EIGHT LONG MONTHS
I don’t do bullshit. I’d probably be better off if I did, but I can’t. It’s just not in my nature. Ask me a question and I’ll answer it honestly, even if some people might not like it or it gets me into trouble.
Who wants to be lied to? I’ll give it to you straight. It’s up to you how you take it.
I can only be myself. I’m a good teammate, a good family man and a loyal friend. I want the best for everyone. On the pitch, I crave success for myself and everyone around me and I’ve definitely bought into what we’re doing at Newcastle Jets. I play hard, but fair.
I can look myself in the mirror and be comfortable with who I see.
When I feel I’ve been wronged, I say so. I took that last suspension personally. How can you take it any other way when you’re hit with such a long ban? I’m sure a lot of people would agree with me.
My wife, Ellen, has been great through all of the time out I’ve had with this suspension. She’s very understanding. She’s had to live through this period as well, when maybe I haven’t been the easiest person to be around.
Sitting with me in the grandstand when I’m not playing isn’t an enjoyable experience for anybody.
But through it all I look at our little boy, Alfie, who turns three next St Patrick’s Day, and he takes my mind off any troubles I’ve got. My parents know me inside out and they could see the toll this took on me when I was back home during the off-season. I was there, but I wasn’t, if you know what I mean.
We talked about it a lot. They know I wouldn’t try to injure someone in my wildest dreams. My Dad was upset because he believed his son had been wronged. He just tells me, ‘You show ’em when you get back’.
The grand final was on May 5, so it’s been about eight months since I could play a competition game. I’ll finally get that chance against my old club, Central Coast Mariners, on Sunday. That’s probably a good script for the media and fans, but I don’t care who I’m playing. I just want to play.
It wasn’t just the suspensions that made me frustrated. I was out for three-and-a-half months early last season as well with a groin injury. I was the Golden Boot leader when I got hurt.
I was just getting myself back to full fitness come the grand final. I was scoring a few more goals and becoming my old self again when the season ended the way it did. It was really difficult for me because football’s all I know. I’ve dedicated myself to the game since I was a little boy.
I did the whole pre-season and played in all of our practice games. I’ve been keeping sharp at training every day since. It’s not been as bad as having a long-term injury and having to watch on and not be able to train at all. I’ve been very active and I’m ready to go.
I have to move forward now.
I didn’t mean for what happened to Lawrence Thomas to happen. I’m apologetic for that. I’ve had itchy feet to play again for a long time now, but at the same time you’ve got to have a sense of perspective and I appreciate how lucky I am.
I get to do something for a living that I’ve loved since I was a boy.
There are so many people a lot worse off than I will ever be. People are getting a raw deal all over the place. A 10-game suspension is trivial compared to all of that.
I’ll still make mistakes, but not like one or two I’ve made previously. When my career is all over, what has happened with the suspensions will hopefully just be a footnote.
There’s still a lot I aim to achieve.