'It scared the hell out of me': Janjetovic reflects on his biggest hurdle
Western Sydney Wanderers goalkeeper Vedran Janjetovic believes his remarkable comeback to football has defined him as a person.
The 31-year-old shot-stopper spent about two years on the sidelines after a scary nerve injury robbed him of movement in his hands and fingers when he was a Sydney FC youth player.
Exacerbating Janjetovic’s woes was the medication he was on, which meant physical activity could wear down his hip bones and force him to require a hip replacement.
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Janjetovic said it was “the darkest, most crappy place I’ve ever been”, but, with the benefit of hindsight, is now able to reflect back on the strength he showed in what was ultimately a highly successful return to football in 2012.
“For me, it was an overnight thing. My hands stopped working and I didn’t have function in my fingers,” he said.
“It scared the hell out of me, to be fair.
“Just looking back on all the hard work, all the training sessions, all the sacrifices, and all the effort that you put in, it just gets all taken away from you like that. That was very scary for me, as a young kid as well.
“Growing up, thinking that I’m going to be a professional footballer and then you get a roadblock like that.”
The mystery injury kept Janjetovic sidelined after an impressive year in goal for Sydney FC’s youth team and it meant his Hyundai A-League debut did not come until the age of 25, 10 years after he first played football following a childhood based on karate and rugby league.
“I think that [comeback] defined me as a person,” he said.
“So many people were saying that ‘you can’t make it, you can’t do it, like, just give up’ or ‘your injury’s happened again, you’re going to spend so much time on the sideline and what not, not playing, go find a job, go do this, go do that’ … it was all, like, negative stuff towards my career - not towards me.
“They were trying to be positive but I didn’t see it as that.
“I took offence to some of it but I think my family kept me sane, kept me strong and they know the type of person that I was anyway.
“They know that once I said that that’s what I want to do, I’m going to go out and get it.
"And no matter what is in my way, I’ll destroy it, I’ll overcome it.
“The resilience that I have within myself and just my hard work, I think got me over that line.
“After I’ve overcome that, obviously now I’m happy here and I’m grateful for every moment that I have.”
The big move
The Croatian-born goalkeeper was a near ever-present with the Sky Blues after making his Hyundai A-League debut in 2012 before moving to crosstown rivals Western Sydney four years later.
It was a much-discussed move but Janjetovic said it was a “no-brainer” to join the Wanderers.
“It was actually a lot more simpler than everyone thought,” he said.
“It was a no-brainer for me. Everyone’s time comes at a club. Mine was up at Sydney so I had no problem moving on and just keep going with my career.
“I wanted to play football, it doesn’t matter where, if it wasn’t at the Wanderers, it would be somewhere else.
“It just happened to be good timing that the Wanderers needed someone and now I’m thankful that it was me.
“It wasn’t a hard transition at all.”
The fixture he always looks for
And Janjetovic’s move means he still gets to play in the Sydney Derby, a fixture he insists is the best in the Hyundai A-League.
“It’s awesome. Seriously, it’s so much fun,” he said with a laugh.
Janjetovic does not have to wait long to come up against his former employers, either, with Sydney FC scheduled to host the Wanderers at the SCG on October 27.
It is the sort of match that Janjetovic was told he would probably never play in.
Little did they know.