MITCH Oxborrow was the first at a sodden Magic Park for a recovery session on Monday night.
The 22-year-old had a smile on his face and a spring in his step. It was complete contrast to the midfielder’s final training session at Perth Glory in May.
Oxborrow had been told by coach Kenny Lowe that he wasn’t in his plans. It was a conversation that Oxborrow had not envisaged. Professional football was all he knew.
“When I was released I panicked big time,” Oxborrow said. “I have been relatively lucky and always landed on my feet. You want to stay in the A-League, but sometimes you have to take a step back and re-evaluate.”
He started training with a local team in Perth to ensure he was ready “if something came up”. The break also rekindled the fire in his belly. He needed an opportunity and former teammate, now Magic coach Ruben Zadkovich was happy to assist. The pair played together for the Jets, where Oxborrow debuted aged 17, and in Perth.
“When I was at Perth he matured a lot,” Zadkovich said. “He will give you his heart and soul if you show him that you do care and do believe in him.”
Oxborrow was man-of-the match on debut for Magic in a 3-1 victory over Valentine at Cahill Oval on Saturday.
"He deserves to be in the A-League,” Zadkovich insisted. “He is willing to come back to NPL to prove how good he is, lay it on the line and be judged on his performances. He started five games last year at a star-studded Perth Glory. The guy is a special player.”
Oxborrow met girlfriend, Charlotte Coleman, during his two years at the Jets and they are back staying with her family.
“I just want to play and I want to win,” Oxborrow said. “Wherever that takes me – if it is Magic for the rest of the season or it goes on from there – we will see. Playing for Rubes was a major part. He is a bit like an older brother to me. I could have stayed in Perth but I wanted a change. Even though I have been here before it is something fresh.”
Oxborrow, a youth international with a sweet left foot, returned from a broken foot and played the final four rounds for Glory but did not feature in the finals.
“You need a coach who believes in you,” he said. “I have played 30-odd games in the A-League and don’t think I have played more than five in a row. When I was here under Dutchy (Gary van Egmond) he believed in me but I was 17. When you get to 21-22, you know how to play the game, you know how to grind out a game. I think I have come back a different player.”
The Jets have two places to fill on the their 23-man roster, earmarked for visa players.
“At present we don’t have any spots available,” Jets boss Lawrie McKinna said. “But if anyone is doing well in the local premier league we are keen to bring them in for a look. It might not be for something straight away but there are injury replacements and other opportunities down the track.”
Oxborrow’s desire to return to the professional ranks remains strong.
“Where ever you play you want to go to the step above and keep moving on,” he said. “In some aspects it is my last shot. After the weekend I was buzzing. I want to win, I want to do something at Magic and I want to make a difference.”