Corey Gameiro's 900-day journey to redemption

Players do not typically enjoy this time of the year, but Corey Gameiro describes the scene as a thing of beauty.

Only an hour north of Central Coast Mariners' headquarters, Ernie Merrick is exposing his Newcastle Jets squad to the horrors of pre-season, as confessed earlier in the week.

The Mariners are nearly three weeks into their arduous regime. It's a sunny winter's day in Gosford, and it is difficult not to be warmed by the delight radiating from the Mariners' new number nine, who is simply grateful to be able to return to work. 

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As the 25-year-old fronted the club's media yesterday, Gameiro revelled in a small moment of personal redemption. The Wollongong-born forward has fought his way back from three knee reconstructions and spent close to a thousand lonely days in rehabilitation to reach this point.

Gameiro is now a man reborn - a player finally emerging from the injury nightmare that has threatened to break his career for so long.

"I’m really excited about this year," he grins.

"When you come through that, anything else in life that comes my way whether its football related our outside football, I feel like I can accomplish anything.

"I don’t say that arrogantly, I say it just because what I did go through as an individual does make you stronger.

"It makes you really appreciate days like today: a beautiful day out on the field with a good bunch of boys playing football, what a dream job it is for me to have and I’m so fortunate and I appreciate it a lot more now."

Nine years ago Gameiro signed a professional contract with Fulham, a season in which the Cottagers reached the UEFA Europa League Final.

The former Australian U23 captain's career has been imprisoned by injury since then. He's missed nearly three full Hyundai A-League seasons and suffered three cruciate ligament ruptures - two on the left knee, one on the right.

As a result, Gameiro has spent close to three years alone fighting to keep his professional career from reaching breaking point.

"To spend 900 days in rehab my yourself isolated you’ve got a lot of time to talk to your brain and be by yourself and you learn a lot about yourself when you’re in that sort of environment for so long," he said.

"I feel like I’m a better person and a better player now coming through that.

"It's strange to tell people even though I’m 25 and I’ve missed four years, I still feel like I’m 21 – I'm keen, hungry and ready to get out there and play."

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Gameiro is now at his fifth Hyundai A-League club after previous stints at Wellington Phoenix, Sydney FC, Melbourne City and Brisbane Roar.

His arrival in Gosford could be the perfect union between player and club, whose recent histories have both been shrouded in heartbreak and adversity.

The Mariners haven't finished higher than eighth after claiming their maiden Championship in 2014, and the club received its second wooden spoon in four years last season. An 8-2 defeat to rivals Newcastle on the final day could well have been the club's last rites.

Mike Mulvey is the man charged with restoring hope to the competition's perennial over-achievers this campaign. Mulvey won the double with Brisbane Roar in 2013/14, and says Gameiro embodies the new era he is trying to foster in Gosford.

“Corey is exactly the type of personality we need at the Mariners,” Mulvey remarked upon Gameiro's signing.

“He is hard working, motivated and a player that will take this opportunity with both hands."

It would be fitting if Gameiro led the club back to glory, and Mariners fans will have everything crossed for their new striker. 

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