That’s not a Costello Report: THIS Is A Costello Report! (Part One)

Sep 18, 2012 by

Forget about that dry report on Queensland’s state of economic health from that other Costello – we’ve got a footy status report that should be a lot more readable and perhaps more thought provoking!

At 27 years of age, John Costello has recently added a second QSL title – this time as captain of the Brisbane Strikers – to an impressive football CV that also includes a list of Brisbane Premier League honours with Palm Beach and a season in which he was adjudged the QSL’s Most Valuable Player. Now making his first moves into coaching, there are few players better qualified to speak from first-hand experience about the football scene in Brisbane and Queensland than the man known to his team mates as “JC”. And, on the evidence of a chat the Brisbane Strikers website had with Costello on 26 August (a few hours before his team went down 3-0 to the Far North Queensland Bulls in Mareeba), we can safely say there would be very, very few who could talk about it so thoughtfully and articulately.

In a forty-five minute interview we quizzed Costello on a range of topics ranging from his times with Palm Beach in the BPL, to his recovery from a devastating knee injury that cost him a year of football after he joined the Strikers, to his 2009 roller-coaster of a season with them, to his return to the BPL with Olympic FC and then back again to the QSL via the ill-fated Gold Coast Stars and to the current season with the Strikers. Costello also touched on the locally controversial topic of comparisons between the QSL and BPL, his expectations of the fortchconing Australian Premier League and the effect that coaching has had on his appreciation of the game he loves. We hope you enjoy the results, which will be broken up into a three-part series published here over the coming week.

Brisbane Strikers Website: John, you were with Palm Beach for a number of years. It was a very successful side, wasn’t it?

John Costello: Yeah, at least three years. Maybe four. It was a very successful team for a period of time. There was a time there when Palm Beach were really building things with a youth focus and there was enough time for the guys that were brought into the program to develop into the senior squad and we had some great years with a very young side there.

BSW: Did you come through that youth system yourself?

JC: Yes, I did. There were at least three years there where they had a program developed and we achieved things from the youth level right through to the senior BPL level and then after that I stayed on for another two years.

BSW: Did you come through at roughly the same time as the Dodd brothers, for instance?

JC: Yes, the Dodd brothers, Mitch Nicholls was there the last year that I was there, Tommy Oar was there – he was starting when I finished, and then things changed there the year after I left, so there were certainly some players that went through there. There was a fair few guys who have ended up playing A-League from that group.

BSW: Was it a special team to be involved with?

JC: It was, as a young player, because I had a lot to learn, you know? A hell of a lot to learn, especially about senior football because I was a youth player when I started there and then, to be thrown in with guys that had played with the best players in Brisbane and then gone on and played at State and national level as young players and to be in a group together, and doing things really well in the Brisbane Premier League was great. I learnt a lot and I was talking to Largie today about the fact that there were players in there that were willing to share their knowledge as senior players and the effect that had on us as young guys….

BSW: Just thinking about those players, Peter Grierson – an ex-Strikers player – he was there for a while, wasn’t he?

JC: And probably, at the time, the best player I had played with, I’d say, by far. He played beside me, really, and probably that was the year that I had my best year. As a young player, playing seniors, I’d followed Peter even when he was at the Strikers and to have him come back – that was massive for me and massive for Palm Beach at the same time. He is a class player – he’s still playing on the Gold Coast and I talk to boys who are in his side, and he’s still doing good things.

BSW: As part of that team you played against the Strikers, who were the team that you supported as a boy. What was that like for you – did you have mixed feelings about it?

JC: I can only comment to the fact that, growing up and watching the Strikers and then being able to play against them it was almost like an overawed thing. And we were competitive with the Strikers at times, but the picture that I had held in my head about the Strikers as a club and as a team – I’d never really thought that I would be at a point where I would be playing against them. I’d always had them in such high regard, to be really honest with you, and the opportunity to do it….it’s funny, but I still get the emotions. I can cast my mind back to the first time that I warmed up at Perry Park to play against the Strikers as a Palm Beach boy, and then to still do it…now, when I’m playing for the Strikers the same emotion comes up for me – about being really appreciative of being involved in football, really, and being able to play at a great club. That comes up for me every time.

BSW: It must have been a funny sort of feeling then to get asked to join the Strikers, then, back in 2008. Why did you make that move from Palm Beach to the Strikers – was it a natural one for you?

JC: It had come on the back of a couple of seasons where I was a little bit frustrated. We’d had some success at Palm Beach and I’d enjoyed that, and been a good part of that, and then we’d had a couple of years where things had changed in the youth program and the development program in my view had started to fall apart a little bit, there. I still remember the moment that I got a phone call from Steve Wilson. I was sitting in the car driving along and Steve called me, and I just couldn’t believe it – that he had called me and invited me to come up and talk to him and Stuart (McLaren). It blew me out of the water really, but I wouldn’t have said it was a natural progression. I thought the year that Palm Beach had been the most successful was probably the year I had the most input to the side, and then I’d had a couple of years where I wasn’t enjoying my football as much – I was a little bit frustrated. And Steve called me, and I was blown out of the water. It wasn’t really in my picture. I’d always wished that I could play for the Strikers but I never thought that I’d ever get a phone call. So when it happened I remember talking to my mum and then going up and speaking to Steve and there was no question after he called me that I’d do whatever I could to get up there.

