For Jonathan Aspropotamitis, the mental scars of his long recovery from a serious knee injury were swept away in 65 minutes.
That’s how long the young Central Coast Mariners defender played in his first game back since rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament back in February.
Aspropotamitis suffered the injury while playing for the Western Sydney Wanderers in the National Youth League Grand Final, which his side won 3-1.
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And it was in the same competition on Sunday that the 22-year-old came through his comeback unscathed, ending the most difficult 10 months of his young career.
“Any sort of setback you get in life in general, there’s a lot of highs and lows,” Aspropotamitis said.
“When I found out about the news of my injury the day after it happened, it kind of hits you pretty surreally that you’re going to be out for such a long period of time.
“There are a lot of highs and lows but you learn a lot about yourself and you get a good time to reflect about what you need to do when you do come back.”
Inspired by fellow Mariner Gameiro
Aspropotamitis was blown away by the support he received throughout his recovery, both from former club the Wanderers, new club the Mariners, and various players around the Hyundai A-League.
But it was advice from new teammate Corey Gameiro that really resonated with the Sydney-born centre-back.
Gameiro has endured terrible luck with knee injuries in his career, undergoing three ACL reconstructions.
“He’s shown amazing mental strength to be able to come back through three of them, effectively missing three years of football and now he’s 25 and still going on,” Aspropotamitis said.
“We’re yet to see him in action here at the Mariners but the amount of stories and advice he’s given me throughout the process and just constantly being in my ear about what’s important and being right to return and what’s required on a daily basis.”
Focused on the future
With his comeback match now out of the way, Aspropotamitis can confidently look forward to what’s ahead with the Mariners.
While the hard work will continue, he’ll persist with the process that has helped him get through the tough times to be where he is now.
“Getting 90 minutes under my belt is the next box to tick. Whether that’s in the A-League or NYL, we’ll work that out in the next few days with the coaching staff,” he said.
“I’m just really keen to get 90 minutes under my belt and if I have to come back and help the youth team again that’s not a problem.
“It’s just onwards and upwards from here and we’ll continue with the process ahead,” Mulvey said.