Gema Simon has taken a philosophical attitude into her first Matildas camp in over 12 months.
The Novocastrian was called into the 20-player women’s football squad this week for Australia’s two-match international series with Chile in Penrith on Saturday and Newcastle Tuesday night.
The national recall to replace injured Jets teammate Larissa Crummer in Matildas camp came out of the blue for the 28-year-old, who has been focused on a strong W-League with Newcastle after off-season surgery.
The Croudace Bay teacher’s aide returned from playing in Norway last November with a knee injury. She was in the Matildas squad at the time and played through pain to help the Jets reach the W-League finals in February.
After an arthroscope and ITB (iliotibial band) release on her left leg when the season finished, Simon started a lengthy rehabilitation process.
“My priority was to get back on the field and my focus over the past couple of months has been just to get back playing and playing well for Newcastle and see what happens,” Simon said from Matildas camp on Wednesday.
“I didn’t expect to come back into the Matildas squad so soon, but it’s definitely nice to be back here.”
The two-game series is a chance for players to state their cases ahead of the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France in June.
The Jets defender and co-captain sat on the bench when the Matildas beat Brazil 3-2 at McDonald Jones Stadium in September last year in front of a record women’s football crowd on Australian soil.
“It would be pretty special to get on this time around at home, being in Newcastle and being where I grew up,” Simon said.
“But, if not, I’m just happy to be around the best players in Australia and hopefully just improve my game and be able to take that into the W-League.”
Simon played a full game as the Jets opened their W-League season with a 2-1 loss to Melbourne Victory at Lakeside Stadium last week.
It was just her fifth full game of football in 13 months after returning to the field with South Wallsend in the latter stages of the Herald Women’s Premier League.
After an injury-hampered career she was “finally starting to feel like I can play football again”.
“It’s been a pretty hard 12 months or so and I’ve done a lot of work and had a lot of people supporting me,” Simon said.
“I’m definitely in a better place physically, mentally and emotionally. Everything is so much better than it was, so I’m glad I actually took the time to get my body right.”
Her focus now is on ensuring her body stays strong.
“I went through a phase in my rehab where I thought, I’m quite happy with what I’ve done in my career, considering all of the bad luck and all of the injuries I’ve had, and what I wouldn’t give to go 12 months injury free because I don’t think I’ve had that since I was about 18,” Simon said.
“That’s all I want. I just want 12 months to be where I could be as a footballer.”
The game at Penrith Stadium on Saturday is at 3.30pm.
The Matildas then head to Newcastle ahead of their Tuesday night match, which kicks off at 7.30pm at McDonald Jones Stadium. An open fan session will be held at the stadium on Monday from 6.15pm.
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