Cooney cool and confident

HE'S 21, in his first Australian team and about to embark on his maiden international boxing experience, but Nick Cooney is confident he won't be overawed when he steps into the ring at next month's Commonwealth Games.

 Latrobe boxer Nick Cooney is looking forward to his first appearance in an Australian team at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games.   Picture: SCOTT GELSTON

Latrobe boxer Nick Cooney is looking forward to his first appearance in an Australian team at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games. Picture: SCOTT GELSTON

While his Latrobe Boxing Club stablemate Jackson Woods will complete the trifecta of Olympics, world champs and Commonwealth Games when he competes in Glasgow, Cooney will be getting his first taste of the big time.

But fresh from training three times a day at an intensive camp at the Australian Institute of Sport, the apprentice electrician appears as switched on mentally as he is physically.

``To be honest I don't know what to expect over there,'' he said.

``A helluva lot of people and media, and I'm super excited to be a part of all that, but I just want to take it all in and not get distracted.

``I'm not used to fighting in front of anything like that, but I'm over there for a reason, that's to fight, and I don't want to get drawn into all the hype.''

It is a lesson he could well have learned from Woods, who attended the 2012 Olympics as a teenager and admitted the occasion played a part in his first-round exit.

Cooney is also already familiar with adversity, having overcome both health and human obstacles to secure his place at the Games.

After losing the 2013 national lightweight final to Victorian Tim Locock, the southpaw was struck down by the digestive disease ulcerative colitis.

``I had no energy and was struggling to work, let alone train,'' Cooney recalled this week from the home-made but hugely successful gym in the garden of coach Craig Woods's rural property.

``So it took a fair while to get back on track and I had to pull out of the worlds trials.''

Earlier this year, Cooney's health had improved sufficiently that he was able to start setting himself goals, culminating in competing at the national titles in Fremantle.

And before he knew it, he was in a repeat of the previous year's final against Locock.

``I was a bit nervous because he's an awkward fighter, but it was a good chance to get revenge,'' he said.

``The previous time he was taking the fight to me, but this time I was in-and-out more. It was an extremely tough fight, but I was confident I had the right result.

``When I won I was absolutely stoked. It's the first time I've been part of an Australian team and it's an overwhelming feeling.''

Growing up, Cooney took part in football, softball, swimming, soccer and athletics - even becoming a multiple state middle distance champion - but, having settled on his preferred sport, leaves Latrobe tomorrow with a balanced perspective.

His coach believes favourable draws could help either of his charges gain a medal, but both know the fickle format of three three-minute rounds leaves little room for error.

``I'm over the illness, I'm fit and it's all coming right,'' Cooney said.

``My first goal was to win one fight but since then I've won four or five and booked my ticket to the Commonwealth Games.

``I'm expecting a lot of good boxers. Every fight is going to be tough and I think the skill level will be a lot better than at nationals.

``But we've prepared well. We've been training three times a day and our fitness is better than it's ever been.''

The Latrobe pair, who will spend two weeks training in Canberra and visit Ireland and Kazakhstan for further camps before reaching Glasgow, attribute the club's success to their coach and his methods.

``The gym is more like a family than a club - we all back each other and are there for each other,'' Cooney added.

``When young ones come in they are just as important as the rest of us and we take time out to teach them a few things because the quicker they get up to our level the better it is for us.''

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