack.
“There’s some great grassroots football there and we’d like to think we’re the team they support.”
Boogaard believes the Jets represent more than just Newcastle – the area north of the Hexham Bridge all the way up to the border should be classified as Jets territory.
Community engagement is the catch-cry ringing out from the club and their 2017 Jets Tour will continue down that path of tapping into an untapped market.
The captain, who turns 31 the day before their visit, said it was important for the club to engage with the younger fans in particular.
“I know when I was a junior footballer, any kind of visit from a professional side and being able to connect with them and have some sort of relationship, you remember those experiences for the rest of your life.”
Boogaard acknowledged it wasn’t simply about trying to encourage the junior players to chase their professional dreams.
“We need to make sure these kids have a good time and they remember their experience they had with us,” he said.
“Hopefully they then become lifetime members of the club.
“If it’s not playing and we don’t inspire them to want to play and be professional players, at least want to feel like they’re part of it.”
Former Port Saints midfielder Angus Thurgate is a player who has made his dreams a reality and given junior players someone to look up to.
He scored for the Jets in a recent tour of China.
“He’s held himself well and he’s a great example for those young kids that regardless of where you come from you can make things happen,” Boogaard said.
“If you want to sacrifice a few things and you want to chase your dreams it’s always a possibility.”
The former Mariners and Adelaide United defender had some words of advice for footballers on the Mid North Coast.
“Don’t ever let anyone tell you you’re not good enough,” he said.
“If you believe in your ability and you’re willing to give it everything you’ve got, then no one’s opinion should waiver your goals and your dreams of doing something.”
Boogaard is one of the more experienced players in the Jets squad and admitted it was important for the community to feel included.
Once that happened, the club and team would reap the rewards.
“I don’t think the proximity to the club alone is enough for people to jump on board and support us; they have to feel that connection and that engagement,” he said.
“Hopefully the community feels involved with our club because it’s the whole region we represent and hopefully they feel a part of that.”