For Gema Simon, the last 12 months have certainly had their highs and lows, but the proud Novocastrian is focused on one thing and one thing only as she looks to put her injuries behind her and get back to doing the thing she loves most; playing football.
As the full-time whistle blew at McDonald Jones Stadium on Saturday evening, the Newcastle Jets emerged with a hard fought 1-0 victory over Canberra United, but for Jets captain Gema Simon, the whistle signified more than just another three points, it signified that all her hard work had paid off.
The match against Canberra was just the sixth time Simon had completed 90 minutes in nearly 14 months and capped off an incredible week for the Hunter Sports High alumni, after she represented her country against Chile at the same venue just four days earlier.
"It was awesome. Just to have my friends and family be able to see me play for my country, let alone play for my country in my hometown was pretty special, I definitely didn’t think it was going to happen," she said.
"And then backing up for Newcastle, to wear both jerseys in the same week was really special, and to get the win in both games just kind of tops it all off and has made it all worth it".
Still just 28-years-old, Simon has made over 100 appearances for her hometown side and has also enjoyed time abroad in Canada, Korea and Norway. Throughout her career, she has struggled at times with niggling injuries but admits the last 12 months have been harder than most.
"Every other year I was like 'I don’t care, I just want to play football'. My motivation outweighed anything else and I’ve always been really good with my body," Simon said.
“But this year definitely was pretty hard. I came back a little bit earlier to play W-League last year because I just wanted to play. It had been a rough couple of months, I just got through that on one leg and then had surgery two weeks after the season finished. Then my rehab took a couple of months longer than they first thought, I had a few complications with it".
It was during this period, as Simon faced another lengthy spell on the sidelines, that she even briefly entertained the idea of giving away the game for good.
“I was like ‘I'm happy with what I've done with my career', considering what I've had to go through to get to where I got to.”
"I still have pain every single day, some days it flares up and it’s pretty sore. Before I signed with Newcastle I considered not playing at all, I considered potentially retiring, but I was like well, let's just get through this and see how it is. I think I would’ve regretted it if I didn’t continue to play this season."