How inspirational Koutroumbis sparked Newcastle's season back to life

It seems appropriate that Johnny Koutroumbis was the man to breathe new life into Newcastle Jets’ Hyundai A-League campaign.

The Jets needed a hero to emerge in last Saturday’s season-defining clash with Melbourne Victory, a potential do-or-die clash for their top-six hopes.

But the Hunter Valley outfit could hardly have asked for a better source of inspiration than the 21-year-old from Adelaide.

Koutroumbis netted a crucial first-half opener, the defender’s first goal since returning to the pitch following his stage one thyroid cancer diagnosis in November, and one which spurred Ernie Merrick’s side to a 2-0 win.

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“My eyes lit up,” Koutroumbis told when remembering the moment.

“It all happened really fast, but I did have time to reflect on it after the game.

“To be honest, I’ve come a fair way and that goal definitely made me feel so much better about myself.

“[My Mum and Dad] were saying how they both celebrated really hard once I scored that goal.

“They were saying they’re just so happy and proud of me to see that I’ve scored.”

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Newcastle would do well to emulate the strength of character and resilience their young defender has displayed over the past six months as the club gears up for a top-six push.

The former Adelaide United youth believes last season’s Grand Finalists are gathering momentum, and belief has been bolstered significantly after last Saturday’s triumph over Victory.

And things are going swimmingly for Koutroumbis on a personal level too, with the defender signing a new three-year contract with the Jets in January and earning his first-ever national call-up to Graham Arnold’s Olyroos for the AFC U23 Championship qualifiers.

“To be honest, I feel much better. I feel better than what I did before everything had happened,” Koutroumbis continued.

“You really learn to take care of your body more. You really listen to your body and what your body needs.

“Everything on the pitch and off the pitch contributes to how you play.

“You could say I’ve taken much better care of my body since then I’ve learned to listen, I’ve learned when to stop and when to keep going.

“I feel great.”

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