'It was pretty rock bottom': Austin's injury wake-up call

It was just another day at the office for most players when Wellington Phoenix hosted Newcastle Jets.

But for Mitch Austin, it meant everything.

Nearly a year on from rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament, the 27-year-old returned to action in the Jets' 2-1 Hyundai A-League Round 1 defeat on Sunday.

That innocuous incident at Melbourne Victory’s training ground in November last year left the English-born winger in despair.

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“It was pretty rock bottom,” Austin told www.aleague.com.au.

“It was just me and the physio, we were there all day. It’s hard because you don’t really feel part of it to be honest.

“They try and keep you involved but when you’re not actually getting to contribute on the pitch it’s tough.

“It was just such a long time. I hope in the future they can work something out where it’s just not such a long injury… but it is what it is.”

The lightning-quick winger had made an impressive start to the 2017/18 campaign but as Victory went on to claim the Championship, Austin watched on from the sideline.

However, after picking up an assist for Dimitri Petratos’ late consolation against the Phoenix, Austin is looking to make up for lost time.

And despite the lonely hours spent in swimming pools, gyms and on treatment tables, he says his injury nightmare has made him truly appreciate his life as a professional footballer.

“Ask anyone who’s done it, it never feels the same,” he said.

“I don’t really have any feeling around my knee which is kind of weird… but maybe it’s a good thing at the same time.

“When you do come back it does take a while because you know everything that you’ve gone through and don’t want to go back to that. I just want to slowly build back into it now, the next couple of months.

“Once I got out there for the first minute I was just mentally back into the zone of playing again and I didn’t really think about it. Whereas over pre-season, just training and stuff coming back in I was pretty rattled at the start.

“Just happy to be back playing and training again because you don’t really appreciate until you spend such a long time out. I think I was probably one of those players who took for granted playing all the time.

“It was probably something I needed and a bit of a wake-up call.”