JOHNNY Koutroumbis feared for his playing future when the 20-year-old was diagnosed with thyroid cancer three months ago.
Now, the inspirational defender is set to sign a new three-year deal at the Newcastle Jets.
A welcomed good news story in an otherwise underwhelming A-League campaign for the Jets, the Newcastle Herald understands that the Adelaide junior has agreed to terms and will put pen to paper this week.
Read more: Newcastle Jets hope Johnny Koutroumbis will return to action, despite being diagnosed with thyroid cancer (October 17, 2018)
Koutroumbis had surgery in October to remove his thyroid gland after noticing a lump at the base of his neck on the eve of the season.
“A lot of things were running through my mind when the doctor told me,” Koutroumbis said after the operation. “There were a few doubts, but you have to keep positive. I kept my faith and I came back as soon as possible.”
Jets chief executive Lawrie McKinna visited Koutroumbis in hospital and reassured the defensive utility that he featured in the club’s plans.
Koutroumbis has a 12cm scar across his neck, requires daily medication – a synthetic replacement for the hormone that would have been produced by his thyroid gland – and will have more radiation treatment this month.
Read more: Defender Johnny Koutroumbis feels “normal” again after returning from cancer to play for the Newcastle Jets (January 3, 2019)
He returned to training in November, four weeks after the surgery, and was named in the squad but didn’t play in the 3-0 loss to Melbourne City on November 27.
After getting his match-fitness back in youth league, Koutroumbis was recalled to the senior squad at right back for the 2-all draw with Brisbane on January 2.
“Fantastic story,” Jets coach Ernie Merrick said after Koutroumbis’ comeback game.
“I thought he was outstanding … for a 20-year-old, recovering from cancer, I just thought it was a great story.”
Koutroumbis has started in the past three games and is likely to retain his spot for the crunch match against champions Sydney FC at Jubilee Oval on Saturday.
Signed by then coach Mark Jones from the Adelaide youth team three years ago, Koutroumbis made his Jets debut in round four of the 2016-17 season and has racked up 38 appearances in the A-League.
His extension leaves 13 players who are off contract at the end of the season, including marquee midfielder Ronny Vargas and fellow imports Roy O’Donovan and Jair and regulars Daniel Georgievski, Nikolai Topor-Stanley and Glen Moss.
Negotiations with Topor-Stanley and Moss are advanced.
The Jets’ 2-1 loss to Melbourne Victory on Saturday leaves them on 12 points, seven outside the top six at the midpoint of the season.
They will be without Georgievski for the trip to Sydney after the defender picked up his fifth yellow card for the campaign in Melbourne.
On the plus side, Vargas returns from a one-match ban.
The Jets shared the points with Sydney from a 1-all draw in round four, thanks to an 87th-minute equaliser from substitute Nick Cowburn.
The Sky Blues have won five of their past six games and are coming off a 2-1 win over Adelaide United at home on Sunday.
However, they will be without defensive midfielder Josh Brillante against the Jets after he received his fifth yellow card of the season.