Much could be said about the current pathways to professional football in Australia. Whilst it’s not unheard of for NPL stars to gain professional status either here in Australia or overseas, it is certainly a long and difficult road to professional football here in Australia.
Perth Glory’s latest pickup from the Northern NSW NPL system, Jacob Dowse, knows all too well how treacherous that pathway can be. Battling several injury setbacks, many which would have ended careers, the determination and persistence of the 22-year-old has resulted in his first professional contract in the form of a scholarship deal under former coach and mentor Ruben Zadkovich at Perth Glory.
Starting out in the Emerging Jets system in his hometown of Newcastle at 11, Jacob’s dreams were set on professional football from a young age. When speaking to Kick360, Dowse reflected on the wealth of knowledge he gained from club coaches such as Gary Van Egmond, Clayton Zane, and Craig Deans along with former Jets defender Taylor Regan.
“The wealth of knowledge and different perspectives on football helped me to form different outlooks on the game”, Dowse said.
However, just as his football education begun so did his injuries.
“I was just 12 years old when I tore my ACL for the first time, I didn’t even know what an ACL was”.
Jacob was forced to continue his development on the sidelines.
Unfortunately, Dowse’s injury troubles formed much of what would be his formative footballing years totalling five serious knee injuries in his teens.
“By my 5th and hopefully my last knee injury, my surgeon was telling me to stop playing football all-together, asking me to consider my health and the state of my body at 40-50 years old”.
However, this was never an option for Jacob. Understanding that the odds were tremendously stacked against him, Dowse couldn’t give up on the game he loved.
“I was half decent at football and it was what made me happy, at the end of the day all you want to be is happy, I knew deep down I couldn’t just chuck in the towel even when people were telling me to”.
Acknowledging that he needed to step back from a professional academy, Dowse was contacted by close friend and current Broadmeadow Magic captain Jeremy Wilson and before long a 16-year-old Dowse was playing in the U22 side.
Jacob Dowse impressed the Magic coaching staff and faithful, being handed his first team debut by then Magic Coach Ruben Zadkovich a week before turning 17. This valuable experience at a high level pushed Jacob further into the limelight of Northern NSW local football.
When Zadkovich left the club in 2019, the incoming Damien Zane emphasised the need for Dowse to get back full health.
“In 2021, knowing my injury history, Damien and strength and conditioning coach Luke Mitchell told me that this year wall all about getting my training back up to normal, some weeks I would play full games whilst other, more intense weeks of training, I would be coming off the bench or not playing at all”.
Dowse valued this longer rehabilitation period.
“I really bought into it, and I knew to just trust the process, it really set me up for the back end of 2021 and 2022”.
Both years proved to be big for Dowse as the Magic went on to impressive Australian Cup runs, reaching the Round of 32 on both occasions and coming up against A-League Men opponents in the Western Sydney Wanderers and NPL Victoria juggernauts, Bentleigh Greens. When asked about the Wanderers matchup, Dowse highlighted the great experience.
“It was my first game against a professional club, and we probably could’ve got a lot more out of it”.
In the 2022 rendition of the national cup competition, Magic faced Bentleigh at the same stage, with Broadmeadow only falling short due to a Ken Krolicki goal in the 117th minute of extra time. The Magic put up an exceptional resistance with Dowse equalising for Broadmeadow in the 32nd minute, a statement to the Australian footballing landscape that he was ready to step-up. However, Dowse didn’t see it as the moment he had proved himself to the Australian footballing public.
“I felt like I had shown enough to the footballing world that I was fit and in form prior to that game”.
On top of his stellar Australian Cup performances in 2022, Dowse had also been undergoing one of his best seasons for the Broadmeadow Magic locally scoring 12 goals as the side’s talisman and top goal scorer. Whilst he has experienced more setback than the average footballer, Dowse always had the confidence that he could reach a professional level once more.
“I knew I could get back to this level, it was just a question of staying fit and backing myself and using my chances to consistently show it”.
His regular season form saw his former coach in Zadkovich contact him about offering him a trial in June making sure.
Now a full professional, Jacob Dowse looks towards the 2022 A-League Men season with optimism as he seeks to leave his mark out west and show what he can do in Australian Football. As Perth Glory look to improve upon a difficult 2021/22 season on and off the pitch, Dowse’s enthusiasm, experience and promise will add to a squad lacking the identity of previously successful Glory sides.