Jordan Courtney-Perkins became the latest to join the ranks of young Australians to depart the A-League this off season, when it was announced last month that he would be switching the Eastern seaboard for Eastern Europe.
Speaking exclusively to Kick360, the Roar’s youngest ever A-League player reflects on his time in Brisbane and explain why he chose a more unconventional first step in to Europe with Raków Częstochowa.
“Yeah, you know, it was a pretty big achievement for me and I’m definitely proud of it” says Courtney-Perkins, looking back on his breakthrough.
“I was just lucky enough to have Robbie Fowler, who was a pretty big name, he believed in me and trusted in me and gave me that opportunity.
“Him and his assistant Tony Grant, they taught me a lot about football and made it a real comfortable transition from the Academy to the first team for me and him being the player he was, he’d join in at training sometimes and show everyone up. They were great to work for and work with, they helped me a lot and I’m grateful for what they did.”
Fowler departed under controversial circumstances ahead of the recommencement of the A-League season in the Sydney ‘bubble’, but his replacement was someone that the young defender knew very well.
Having worked with incoming coach Warren Moon previously at the Anglican Church Grammar School, it looked set to be the perfect environment for Courtney-Perkins to kick on and really cement a place in the first team squad.
However, while Moon handed increased game time to a number of talented youngsters at the Roar, the rookie centre back was not one of them.
“It was a tough year for me. There’s adversity all throughout your career in football, so it was a good lesson for me to experience it so early, but yeah it was definitely frustrating.
“I thought after having such a good year the year before… but I couldn’t really get much game with Warren. I had Macauley Gillesphey, one of the best centre backs in the league (since departed to return to England) ahead of me, so I couldn’t really complain about that, but it was definitely hard not playing.”
The lack of game time was the major motivating factor for Courtney-Perkins to leave Queensland.
“Yeah, it was definitely one of them. As a young footballer, especially coming from Australia, if you get the opportunity to come in to Europe and a first team environment, to give it a shot here is something you can’t really turn down. But I was definitely not my happiest in my last season at the Roar and I wasn’t really too interested in hanging around.”
Despite interest from a number of offer A-League and European clubs, including a reported trial offer with Bundesliga behemoths Bayern Munich, the 18 year old opted to try his luck in the Polish Ekstraklasa.
While Raków might not be in the same echelon as the likes of other more-established European parties who showed an interest, the ambitious Polish outfit have risen rapidly from the third-tier to finish second in the top flight last season, capping this already impressive feat with a Polish SuperCup final win over Legia Warsaw.
For the youngster, a move to the club offered the perfect blend of a new challenge and a clear pathway for development.
“For me, I spoke to the coaches here at Raków and my agent also and it seemed a good next step for me to come and develop as a player and a centre back. Also, a big factor was coming into a first team environment, where I’d be playing first team football and in and around first team players every day.
“The Polish League is good, it’s a high level. Big, strong players, skilful players as well, it’s a good chance for me.
“I’m loving it. Every single day I’ve been here . The club have helped me out a lot and made it a very smooth transition for me, which has been great. Playing and making my debut so early on since being here was awesome.”
The new arrival has been thrown straight in at the deep end, making his debut in a tough defeat to Jagiellonia.
“The biggest difference I’ve found here is just how much quicker the game is. Everything moves so much quicker, you have to make your decisions so much faster, it’s something that I’m still getting used to.”
Courtney-Perkins is the first Australian player in Raków’s history, and just the fifth Aussie ever to ply their trade in the history in the Polish top flight.
Luckily, one of those, former Wisła Płock and current Macarthur defender Jake McGing, was on hand with some friendly advice.
“Jake McGing played in my team at Brisbane the first season I was there. He spent some time here in Poland, so I spoke to him and he said how much he enjoyed it!”
Having already made his debut, the key now for Courtney-Perkins is to settle in his new surroundings, learn and adapt to the tactical and technical demands of Polish football and get the regular game time he missed desperately last year.
“I want to come to Europe and I’m planning on staying around a little while so I wanted to come somewhere I could really flourish as a player and develop and really challenge myself.
“Hopefully, I get first team minutes, first team appearances and opportunities, because I feel that’s a really important part of staying over here.”