Papas up for one last shot

Papas up for one last shot TweetFacebook Reece PapasReece Papas has come so desperately close to his dream of professional football, he is not about to let it go without a fight.
Nanjing Night Net

The 21-year-old midfielder anddefender returned to his junior club, Hamilton Olympic, this week after two years in the Central Coast Mariners youth system.He spent much of that time training with the first team and warmed up as 17th man before several A-League games.

The former Jets youth player has trained at the Nike Academy in England, played in Australian and Greek junior national teams and was the Mariners’ 2015-16 National Youth League player of the year.

Buthe never quite did enough to convince coach Paul Okon to offer him a senior contract, and it was clear his opportunities would be limited as the club started recruiting for next season.

“I was disappointed that I didn’t get anything there. All the signs were good. I was with the first-team squad pretty much from day one I joined the club,” Papas said.

“I was always told I was in the running for a contract, but I was pretty much told my chances would be slim with the players they were bringing in, which was fine by me.I understand that’s football and they’ve got to look after themselves. It was a great opportunity down there.

“I left on good terms. I wish them good luck for the A-League season.”

Papas will make his Olympic comeback off the bench against the Jets youth team at Darling Street Oval on Saturday.He said he was focused on staying fit for the next three months and “enjoying football again”with a view to a possible overseas trial or another shot at an A-League club.

“I’m just trying to keep these next eight weeks really dedicated to football.

“I’m going to give it one last crack at football and have a red-hot go with no regrets.

“Being so close, where I was at the Mariners, to getting something,I’d probably be silly to throw it all in because of one person’s opinion. There’s other opportunities out there, I guess.”

Also on Saturday, Rosebud entertain second-placed Valentine at Adamstown and leaders Lambton host Lake Macquarie at Edden Oval.

On Sunday, Broadmeadow play Charlestown in the first of three consecutive home games for Magic as they try to resurrect their season.

Ruben Zadkovich’s side won just once in April and May then won three straight on the road in June to sit just a point behind fourth-placed Olympic.

“It was always going to turn for us. There were a lot of games early where we played well and got nothing,” Zadkovich said.“You go home and watch it and we dominated all the chances and somehow lost one-nil. I think we had 10 penalties in the first round we gave away three other set pieces.

“It was a little bit of Murphy’s law where everything was going wrong, injuries started to stack up, results went against us and before you knew it we were right down the ladder.

“But in the last few weeks the boys have really worked hard and have thoroughly deserved the games and won them comfortably.”

Magic’s past two wins, 3-1 at Valentine and 3-0 at Lake Macquarie, have coincided with the arrival of classy former Jets and Perth midfielder Mitch Oxborrow.

But Zadkovich is wary of his side’spoor home record.Theybeat Weston and Valentine at Magic Park early in the season then lost to Lake Macquarie (4-1), Maitland (7-0), Hamilton (2-1)andEdgeworth (3-0).

“The worrying thing is ourhome form’s not been very good at all,” he said.“But, again, it’s got to turn eventually, and hopefully we can start it this weekend.”

At Cooks Square Park, in-form Maitland host Edgeworth on Sunday.