Just under three years after returning home, Melbourne City's Curtis Good has rebuilt from a “nightmare” European run of injury and self-doubt and is now targeting a Socceroos return.
A former Knox City junior, Good attended the prestigious Australian Institute of Sport as a teenager before being snapped up by Melbourne Heart - promptly going on to make 25 appearances for the club during the 2011-12 season.
After impressing in his professional debut, he was subsequently signed to a six-year deal by Alan Pardew and Premier League side Newcastle United. Loan moves to Bradford City and Dundee United followed, as did a Socceroos call-up in early 2014.
Unfortunately, a hip injury suffered in his green and gold bow served to almost completely derail Good’s career; the defender not playing a single league game between a February 2014 appearance for Dundee and his first A-League appearance after re-signing for City in December 2018.
“You sort of lose [your self-belief] for a bit,” Good reflected. “Both in your ability and your body most of all.
“Thankfully, when I came back to Australia, they [City] gave me time to find that again, that confidence in the body and self-belief in your ability and why you play professional football.
“I’ve been here a few years now and this sort of environment has given me that opportunity to find it again.
“People ask me about [regrets] all the time. It’s split into highs and lows. The first bit of the trip to the UK was unbelievable - playing with these players and Socceroos and good loan moves.
“As opposed to the flip side, the next three or four years which were a bit of a nightmare.
“But I’d still do it again for the experience. I’d obviously go into it a bit differently, not as naïve, but it was definitely an experience where I’d taken so much away from it.
“It builds you up, your mental strength, that exposure to that level and those circumstances it gives you, going forward, that mental capacity to take on other things.”
Starting and playing every minute of every game for coach Patrick Kisnorbo during the 2020-21 A-League season - popping up with both a goal and goal-line clearance in his side’s recent win over Wellington - Good has emerged as one of the competition’s standout players.
And with his side second on the table and possessing the third-most miserly defence in the league, the 28-year-old says he’s feeling better about his game than he ever has.
“From a confidence perspective, I’d probably say [I'm in career-best form],” Good said. “I’ve been around a while but it’s not the longest career because of a few injuries and that.
“I can’t remember a time being more confident and enjoying it and I think that’s the most important thing, I think. I’ve been building over the years.
“The first time I came back, during the offseason and the season when I wasn’t available to play I was smashing the rehab. Then I got to play games and you tailor that back.
“Then when it hits the off-season you take it to another level and then this off-season we went to another level with the sports science staff.
“[There’s] less and less [mental apprehension about injury] as time goes on. First year back it was very much in your mind, every challenge and every training session and every game it was always there.
“I think that’s one of the points about getting back to that self-belief level - when you don’t have to worry about that stuff and can concentrate on your game, it makes such a big difference.
“At the moment, I’m at the stage where it’s not even on my mind. After the games, it comes to your mind a bit, in recovery for the next game, but during the game, you’re not worried about going for challenges and things of that nature, which is important.”
With Graham Arnold set to announce an extended squad for coming FIFA World Cup qualifiers and Good, in red-hot form, possessing that oh-so-rare gift of left sidedness, the City defender looms as a strong candidate for a return to the national setup after a seven-year absence.
“It’s always something you aspire to get back to,” he said on a call-up.
“I think I’ve put myself in a position where question marks over my body have sort of been less and less as time has gone on and I’ve been playing better and better over the last few years. I guess all you can do is keep working hard for your team, playing well and keeping fit.
“I haven’t given [a Socceroos and A-League finals clash] much thought just because it’s still up in the air. You have to get selected first.
“I guess I speak for most players in the A-League where obviously your country comes first and you’ll always take the call but players would be a little disappointed to miss out on the finals series after having worked so hard this season.”