“You never want to hear or expect to hear that you have cancer.”
This is a sentence that Johnny Koutroumbis never imagined he would deliver.
Yet, while sitting with his knee tightly secured in a brace as he recovers from an MCL injury, the young gun reflects on his journey.
It was 2018 when a 20-year-old Koutroumbis was hit between the eyes.
But such is his mental strength, that once he’s fixated on a task, he follows through.
Take the move to Newcastle from Adelaide in 2016.
Koutroumbis knew he had to leave the comfort of his hometown to take his game to the next level.
Becoming independent at 18 did come with its challenges for Koutroumbis but he considers the transition to Newcastle as reflecting his passion for football and his desire to pursue a career in the world game.
“You have to grow up a lot faster and become more mature,” Koutroumbis said.
“There was never a moment where I didn’t want to be a footballer.”
Through his transfer to the Jets, Koutroumbis has become a reliable figure for his coaches and has been deployed in a variety of different roles.
However, early on in his career with the Jets, Koutroumbis received the news that he had stage 1 thyroid cancer.
“You never want to hear or expect to hear that you have cancer,” he said.
“It was a big shock to my family and I.”
The news shook Koutroumbis.
“A period where I was overthinking,” he said.
“It was a devastating time.”
Koutroumbis would thankfully make a full recovery and before he knew it, he would be back in training with the first-team squad.
Despite the difficult times he went through, Koutroumbis believes the ordeal made him a better person and ultimately changed the way he viewed the world.
“I look at things in a different perspective,” he said
“I’ve become more humble.
“I don’t take things for granted.
“The little things matter.”
By looking back on the adversity that he went through, Koutroumbis has been able to realise his experience as a challenging yet significant time in his life.
“I’m really happy to talk about my experience,” he said.
“It definitely has shaped me as a person.”
Koutroumbis acknowledges his teammates, the Newcastle Jets coaching staff and his family as being critical to his recovery and his road back to normal life.
“People at the club would come and see me every day while I was in the hospital,” he said.
“My mum and dad came up to see me and they were there to support me.”
Today, Koutroumbis wears the number 2 jersey and has been a consistent presence in Craig Deans’ side.
The Adelaide born defender has big ambitions to fulfil before his career comes to an end which includes his aspiration to represent Australia.
“I want to play for the national team,” he said.
“It would be a great honour, especially since I’ve grown up in this great country.”
At 23, Koutroumbis is still only in the early stages of a career which looks destined to achieve at both domestic and international levels.
Koutroumbis has now made over 50 appearances for the Jets and feels right at home as a Novocastrian.
The move from Adelaide as a teen was well worth it.
“The closer I became with my teammates, the more it felt like family.”