Growing up, Reece Papadimitrios (Papas) quickly became a name full of promise and was widely regarded by many as one of the most talented players around, and it was that talent that took him to all parts of the world including trial stints at major English Premier League clubs Liverpool, Aston Villa and Stoke City and selection in the U/17’s Australian Joeys team. Since then, Reece has starred and progressed through the Newcastle Jets and Central Coast Mariners Youth Academies but has now found himself back where it all started, Hamilton Olympic. NPL Northern NSW league correspondent Quentin, caught up with Reece, who were actually former rivals on the field when they were young kids, to learn more about his incredible journey so far and whether he still has ambitions of progressing on.
Where and when did you start your junior career and how did you progress into senior football?
I started at Hamilton Olympic at the age of five and played there until I was 10. From there I progressed through the Northern NSW Football development programs and finished off in the Newcastle Jets and Central Coast Mariners Youth teams before coming back to play senior football at Olympic. I’m now in my third season back at the club but I’ve been involved with the club all my life due to family connections.
What do you like to do in your spare time when you’re not playing football?
I work as an air conditioning and refrigeration mechanic. With work and football, it doesn’t leave too much spare time but every chance I get I like to socialise and have a few drinks with mates, spend time with the girlfriend and just chill out really.
What player has been one of your favourite players to play with and you have admiration for? Why?
I’ve been lucky enough to play with a number of good players but the one that sticks out for me would be our captain Kyle Hodges. His attitude and desire to play for the club and the shirt is second to none. He’s always giving 100% for his team-mates – that’s what sticks out most for me.
Which player is the hardest to play against? And why?
I’d say Micheal ‘Beanhead’ Kantarovski, he’s always a tough competitor. He’s always full of energy and in your face. He’s also not too bad with his feet too I suppose.
At a young age, you trailed overseas in England – what were some of the clubs you spent time at and what was that experience like? What did you learn from it all?
I was lucky enough to have trial stints at Aston Villa, Bolton, QPR, Stoke and Liverpool. The experience was unreal and was a real eye opener to see how far behind Australia is in football development. From the training facilities to the support staff, to the fans involvement and just the money pumped into the game over there, nothing compares to here.
The biggest thing I learnt is that the pool of top-quality players over there is a lot higher than here. Yes there is a population difference, but there are definitely greater opportunities for players over there than young players here. There is less politics in the sport over there as they give everyone equal opportunity – something Australian football could learn from.
You’ve spent a lot of time playing at elite levels with the Jets and Mariners Youth, and what was it like playing at that level for so long?
It was good to be involved in professional environments like that. It really helped me develop as a footballer and a man. Without those opportunities, I wouldn’t be the player I feel I am today.
What was the reasoning behind coming back to Hamilton?
I came back to Olympic when I reached a bit of a hurdle in my life. My time at the NYL level had come to an end and I had a choice to continue chasing the footballing dream or to find myself a job/career where I could build myself a future. At the time I felt that moving into the workforce was the best decision for me. I didn’t want to be finishing a footballing career and have nothing to fall back on. I feel I made the right decision.
Do you still have ambitions of potentially playing in the A-League or at a professional level?
At this stage no I don’t, I’m enjoying what I’m doing now. I’ve just bought a house so that and work is my main focus at this stage. In saying that who knows what the future holds.
What’s the most memorable moment(s) of your career so far?
I’ve been lucky enough to have plenty of memorable moments. The 2014 season where the Jets Youth won the premiership would be up there. Also, being involved and named in the Central Coast Mariners A-League squad was another thing I won’t forget.
But the two that stick out for me would be playing for my country at the U/17’s level and playing a game for Stoke City against Chelsea in the U/20’s Premier League.
Who’s the most influential person in your career?
I’d probably have to say influential ‘people’ as it’s been a team effort. Without the support of Mum, Dad & Paupau (pop) I wouldn’t have had the opportunities that I’ve been lucky enough to have. So those three are easily the most influential people in my career and life.
What are you hoping to achieve for this year’s season? Individually and as a team?
We don’t really have much to play for now as we’re out of the contention for finals, but I think both individually and as a team we are going to give everything to finish off the year strong and start to build a good foundation for 2020.
What’s your plans for the future of your career? Where are you hoping to progress?
I’ve got no real plans at this stage. I’m enjoying what I’m doing both on and off the park, so I think more of that is what you can expect from me.