This goes back to where my professional football career started, at A-League club, Newcastle Jets at 17 years old.
Signing my first professional contract was something I had dreamt about since I was a young boy and I can’t express the amount of achievement I felt. A dream turned into a reality, and is now a part of my everyday life now living and playing in Sweden.
Leading up to signing my first professional deal I was going to school in my home town of Newcastle, aspiring to be a professional footballer. Playing with the Newcastle Jets Youth Team in the Northern New South Wales Premier League (NPL) which was the local competition around Newcastle. I was 17 years old, just started my final year of high school and knew it was going to be a big year trying to juggle both my football and school, but that was something I was willing to do because I wanted to have the best shot possible in everything.
Coming into the start of 2017, our team Newcastle Jets Youth, had just finished up in the National Youth League (NYL) season at the end of summer and were leading up to the start of the NPL season. It was always a thing where older players stepped up and had the opportunity training with the first team over the years, but I never thought that that was going to happen to me so quick.
The NPL season had started and my coach at the time Clayton Zane had begun to mention to the squad that the first team coach Scott Miller would be coming to watch us play on a regular basis. That to me was something I was excited about, and saw as an opportunity and wanted to give myself the best chance possible to stand out. Games later, a couple weeks had passed I was asked to train with the first team. That alone was a proud moment because I knew that the work and effort I had been putting in was starting to show.
Leading up to the A-League season Scott Miller had approached and asked me to be a part of the FFA cup squad against Melbourne Victory in July 2017. It only took me 4 minutes to get my first professional yellow card and 4 stitches in my head. Coming to the sideline to be bandaged up and running back on, The Gaffa had turned to me saying “Love that son, don’t stop what you just did” and that to me was priceless. 25 minutes in my first professional football game and that was all I needed to drive myself and the desire for more.
This was a big period at the time. Exams at school being the stress head I was, heading to the U20’s Socceroo’s camp, and leaving that to board a plane China bound with the first team.
I had reached another milestone being asked to come to China. Playing against Chinese Super League team Liaoning Whowin F.C. and two second division sides was an amazing experience, opening my eyes to international football, taking part in all three games, and scoring! I knew from just before leaving for China that a professional contact was what myself and 3 other youth players on the trip were fighting for.
After arriving back in Australia, having a couple days off after our intense pre-season tour, we had a friendly match against Melbourne City in Ballarat, Victoria. A couple days before leaving, our head coach Scott Miller had parted with the club which left me feeling a range of mixed emotions. It felt as though I would be having to start again with a new coach. I didn’t let this get to my head and what I had achieved the past couple of months. I was heading to Melbourne with the same mindset as I would had before.
My youth team coach Clayton Zane had stepped in to fill the role for the mean time. Scoring a goal off the bench and going on to win the game 4-0 was a great feeling. After the game, returning to the hotel and being pulled aside asking to have a chat with Clayton caught me by surprise. We talked a bit about how I had developed over the past couple of months and said he was happy with my commitment and consistency. From there he went on saying the club was offering me a senior contract.
Sitting down being told that the club was offering me a professional contract was hard not to express how happy and excited I was. It felt like years of hard work and effort had just been repaid in a split second, but it was all in needed to keep going and looking forward to the A-League season and my footballing career ahead.
Signing my first professional contract is something that I am never going to forget. The feeling of playing my first professional game, my first professional goal and an experiencing playing amongst some great Australian and foreign players. All these feeling and memories are some of my greatest I have today.
I will always be grateful for the risk the Newcastle Jets took in me as a 17 year old. This opportunity is many ways shaped me into the hardworking, determined player I am today
Now I am in Sweden, so who knows what is next to come…