Aaron Downes is one of Mudgee’s finest footballing products, and after a career that started in 2003 at a small club in the suburb of Hampton in London, he may be hanging up the boots.
The former Australian under-20s player has had a fifteen year long career in professional football in England, starting with his attempts to find success at Bolton.
Knocked back from Bolton, Downes made his way through Chesterfield, Bristol Rovers and Torquay United.
The last of those clubs saw his fortunes fall from the professional leagues in England, with the club relegated to the semi-professional Conference.
Though Torquay are still in the fifth tier of the English pyramid, Downes proved himself with 109 appearances as a defender, as well as a handy 15 goals.
His performances earned him a return to the professional world with Cheltenham Town, where he has since made 48 appearances and worn the captain’s armband.
Their 2016-17 season finished with the club just four points outside of the relegation zone that saw Hartlepool United and Leyton Orient plummet back to oblivion.
If I was a 24-year-old centre-half in my prime, this injury would mean I’d miss one competitive game and be fit to go again.Aaron Downes
Tragedy has struck for the Australian footballer however, as he was struck down just four days into pre-season with a knee injury that means his eyes now turn to the blue coaching shirts of the club.
Downes told the English media that the injury is one of the most disappointing things he’s had to face late in his career.
“If I was a 24-year-old centre-half in my prime, this injury would mean I’d miss one competitive game and be fit to go again,” Downes stated.
“But I am older and more worn so it’s woken me up a bit and made me question how long I can keep going in terms of football fitness.
“If my ACL had gone I wouldn’t have been able to coach either, so it really was like a slap of realism around the face.”
Only time will now tell if Downes can put back on the playing boots for Cheltenham Town, or if a career in coaching now beckons for the man that has successfully made a career from English football – something many Australian footballers only dream of.