Kanta's overseas dream

Newcastle Jets midfielder Ben Kantarovski is relishing getting regular game-time at the Jets again after a horror run of injuries - but he still harbours dreams of playing overseas one day.

Kantarovski was a teenage star who caught the eye after joining the Jets at the age of 15 and making his A-League debut at 16 years of age in the opening match of the 2008-2009 season. The Hunter region product trialed with Bayern Munich in 2009 and at the age of 18 turned down an offer to join the German giant’s youth team.

A versatile player who has appeared across the midfield and the back four for Newcastle, Kantarovski has played in junior FIFA World Cups and represented Australia at Under-17, Under-20 and Under-23 levels.

But he has battled to live up to his early promise, managing just 73 matches for the Jets since 2008 after suffering consecutive knee reconstructions and missing 18 months of football.

The 21-year old re-signed with Newcastle in December for another two years and said he didn’t really consider joining another A-League club.

“It’s always good to re-sign here, especially with the amount of time I was out,” Kantarovski said. “When I re-signed the last time I sort of got injured as soon as I resigned.

"I didn’t really get to showcase much of what I wanted to do here. I think just missing that much football, it was close to two years, just doing rehab and what not but, yeah...it was good to re-sign.

"I’m looking forward to playing some really good games. I didn’t really look elsewhere I think because of injury and there was so much cloud about what was going on there and whether I was actually going to get back to how I used to play before.

"It was a matter of making sure we got the body right and the head right and got back to playing football and just regular football, and that’s what the aim is lately.”

Kantarovski has appeared in 12 of the Jets’ 14 A-League matches this season in his preferred holding midfield role as he builds his form and fitness. The Broadmeadow Magic junior admits it is a relief to be back playing as he did battle some doubts about whether he could return during his long stint in recovery.

“We worked so hard to get back to that position,” Kantarovski said. “We have to really work to stay in that position as well. It’s not easy to do that week-in-week-out, you have to really work and try and develop our game. 

"Missing so much football, especially in that crucial period of 18, 19, 20 sort of thing. There’s a lot of things I would have like to have done there like working on little aspects of my game but it’s now a matter of, not necessarily being behind the eight ball, but to knuckle down and get down to it.

“Good form comes down to working hard. At the end of the day it’s only going to pay off the amount of work you put in. We put in as much work as we can.

“I think sometimes it’s just in the head as well. There were times when I thought: do I really want to play football? Do I really want to go through that? Especially after the second one. But the second one I felt I was better prepared and more motivated and I knew what was expected of me and what I had to do.

"I actually found coming back from my second injury it was a bit of fun to be honest. It was frustrating at times, don’t get me wrong. I’d take a step back or do something wrong, or just have a crappy day. But at the end of the day we worked through that with physio and did well.”

After some turbulent times Kantarovski said his knee is feeling well now and he believes the Jets are improving as a unit each week. The Hunter outfit is currently in sixth place on the competition ladder, with five wins, four draws and five losses, and face the winless-Melbourne Heart on Friday night.

The former Newcastle United ballboy also dreams of a move to an overseas league but is in no hurry to leave the A-League yet.

“The knee’s good, I’m not going to complain,” Kantarovski said.“As long as you’re consistent you’ll still be there at the end of the season. We [the Jets] have to have that consistency.

"We’ve shown we can compete with the best and beat the best, and play some really, really good footy. But at times were just a bit inconsistent when we play those teams and we have to step up our own level.

“Overseas, that’s the dream. The A-League’s improving but you still want to test yourself against the best. To do that you have to get overseas.

"There’s a certain period where we’d like to go but at the end of the day we keep playing regular football and that will come.”