Newcastle Jets veteran Nikolai Topor-Stanley said teammate Johnny Koutroumbis’ cancer diagnosis has put “football in perspective” ahead of the Hyundai A-League 2018/19 season.
The Jets announced on Wednesday that Koutroumbis had been diagnosed with stage one thyroid cancer and that his football career was indefinitely on hold.
The 20-year-old has already had surgery to remove the thyroid gland and Jets Football Operations Manager Joel Griffiths said the prognosis was encouraging and “very treatable” after early detection.
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The news hit home with the Jets squad and Topor-Stanley said Koutroumbis was in everyone’s thoughts ahead of the club’s season-opener on Sunday.
“I guess it puts football in perspective, you know,” he said.
“What’s really important is your health and your family. We’re fully behind [Johnny] and I’m sure the whole league is.
“We look forward to having him back on the training field.”
Koutroumbis has made 35 A-League appearances for the Jets and scored twice last season in Newcastle’s run to the Hyundai A-League 2017/18 Grand Final.
Moving on from Grand Final sorrow
The Jets begin their new campaign in New Zealand and although Topor-Stanley acknowledged that playing Wellington Phoenix at Westpac Stadium was “never an easy atmosphere”, he was confident his side could get the three points.
Victory would be a good start for the Jets, who are aiming to go one better after failing just short in last season’s decider.
Defeat was particularly tough to take for Topor-Stanley, who has now played in four Hyundai A-League Grand Finals without winning one.
But he said he has moved on from the disappointment, insistent it was necessary if the Jets are to taste any sort of success this season.
“I’ve had four losses now … it [winning a Grand Final] is the ultimate prize,” he said.
“I guess our sporting culture doesn’t really reward results over the season as opposed to one game.
“But we’ve accepted it for what it is and we’ve moved on and we’ve just got to put ourselves in the position first to make finals and then anything can happen.
“Of course it’s disappointing [not to have won the Grand Final] but you know, if anyone’s going to argue that that was a poor year, that would be pretty harsh.
“We had a home grand final. Unfortunately it came down to one game and one goal. We’ve moved past it and we have to.”