While his Spanish still needs some work, Glenmore Park footballer Cooper Halfpenny is finally feeling positive, motivated and right at home as he approaches the one-year mark abroad.
The last time the Weekender caught up with Halfpenny was in November 2020, just days before he was about to embark on the adventure of a lifetime after signing a one-year deal to play football in Spain with U19 La Liga club Aravaca CF.
Eight months on and life couldn’t be any better for the talented 19-year-old despite the various challenges and adjustments he’s had to face and make.
“Firstly, there’s definitely the language. I still struggle with conversation due to the speed they speak at but I’m advancing ever so slowly,” Halfpenny told the Weekender from his place in Madrid.
“Secondly, the players here are tough. As a foreigner coming into the team at this age they don’t want a bar of you, but that’s where you have to work hard and win them over – luckily I did that over time.
“And thirdly, I’d say being away from home. Although you may not miss specifically being at home, you start to divert mentally because you don’t have direct access to your support system. If you fall off track, it’s very hard to get back on, so you need to be mentally strong.”
Halfpenny’s toughness, dedication and ability to adapt and learn paid off in a big way recently when he was offered the chance to extend his stay in Europe by another 12 months with CD Leganés.
Through the help and guidance of good friend, mentor and elite program academy coach Tony Basha, the centre-back was able to showcase his talents to his soon-to-be new club while playing with Aravaca.
“Tony mentioned to his close friends at Leganés that I was playing there on a Friday afternoon with Aravaca, and they liked my style of play and brought me across,” Halfpenny said.
“As they’ve only seen a small amount of me, the deal was just for one-year with their second and third team, but I’m confident in my ability that I will perform and give myself the best chance to extend.”
Having learned plenty during his time with Aravaca, striking a deal with Leganés – a club he supported as a kid – is stuff dreams are made of.
The former McCarthy Catholic College student said he’s looking forward to what lies ahead.
“Aravaca is a great club with great coaches and players. I learned a lot tactically that I was missing from Australia and felt massive improvements in all areas of my game,” Halfpenny said.
“But to sign with Leganés, I was stoked. They’re a team I’ve followed for a few years. My aim was to stay in Europe and I’ve managed to earn myself another deal.”
Nathan Taylor is the Weekender’s Deputy Editor and Senior Sports Writer. He also compiles the weekly Chatter on the Box TV column. Nathan is an award-winning journalist, who has worked at the Weekender for a decade.