Simon Cox can’t remember much from the training session. It was, a bit like the last few months have been for the Western Sydney Wanderers striker, all a blur.
What he can recall is the feeling – knowing that, when it finished, his life would never be the same. He was about to become a father for the first time.
Cox’s partner, Samantha, was in labour on the other side of the world. As a couple, they had been faced with the sort of dilemma that was utterly unimaginable before the pandemic: he could fly home back to England for the birth, and in so doing accept the probable end of his professional football career. Or he could stick it out in Sydney and miss out on a once-in-a-lifetime moment. They chose the latter, but there was really no good option.
The plan was for Cox, 33, to watch his baby enter the world via Zoom. But after three days of induced labour, 15 days past her due date, doctors deemed that Samantha was to have a cesarean section instead at midday, Sydney time – half an hour before the Wanderers were due to finish up on the training paddock last Friday.
“I had the biggest smile on my face,” Cox said. “Purely and simply because I knew what was going on at home, and I knew that by the time the session was finished, your life changes.
“As I was getting off the training pitch I was ready to run into the dressing room to get my phone. I was walking around like a bit of a lost dog, waiting for that phone call to come through, and all of a sudden … it was a little bit surreal, to be honest. You’re not allowed to talk on your phone in the change room or else you get a fine, so I had to go outside and I was just stood outside on my own.
“It was a nice little personal moment to have, the FaceTime came through and all of a sudden you’ve got this little child that’s come into the world. Then the boys all rallied around, there were a lot of hugs … it was lovely, mate, really, really lovely.”
From the outside looking in it might have seemed a no-brainer for Cox to have flown back home – but would have meant the end of his time with the Wanderers, and, at his age, he would struggle to find another contract. An array of various factors – mental, physical, emotional, financial – complicated what must have been a difficult evaluation process.