BSW: And having got there, you had the bad luck of hurting your knee in the first game you played and you were out for the season. How did that year affect you?

JC: I was really geared. I’d done a massive pre-season to get myself ready physically in the best shape I’d been, and at the point when I got up there, I was. Fifteen minutes in and, yeah, just bad luck – a bad tackle – it was probably one of the most difficult things I’ve dealt with. The rehab was a lot longer than a normal ACL because I’d done two ligaments and ruptured my hamstring and it was really messy, so the rehab was eleven months and not the usual six to eight months, and I was a lot longer with my foot in the air and unable to move. So it took a lot of momentum out of me, but to be really clear, there were boys at the club at the time – Todd Gava, Chookie Collins, Lowndesy – there was a list of boys that had a lot of experience and we had a great physio that looked after me and sorted me out with good surgery very quickly and I was very well supported in that way. They were really good. They were in my ear all the time about doing the right thing with physio and taking my time to come back.

BSW: Was it mentally tough, though, as well as physically?

JC: It’s massive. It’s such a difficult thing to be so completely thrown out. The first hour I went jogging…rehab-wise, when you’ve never dealt with something that throws you out like that…rehab-wise, I went for ten minutes – or I thought I’d go for ten or fifteen minutes for a jog – but after ten minutes I couldn’t jog home. I had to walk myself home because my good leg was so fatigued from trying to look after my injured side, so that sort of state was really difficult but I’m better off for it, really. I appreciate every game a lot more now, and I’ve pushed a lot to try and get back right, to be fully fit and I appreciate the game and appreciate the players around me more. And just to be fit, to play.

BSW: A lot of players go through that sort of injury – more now than ever, it seems. What would you say to young players who suddenly go down with an injury like that? How do they cope with it?

JC: I had an ex-school student I spoke to yesterday who had just had the injury and he’s getting surgery in two weeks. I can’t stress enough how much you’ve got to do the right physio. See a physio consistently, and cross all the t’s and dot the i’s because after the time that you’re out, if you haven’t done it properly to come back and be fully ready – a lot of people do it again. I’ve got good friends who have done the physio to sixty, seventy, eighty percent of what’s been asked and gone and redone it, and that just….I couldn’t deal with having to go through that again in terms of playing football. So you’ve just got to do the right physio, but coming back it’s definitely worth it.

BSW: It definitely was in your case. You came into the 2009 squad that won the QSL championship. At that stage, how would you have compared that experience of winning the QSL with the experience of winning the BPL with Palm Beach?

JC: I’d grown up a fair bit in between. I think there were four years from when I was about 19 or 20 when we did the BPL. The QSL was hugely competitive at that point. The playing group that I was with in 2005 were younger guys, generally, who were still very much trying to learn the game whereas the squad, including (coaches) Stuey and Largie, at the Strikers was a much more professional outfit with a lot of players that had been overseas or played professionally and then come back to that squad, whether as a coach or as players still. It was much more competitive, I’d say, in 2009 and the playing group was a much more professional outfit. That was probably one of the biggest things that I remember, was the 2009 championship. It was a special thing.

BSW: Was it the biggest achievement that you’d had in football to that point?

JC: To that point it certainly felt that way. I mean, it’s funny in thinking about what the biggest achievement would be, in terms of trophies or medals or finishing a league on top, that’d be it. Performance-wise, I’d say overall it would be to come back from the injury and to play at the level again. That’s just a personal thing, you know, but in terms of football achievement, the 2009 thing was pretty special.

BSW: It had probably a disappointing finish when you lost the Grand Final. What do you recall of that game, and did it taint the season for you?

JC: Yeah, it certainly did, and Chay (Hews) and I still agonise over it at times when we talk about it, and we’ve used it even this year to talk with the boys about our attitude and about making your performance happen in the games that you need to. But, in looking back at that, the things that I remember – I remember we went up 1-0 five or ten minutes in. And I remember at 3-1 down feeling like we weren’t going to turn it around. And, to be fair, that’s a feeling that I had at 3-0 down when we played the Sunny Coast (in round 3) this year. The same feeling.

BSW: Were the same issues at play in terms of why you weren’t able to turn it around – was there some bickering going on?

JC: The team that took the field in the Grand Final in 2009 was a different team to the one that had consistently played in the weeks leading up to that. The team that took the field at Sunny Coast that day, I would say we’d played together for a few weeks but we still weren’t a tight-knit team. You know, it’s a long season, too. To compare the two it is difficult in other ways because it’s a long season. Emotionally, it’s massive – to turn up and perform right at the end like that, it’s a difficult thing but yeah, I suppose, those similar feelings….I was well-reminded at the start of this season.

News, Player Interviews

About the author

Marketing Brisbane Strikers