Joel Wood has been Valentine Phoenix’s shining jewel this season as the veteran striker has impressed for the last-placed team in his return to the NPL Northern NSW. Joel has spent time playing all over NSW for multiple teams, and has even plied his trade overseas and as part of the Newcastle Jets squad where he has consistently proven and showcased his knack for scoring goals. Joel and correspondent Quentin, caught up to chat about his career as well as the life he lives outside of football
Where and when did you start your junior career and how did you progress into senior football?
I started playing juniors for Nelson Bay. I played there until I was 10, then quit to concentrate on athletics and triathlon. I started playing football again at 15 just for fun for Nelson Bay seniors and went from there. I’ve played for a lot of clubs! since then! South Cardiff, Lake Macquarie, Broadmeadow, Edgeworth Maitland to name a few. I also played for Sydney Olympic and Parramatta Eagles and this has been my first season at Valentine/
What do you like to do in your spare time when you’re not playing soccer/football?
In my spare time I’m usually training in other sports, running or triathlon. Otherwise I’ll be surfing, hiking or planning my next adventure overseas.
What do you do for work? Are you currently studying? Or have you completed your studies, if so, in what field?
I work as a personal trainer and also do youth work as well. I only recently finished my Certificate 3 and 4 in fitness and I plan on completing strength and conditioning certificates soon as well as other certificates in fitness and coaching.
What player has been one of your favourite players to play with and you have admiration for? Why?
I’ve had the chance to play with some very good players but one that stands out is Troy Halpin. We had a good understanding at Edgeworth when we won the league. He is a fantastic player – very underrated.
Which player is the hardest to play against? And why?
That’s another tough one. I’d have to say a player I’ve played with and against, Luke Walker. He has a great physical presence and never loses a header.
You spent time playing all over Northern NSW as well as in the NPL NSW, and even up north in Byron Bay – where do you feel you’ve played your best football and which league do you think is the most challenging?
NPL NSW in Sydney is definitely the most challenging. There’s more competition, more training and it’s almost a full-time thing. It can be a hard league to crack for people coming in from outside Sydney. There’s plenty of talented players – young and old.
You also signed and played in China in the Hong Kong First Division, what was that like?
Playing in Hong Kong was a great challenge. It’s a fantastic city. We lived in China and travelled across the border to play. It’s a memorable experience and I had some great times though it was very tough at times with the language barrier and life in general. The team had a rough season and they ended up being charged for match fixing and were kicked out of the league. I’ve had trials in Indonesia and Singapore as well. It’s really tough in Asia. Only a few spots are up for grabs with people from all over the world trialing from countries like Brazil, Nigeria, Cameroon. If they aren’t successful, they go back home to poverty a lot of the time so they would kill for that place in the team. It’s hard to compare coming from a very fortunate country like Australia where if we fail, we go back home to a comfortable life.
Found your way to Valentine and back in the NPL NNSW, how have you found being there? Why do you think the side has struggled this season?
It’s been a tough season at Valentine. We’ve been lacking a bit of experience and leadership, especially vocally coming from the back. In saying that, we don’t deserve to be where we are. We have played really well against some of the top teams and have been unlucky not to grab full points from those games on several occasions. The team is still very young and is definitely building for the future.
Most memorable moment(s) of your career so far?
I’d have to say being part of Newcastle Jets squad during the Asian Champions League was a special moment. I was disappointed to not get more playing time but it was still a great experience.
Most influential person in your career?
I don’t have a specific person who influenced me. I was influenced watching great players like Thierry Henry, Ronaldo, David Beckham back in the day but now my biggest influence in football is the passion and enjoyment it brings to people all over the world. On my travels, I love watching local football or watching kids play in the street, it’s amazing to see how much the game brings people together.
What are you hoping to achieve for this year’s season?
This season is all but over with just a few games remaining. Just hoping to get a few more wins and finish in a more respectable position on the table. If I can score a few more goals and do my part in helping the team that would be great.
What’s your plans for the future of your career? Where are you hoping to progress?
I’m certainly in the twilight years of my career now. I’m just taking it year by year and seeing what happens. I’m thankful that I’m still able to be out there. As for the future, I’ll definitely be trying to move into strength and conditioning, training, coaching etc. whether specifically in football or in other sports. I’d love to work in youth development and coaching kids around ages 10-15.