Newcastle Jets young gun Mitch Cooper says he is enjoying being back on the park and building his confidence while playing for the Jets in the Foxtel National Youth League.
The 20-year-old has had a tough run of injuries since joining the Jets in 2012 with anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries to both of his knees ruling him out for the last two seasons.
But the Vanuatu born attacking midfielder says he is fully recovered and just happy to be back on the park and playing competitive football once again.
“I played my third game for the youth team last weekend and it’s just the best feeling being out there,” Cooper said.
“I’m just trying to get familiar with everything position wise and getting my match fitness up with the youth team, but it’s so good to be out there.”
Cooper was ruled out for the second half of last season after suffering an ACL injury in his left knee playing for the Newcastle Jets Youth.
That injury came following his recovery from an operation on his right knee in the 2012/13 A-League season for a similar ACL injury.
But while Cooper said it was disappointing to miss out on so much football he’s learned a lot from his forced sidelining.
“They were two big injuries to my knees, but I’ve learned a lot in regards to looking after myself which is the main thing,” Cooper said.
“It helps you realise what you’re out here for and that’s because you love the game.
“But now I know how important it is to manage my body and do the right things after a game and training.
“Having these injuries at young age is a blessing in disguise because as long as I know what to do in regards to injuries that will help my career last longer if I keep doing the right things.”
Cooper arrived at the Jets from now defunct Gold Coast United where he had the honour of being the youngest captain in A-League history.
And while the youngster said he’s confident he can recapture the form that saw him selected for the Australian U-17 side in 2011, he says the nature of football means a player has to be prepared to experience the highs and lows.
“I had some good times there (Gold Coast United) and that’s just football I guess,” Cooper said.
“You go through the massive highs and I’ve obviously been through the biggest lows now as well.
“But again that puts everything in perspective and helps you realise how short your career is.”
The Jets youth team currently sit in 8th spot on the Foxtel National Youth League ladder and Cooper said he is keen to help the young squad push further up the table.
“The youth team has good bunch of guys, they did well in the NPL (National Premier League) and they’re all little bit wiser now,” Cooper said.
“Of course they’re coming up against the best kids in the country but I have full confidence in them.
“While we haven’t got the results we wanted so far you can see the football being played is positive and I think a couple more games under their belt and they’ll get on a bit of a winning streak.”
Cooper says he’s enjoying playing with the youth side but is looking forward to getting a chance in the Hyundai A-League again soon.
“I’m back out on the park again and all I want to do is help Newcastle,” said Cooper.
“When I get my chance on the park I really want to make an impact and get back on the main stage.”