Barnett to make most of second coming

Returned Adelaide United midfielder, Jay Barnett, is aiming to make the most of his newfound opportunity with the Club he supported as a kid.
2022/23 tickets on sale.

Returned Adelaide United midfielder, Jay Barnett, is aiming to make the most of his newfound opportunity with the Club he supported as a kid.

Barnett originally hails from Adelaide’s western suburbs and is an alumnus of Henley High School’s sports program, and he was thrust into the limelight before he could finish school.

At 16, Barnett packed his bags and joined the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) in Canberra and in the same year signed his first professional contract with Brisbane Roar.

Prior to the move, he had played at State level through the NTC programs with now Head Coach, Carl Veart, and Assistant Coach and Head of Youth Football, Airton Andrioli.

After three years and minimal first team football with Roar, Barnett made the switch to Melbourne Victory in 2019, where he totalled 43 appearances prior to his return just over two weeks ago.

Only 22, the versatile defensive utility has learned to deal with life on the road and out of a suitcase, which reinforced his signing for Adelaide’s hierarchy.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to have experienced a lot in terms of coaches and big players during my time at Victory and being there from such a young age has shaped me as a footballer, and a person,” Barnett said.

“In the few years I was in Melbourne I had been on the end of some of the darker days and I’ve taken a lot out of it, the bad and the good.

‘Hopefully one day I can count on those experiences and use it in a positive way for this great Club.”

That opportunity may come sooner rather than later.

Barnett has been named in Veart’s 20-man squad for Sunday’s away trip to his former side in Victory, after impressing in his 82 minutes for United’s NPL Seniors and their 6-2 win against South Adelaide last weekend.

Normally utilised as a deep-lying midfielder, Barnett feels prepared and ready to be called upon to make a difference, and a first team debut for his hometown Club would mean the world.

“It’s very similar to when I was here six years ago in the State program, so it didn’t really take me too long to get adjusted to the style,” he said.

“Airton and Carl were there through my junior development, and last weekend, Airton said to use that game to get used to the system again, refresh a few things and try to put my best foot forward.

“Thankfully he thought I did, as did Carl, so I’m looking forward to any game that I play for the rest of the season.

‘It’s been a whirlwind already but to pull on the red shirt for my boyhood Club would be a dream come true.”

Andrioli reciprocated the sentiment, stating after the game that Barnett can be a ‘very valuable asset’ for the A-League team, and poised to deliver on the potential that Adelaide first saw in him as a junior.

Barnett’s second coming encapsulates health matters too, after the young midfielder suffered a severe bout of pericarditis (inflammation in the muscle around the heart) following a contraction of Covid in January last year which was ‘the most significant hurdle’ in the young man’s career to date.

Barnett had started at left-back for Victory against Adelaide in a 1-1 draw, however the next day most of the team tested positive for Covid, along with several of the United contingent.

Following a week off, Barnett then started against Sydney FC but had to be substituted just after half-time, suffering chest pains and shortness of breath from the 25-minute mark.

Something was terribly wrong.

“It wasn’t asthma or an asthma attack because I’ve had them before and none of the medication was helping,” Barnett recalled.

“I was knocked around for about four weeks, but on my comeback game with the Victory youth team the same thing happened again probably about 20 minutes in.

“I questioned to myself, ‘is this done, is my career done?’.

“But more tests revealed I had some additional damage to my lung and it really just took a lot of time and patience, but I made a full recovery over pre-season leading into this 2022/23 campaign.

“Your mind takes you to some dark places but eventually it improved, and everything has been pretty smooth sailing since, so my hope is that can continue.

“It was hard being absent from the Victory team in the last season or two because of that and I had felt I was beginning to hit some consistent form then as well.

“But as I like to believe, you need to take it day-by-day in your football career because it can always change, so you must keep pushing forward.”

This medical experience has made it all feel ‘real’ to the 22-year-old, who is already aware of the lofty, rapid heights – and sudden pitfalls – of football and life at such a young age in the game.

Perhaps a bit of that can be traced back to his father, Michael, who represented West Adelaide in the National Soccer League and was also inducted into the AIS from a young age.

Barnett admits he has forged his own path but was always reminded by his father of the trials and tribulations that a career can hold.

Now, after a full recovery and a fresh start, Barnett has put himself in the frame for selection and at the very least, not far from Veart’s thoughts.

“It is a bit weird to be honest, to come back to Adelaide and then play Victory almost immediately, who are fierce rivals, after I was there for quite a while,” he said.

“But I do remember what it was like as a boy growing up here, and any Victorian team to play against Adelaide is massive and fierce contest, and of course Adelaide is where my true allegiance always remained.

“The text messages started flying the moment I signed, and I pencilled this into the calendar immediately, and its’s only ramped up ahead of Sunday’s game.

“These teams hate each other, and every player knows the magnitude of the occasion and that they will have to be up for the fight every time.”

Only at Coopers – Adelaide United memberships on-sale now.