The Newcastle Jets star inspired by his shin pads

Winger Joe Champness has hit the big time and knows how to keep kicking goals

Newcastle Jets winger Joe Champness has been a feature of the A-League club’s attacking line-up this season. Having finished bottom last season, the Jets are in second place and face a top-of-the-table clash this Saturday with pace-setters Sydney FC.

Eternity asked Joe the million-dollar question: Can you beat Sydney FC? “Yeah, for sure. We believe we can beat anyone. We have good self belief,” explains Joe, who moved from New Zealand to suburban Brisbane when he was five and developed a passion for football (soccer) in his teen years.

Joe’s parents “pointed me in the right direction since I was a youngster.”

While his team has enjoyed a notable surge this season on the pitch, so has Joe’s own professional football career. Having arrived at Newcastle Jets as a 19-year-old last season and spent six months training in Portugal on an exchange programme, the 2017-18 season has been his first on the the A-League stage.

Such a huge leap into the world of professional sport comes with causes for celebration – such as the Jets’ improved performance on the pitch – and plenty of new challenges. The limelight has been thrust upon Joe, bringing with it the complications of fame, attention and sporting success. But throughout Joe’s life, he has been training for another goal that continues to shape how he responds to anything coming his way.

“There’s always challenges in the world that we live in,” says Joe. “There’s always going to be temptations and humans are never perfect. Sometimes our flaws and shortfalls are going to come to the forefront and it’s an everyday challenge for us to continue trying to serve God and to follow his plans.”

“I’ve tried to … actively follow, in order to keep staying in his will.” – Joe Champness

Raised in a Christian home by parents who “pointed me in the right direction since I was a youngster,” Joe distinctly remembers when “I gave myself to God” as a five-year-old, sitting in church with other people who were discussing faith. And his shin pads are a personal testimony to his long-held beliefs.

Verses from the New Testament book of Philippians (including 4:13 – “I can do all things in Him who gives me strength”) and special acronyms (AFGTS – All For God Through Sport) adorn Joe’s protective gear under his socks. Even with his leap to the A-League big time, Joe continues to strive to be led by wisdom he heard about how best to live for God in all he does.

“I remember when I was a little bit younger and I was looking at what I wanted to do, for a career … I heard a pastor in Brisbane. He got a word from God and he said, ‘Look, if you focus on God and continue to actively follow his ways, it’s impossible for you to fall out of God’s will.”

“So, I think that when it comes to temptations and distractions, what I’ve tried to do is press into that word and actively follow, in order to keep staying in his will.”

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