Josh Cowan on the bike during Geleong's Falls Creek training camp
If his body's right, he'll play a lot of footy in the midfield next year
GEELONG youngster Josh Cowan will enter the 2013 season with a number of reasons for concern hanging over his head.
One is the fact that he's a midfielder, and they are thick on the ground at the Cattery right now.
An even greater worry is the fact he has played just three senior games since being drafted in 2009.
The reality is that if the 21-year-old can't play consistent football next year, his career at the highest level might well be finished.
"I just try to forget about that," Cowan told AFL.com.au.
"That's where my older teammates like James Kelly and Joel Corey have really helped me.
"They've been great in telling me not to get caught up in things that you can't control.
"If I focus on playing good footy, then everything else can take care of itself."
Cowan played his three senior games with Geelong during the club's premiership season in 2011. Using his pace and skill, he emerged as a potential star of the future.
But this year he was grounded by an Achilles tendon injury, which restricted him to just one appearance in the NAB Cup and one game in the VFL.
The injury also took its toll on his self-belief.
"It did a fair bit," Cowan admitted. "But I've had plenty of talks with (development coach) Nigel Lappin and Joel Corey and James Kelly," he said.
"They've been really good for me with advice and have helped me get through.
"Allen Christensen and George Horlin-Smith have given me great support as well. The young players at the club are a really tight group.
"We all live around the same areas and do a lot of things together.
"We've played a lot of footy together in the VFL and now a lot of the boys are starting to step into the AFL team, which is exciting."
A massive upside for the quietly-spoken and well-liked young man from Daylesford in central Victoria is that his coaches rate him extremely highly.
They remember his impressive AFL debut against Gold Coast at Metricon Stadium in round 10, 2011.
That night Cowan started as the Cats' substitute, but hit the ground running when given his opportunity and finished with nine possessions, five marks and a classy goal.
"He's become a bit of a forgotten man because of his Achilles problems that kept him out for most of the season," Geelong assistant coach James Rahilly said.
"But we see his situation as a bit of a bonus. He's fully fit now, so he should have a big pre-season and become the extra runner that we need.
"If his body's right, he'll play a lot of footy in the midfield next year. He's a power runner with a big engine."
After enduring such a frustrating 2012 season, Cowan headed to New Zealand with his girlfriend after the finals, and the trip helped clear his head and take his mind off footy.
Refreshed, he's been attacking his pre-season program and was among the standout performers during the recent camp at Falls Creek.
His Achilles is feeling great, but he knows he needs to get a lot of miles into his legs before next year's NAB Cup, which means a lot of hard work lies ahead.
"It hasn't been fun so far," Cowan said. "But it's just good to be back out there running around with people, instead of training by yourself."
Adam McNicol covers Geelong news for AFL.com.au. Follow him on Twitter at @AFL_AdamMcNicol