I was born in a town in the arse end of nowhere in Northern England. Growing up in a secluded little village, where killing time became my greatest pastime. I was lucky.
I was brought up in a working-class family, where it was understood from an early age that you had to graft for what you wanted and nothing was handed out. At times throughout my life I would forget this, much to my detriment. My parents would tell me that there are two kinds of people in this world, those that are willing to give it their best shot, and those that are willing to do whatever it takes. They inspired me to become the latter.
My dream from an early age was to be a pro-athlete. Growing up, athletes were superstars with their names and pictures plastered on every newspaper and tv program. I wanted to be the best at something. The notion of training and playing a sport that you loved for a living, seemed so attractive. I tried everything that was available to me. I played Rugby Union, spent years kickboxing, cricket, started throwing a shot-put, but like most northerners, football (soccer) became my priority.
It wasn’t until I moved to Australia at 14 years old that I started to show some promise as a footballer. I began goalkeeping at Mooroolbark Soccer Club. Trained by Big Erik, Niall G and Roy, I was taken under their wing and became the young ‘grasshopper’, making my way through the ranks. I made my senior debut at 17 years old, won leagues and broke club records. I was under the impression that my only way was up and it was only a matter of time before I would make it as a professional.
I was talented. People would constantly tell me this. Unfortunately, I started to believe my own hype. My efforts started to lack and I expected things to happen for me rather than go after them myself. Inconsistency slowly became my biggest trait, which isn’t a sought-after commodity as a potential professional goalkeeper.
In my early 20’s, I was still after this professional pipe dream. My attitude had changed towards soccer. I was putting in the extra efforts and playing NPL level football at Eastern Lions. I believed that I was on the right track to accomplishing something greater. I was also in the midst of going through the police application process after I had just graduated university with a couple of Bachelor’s degrees.
I’m a classic over-thinker. Which is a blessing and a curse. I usually take too much time working out all possibilities, that I never enjoy the little things, or take the small wins. It can be an unpleasant characteristic, especially whilst meeting new people. I’ve always demanded more, with the singular goal of the relentless pursuit of excellence, which makes downtime more of a novelty. I don’t drink (mainly due to health), so I can never rely on Dutch courage to help make social situations less awkward. But this attitude has provided me with the ability to pick up skills and conquer most issues. However, when the unanticipated happened – a bizarre, inexplicable medical emergency, it left me with limited recourse.
Call it what you want, fate, determinism, God’s Will, but something interrupted my plans and I ended up in hospital with a liver abscess. Four-fifths the size of my liver and infected with Mycobacterium Avium Complex (MAC). This ended my football career (mainly through choice), and ended my police career before it began. I was at rock bottom (not for the first time, and not for the last).
Then a casual conversation with my now fiancé became something greater. She said ‘we should travel Europe’. This was a life changing two years that moulded me. It made me. I moved backed to the UK to the concrete jungle Milton Keynes, which I used a base to travel to 20 countries in 18 months, and discovered a new lease for life. I cemented a future with the love of my life, getting engaged in the picturesque Jökulsárlón in Iceland. But maybe just as important, I rediscovered an old love. Wrestling.
Wrestling was always in the background in my life, an old flame that I would return to occasionally when comfort was needed, whether that be tuning into a Royal Rumble or starting a GM mode on SVR 2007. All it took was a flyer in my letterbox to bring the sport back to the forefront. Rey Mysterio vs Will Ospreay going one on one at WCPW in the Milton Keynes ice rink provided some much-needed inspiration into my life.
I was hooked.
Engrossed in the action.
These were elite athletes performing at a level only very few could achieve.
I always wanted to provide someone this moment. A moment of escape. A moment of elation. I provided limited moments like this in my soccer career, when I pulled off camera pleasing saves, or scored a goal in injury time that brought the crowd into a frenzy. These moments were few and far between though.
I once saw it first hand in my father. We were two large northern boys sitting in the cheap seats at Rod Laver Arena watching Elton John tickling the ivories. A producer for the show saw us cramped in these plastic chairs and what happened next would change my view on life forever…
To be continued.