The group of players that have appeared in 200 or more Hyundai A-League matches since the league’s inception in 2005 is an exclusive group. Only 26 players can currently claim membership of that particular club, but in early February one more name was added to that list.
Jason Hoffman, after making his debut in the Championship-winning Hyundai A-League 2007/08 season, marked game number 200 when he stepped out onto the pitch against Wellington Phoenix last month.
Personal milestones are something which are far from the utility player’s mind, though – in fact; it was a surprise for him to hear that the landmark match was approaching.
“To be told it’s my 200th game on Thursday, it’s an achievement I’m very proud. For it to be at home, in Newcastle, is also very special for me,” Hoffman said, speaking before the milestone game.
“I think, from a pretty young age, I started playing football. Through your younger years, you play for enjoyment, and then you hit a certain level where you realise there’s an opportunity to make a living out of the game.
“For me, I never had a goal of how many years or matches I’d try to play in my pro career; I just knew that it’s what I wanted to do and I wanted to continue to enjoy my football.
“I knew if I could do that and improve, I’d hopefully stay in the game for a long time.”
What’s more for Hoffman though, is that games number one and 200 have both come for the Newcastle Jets – his hometown Club. Before making his debut for the Club as a 16-year-old, Hoffman was lighting it up in the then-NBN State League with Hamilton Olympic – in fact, he missed the 2007 Grand Final with Olympic to make his debut for the Jets. It was a match made in heaven for the Newcastle boy though, a fan of football in the region for as long as he could remember.
“I started my pro football here at the Jets, and before that, I was a fan of the club,” Hoffman said.
“I supported Newcastle Breakers, then Newcastle United, and when the A-League started, and they were the Jets, I think I was at the first game.
“I didn’t miss many matches as a fan of the club, so to make my pro debut for the club was something that meant a lot to me, and I really wanted to be successful because it was a club I supported.
“I did play a fair chunk of my 200 A-League games in Melbourne [80 in total for Heart/City], but I’m proud that a majority of those have been for the Jets.”
There have been plenty of ups and downs throughout those 12 seasons of professional football for the Newcastle junior though.
From the highs of winning a Championship in his debut season to the heartbreak of letting a second winners medal slip in front of a home crowd last season. The attacker singled out four moments which have stood out above the rest to him over the stretch, with three coming relatively early on in his career.
His debut in September 2007 and the Grand Final victory in 2008, coming off the bench to help hold a tight 1-0 lead, were obvious highlights for Hoffman.
Qualifying and playing in the 2009 AFC Champions League was another one, and with another round of qualifiers approaching the opportunity to play in Asia once again.
However, it’s last season’s run in the Hyundai A-League Finals Series which stands out above the rest.
“Last year, the semi-final, scoring the goal to put us into the GF was something special, and something that makes you hungry to have more of those moments,” Hoffman said.
“Unfortunately, we couldn’t create another one a week later in the Grand Final, but that match still stands out for me, to see a packed home stadium and the fans really get behind us throughout the finals period was something that brought a lot of pride back to Newcastle football.”
Photo credit: Sprouls