Aaron Mooy has described a year battling relegation in the English Premier League as feeling like being "on drugs", suggesting the emotional cost of each result proved far more exhausting than his heavy load of games.
While Mooy has probably never experienced such intoxication, he says the mental rollercoaster on the journey of survival with Huddersfield felt like a close experience.
Exhausted: Huddersfield Town managed to avoid the drop, but the battle left its mark on Mooy.
Finding a balance between the euphoric highs and despondent lows was not easy for Mooy, who was unaccustomed to the pressures of the Premier League and the heavy burden of expectation.
"It’s really dramatic. If you lose against a team around you it’s the end of the world," the Socceroos midfielder said at Australia's World Cup training camp in Turkey.
"The fans think it’s the end of the world, you feel down, feel bad, but if you win it’s the opposite, it’s amazing. You have to try and balance it out a bit. It’s not healthy. Basically [it's like being] on drugs. It’s just so intense but it makes you a stronger person. That’s where you want to be … one of the best leagues in the world if not the best league, and that’s what it takes."
Compounding the volatility of his season, one that Huddersfield ultimately survived, was a marathon run of games unrivalled by any Australian in the 2018 World Cup squad. Mooy has played more games over the past two seasons than any other current Socceroo, stepping on to the field 106 times whether it be for club or country since July 2016.
In his first season with Huddersfield, Mooy played 3930 of the club's 4140 minutes of the 2016-17 Championship season as the Terriers clinched promotion to the top flight for the first time in 46 years. Wedged between that gruelling year and Huddersfield's Premier League campaign was a hectic run of internationals featuring World Cup qualifiers and Confederations Cup games.
Midway through this season, Huddersfield coach David Wagner commented that Mooy was tired and in need of a rest. However, he was indispensable in their pursuit for survival, playing all but two games he missed through a knee injury.
Mooy acknowledges there was a period where he was drained, fatigued and exhausted but says that was to do with the stress of the relegation fight rather than his match time.
"I don’t know if it’s physical. When you’re mind is fresh you feel good in a game," he said. "When your mind gets tired everything becomes harder and your body reacts to your mind.
"Maybe I was just in that part of the season where I was just mentally drained. It was all new, all the pressure, the games. I never backed away from that and I wanted to play as much as I could and I only missed two games this season."
The 27-year-old savours every match he plays, knowing there will one day be a time where he could be fighting just to get out on the pitch. However, the World Cup has been a welcome change from the dogged club season, with the excitement of playing in Russia sweeping over his previous angst.
A short break after the Premier League season was followed by a taxing training camp but with a fresh outlook and positive demeanour once more, Mooy says he is in the best shape to perform on the world stage.
"I’m excited and when you’re excited, you have loads of energy. I’m looking forward to the World Cup, I can’t wait for the first game," he said.
"I had a week off before I came into camp and that was nice. I’m sure I’ll be in good shape.
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